In the time since Tim Connelly took over as GM, I've been willing to give him and Josh Kroenke the benefit of the doubt in their initial roster moves. As fans, we're rarely privy to the inner machinations of the front office, and can only assume (or hope) there's a plan behind the trades and acquisitions. The Nuggets traded Kosta Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies for Darrell Arthur and a draft pick on draft night, then promptly drafted Erick Green and Joffrey Lauvergne (via the Koufos trade); later acquiring Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson and Randy Foye through free agency.
Robinson and Foye were clearly signed to address the struggles the Nuggets had shooting from outside last year, where they finished a dismal 25th in the league in three point shooting (.343%). They were by far the worst of any Western Conference playoff team, and the repeated clanks by the dearly-departed Corey Brewer and slow-footed Andre Miller torpedoed the chance for the Nuggets to scrap their way back into the series with the Golden State Warriors. Ceteris paribus, the acquisition of Foye and Robinson are excellent moves - the Nuggets picked up two capable shooters who will bolster the team's threat from deep, and should be able to provide a boost to the Nuggets playmaking as well. The fact that they were signed to very reasonable deals is the cherry on top.
Yet, in light of the pickups of Foye and Robinson, dealing Koufos for Arthur and signing Hickson has left many of us scratching our heads.
Now, instead of having a trio of seven footers, the Nuggets currently only have one in the brain-curious JaVale McGee, alongside a sudden glut of power forwards. If Timofey Mozgov receives an offer from a team that the Nuggets cannot afford to match (or don't wish to), the Nuggets will be relying entirely on McGee as the sole "true" center on the team. While I love what McGee brings and definitely believe he has all the opportunity in the world to prove himself this season, the prospect of relying almost entirely on him at the five-spot, for an entire 82-game season, is a scary prospect - to put it mildly. Suddenly, the Nuggets have gone from one of the tallest teams in the league to one that is rapidly shrinking.
Frankly, if the Nuggets weren't absolutely positive that they would be able to retain Mozgov as McGee's backup, they never should have dealt Koufos. For the struggles Koufos has had in the Nuggets most recent playoff series, he is still a very capable (if average) backup and is very durable. He's not a vital lynchpin to the ultimate success of a team, but was familiar with the Nuggets organization and was also on a very affordable deal with respect to his production on the court. The Nuggets could have retained him while still targeting Foye and Robinson, and let Timofey walk. Unless Green and Lauvergne pan out, you have to wonder if Josh Kroenke was disenchanted in Koufos after his playoff performances against the Lakers and the Warriors.
The front office is in a difficult position at this juncture. With Connelly's public statements that Andre Miller "will be here" - despite the signings of Foye and Robinson - their potential trading partners and options for a backup center are limited. Unless, of course, you believe his comments are simply a smokescreen while an eventual deal is worked out involving at least one of the power forwards currently on the roster and Miller or another player.
Many Stiffs seem certain that an eventual deal will be swung to bring another center to Denver, but lately I'm not so sure. Without knowing anything about the eventual system Brian Shaw will implement, I have a sinking feeling that going smaller with only one true center is by design, and that the Nuggets will feature lots of the (widely despised under George Karl) two point guard lineups with an undersized Hickson at center and Arthur and Randolph playing power forward.
Anthony Randolph, at 6'11", certainly has the size to potentially anchor that spot in limited minutes, but his wiry frame and inconsistent play make him a risky option. While I would love to believe that the freakish athleticism of the Nuggets roster as currently assembled will allow them to bang with any team, their lack of a competent big body to defend the post will render them even more vulnerable to a team willing to slow down the pace and play off the low block.
In the meantime, the Nuggets now have four power forwards on the roster. Can the Nuggets find a trade partner willing to facilitate their acquisition of a backup center? Are the Nuggets looking at one of their Summer League big man invitees, like Kyle Barone? Or is Shaw moving away from size, and focused on building a hybrid of Karl's hyper-aggressive small-ball offense?