Well, that was a crazy afternoon in Nuggets Nation. As Jeff Morton and I awaited Tim Connelly's arrival for a podcast at Pepsi Center today, the Nuggets General Manager was busy pulling off the first trade of the year for Denver. Connelly was unable to talk about the trade this afternoon (we have a great podcast coming in the morning with him!), but he addressed the media this evening before the Orlando Magic game.
The details of the trade are as follows:
The Cavaliers will send the Nuggets two picks they control via the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, a league source told Yahoo. The Nuggets will give the Cavs a 2015 second-round pick. Mozgov is the only player in the trade.
The Memphis first-round pick is largely unprotected in 2017 (top five), and could become a late lottery pick in 2016 if the Grizzlies dramatically fall off.
The protections on the pick from Memphis: Nos. 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015; 1-5 and 15-30 in '16; 1-5 in '17 and 1-5 in 2018; unprotected in 2019. The protections on the OKC pick: Nos. 1-18 in 2015; 1-15 in '16; 1-15 in 2017. After 2017, it becomes two seconds.
"It wasn’t an easy decision," said Connelly. "Timo is not a good guy, he’s a great guy. We just had [hot] wings down the street, talked about the trade, and he’s watching his future team [Cavaliers]. It’s never easy to trade a guy that does everything right, does everything you ask. We just thought the opportunity to get two future assets was probably too good to pass up."
Anyone who has spent time with Timo can confirm that he's an outstanding person, a family man, and an incredibly hard worker. It was rare for Mozgov to not be the last person off the practice floor, working on various aspects of his game. Pregame, he was always out on the floor, well before tipoff, getting his work in. Whether it was George Karl or Brian Shaw, compliments always followed Mozgov.
When the big Russian arrived in Denver, following the Carmelo Anthony trade, he could barely speak a lick of English. Over the years, he became very fluent and was easy to talk to. I can still remember doing a "Getting to know..." piece on Timo, and having him struggle to convey a certain favorite Russian food of his - he even used his iPhone to try to translate for me. That's who he is, the guy willing to go that extra mile.
Mozgov could have been an ideal guy to keep around in a rebuilding situation. He has good practice habits, and could be a model for youngsters, like Jusuf Nurkic, to emulate. But, the Cleveland Cavaliers bowled over the Nuggets with two first-round picks, and like that ... he's gone.
What does this mean for the Nuggets? Are we about to see the team move in a direction a lot of fans have been anticipating since the departure of Melo? Is a rebuild about to take place?
"I don’t think so," said Connelly. "I think if our record was different, we would probably not be in a position to move a guy like Timo. We’re certainly not happy where we are, and we just thought this opportunity - in terms of value that we got back - was just too good to pass up."
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p>Cavs GM David Griffin on Nugs GM Tim Connelly: "I would hope that this gets written as (Connelly) doing an unbelievable job, because he did"</p>— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) <a href="https://twitter.com/dempseypost/status/553033355906674688">January 8, 2015</a></blockquote>
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The Nuggets can't really expect to maintain that they're making a playoff push can they? Dealing your starting center, and putting in the 20 year-old Nurkic means they are looking to the future, right? Well, this team still is looking at the post-season.
"To a man we are all disappointed about some of the missed opportunities we’ve had this year," said Connelly. "I think despite our struggles, [the playoffs] are still there for us, no one is running away with those final couple spots. But we’re also realistic, we can’t continue to play at the level we have, and expect that to be realistic. The next couple of weeks will tell us if that’s real, or if that’s a pipe-dream.
"I’m the most optimistic guy in the world, but at some point the numbers are the numbers," continued Connelly. "And if we reach a point where we don’t think it’s realistic this year, we’re going to have to make some tough decisions."
This was tough decision number one. This was the Nuggets admitting they are looking to the future, and that they are open for business.
"We’re always aggressive, and we’re 15-20," said Connelly. "So, we should be listening and calling as much as anybody in the NBA."
The Nuggets will need to continue to be aggressive this season, because they cannot expect Nurkic and J.J. Hickson to carry them at the center spot to a playoff spot. This move shows that Denver is willing to start moving in the direction of a rebuild, or at the very least a re-tooling of the roster.
Matt Moore had an excellent question, where he asked Connelly if the Nuggets plan on keeping the picks or if they might move them for something else.
"That’s a tough question," said Connelly. "It depends on the trades we get offered. Certainly it’s not common you get two first round picks. With the protection, we can’t say for sure when we’ll get those picks, I think the Memphis pick has pretty unique wording. So, that’s going to be a high pick whenever it materializes.
Continued Connelly, "Whether as assets or we turn those assets into players that wear the Nuggets uniform, I think it’s good to move forward through those picks, in addition to all of our picks."
Buckle up Nuggets fans, we should be in for a bumpy ride.