One of the main reasons I watch NBA basketball is that I love to be around excellence. I love to watch world-class athletes be the best at their craft, and I enjoy the strategy behind it all. So I have to be honest, and discuss some of my thoughts leading up to this year’s draft.

Like all of you, I spend a lot of time watching Nuggets basketball, reading about Nuggets basketball, and thinking about Nuggets basketball. I care about what happens to them as a team, and I’ve wanted so much for them over the last few seasons. Sometimes I’ve felt like I wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves. That feeling was solidified by last year’s draft moves, the non-movement at the trade deadline (with the exception of Mudiay which I will give them credit for), and the subsequent missing of the playoffs.

To sum it up, I was truly disappointed in the Nuggets as an organization. As a fan, I felt let down and frustrated by what I interpreted as a general non-interest in moving forward from not just the players, but the team’s leadership as well. Worst of all, my expectations of them were significantly lowered heading into the off-season.

However, the moves the organization made in the draft and in recent weeks has gotten my attention. For the first time in a while, I see that perhaps they are serious about not just being an entertainment option for the city of Denver, but that they’re serious about improving their position in the Western Conference.

Here are three thoughts I’ve had about the Nuggets’ off-season moves.

They got lucky with the Michael Porter Jr. pick.

And, sometimes a team needs a bit of luck when they’re building something special. I’ve heard luck described as the moment when opportunity and preparedness meet, and perhaps the Nuggets’ front office was determined to make this year’s draft a success to they put the work in to prepare. When Porter was still available at the 14th overall pick, they were ready to make their move.

As a result, the Nuggets have put themselves in a position to improve dramatically as Porter has a huge upside if he’s able to recover from his injury properly. If all goes well, he will show to be a huge defensive improvement for the team (in time), and his potential shows to be someone who will be a staple in the team’s lineup.

When healthy, I hope to see Porter get the minutes he needs to be able to grow into his role.

They were savvy with the Wilson Chandler Trade.

Seeing Chandler leave after so many years with the Nuggets was bittersweet. Over the years he has been such a strong 6th man that it’s hard to part ways with his sizable contributions each game. However, the Nuggets have been very slowly transitioning away from the team they once were and Chandler was one of the few remaining pieces of the nostalgic lineup that took the Nuggets to 57 wins just a few seasons ago.

The pile of forwards the Nuggets collected was beginning to confuse the roster, and Denver needed to off-load salary in a big way. Chandler’s relationship with the team had become strained, and he was showing frustration over the lack of clarity of his role. Put simply, moving Chandler to another team was past-due.

So, instead of just finding any team to ship him off to, the Nuggets appear to have taken care in where he would end up. From my perspective, Chandler will be an excellent fit in Philadelphia who is on the verge of becoming one of the most prominent teams in the league. Chandler is joining this team at just the right moment, and he has the opportunity to bring a leadership and experience role to the team that will help take them to the next level.

Overall, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for the Nuggets in this particular move. They showed savvy and insight into not Denver’s future, but the future of one of their long-time players as well.

They showed us they were serious by moving Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur while acquiring Isaiah Thomas.

Faried and Arthur have been bench fixtures for some time now, and it’s been a pity to watch their talent rot despite the understanding that they really didn’t fit into the current roster anymore. I will say that the Nuggets should have moved these two a long time ago, but the important thing is they finally did it. I’m calling the move of Chandler, Faried and Arthur the Nuggets’ big summer slim-down, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the after photos.

I’m big on action and results so when I saw Denver finally part ways with some of their long-time vets I was impressed. And, capitalizing on the opportunity (while taking a risk) on one of the league’s stars when they can get him at a bargain is brilliant. Thomas could prove to be a drag on team morale, but I’m hopeful that he gets the message that this could be his last chance to remain relevant in the league

Overall, these moves show me that Denver is finally serious about winning this upcoming season. I get the feeling that they’re tired of floating in playoff purgatory just below the cut off—not hot, not cold, but a bland luke-warm that’s painfully ordinary.

There could still be more surprises coming, but to date I will give the Nuggets a grade of B+ for the off-season as a whole. I docked them a letter because they didn’t improve their immediate defensive position (because the rooks won’t be an instant impact), but what they have done will show to be a tremendous improvement on the landscape of the team in the 2018-2019 season.

Get your rally hats ready Nuggets fans. This year, we’re going to the playoffs.