Tim Connelly would bring history of success to Wizards front office
The Wizards’ courtship of Denver Nuggets executive Tim Connelly is more than just an idea now as Connelly is set to interview for Washington’s open position of team president. The news, which was first reported by ESPN, indicates the interest on both sides is serious, as Connelly would not be leaving his post in Denver for just any job.
But we know through multiple reports that NBC Sports Washington has confirmed why both sides see a fit. Connelly is from nearby Baltimore, MD and is intrigued about returning to the area. The Wizards could also offer him a substantial raise from what he is making from the Nuggets, possibly around double his salary.
Connelly also began his career with the Wizards and spent 10 years in the organization. If there is one job he would leave the Nuggets for, it is this one.
The Washington Post first reported on the dynamic between Connelly and interim president Tommy Sheppard, which has been a legitimate factor in the process. They are good friends and Connelly has indeed been struggling with the decision to take over in Washington, knowing it could either mean Sheppard is out of a job or put in a tough spot of taking a lesser role than the one he is currently in, according to someone familiar with Connelly’s plans.
Connelly would have to get past that to take the job. Given he is set to interview, perhaps he already has.
From the Wizards’ perspective, landing Connelly would be by all accounts a win. It’s not often one of the league’s best executives is willing to leave what is clearly a great situation and one that could earn him a lot of praise.
His Nuggets could set up to be the heir apparent to the Warriors in the Western Conference and he would get most of the credit for their rise. He is willing to leave that for a Wizards team that has a lot of issues to sort out, namely the future of John Wall with his supermax contract and recovery from a ruptured Achilles.
But if there is anyone who can navigate the Wizards through the Wall situation and the salary cap crunch they are in, it’s Connelly who proved in Denver he can do more with less. He made many shrewd moves using a variety of resources to get the Nuggets where they are.
Connelly showed what he can do with second-round picks by taking All-Star Nikola Jokic in 2014 and solid back-up point guard Monte Morris in 2017. He also displayed a knack for international scouting with Jokic and big man Jusuf Nurkic, whom the Nuggets developed and then shipped to the Blazers.
Connelly’s tenure with the Nuggets has also been defined by taking risks like drafting Michael Porter Jr. in the first round last June despite his back injury. Though that decision has yet to bear fruit, the Nuggets may ultimately prove to have gotten a steal with one of the most talented players in his class.
Connelly was also able to woo free agents to Denver, which isn’t considered a prime destination for them. He got All-Star Paul Millsap to sign there in 2017 and that move has been pivotal to their recent success.
If the Wizards hire Connelly, expect them to explore trading back in the first round of next month’s draft. Washington owns the ninth pick, but none in the second round. They do not have a second-round pick until 2023.
Connelly and the Nuggets have had at least three picks in four of his six drafts. That has allowed him to take more shots at finding good players.
Sometimes it has worked out, sometimes it hasn’t.
In the 2014 draft alone, Connelly brought the Nuggets Jokic, Nurkic and talented young shooting guard Gary Harris. Moves like that helped offset mistakes he has made like drafting Emmanuel Mudiay seventh overall in 2015 and trading away the picks that became Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.
If Connelly takes over in D.C., that will likely produce some other staffing changes for the Wizards. There are rumors he would bring Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth over with him. Booth is a former Wizards player and an up-and-coming NBA executive.
Connelly could also bring over his brother, Joe, who has worked with him in Denver as a scout and player development coach. Joe Connelly also worked for the Wizards from 2011 to 2014 on their player development staff and spent time in the Wizards’ facility this season when Nuggets prospect Thomas Welsh was assigned to the Go-Go.
The biggest question would be what Connelly does with the Wizards’ coaching staff if he is hired. There is optimism within the Wizards’ staff he would retain Scott Brooks, who has two years and $14 million left on his contract, according to someone familiar with the situation. But Connelly could easily choose to go in a different direction, perhaps with someone to help launch them into a new era that may include a lengthy rebuild.
Regardless, there are likely to be changes to Brooks’ staff. Brooks left the door open for that at the end of last season and a host of his assistants are not currently under contract for next year.
If the Wizards can seal the deal with Connelly, it will be an impressive feat by owner Ted Leonsis. Connelly is a rising star, only 41 years old and appears to be just the type of person they need to steer their organization in the right direction.
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