The Timberwolves made their biggest non-player splash in six years Monday, finalizing a deal to bring former Nuggets executive Tim Connelly in as the new President of Basketball Operations.
The reported cost will sound familiar: five years, $40 million, which is the same sum the Wolves gave Tom Thibodeau to run and coach the team in 2016.
The Wolves and their fans can only hope this seismic move turns out better than that one, which saw Thibodeau fired halfway through his deal.
There are reasons to believe it will, and that the money paid to Connelly — which also reportedly involves an equity stake in the team — will be worth it.
But in order to get a more complete picture of Connelly's tenure in Denver, let's take a look not just at the good but also the not-so-good.
Three big wins
DRAFT VALUE: Connelly was in charge in Denver when the Nuggets selected Nikola Jokic with the No. 41 pick (second round) in the 2014 draft. Given that Jokic has blossomed into a two-time NBA MVP, that has to be considered one of the best picks in league history.
Connelly constructed much of the rest of Denver's core in other drafts as well, including Jamal Murray (No. 7 in 2016) and Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 in 2018) while also finding valuable rotation players with other picks.
That's a comforting notion for the Wolves, who will need to continue to bolster their roster via the draft while (probably) not having lottery picks with which to work.
CULTURE: The Wolves like to preach culture, and it sounds like Connelly helped build good culture in Denver. This Denver Post story on Connelly's departure has more details.
CONSISTENCY: The Nuggets under Connelly were on a steady upward trajectory for much of the last decade, adding to their win total every year from 2014-15 (30) to 2018-19 (54). Starting with that 2018-19 season, Denver has reached the playoffs four consecutive times and won a total of four playoff series, including a trip to the conference finals in 2020.
Three things in question
DEBATABLE MOVES: It hasn't all been perfect in the draft. In 2017, Connelly traded the No. 13 pick to Utah for No. 24 and Trey Lyles. While Lyles was a solid rotation player for two years, the No. 13 pick turned out to be superstar Donovan Mitchell while No. 24 was used on Tyler Lydon, who has played just 96 career minutes.
And while Porter was a good value at No. 14, he fell in the draft because of injury concerns. With Denver, Porter has played just 125 games in four seasons, but Denver still gave him a five-year, $172 million max deal before the start of last season. He ended up playing just nine games. If Porter is injured for a good portion of his max deal, it could be the sort of cap-killing deal that mid-market teams can't afford.
EARLY GROWING PAINS: While this is probably less of a concern now than it was at the time, Connelly's early tenure with Denver was marked by blunders. An anonymous league executive said in 2014 that, "There's definitely a lack of confidence when Tim calls."
ALREADY PEAKED?: While what Connelly built with Denver is admirable, it is worth noting that the Nuggets didn't even reach the NBA Finals during his time there, let alone won a championship. If they get better luck with health in 2022-23 — when Murray should return from an ACL injury and they would hope to have Porter back — they could contend.
But if next season doesn't go according to plan, there could be a sense that they already peaked without enough tangible achievements to celebrate.
Considering the Wolves have only won two playoff series in their entire existence, winning four series in a four-year span would be a big step forward. But it wouldn't be a the ultimate goal.