Denver, CO – The Denver Nuggets will be making their ninth consecutive trip to the NBA playoffs this weekend, an accomplishment that only two other teams can currently claim. They will be a prohibitive underdog regardless of whoever they end up meeting in the first round. The odds will be stacked against them, whether their opponent in the best of 7 series is the Thunder, Lakers, or Clippers. Even if the Nuggets get bounced out of the playoffs early on as many expect, the future looks very bright with a lot of young talent. Who should get the credit for this most recent winning season and playoff push? Someone you probably don’t know much about, Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri’s rise to becoming GM of the Nuggets is quite a story. From Nigeria, he played basketball as a kid and was good enough to eventually play throughout Europe while he was in his twenties. Realizing he did not have NBA talent, he then focused on becoming a scout. After meeting and talking with then Orlando Magic coach Doc Rivers, Ujiri became an unpaid scout for the Magic in 2002. The following year, Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe hired him as an international scout. After four years, Ujiri was hired by the Toronto Raptors, where he would end up being their assistant GM. In 2010, he returned to Denver to take on the position he is now in, Nuggets General Manager.
Soon after arriving in Denver less than two years ago, Ujiri was challenged with what to do with Carmelo Anthony. Anthony wanted out, and Denver had almost no leverage in any trade talks. Doom and gloom was all over the city, as fans expected Carmelo to be dealt, and for the Nuggets to then plummet to the depths of the bottom of the NBA. The trade to the Knicks happened, as picks and a few players came our way in return. One of those players, Danilo Gallinari, is someone the Knicks didn’t want to include in the deal. Ujiri held out, and waited, and finally New York caved and sent Gallinari to Denver in the package deal. Ujiri has also been the man responsible for sending whiny, inconsistent Nene to Washington for a super talented and very young, JaVale McGee. Re-signing Aaron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler, drafting Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton, and trading for Andre Miller has all been on Ujiri’s watch. Not bad for a GM who has been here less than two years.
This Denver Nuggets team could have easily been lottery bound by now, and nowhere near the playoff picture. Instead, they are very young, very versatile, and have really good depth. This may not mean a first round series win, however, but Nuggets fans should be appreciative of where the team is heading. Masai Ujiri is a rising star and other owners around the league are definitely taking note. For our sake and his, hopefully he stays and sees this through here in Denver, as something special could be right around the corner.
Denver Sports by J Simp