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Report: Timberwolves in serious talks with Nuggets president Tim Connelly

Denver Nuggets executive Tim Connelly

DENVER, CO - APRIL 29 : Tim Connelly, president of basketball operations of the Denver Nuggets, is in the press conference at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado on Friday, April 29, 2022.(Photo by Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Denver Post via Getty Images

Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore were reportedly seeking a top-five executive.

Nuggets president Tim Connelly certainly makes a strong case.

Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic:

The Timberwolves are in serious talks with Denver Nuggets president Tim Connelly about the franchise’s vacant President of Basketball Operations role, sources tell The Athletic. The Timberwolves recently requested permission from the Nuggets to speak with Connelly, and the sides have moved beyond exploratory conversations, sources said.

There have been no agreements reached yet, and nothing appears imminent, sources said.

This would be a major – and surprising – get. Connelly seemed entrenched, and top executives rarely switch teams.

But Connelly considered leaving for the Washington Wizards in 2019. Though that seemed to be at least somewhat about moving near his native Baltimore, perhaps Connelly had a more-general openness to leaving Denver than assumed. The Nuggets have a poor reputation for compensating even impressive executives. Denver let Masai Ujiri leave for a bigger deal with the Raptors the same year he won Executive of the Year (2013).

Connelly has done a fantastic job with the Nuggets. He drafted Nikola Jokic No. 41 in 2014 then quickly decided to build around the second-rounder. But as incredible as that acquisition was, Connelly has a far longer resumé of success. He also got Jusuf Nurkic (No. 16 in 2014), Gary Harris (No. 19 in 2014), Jamal Murray (No. 7 in 2016), Malik Beasley (No. 19 in 2016), Monte Morris (No. 51 in 2017), Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 in 2018) and Bones Hyland (No. 26 in 2021) in the draft. Connelly lured Paul Millsap, a marquee free agent in 2017. Connelly traded for Aaron Gordon last year, briefly making Denver look like a bona fide championship contender until injuries hit.

Minnesota has a couple premier young players in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns (who sounds likely to sign an extension). Having won more playoff games this year (two) than the previous 17 seasons combined (two), the Timberwolves could be onto something. Even if they must manage D’Angelo Russell’s expensive contract.

But with Jokic, the Nuggets’ outlook looks brighter. They went to the Western Conference finals just two years ago and won playoff series in the surrounding seasons. Jokic is transcendent. With better health, sufficient help is already on the roster.

That said, money also matters. Rodriguez and Lore could make a big splash as they take over from Glen Taylor. There’s no salary cap on the front office. Interim general manager Sachin Gupta hasn’t done enough to prove he should hold the job long-term.

Connelly’s exit would raise significant questions in Denver. Even his mere negotiations with Minnesota are alarming. Would this affect Jokic’s expected contract extension? How much luxury tax is Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke willing to pay if not even willing to pay what it takes to keep Connelly?

Teams should more aggressively pursue top executives. Kudos to the Timberwolves for trying to upgrade their franchise.

They’ll deserve more praise if they can actually pull this off.