The Denver Nuggets finished this past season with the best record in franchise history thanks to the leadership of George Karl, the league's Coach of the Year winner, and general manager Masai Ujiri, named the NBA's Executive of the Year in his third year on the job.
But just weeks after their season unceremoniously ended with a first-round exit in the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets drastically altered nearly everything that seemed to lead them to their most successful season since moving to the NBA from the ABA over 35 years ago.
First Ujiri left the Nuggets for the greener pastures of the Toronto Raptors after Denver refused to match the offer from north of the border. Now, less than a month after Karl was named his league's top coach, the Nuggets "parted ways" -- fired, essentially, considering he had a year left on his contract -- with the man that led his team to the playoffs every year since taking over nine seasons ago.
The Nuggets are now in a state of flux typically reserved for bottom-dwellers and rebuilding teams, not teams that just recently completed their best season in franchise history with an overachieving roster that was still on its way up considering just one player -- backup point guard Andre Miller -- was over the age of 30.
It'll be very interesting to see where the Nuggets go from here, considering that they're now charged with replacing a coach and general manager that were just honored as best in class. Unfortunately for Nuggets fans, however, SB Nation's own Mile High basketball experts over at Denver Stiffs aren't optimistic:
Either way, you are looking at an extended period of chaos for this team with so many difficult questions to answer. The franchise's short and long term success hangs in the balance, and in large part rides on the next few moves that Josh Kroenke makes. At this point, all any fan can do is trust in Josh's decision-making to equip the team with the right organizational people and players while our window with the current roster remains open - if you believe it ever was or could be.
We must embrace the chaos. There is no other choice. Throw away your expectations of what happens next with this franchise, because at this point, there is virtually no telling.
There's a chance that Kroenke is able to uncover another promising up-and-comer to lead the franchise's front office -- Ujiri was hardly a well-known name prior to his hiring by the Nuggets -- but even then, it seems as though that'll be based more on luck than anything else. Consider that Ujiri reportedly left because the Nuggets weren't willing to open their pocketbooks, either for him or the team he was intent on building.
That new general manager will have his hands full, too. The team that was thought to have overachieved this season is now in turmoil. It could lose Andre Iguodala, the highest-profile player and best defender, if he decides to opt out of the final year of his contract. Aside from Iguodala, surprising veteran contributor Corey Brewer will enter the free agent market and Danilo Gallinari, a rising star in his own right, will be coming off of a major knee surgery.
The Nuggets may not miss a beat if they're able to lure current Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins or someone with similar credentials and somehow find a competent replacement for Ujiri, but the Kroenkes have stacked the deck against themselves with moves they didn't need to make.