Tim Connelly Built The Denver Nuggets. | Then Built The Minnesota Timberwolves To Take Down His Former Team

The 2024 NBA Playoffs are now into the semifinal round for each conference. The marquee matchup in this round is far and away the defending champion Denver Nuggets versus the steadily rising Minnesota Timberwolves.

During the regular season the two Western Conference rivals split their four matchups.

In Game 1 of their highly-anticipated matchup it was the upstart Timberwolves, behind a career playoff high of 43 points from Anthony Edwards, pulling out the win in the Mile High City. 

Former Nuggets GM Tim Connelly Now Building Timberwolves

Following the win, the buzz around the league and most sports talk shows was how the Timberwolves were built to challenge the Nuggets.

Current Timberwolves general manager Tim Connelly was once the architect of the Nuggets, drafting their dynamic trio of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.

He also hired head coach Michael Malone and pulled off the trade that landed the Nuggets do-it-all player Aaron Gordon. Those moves have put the Nuggets firmly in the discussion of being a possible dynasty after winning their first title in franchise history last season. 

After building the Nuggets into a power Connelly took on the new challenge of building the Timberwolves into a playoff team once again. He not only did that, he’s also turned them into arguably the Nuggets’ stiffest competition in the Western Conference.

How Did Connelly Do It?

The first thing an opponent thinks about when facing the Nuggets is how to contain or make life as hard as possible for two-time MVP Nikola Jokic. With three 7-footers (Rudy Gobert, Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid) and tons of length on the perimeter, the T-Wolves have the formula just for that.

That was the case in Game 1 where the cool, calm and collected Jokic looked sped up.

He finished with 32 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, but shot 11-for-25 from the field.

In his career, the Nuggets are now 4-14 when he takes at least 25 shots in a playoff game. 

In his postgame presser Jokic acknowledged how it is playing against a team that’s bigger than the Nuggets, who are one of the bigger teams in the league. 

“They have a couple of guys that tend to dig and dig and rotate. They are long, they’re physical, they’re making you make or take tough shots. Not just that, you know, they know why they’re doing it.”

That’s what Connelly set out to do, and when Gobert, the three-time Defensive player of the Year, became available via trade, Connelly surprisingly pulled the trigger.

Following the trade the question was how will the Timberwolves be able to play both Gobert and Towns together.

After a test run in 2022-23, this season the Wolves hit the road running. In 2023-24 they boasted the league’s top defense, anchored by Gobert.

Stifle Tower, as he’s affectionately known, is the betting favorite to win his fourth DPOY award, which would tie him with Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace for the most all time.

Mike Conley And Wing Defenders Round Out Build

Needing a floor leader, the Wolves traded for veteran point guard Mike Conley at the 2023 NBA trade deadline. The former Ohio State Buckeyes legend has long been one of the best and most underrated two-way guards in the league.

His leadership has been vital for a team as young as the Wolves. Long, athletic wing defenders like Jaden McDaniels and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (who was also part of the Conley trade) make life miserable for perimeter players who have 14-feet of rim deterrent in their face once they get by Conley. 

That, along with the dynamic Edwards, who’s quickly put his name in the conversation for best two-way wing in the league, makes this team as formidable as you’ll find in either conference.

For that alone they right now present the biggest obstacle for a Nuggets repeat and possible dynasty run. 

They’re fearless, relentless and tough, which is three things Connelly says he looks for when building a roster. Head coach Chris Finch, who was chosen by Connelly to lead this team, is tough as well, and he recently demonstrated that returning to the team one day after surgery for a ruptured patellar tendon in his knee. 

While I still expect the Nuggets to win this series, it has the makings of a long series, and that’s because of the talented, big and unique roster Connelly has built in the Twin Cities. 

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