As the NBA playoffs continue to trudge on, so does the HQ's "Who'd You Rather Be?" series. Next up? The Denver Nuggets.
Masai Ujiri, the General Manager of the Denver Nuggets, garnered one third place vote in this year's "NBA Executive of the Year" race. The winner of this year's award of course was Indiana Pacers' President of Basketball Operations, Larry Bird, and while I personally would have chosen the Spurs brainiac, RC Buford, Bird isn't the worst choice in the world.
However Ujiri's lack of votes is slightly perplexing in my books.
He saw the Nuggets through the Carmelo Anthony storm, leaving them in as good, if not better, a position than when Melo was in powder blue and yellow, and his Nuggets were inches away from upsetting the Lakers and grabbing a second round playoff birth.
Seeing Ujiri in action makes me wonder if things would look a lot different for our Raptors had he been holding the reins and not Bryan Colangelo.
After all, he was at one point a right-hand man to BC here in Toronto, and it's one of the key differences in my books when comparing the Nuggs to the Dinos, today's "Who'd You Rather Be?" faceoff...
This situation to me is one similar to that of the Utah Jazz.
At face value, Denver is not an ideal NBA market for most players, yet they've put together enough of a winning culture of late, that it's not out of the question for free agents to consider it as a potential destination.
And to me, this gives them the leg up on Toronto.
It's close, but I think 9 times out of 10, for the same amount of money, you'd see a guy like Wilson Chandler or Andre Miller pick the Nuggs over the Raps.
But again, this is a very close call as it wasn't that long ago when Denver was amongst the dregs of the NBA. A losing swoon by the Nugs would even things up in a heartbeat and therefore once more, we see the importance of creating a winning situation, something Toronto hasn't been able to do of late and Denver has.
To me, this one isn't very close.
The Nuggets have a great mix of young talent like Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee, players entering their prime such as Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Fernandez, Wilson Chandler and Arron Affalo, prospects like Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton, and wily vets like Andre Miller and Al Harrington.
There's no superstar, but this is a very balanced club, one that will likely only improve thanks to the upside of guys like Faried, Lawson and McGee (if the Nuggets keep him around.) And Jordan Hamilton, one of the more intriguing players in last year's draft, didn't even play last season!
The Raptors on the other hand are anything but balanced. Perhaps the draft nets them another nice piece and yes, Jonas is on the way, but up and down I'd take Denver's current line-up in a heart-beat.
We're talking the here and now so again, I've got to go with Denver. I'm not sure another GM could have done a better job with the Melo fiasco then Masai did, and that alone puts Denver ahead considering how the Raps netted out in nearly the exact same situation with Chris Bosh.
Factor in swapping the over-paid Nene for increased flexibility, the retrieval of Wilson Chandler, and last year's draft night coups of grabbing Faried 21st overall and also picking up Hamillton, Fernandez and Miller, and this isn't even close.
Even if Jonas turns out to be a stud, right now the choice has to be the Nuggets and the way Masai has managed both talent and financial flexibility.
Advantage Nuggets, by a mile.
This piece is a lot closer in my books.
The Raptors don't have the same level of talent as Denver, but have similar financial flexibility with the contracts they currently have on their ledger. The Nuggets only have a handful of long-term deals on the books, and most, like that of Arron Afflalo, are very reasonable given productivity.
There is one egregious deal though and that's the contract of Al Harrington, a 32 year old chucker who's career PER is 14.4, under the league average. He's somehow owed about $7.5M a year for the next four seasons.
The Raps have only the long-term deals of Linas Kleiza and Andrea Bargnani to worry about, so to me this gives the Dinos a slight edge in the "financial flexibility" category.
Advantage Raptors, by a hair
In the end then, this one goes to Denver.
Much like my views on the Jazz, I think the Nuggets have a superior situation across the board with maybe the financial side of things being slightly more positive for the Raptors.
But in terms of current talent, market and management, this one is a Denver victory and until Toronto can start putting together some consistent playoff clubs, it's not going to be close.