The Nuggets entered the 2012-13 season with the third-youngest roster and ended up finishing third in the NBA's Western Conference. Heading into next season, they will be without one of their most important cogs.
No, not Andre Iguodala, who has yet to make a decision about his future, but general manager Masai Ujiri, who announced Friday he is leaving the Nuggets to be the general manager of the Toronto Raptors.
Ujiri had been weighing offers from the Raptors and Nuggets for the past week. Ending perhaps the craziest turn of events at the Pepsi Center since the Carmelo Anthony trade, Ujiri is returning to his old team for what Yahoo Sports reported is a five-year contract worth $15 million.
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke was stung by the loss of a friend and someone he worked closely with the past three years.
"Obviously Masai is a big loss for the organization. However, his departure doesn't change anything about my intense desire for success," Kroenke told The Denver Post on Friday night. "We have an outstanding young roster and I fully expect us to continue to compete at an incredibly high level. Fifty-seven wins is a tremendous accomplishment, especially for a young team. But make no mistake, we want more and we won't stop trying until we reach championship caliber.
"That's my goal and I know I speak for all of our players and coaches when I say that is their goal too."
The Nuggets anticipated that Ujiri would stay with them because of his strong relationship with Kroenke. The duo had an agreement in principle to a contract extension heading into this past season, but no contract was signed.
"I want to thank Mr. Kroenke and the Kroenke family for the opportunity they gave me," Ujiri said. "Josh, the players, coaches, the city and fans made this such a tough decision."
When the Raptors came calling and offered huge money the Nuggets were unwilling to match, it left Ujiri with the opportunity to make his mark in a new city with an old friend, Raptors executive Bryan Colangelo.
The Nuggets historically haven't paid big money to their front-office executives. Despite that history, they have made the playoffs every season since 2003. Mark Warkentien won the NBA executive of the year award in 2009 and Ujiri won it this year after the Nuggets won 57 regular-season games. Denver was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.