George Karl is wacky and successful and we love him for it. But it was the GM that stole the show this offseason.
The big concept in Denver this season is placing a team mentality over a sense of individualism. Players have been towing the company line all off-season of wanting to help the team win over their own personal goals. Will that work as the season moves along and the spotlights begin to shine? It would be a joy to watch if it works. When the Miami Heat get into a late fourth quarter contest, you know who they will lean on. Same goes with the Clippers, Spurs, Celtics, Knicks, and others. The Nuggets have no historic blueprint to lean on. They are trying to move into that rare category of a young team finding success in the NBA with team play over all else.
So the team swapped out Harrington and Arron Afflalo for Andre Iguodala, one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. That should help the No. 20-ranked defense, though AI2 does replace Afflalo at two-guard, and Afflalo is no defensive slouch. But there should be no question as to whether Iguodala fits the bizarre, different offense George Karl runs. Iguodala much prefers to drive than shoot, and he's a canny playmaker. Assuming Miller continues to hold up and the big men perform, the Nuggets offense might be even better with the addition of Iguodala. It could threaten for the top honor in the league.
This was a brilliant masterstroke by Ujiri. He dealt two long-term contracts for an all-star player on a shorter deal that will maintain the Nuggets' strengths (driving, finishing at the rim) while addressing one of their key weaknesses (perimeter defense). How often does a team get the better player and save significant long-term money in the process? Not very often. It's especially significant because the Nuggets will need that long-term money to re-sign point guard Ty Lawson to a long-term deal. By dealing Afflalo and Harrington, Ujiri created some more wiggle room.