How to wreck a franchise

Poor ownership, front-office decisions doomed the Denver Nuggets

Updated: April 4, 2014, 3:08 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

J.J. HicksonGarrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesIt's been a long season for Brian Shaw and the 33-42 Denver Nuggets.

Just one year ago, the Denver Nuggets were locked in a tight battle for the third seed in the West, which they eventually took with a franchise-record 57 wins. They ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, 11th on defense and fifth in overall net margin per possession. Denver's Hall of Fame coach, George Karl, was on his way to winning Coach of the Year. The team's core of Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried was composed of players age 25 or younger. The general manager, Masai Ujiri, just 42, had forged a reputation as one of the brightest executives in the game.

So what the heck happened this season? Instead of watching their team embark on a new golden age of Nuggets basketball, the fans in Denver have watched an injury-riddled squad fall into the lottery, while uncertainty over the team's finances, direction and first-year coach Brian Shaw has mounted.

How can a team veer so far off course so fast? Here's a look at what's led to Denver's downfall.

Poor ownership decisions

Team president and owner Josh Kroenke has a basketball background, having played college ball at the University of Missouri (and he's an heir to one of the country's most prominent business dynasties). But Denver's house of cards began to teeter last year, when Ujiri left Kroenke's offer for a contract extension unsigned. Ujiri eventually left for a bigger offer in Toronto. That should have never happened, even if Kroenke had to overpay to prevent it.