The Nuggets faced a transformative moment as a franchise when Artūras Karnišovas left the organization to become the Chicago Bulls President of Basketball Operations. Would the team look outside of its fold to replace its outbound general manager or maintain continuity by promoting Calvin Booth, widely regarded as one of the bright young minds in the game?
Considering the success the organization's had in maintaining stability since Tim Connelly joined in 2013, the Nuggets decided to bank on continued prosperity and make Booth their GM. The former 10-year NBA vet is hoping to build upon the foundation Connelly and Karnišovas set, while also adding his own expertise to the role.
“I think it's the culture we've built,” Booth told Nuggets.com on why he wanted to stay with Denver. “It's an opportunity to step into Arturas' role and continue what he started to build. This is a great city, great fans, great team, [great] ownership group and obviously working for Tim is a great bonus as well.”
Booth enters an unprecedented time as a leading NBA executive, with COVID-19 significantly impacting the NBA since the suspension of the 2019-20 season due to the pandemic in mid-March. Booth acknowledges that the typical methods of scouting and evaluating talent will have to change to adjust to the current landscape.
“We were talking about it within our staff and typically, you'd have the spring with McDonald's [All-American] practices and game. The Hoops Summit, the Jordan Brand game. None of that stuff is happening now,” Booth explained. “So that usually gives you a good idea of who to prioritize college wise and what teams to see. Now, we're potentially looking at an area where we'll be drafting and then trying to figure out our scouting schedule for this season within the same week.”
He added, “If the [upcoming] college basketball season goes on as normal, teams will be practicing at that time. We might not be allowed to go and scout those guys live, so that might be a part of the problem. There are so many different factors that nobody really knows and we have to figure it out as we go.”
International scouting will also be another key component for Booth in his new role. His predecessor, Karnišovas, played a key part in discovering first-team All-NBA center Nikola Jokić and bringing him stateside. Being able to use the global game as a resource has become an integral part of the Nuggets’ DNA as it has also enabled them to add defensive lynchpin, Torrey Craig, from Australia’s NBL initially on a two-way contract and draft another promising prospect in Vlatko Čančar. Booth wants to make sure the Nuggets leave no stone unturned in trying to improve their roster.
“I value [international scouting] a lot,” Booth said. “All we're trying to do is look for where inefficiencies are, where you can get value. Even though as the years go on and as people get more and more interested in Europe and they are putting more resources into it, it's still a landscape where you can find a gem.” He added, “You can find a Nikola at No. 41. It's a lot harder to find [a similar prospect] at No. 41 if he is playing in the NCAA. It is a very important part of our scouting package and we'll continue to value it moving forward.” Booth and the Nuggets also want to continue to be innovative in the ways they built their culture within their organization as well. Prior to the team taking a flight to Orlando to resume the season, the Nuggets invited former NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning to give a zoom call in an effort for the team to learn from the two-time Super Bowl winner. “It was very informative. [It was] more about taking on the challenge of being in the bubble,” Booth revealed. “[He discussed] some of his career experiences. He opened up the floor for our guys to ask some questions. It was really helpful. He's the best quarterback quite possibly to play and he's a legend. Our guys really respected him and valued that he took the time out to join a zoom call and talk to us.” Outside of the effect COVID-19 has had on the NBA, another topic that has dominated conversations around the league for the past two months has been the Black Lives Matter movement. The Nuggets have been very vocal in supporting the movement since George Floyd’s tragic death on May 25. Booth, who is one of 10 black NBA GMs, joined Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and several members of the coaching and front office staff in participating in a silent march on Juneteenth in Denver. He is appreciative of the efforts that the NBA and millions of others around the U.S. and the world are taking to enforce change when it comes to racism. “It’s good for us to look at all of these institutions and how things have been handled in the U.S. over the last century,” Booth said. “I support the silent protests because it's not violent and you're making a statement and you're trying to bring attention to an issue. I wish in this process moving forward that people can do it in a way that's not violent and doesn't destroy property and hurt other people. But I do think it's important for us to speak up.”