It’s a Monday in early July and while the Denver Nuggets’ Summer League team is off, Calvin Booth isn’t. The team’s assistant GM is tucked away in one of the last rows in the lower bowl at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, taking in a few games. The 43-year-old, who spent a decade in the NBA as a rim protector, is observing and doing what has become second nature to him over the past few years: Scouting and evaluating talent.
Booth is also all smiles because the Nuggets have just acquired Jerami Grant, a player whose versatility on both sides of the floor should be a seamless fit on coach Michael Malone’s team. There has been a lot of buzz over the moves several other Western Conference teams have made, but Booth is quietly confident the Nuggets will remain a contender in the highly-competitive conference. “I think everybody, whatever role they are in, is poised to improve,” Booth told Nuggets.com. “Ultimately, once you get to the level we’re at, you need your best players to keep improving. I’m confident in Nikola [Jokić], Jamal [Murray], Gary [Harris] to keep on taking another step in growing their game.” Booth joined Nuggets.com for the latest installment of Five Questions. The former center discussed the ins and outs of his position, his expectations for Murray with an impending contract extension in the mix and the deal for Grant. Here are his responses: [Editor’s Note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity purposes] For an average Nuggets fan who might not know what an assistant GM does, can you explain the day-to-day function of your role? As an assistant GM, scouting is a big priority. Being around the team, making sure things are running smoothly. I coordinate in helping Tim [Connelly] and Artūras [Karnišovas] manage our [front office] department. Those are probably the biggest things I’m doing. [There’s] a good amount [of scouting and traveling involved]. During the season, 14 to 15 days a month are spent on the road. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Offseason, you travel almost about the same as well. [What drew me into front office work] is seeing how a front office [operates] in putting a team together and what makes a good team go. That always intrigued me…My passion was always working in the front office. When a trade like the one for Jerami Grant happens, how involved are you in that process? Tim and Artūras do a great job of collaborating with everyone in the department, getting together in meetings and picking ideas. I think everyone in our group has an impact and a say on the moves we make and the ones we won’t make. [A typical question] might be “Will or won’t you do this deal?” Then we start going down the rabbit hole, so to speak, where we start asking more detailed questions. [We start weighing] the pros and the cons of how it will impact us, if we do it. What’s the impact if we don’t do it. It depends on the scenario, but it evolves into a sophisticated conversation. What does Grant bring to this team? He’s a versatile basketball player and he’s a hard worker, who has improved his game a lot. He’s a guy who shot 39 percent from three last year on a high volume of attempts. He can rim protect and he finishes at a high level. He’s rangy defensively, so I think he brings a lot of qualities that we lack. Paul Millsap is returning this season and Jamal Murray has an impending contract extension, how important was it to keep this core group intact? We’ve got [great] homegrown talent and Paul was our one big free agent acquisition and he’s been important to our success. He provides leadership and toughness, he’s a guy who’s won at the highest level. Jamal is a guy we’ve drafted and seen grow every day…Who knows what Jamal’s ceiling is yet? I don’t think he’s close to it yet. I think depending on how things go, he can be pretty good. You hate to put labels on those things but I think the sky is the limit [for him]. I think it was big for the continuity of team [to extend both contracts]. We’re big on continuity and we feel we can be successful [with this group]. In your mind, what makes teams successful? I think its guys buying into the team concept. Guys being unselfish, being willing to move the ball and do things that aren’t easy to do, like play defense on a back-to-back night or give multiple efforts towards loose balls. Doing it every day, consistency matters. I think that’s the reason why we have a lot of team success right now, we have a bunch of guys who have bought into those things.