Strike 1: The end of season press conference came too soon for the Denver Nuggets brass. Prepared for it or not, they did make a couple things pretty clear.

One, they would be willing to go further over the salary cap to improve the team’s roster, even if they don’t seem to agree that it needs a major upgrade. And two, they still consider themselves a “draft and develop” organization, meaning that the addition of any big name free agent is basically out of the question.

General manager Calvin Booth made the very valid point that teams with sustained, long-term success accomplish great things with mostly a home grown nucleus. He pointed at the last NBA dynasty, the Golden State Warriors, who won four titles during the last half of the previous decade and the early part of this one. Yes, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were their core of drafted players, but after winning one title, they went out and signed Kevin Durant after they lost an NBA Finals to LeBron James and Cleveland. Then they won two more titles with KD.

Just sayin. (The NBA has since tightened the rules on salary cap manipulation, which the Warriors used to their advantage during those glory years.)

Yet Booth and company are right. Trying to bring in another big name to add to the Nuggets roster isn’t the right answer if the question is how does Denver return to the top of the NBA mountain. But they also can’t run it back again with the same roster and expect a better result. The definition of insanity, right?

The Nuggets have to do something substantial. It sure didn’t sound like they’d be willing to part with Michael Porter Jr. and his max contract, for example, even if that would clear a lot of cap space and allow them to add perhaps two solid, difference making contributors that could provide depth and alleviate the very real “run out of gas” issues.

If free agents aren’t the answer, then the draft and trades are. Perhaps both?

They don’t sound willing to break up their starting five by trading MPJ. But would they part with anyone else?

It’s finally become apparent to the masses that Denver desperately needs a back up for Nikola Jokic. Aaron Gordon is misplaced at the “five” spot, and so is seldom-used Zeke Nnaji. DeAndre Jordan’s contract is up and it would be ideal for him to move into a coaches role. That’s pretty much what he did this year anyway.

If the Nuggets were able to sign someone like say, former Nugget Jusuf Nurkic for example, they might be able to look elsewhere when they pick near the bottom of the first round. But if not, they may have to trade up in the first round to get a serviceable back up big, as in a “seven-footer” big.

The best two center prospects in this year’s draft, Alexander Sarr from France and Donovan Clingan from UConn should go very early, but after that, the really bigs look to be going in the late teens or early 20’s. Denver’s pick won’t be that high. If they’re interested in any of these guys – Yves Missi, Kel’el Ware, Kyle Filipowski or Zach Edey, they’ll probably have to give up something to get there.

Terms like “switchability” and “positionless basketball” don’t accompany a guy like Edey, but would you use either term to describe Rudy Gobert or Chet Holmgren?

Denver needs that kind of size up front. Another actual center. In order to get it, they could use any number of young wing players like Hunter Tyson, Julian Strawther, Peyton Watson or Nnaji, along with their own pick as trade bait to move up. These Nuggets are flush with young wing players, and unless the plan is to start playing someone like Nnaji, Tyson or Strawther real minutes, it’s a good time to cut bait.

His predecessor, Tim Connelly, got the better of the Nuggets GM this season. The ball is in Booth’s court now.