Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly looks at the NBA playoffs, now in the second round, then observes his own team and is confident his bunch can be back in the postseason party next year.

"Our collective group of talent is impressive," Connelly said. "Now, how do we add one more impactful piece to get us to that next level?"

That question begins to get clarity May 20, when the draft lottery takes place in New York. Connelly will be on hand for that, and Nuggets coach Brian Shaw will be the team's "face" on stage when the lottery results are televised. Barring luck in moving up, the Nuggets are slated to pick 11th in the June 26 draft.

Once the Nuggets know where they pick, they can begin the process of putting together a plan of how they will proceed in the draft and then free agency. For Connelly, who has finished his first season as general manager, it's the start of a big offseason.

The Nuggets brought him on board last summer, and between him hiring a head coach and other staff throughout the organization, he had little time to dig into the draft and free agency. That's no longer an issue.

"It's huge," Connelly said of this offseason. "We came here with pretty high expectations and certainly didn't meet our internal goals. This summer, we're going to go all-in and try to take the next step."

By "all-in," Connelly means this: "I've already let all the other guys in different front offices around the league know that we're open for business. ... If you really study our team, we have a lot of flexibility."

Connelly's evaluation of the 36-46 Nuggets, who missed the playoffs for the first time after 10 consecutive berths, was "incomplete."

"It was a rash of injuries, the likes of which I've never seen before," he said. "We saw a lot of growth in some of our guys. I love Brian, and I love what he did in the most difficult of circumstances — a first-year coach taking over a team that won 57 and having all the injuries? I can't say enough good things about Brian and the staff."

The Nuggets know they need a long, defensive-minded shooting guard. The draft will have a couple of good options there, even if the Nuggets don't move up and remain in the 11th slot.

They also will try to add locker room leadership. By the end of this past season, veteran shooting guard Randy Foye was the clear leader and filled that role well. The Nuggets want to add to that with another veteran, which can only be done through free agency in July.

The team already has 12 players with guaranteed contracts for next season, and another — Quincy Miller — whose contract would become guaranteed on opening day next season. Two of those contracts, Nate Robinson's and Darrell Arthur's, are player options. Both have told The Denver Post they plan to stay with the Nuggets next season.