Here’s what we know about the Denver Nuggets’ plans entering Thursday night’s draft:
President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly said Monday that whomever Denver drafts at 13 (if they don’t trade up or back) likely won’t play a large role during their rookie season. Denver has a jam-packed roster that will likely be thinned out one way or another this summer but currently speaking, there are not many available minutes to be had.
However, their deep rotation won’t prevent Connelly from implementing a best player available approach when it comes to a draft — the same method Denver’s used the past two summers to draft Emmanuel Mudiay and then Jamal Murray with their first selections each year.
Denver will also look to address their needs on the defense. It could come through the draft, free agency, or both, but the Nuggets will bolster their defensive profile at some point this offseason much like they improved their outside shooting last summer.
What Denver does have are options. They don’t have a specific need, other than a defensive-minded player, but it’s tough to grab that impact guy who will come in on day one and be a plus on that end of the floor in the draft — that’s why specific needs are better to be addressed in free agency when you know much more about a player than from watching him in college or abroad and meeting him in person on a few occasions
The Nuggets won’t be afraid to move their No. 13 pick if they find a deal that makes them better but also armed with two second-round selections (No. 49 and 51), Denver can get creative.
Here are three prospects Denver could target in the second round come Thursday evening:
Sterling Brown | 6-6 | 3-and-D Wing | SMU | 22-years-old
In the second round, you’re simply trying to get lucky. Ask Connelly about Nikola Jokic‘s ascension after Denver drafted him 41st overall in 2014 and he’ll often cite ‘luck.’ It’s not a cop-out either. Finding an NBA role player or even someone who makes your roster in the second round is considered a big-time success.
In steps Brown, a stocky but springy 6-6 wing who projects as a prototypical 3-and-D player at the next level. Brown is long with a 6-10 wingspan and typically guarded the opposing teams best player at SMU. He’s a high-IQ defender that can guard three and maybe four positions at the next level due to his core strength.
On offense, Brown isn’t going to wow you as an isolation scorer but can light it up from beyond the arc. He shot 44.9 percent from three this season on 3.9 attempts per game and possesses a clean and repeatable stroke.
Brown was a bit of a late bloomer at SMU, really not coming on until his junior season but has a great lineage. Brown’s older brother is nine-year NBA vet Shannon Brown. He’s worth a flier in the second round because he fits a defined role in today’s NBA and possesses a skill-set that translates to the next level well. Brown also shot a tad under 80 percent from the line in his senior season.
Jonah Bolden | 6-10 | Playmaking 4 | Radnicki Basket (Serbia) | 21-years-old
When the Nuggets take interest in a four-man at any point over the next few seasons, the question that will always be asked, is ‘how does player X fit next to Jokic?’
Scanning power forwards and hybrid fours throughout the league today, the list of players that could fit next to Jokic and make up for his shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor is short. It’s tough to find players who can fit a role on offense while also possessing the ability to protect the rim and defend athletic fours on the perimeter.
Bolden might not be the answer to the previously posed question, and he likely isn’t, but he could be, and that’s all you’re looking for in a second-round selection.
The 21-year-old can do a little bit of everything at the power forward position. He shot 41.9 percent from distance on 4.2 attempts per game, scored 1.039 points per possession on catch-and-shoot jumpers, per DraftExpress, and comes with a surprisingly fluid stroke for such a powerful athlete. He snatched up 7.2 rebounds per game and can use his explosion off the bounce to blow by slower big men on the perimeter.
While in short spurts Bolden can put together a highlight reel of everything you would want in a modern, playmaking four, he’s wildly inconsistent. On offense, he’ll try to do too much at times and look for his shot when he should differ, and while he can stick with smaller defenders in the pick-and-roll and move his feet well on defense, he’ll lose his man and focus too often.
Bolden has a ton of flaws in his game but also possesses a rare jumper combined with an athletic ability that you don’t see in many 6-10, 230-pound prospects. If Bolden starts slipping on draft night, and he might because of the obvious red flags, he’d be worth the risk later in the draft.
Mathias Lessort | 6-9 | Power Big | Nanterre (France) | 21-years-old
Lessort would be another potential fit next to Jokic and is a physical big man who averaged 2.3 blocks per 40 minutes this past season, stringing together a few three- and four-block performances along the way.
Playing against good competition in France’s Pro A League, Lessort’s motor is his calling card. He’s a bull on the interior and shot just under 60 percent from the field this season. Lessort averaged 10.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, doing most of his damage on the inside.
The French national is projected as a second-round pick by most scouts likely because of his underdeveloped offensive game. Lessort doesn’t shoot from the perimeter and attempted just five threes this year. This video from DraftExpress highlighting one of Lessort’s bigger games of this past season does a good job showcasing his bulldog mentality.
Denver could use someone like Lessort to bring some intensity to the paint on both ends of the floor, something the Nuggets lacked last year. Who knows if he’ll ever make it to the NBA but another season or two abroad or in the D-League could result in a more refined and expanded offensive game.