With the NBA draft just four days away, it’s go time.
Draft profiles have been written, mock drafts have been guessed and big boards have been gutted. It’s time to get down to business.
The Nuggets have three first-round picks and as I’ve written extensively this summer, I feel that it’s doubtful they end up keeping all three selections. However, if general manager Tim Connelly and his front office don’t come across a trade that they feel benefits them, the Nuggets could very well end up making all three of the picks they currently hold in the first round.
Just in case that latter theory does come to fruition, here are the best case scenarios in order, that could play out on draft night involving Denver’s three first-round picks.
No. 7 | Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield
If Bender, the presumptuous No. 3 pick for much of the summer falls to seven, Connelly is suddenly faced with a similar situation he encountered just one year ago. Emmanuel Mudiay fell into the Nuggets’ laps at seven last year and if Bender is available with the Nuggets on the clock it’s once again an easy call for Connelly and his front office.
Bender’s ceiling is significantly higher than both Hield’s and Murray’s, and although he won’t have the immediate impact felt by Hield, who’s four years his senior, the payoff down the line could be huge. I don’t think there’s a great chance Bender develops into a superstar — but his potential is high enough that he could be the second or third-best player on a championship team.
If Bender is off the board, Brown, Hield or Murray would all be fair consolation prizes. I’ve been opening up to Brown more and more as he has the highest ceiling out of the three and has a relatively high floor as well. I think teams undervalue defense in the draft and the importance of having capable two-way players is prevalent now more than ever. The concern regarding Brown’s jumper is warranted but it’s not broken and can get better with the right coaching. I view Jamal Murray as a great sixth man down the road and Hield in a similar role as well. The latter two give the Nuggets immediate help from beyond the arc, but I’d go with Brown’s ceiling over the other two if given the choice.
No. 15 | Timothe Luwawu, Furkan Korkmaz, Denzel Valentine
Once the Nuggets make their selection at No. 7, (if they indeed keep the pick) the draft really starts to get interesting. At 15, the talent has dipped from the lottery but there’s still a lot of quality role players to be found — the reason I’ve long considered this draft fairly average and not as bad as some make it out to be.
I’m higher than most on Luwawu for the same reason I’m coming around on Brown. Two-way wings are the present, and I feel the future of this league and teams will be trying to stock up with as many of them as possible over the next couple years. Luwawu could be the closest prospect to that mold outside of Brandon Ingram in this draft.
If Denver can’t grab Luwawu at 15, Korkmaz would be a great pickup as well. The Nuggets had Korkmaz and Luwawu both in for pre-draft workouts this past week so there’s most likely some interest there, and for good reason. Korkmaz has a high ceiling and already shows signs at just 18-years-old that he’ll be an effective pick-and-roll player with a deadly jumper at the next level. He still needs to add to his frame and may do another year in Europe based on who drafts him, but if Korkmaz lasts until 15, he’d be hard to pass up.
Valentine is my fallback option at 15 but still think he’d be a great addition to the Nuggets roster. Along with two-way wings, I feel that players with high Basketball IQ’s are so important in today’s game. The ability to make quick and smart decisions, whether that’s picking between two shooters to close out on, or moving towards space on offense to clear room for a teammate is a crucial skill in today’s game. Valentine embodies that mindset and has a versatile skill-set to back it up. He can play either of the backcourt positions and seems like someone who will be a solid backup in the league for the next 15 years.
No. 19 | Patrick McCaw, Ivica Zubac, Juan Hernangomez, Tyler Ulis, Brice Johnson
This really could be a draft-and-stash pick for the Nuggets and Zubac and Hernangomez would fit the bill as young big men who could use another year in Europe. Who I’d love the Nuggets to grab if they stay stateside with the pick is McCaw, a 6-foot-7 guard out of UNLV who shot 36.6 percent from three last season but is also regarded as one of the best wing defenders in this class. The Nuggets had McCaw in Denver for a pre-draft workout and 19 may be a bit of a reach for him, but I think the 20-year-old is undervalued.
Ulis brings a polished skill-set and a feel for the game beyond his years. The Chris Paul comparisons in terms of how both play the game are legitimate and he has great vision and enough poise to play point guard at the next level despite his height. Ulis could be a great backup point guard behind Emmanuel Mudiay for years to come.
Johnson is a versatile big man who should find a niche in the league in no time. He never stretched his jumper out to three at college, but possesses solid form and shot 78.3 percent from the line, a good enough percentage that the 3-pointer could be in his near future. Johnson’s shot blocking ability and quickness on defense give him the versatility modern-day big men need to survive.
Stay tuned for more draft coverage this week on BSNNuggets.com and follow us for instant analysis on Twitter and the web, live from the Nuggets’ Press Lounge at Pepsi Center Thursday night.