UPDATED: NBA Draft: Will Nuggets play it safe or be movers/shakers?

The mock drafts indicate that former freshman, Tobias Harris - out of Tennessee will be the Nuggets' selection at No. 22 if the Nuggets stand pat. But a report by Chad Ford, of ESPN, on June 21st had Nuggets Nation in a buzz about Denver possibly trading Raymond Felton and the No. 22 pick to the Sacramento Kings for their No. 7 pick. Trade speculation continues to heat up as ESPN's Chris Broussard and Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy both reported yesterday evening that the Nuggets were looking to trade into the Top 10 of the draft.

The NBA Draft:
June 23rd (today!) in Newark, N.J.
5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time
ESPN, ESPN-3

 

Nuggets scouting director Mike Bratz talks about several prospects on Denver's radar with A-Lo aka Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com

Follow Hoopsworld's draft rumor diary all day today by refreshing the following page: click here.

 

Last week we took a look around the Mock Draft world to see where the Nuggets' draft needle was pointing - said needle was swaying over a few different faces. With the draft now just one day away the popular option has the Nuggets selecting Tobias Harris with the 22nd pick.

Mock Drafts updated as of 6/22/11 - 6:30 p.m. MST:

 Chad Ford, ESPN Mock 7.0: Denver selects - Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Tennessee
Sam Amick, Sports Illustrated Mock 4.0: Denver Selects - Tobias Harris 

Draft Express: Denver selects - Tobias Harris

NBA Draft.net: Denver selects - Tobias Harris

Aran Smith, Hoopshype: Denver selects - Tobias Harris

Slam Online: Denver selects - Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State (blogger selected)

Hoopsworld: Denver selects - Iman Shumpert, PG/SG, Georgia Tech

 

 

There is a reason to think that Harris will wind up a Nugget, and nobody should be disappointed if Denver stands pat and makes a selection with the No. 22 pick. Where there is smoke there is usually fire, as the old saying goes - and back in 2009 we saw the smoke become fire when the Nuggets traded with the Minnesota Timberwolves for the draft rights to Ty Lawson

Back in 2008, when Lawson was deciding between leaving school (after his sophomore year) for the NBA or staying at the University of North Carolina (for his junior season); there were rumors that the Nuggets were interested in Lawson. The young point guard decided to stay in school to work on his game and the Nuggets were left whetting their appetites for one more year. The Nuggets got their man in 2009 and the future looks bright for Lawson, who is expected to be the starting point guard in Denver for years to come.

But the question now is ... who is the Nuggets target in this draft? 

Well, it would appear that Harris would be the man if Denver sticks with the 22nd pick. Denver has brought Harris in for two workouts with the team and it's hard not to fall in love with the 18 year-old prospect's work ethic and all-around game. But what if Denver were to make a deal involving Felton for a chance to get into the NBA lottery in this draft?

Chad Ford had this to say in his ESPN Truehoop post:

Would the Kings be willing to send the No. 7 pick to the Nuggets for Raymond Felton and the No. 22 pick? The Kings have had interest in Felton, but it's probably going to take them giving up the No. 7 pick to get him. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Nuggets grab Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo if they could get up to No. 7. 

 

Chris Broussard Tweeted this out yesterday:

 Chris Broussard 

 

 

And Alex Kennedy had this to say on Twitter last night:

 Alex Kennedy 
I expect Felton to be moved at some point. He doesn't think he'll be in Denver next year and he wants to go to a team that will start him.

 

 

Ford indicated the Nuggets might be looking at 19 year-old, 7'0'' and 240 lb. center Jonas Valanciunas out of Lithuania and 18 year-old (or maybe older?), 6'9'' and 243 lb. forward Bismack Biyombo out of the Congo. 

Check out some highlights of Valanciunas here. To me, the big Lithuanian looks very similar to what Denver already has in Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos. Both Mozgov and Koufos have shown varying degrees of NBA success already with plenty of potential to grow, so gambling on Valanciunas doesn't make sense to me. What would the point be to trade an asset like Felton and the No. 22 pick for another center prospect? The Nuggets would be giving up a lot to get a player back who might not be as good as the ones they have now.

Now check out some highlights of Biyombo. The kid out of the Congo already has people thinking they've found the next Serge Ibaka. An explosive athlete who has a knack for blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and throwing down crowd pleasing dunks. With Ibaka we really started to see consistency during the 2011 playoffs as well as his jumper becoming very reliable. Biyombo will come into the league and make a difference when he's on the floor as an energy guy, but like Ibaka - whatever team drafts him will likely have to wait a bit on his offensive game. 

The thought of adding Biyombo intrigues me a bit more than that of Valanciunas, especially if Biyombo (a definite bench player for now) would allow Denver to move Nene to power forward and slide either Mozgov or Koufos into the starting lineup. But how much better of a prospect is Biyombo than Harris or somebody the Nuggets might be able to move up for at not such a steep price? Markieff Morris has been popping up around the 17th or 18th spot in mock drafts and he provides a lot of what Biyombo does, but with perhaps a much more polished game on the offensive end. And with the questions surrounding Biyombo's age, the 21 year-old Morris might not be that much older than Biyombo after all. I know my colleague, Jeff Morton, has his concerns over the Nuggets dealing Felton and the No. 22 pick for a shot at someone in this draft. But ...  

Perhaps the Nuggets might be a bit more creative in their thinking if they are able to move up. If Denver could grab that No. 7 pick or move into the Top 10 they have a lot of options. Denver has worked out Florida State prospect, Chris Singleton and he impressed when he was in town. The small forward is a big man at 6'9'' and is an excellent defender who would be a nice complimentary piece to Danilo Gallinari. Singleton's offensive abilities however, are a concern and the Nuggets might be able to trade down from No. 7 or so to get Singleton a few picks later and maybe pick up another asset in the process.

Marcus Morris, twin brother of Markieff, out of Kansas is a power forward prospect who would be available if Denver can move into the Top 10, along with more intriguing offensive minded weapons like point guard Kemba Walker out of Connecticut, forward Jordan Hamilton out of Texas, Alec Burks out of Colorado, Jimmer Fredette out of BYU, and the intriguing power forward Tristan Thompson, also out of Texas.

One thing is for sure, if the Nuggets moved up with a trade they wouldn't be short on options. The problem though is that there isn't really a set order for this draft. Teams might be selecting guys that will shock the experts and once Player X is off the table, that could mean teams are resorting to much different options that what they originally planned.

There isn't a lot of comparisons being tossed around to guys like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, or Dirk Nowitzki in this draft, but rather to guys like Serge Ibaka (Bismack Biyombo), Andre Miller (Kyrie Irving), Danny Granger or David West (Derrick Williams), Rashard Lewis (Jordan Hamilton), Dennis Rodman (Kenneth Faried) and more. Those NBA players are role players, good role players, but role players none-the-less. While teams might not find a franchise guy in this draft, they should be able to add guys who will be key players on championship teams for years to come. 

The fun part about the draft is not knowing the outcomes of the players right away and being able to use your imagination to think about what kinds of guys your team might be selecting. I can't remember a time when I've been so excited for the Nuggets to own a late-round draft pick and to also have the opportunity to move into the lottery with a trade.

It's time to let your imaginations run wild as no matter what the Nuggets wind up doing, it should be an interesting ride, as we'll find out later this evening how it will all unfold.

 

 

 

Nate_Timmons on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
ntimmons73@yahoo.com 

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