By selecting France's Evan Fournier with their 20th overall selection in last night's NBA Draft, our Denver Nuggets are punting and gambling simultaneously.
During the pre-draft workouts hosted at Pepsi Center last week, Nuggets head coach George Karl made it pretty clear to anyone listening that no player drafted at 20 - where the Nuggets were drafting last night - would be better than second-year-to-be players Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone. Said Karl:
"I don't want to burst anybody's bubble, but I don't think the 20th pick in this draft is going to be better than Jordan Hamilton or Julyan Stone, and they didn't play this year. I mean, I'd be shocked. If Jordan is in this draft, he'd be in the top 10. And if Julyan goes in the draft, he'd be going right around where we pick. "
After seeing the Nuggets select a shooting guard from France named Evan Fournier, it seems apparent that the Nuggets vice president of basketball operations - Masai Ujiri - agrees with his head coach. In other words, the Nuggets punted. Rather than draft an "NBA ready" player like Jared Sullinger now, the Nuggets appear to be sticking with the roster they have and play things out for at least another season. In their post-draft press conference, Nuggets owner Josh Kroenke suggested that had the right trade come along, Ujiri would have jumped on it. But that didn't happen. (I for one was intrigued by the rumored Wilson Chandler-to-Golden State for the 7th overall pick and Dorrell Wright. Chandler could be the odd man out in Denver and Wright has the outside shooting stroke the Nuggets desperately need.)
With a roster stocked with swing players like Arron Afflalo, Danilo Gallinari, Corey Brewer, Chandler and Hamilton (and don't expect Rudy Fernandez to come back which would bring even more clutter to the swing positions), it's hard to envision Fournier donning a Nuggets jersey for the 2012-13 NBA season. Instead, don't be surprised if Fournier spends next season in Europe where he will gain some much needed experience on someone else's watch.
It's way too premature to call Fournier a good pick or a bust, which is why the pick is such a gamble. Certainly - as Chris Bianchi brings up in The Mile High Sports Daily today - the Nuggets' track record of drafting foreigners in the first round is dreadful with the likes of Efthimios Rentzias, Mamadou N'Diaye and Nikoloz Tskitishvili all being relegated to the dustbin of Nuggets history. But Ujiri climbed up the executive ranks as an international scout and his moves to date as Nuggets' GM have afforded him the benefit of the doubt among Nuggets fans. Moreover, a number of French players - such as Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw - have had good NBA careers and all were drafted late. We'll have to watch Fournier closely during the London Olympics this summer to see what he's made of.
Assuming Fournier stays overseas for a little while, the Nuggets' second pick may be more intriguing than their first. Somehow, someway the Nuggets landed Baylor's Quincy Miller with the 38th overall pick ... a player the Nuggets were allegedly considering at 20! ESPN's Chad Ford has written that: "This may prove to be the steal of the draft if and when he gets fully healthy." And as Ujiri mentioned in last night's press conference, Miller will most definitely have a chip on his shoulder after not being selected in the first round. Not a bad thing. But going back to what I wrote above, how will Karl find any minutes for Miller with a roster already jammed up with decent talent from top to bottom? I guess these are good problems to have.
And drafting Izzet Turkyilmaz of Turkey 50th overall? I suspect we'll never hear from him again. (Remember when the Nuggets drafted Slovenia's Sani Becirovic 46th overall in 2003? Or Belgium's Axel Hervelle 52nd overall in 2005? Neither do I.)
The draft grades will come out today and the pundits will weigh in on how the Nuggets did. But whether or not the 2012 NBA Draft was a success for Denver won't be determined for at least a year from now. And perhaps many years from now.
On to the links ...
Denver Nuggets Draft Night Transcript
Read Kroenke and Ujiri's answers to the media's questions in the post-draft press conference.
Mark Kiszla: Denver Nuggets' draft an international disaster - The Denver Post
Mark Kiszla was disappointed - to say the least - with the Nuggets' 2012 NBA Draft.
2012 NBA Draft Results Round 1 - ESPN
Check out the complete 2012 round by round NBA Draft results with brief commentary from Chad Ford, on ESPN.com
Welcome to Draft Diary XVI - Grantland
Bill Simmons' always-funny draft diary. On the Nuggets' pick of Fournier, he writes:
9:27 — Unhappy with the current Rudy Fernandez, Denver takes "The French Rudy Fernandez" (Evan Fournier) at no. 20.
Denver Nuggets draft 19-year-old guard out of France
Aaron Lopez recaps the Nuggets selection of Fournier for Nuggets.com.
NBA Draft 2012: Winners and losers
Marc Spears gives his opinion on last night's festivities.