With the NBA draft just 10 days away, I'm curious as to what new VP of Basketball Operations will want the Nuggets to do with the 27th pick. Tim Connelly had been employed with the New Orleans Pelicans, as their assistant GM, who hold the 6th overall pick in the upcoming draft (their only selection).
Connelly must be very familiar with the tops picks in this draft, but like Nuggets Director of Player Personnel Mike Bratz shared with me recently, teams must prepare for all scenarios in the draft: trading up, trading down, what teams around you might do, and all sorts of other options. I'm sure Connelly is very familiar with just about every player that could be taken this year, so getting up to speed with what the Nuggets have done thus far should be an easy transition.
Could we see Denver trade up to get a guy Connelly has a hunch about? Maybe. Will the Nuggets keep their pick? Perhaps. Might the Nuggets look to acquire an additional selection in this draft? That's got to be on the table too.
What I'm more interested in, at the moment, is Connelly's draft history. The following passage from Connelly's hiring in 2010 with the Pelicans (still hard to get used to that name) got me intrigued:
"Tim [is] very well respected in the NBA as two of the top, young talents in the league," said Hornets General Manager Dell Demps. "Tim has a keen eye on international talent and has been a key asset to the Wizards basketball operations department for the last decade."
Connelly comes to the Hornets from the Washington Wizards where he most recently served as the Director of Player Personnel. Connelly's recent roles at the Wizards as Director of Player Personnel including head scouting, salary cap and database management, player evaluation responsibilities, as well as assisting Tommy Sheppard, the Vice President of Player Personnel, with all front office duties. -Entire post here.
So, Connelly served as the Wizards' Director of Player Personnel as his last duty with Washington. That was the same title that Mike Bratz currently has with the Nuggets. Going to the Pelicans, Connelly got a promotion to assistant general manager under Dell Demps. And now Connelly is the VP of Basketball Ops with the Nuggets (another promotion).
During his tenure with the Wizards it sounds like Connelly had strong ties from 2000-2010 with their drafts. Duties like "head scouting" and phrases like "keen eye for international talent" indicate as much. So, let's take a look at the draft selections the Wizards had from 2000-2010:
|2009||2||32||Jermaine Taylor||Central Florida|
|2008||2||47||Bill Walker||Kansas State|
|2007||2||47||Dominic McGuire||Cali State - Fresno|
|2005||2||49||Andray Blatche||High School|
|2004||2||32||Peter John Ramos||Puerto Rico|
|2002||2||40||Juan Carlos Navarro||FC Barcelona (Spain)|
|2001||1||1||Kwame Brown||High School|
The No. 1 overall picks:
Connelly was part of a front office team that presided over two number one selections. They took Kwame Brown in 2001 (when Connelly was a second year scout) and John Wall in 2010 when Connelly was the Director of Player Personnel.
Brown is considered one of the worst No. 1 over all picks in NBA history and much has been debated over whether it was Michael Jordan's insistence on taking Brown after seeing him crush Tyson Chandler in a one-on-one game or if that is just an old tall-tale. No matter the case, after Brown the next four selections were: Chandler (Clippers, trade to Bulls), Pau Gasol (Hawks, traded to Grizzlies), Eddy Curry (Bulls), and Jason Richardson (Warriors).
Could a better pick of been made? Perhaps, but Chandler didn't catch on for years and after he left the Bulls, Gasol wasn't a consensus No. 1 at that point, Curry flamed out, and Richardson was also not a clear cut top pick (but he was a nice player).
The selection of Wall was basically a no-brainer. The next four guys that went after Wall: Evan Turner (76ers), Derrick Favors (Nets), Wesley Johnson (Timberwolves), and DeMarcus Cousins (Kings). It would have been a misstep to select anyone else with that pick and the Wizards got it right.
Lottery picks: Three total
Taking out the two No. 1 overall picks and looking at the lottery, we see the Wizards make three selections:
1.) The 11th pick in 2002: Jared Jeffries, Indiana. He had a promising freshman season with the Hoosiers, but never really blossomed in the pros. He spent four years with the Wizards, was a starter for two seasons with the team, but never averaged better than 6.8 points or 5.2 rebounds in separate seasons with the squad. He bounced around the league after his time in D.C. with the Knicks, Rockets, and was cut by the Blazers after appearing in just 38 games at 31 years old.
Notable player(s) drafted after Jeffries: 23rd pick Tayshaun Prince.
2.) The 10th pick in 2003: Jarvis Hayes, Georgia. Hayes looked like a promising scorer in the NBA during his four seasons in Washington. As a second year guard he averaged 10.2 points per game during the 2004-05 season, but his numbers declined from there and he bounced to the Pistons and Nets and last played in the NBA during the 2009-10 campaign where he averaged 7.8 ppg for New Jersey.
Notable player(s) drafted after Haynes: Nick Collison (12th), Luke Ridnour (14th), David West (18th), Boris Diaw (21st), Carlos Delfino (25th), Kendrick Perkins (27th), Leandro Barbosa (28th), Josh Howard (29th).
3.) The 5th pick in 2004: Devin Harris, Wisconsin. Harris looked like the next big thing in Dallas for a short stint, he's still in the league, but never really came through on his once promising outlook. This pick was likely on the Mavs made and the trade sent Harris, Jerry Stackhouse, and Christian Laettner to the Mavs in exchange for Antawn Jamison and cash considerations. Jamison was a nice piece to get back to pair with Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler as the team made playoff runs in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.
Non-lottery picks: 16 total (5 in the 1st Round / 11 in the 2nd Round)
Connelly and the Wizards team found a total of five serviceable players with those 16 selections. Three of the five first round non-lotto picks and two of the 11 second round picks (thus far).
To varying degrees of success:
1.) 2002, 17th pick: Juan Dixon, Maryland. He played three seasons (one more season in 2008-09) with the Wizards and showed a little scoring pop off the bench.
Notable player(s) drafted after Dixon: Tayshaun Prince (23rd).
2.) 2003, 38th pick: Steve Blake, Maryland. Dixon's college back-court mate. Blake has had a nice career as a sometime starter, but mostly a backup point guard in the league. Only played two seasons for the Wiz, but is still in the NBA today with the Lakers.
3.) 2005, 49th pick: Andray Blatche, high schooler. He played seven seasons for the Wizards and averaged double-digits in scoring for three of those seasons. Blatche also took a lot of heat from Wizards fans/blogger for being a guy who helped with the "bad culture" setting in DC.
4.) 2007, 16th pick: Nick Young, USC. He played about 4.5 seasons with the Wizards before being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. A talented scorer, but also a player that took heat for his relaxed style both on-and-off the court in DC.
5.) 2008, 18th pick: JaVale McGee, Nevada. He played 3.5 seasons for the Wizards and moved his way into the starting lineup in his third season. Another guy who was hit-or-miss on the court for the Wizards and a player we are very familiar with now in Denver.
** And in 2010 the Wizards pulled off a trade for the draft rights to 17th pick Kevin Seraphin (France) who has had some nice success with the team this past season.
And here is a look at how the Hornets err Pelicans have done with Connelly as part of their team:
The Anthony Davis selection was another no-brainer No. 1 pick, the next four picks after Davis? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Bradley Beal (Wizards), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), and Thomas Robinson (Kings). Sure, the Rookie of the Year went to No. 6 pick Damian Lillard, but Davis has tremendous upside and showed some brilliance in his 64 game rookie campaign with 13.5 ppg and 8.2 rebounds per game.
The second lottery pick, in the same 2012 draft, looks like a disaster for the Pelicans. Rivers fell out of favor after Eric Gordon returned from injury and only shot 37% from the field as a rookie. The good news, he has time to turn things around at just 20 years old, but will he? With their big men in place the Pelicans could have taken a wing prospect like 12th pick Jeremy Lamb, 15th pick Maurice Harkless or even 20th pick Evan Fournier. The saving grace is that there has yet to be a sure thing after the Rivers pick.
As for both of the second round selections - those picks rarely produce a lot of fruit and Harrellson was traded on draft day and time will tell with Miller.
What to think of these draft picks? The No. 1 picks were all pretty much no-brainers with varying success. Wall and Davis look like nice selections and finding some late round picks that panned out is pretty good hope for a team like the Nuggets - who hopefully won't be picking in the lottery any time soon. And how about four out of the last six picks linked to Connelly being Kentucky guys? Somewhere Bret Bearup (former Nuggets consultant and Kentucky man) is smiling.
The track record of the Wizards and Pelicans lottery and late-round picks leave a bit to be desired. Before Masai Ujiri got to the Nuggets, the track record in Toronto of picks were not that exciting either (Roy Hibbert in 2008 was traded to Indiana, 9th pick Demar DeRozan isn't lighting the world on fire, and Ed Davis in 2010 is no longer with the franchise).
Everyone in Nuggets Nation is excited by Kenneth Faried's play and the prospects of Evan Fournier, but we have yet to see first round pick Jordan Hamilton get much playing time. Time will tell how those three guys progress in their careers. And as an interesting exercise it would have been interesting to see who the Nuggets picked in 2011 if they had the 16th pick instead of the 22nd pick. Would it still of been Faried? That would have shown the Nuggets really knew their stuff, but they still made a brilliant pick by judging the guys who went after The Manimal.
We will find out on June 27th who the Nuggets take in the draft and it'll be the first step towards finding out more about Tim Connelly and his new team here in Denver.
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