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Nuggets draft recap: Biggest winner tonight is Masai Ujiri

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After pulling off a great deal mid-season with the New York Knicks, Nuggets Nation was abuzz about what he would do for an encore. Well, after tonight's draft Denver fans should be very pleased with the direction the team is heading. The Nuggets traded Raymond Felton to the Portland Trail Blazers and in return received Andre Miller (for his second tour here) and the draft rights to Jordan Hamilton via the Dallas Mavericks. In addition to getting good value for Felton, the Nuggets landed a guy they wanted at No. 22 in power forward, and rebounding machine, Kenneth Faried. Well done Mr. Ujiri - well done.

As I'm sitting here typing this - right next to me - Chris Tomasson is on the phone with the newest Nugget Jordan Hamilton. I wanted to grab the phone and tell Hamilton that I'm happy he's going to be a Nugget.

The folks in the media room at the Pepsi Center calmly watched the first-round unfold, but a funny thing happened along the way - the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Duke guard Nolan Smith with pick No. 21 and the room suddenly erupted with trade talk. Shortly after Nolan was selected we learned that the Nuggets had indeed swapped Raymond Felton to Portland. But for what players?

Andrew and I were immediately concerned that the draft picks involved (No. 21 for Portland and No. 22 for Denver) were going to be swapped and that Smith was coming to Denver and perhaps Faried (whom the Nuggets literally just picked) was going to Portland. Our fears were quickly put at ease as we learned that the draft picks would be staying put and Faried would indeed be coming to Denver.

Trade breakdown:

Denver receives:
PG Andre Miller
SF/PF Jordan Hamilton (No. 26 pick)
Future 2nd Round Pick (from Portland)

Portland receives:
Raymond Felton

Dallas receives:
Rudy Fernandez

As ESPN delayed announcing the deal, Marc Stein posted it on Twitter, and confirmation floated around the room at the Pepsi Center. Finally ESPN announced the deal, but they had Hamilton staying in Portland - this error was later corrected and the draft day coup by Ujiri and Company was complete.

Before Morehead State played Louisville, I was actually walking around outside the Pepsi Center, looking for quotes on the NBA playoffs. I walked right by the Morehead State bus as it was pulling up. Faried walked right in front of me and I had no idea who he was, but noticed his can't miss dreadlocks right away. Faried says he likes to whip his hair around to annoy his opponent and that hair is something that Nugget fans will get to know well.

As the first-round was unfolding Feinstein, Tomasson, Jeremy from Roundball Mining Company, and I were taking note that certain players were slipping and that the Nuggets might have their pick of Faried and Hamilton, but never did I think they'd be able to land both.

I figured somebody would snag Faried earlier than No. 22 as his motor, work ethic, and rebounding will translate to the NBA game and he will be able to help the Nuggets right away. Some say he could be the next Dennis Rodman, people in Nuggets Nation may fear him because of the minor resemblance to Renaldo Balkman, but hopefully, if his offensive game can improve, he can be a different type of player than either of those two.

The pick of Faried likely spells doom for Kenyon Martin, as the Nuggets appear poised to move in a different direction.

The direction Hamilton moved is not something he was probably happy about. The former Texas forward was looking like a lock to be selected in the teens and as he slipped down the draft board his value rose. The Nuggets are taking a chance on Hamilton. Take Tomasson's Tweet for instance after getting off the phone with him:

Chris Tomasson

I like the fact that the scoring forward, who said he is a better rebounder because he played center on teams as a youngster, will be heading to Denver with a large chip on his shoulder. Whether his shot selection or coach bad mouthing him caused him to drop, the fact that he'll be hungry to prove doubters wrong bodes well for George Karl and the rest of the staff.

Karl got a present on draft night as well. It's a well-known fact that Karl is a big fan of Andre Miller and his re-addition to the team will be comforting to the coach and Miller can probably teach Lawson a thing or two before his time in Denver is up. I expect the Nuggets to keep Miller and they will likely pick up his team option of $7.8 million for the upcoming season (if the Blazers haven't already picked that up).

The big question is: will Miller be asked to come off the bench or will he be given the chance to start? It's hard for me to imagine the Nuggets putting Lawson back on the bench, but Miller warrants at least the opportunity to do what he does best - start. Should be an interesting training camp.

Ujiri and the rest of the Denver front office has given the team some nice ingredients. The Nuggets and Ujiri were big winners tonight.

Andrew Feinstein's take on the night's events:

For the first time since 2002 - when the Nuggets astutely traded Antonio McDyess and the 25th overall pick (Frank Williams) to the New York Knicks for the seventh overall pick (Nene) and Marcus Camby - the Nuggets were proactively engaged in an NBA Draft. And based on the initial reaction among the fans and those in the local media who cover the team, the Nuggets immediately bettered themselves while protecting their backside should Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and/or Wilson Chandler not re-sign in Denver.

Even though he gave a hard-fought, yeoman's effort nightly in a Nuggets' uniform, Raymond Felton had to be traded. Maybe not tonight, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually there was no future for Felton as long as Masai Ujiri, Josh Kroenke and George Karl are enamored with having Ty Lawson start at point guard (an affection for Lawson I don't share, but understand). For the most part upon arriving in Denver from New York last season, Felton kept his mouth shut about not being a starting point guard in Denver. But on multiple occasions his real thoughts became known, and were confirmed tonight byFox 31's Josina Anderson who caught up with Felton during draft night and got the point guard on record saying: "They [the Nuggets] knew how I felt through my agent."

But while I assumed Felton would be traded, I never envisioned him being dealt for Andre Miller; the former Nugget and a favorite of head coach George Karl. Miller is 36 years old - ancient for an NBA point guard not named Steve Nash, Jason Kidd or John Stockton - but with just one year left on his contract the Nuggets should get one good season out of Miller, especially with Lawson able to log heavy minutes. And normally I'd be concerned about an older player being adversely affected by a prolonged lockout, but Miller never conditions in the offseason anyway so it shouldn't matter.

The most intriguing part of the 2011 NBA Draft for Denver, of course, are the acquisitions of Kenneth Faried (22nd overall pick) and Jordan Hamilton (26th). With Faried and Hamilton, not only do the Nuggets get an injection of new blood and energy on the defensive and offensive side of the basketball, respectively, but they are hedging themselves should Martin (likely), Smith (likely) and Chandler (50/50) not return. Like many fans, I'm much higher on Faried than I am on Hamilton. As FM102.3 The Ticket's Chad Andrus said to me in the Nuggets media lounge tonight, Faried is one of the few players in the 2011 NBA Draft that can step into an NBA game and perform on Day One because of his tenacious rebounding and defense. I couldn't agree more.

Hamilton, on the other hand, comes with more question marks. How was this guy projected to be drafted in the teens and yet end up getting drafted 26th? What spooked other general managers and not Ujiri? Is he perhaps "uncoachable," as Chris Tomasson reported Texas head coach Rick Barnes to be saying about his own player? I suppose these questions will be answered if/when the NBA season gets started and if/when Hamilton finds playing time in Karl's lineup...a lineup not typically favorable for rookies who didn't play at North Carolina.

Regardless of how things eventually wind up for Denver with Miller coming back and Faried and Hamilton coming on board, Ujiri and the Nuggets should be applauded for being aggressive, solving the Felton problem and putting the Nuggets in position to remain deep at point guard while improving their rebounding dramatically. If it weren't for that goddamn lockout that appears to be inevitable, I'd be a lot more excited tonight.

Conference call with Kenneth Faried:

He's happy to be a Denver Nugget and thought he might end up in Denver. And when asked if he can come in and play right away Faried said, "I think I can make an immediate impact. ...(with his) hustle and toughness."

When asked about what number he plans to wear for the Nuggets Faried said, "I'm going to stay with 35." He has worn 35 since high school and expects it to be retired at Morehead State as it has already been retired at his high school.

When he was asked if the biggest month of his life was happening now - as he recently graduated and got drafted within the past month - he declined. He said the biggest month in his young life was when daughter was born. A very classy response and shows he's not thinking of himself.

When asked if his rebounding skills would translate to the NBA game and why it would continue to be a strength of his game Faried said, "(Because) I'm not scared. ...I have a never quit attitude."

The young man is very well spoken and sounds very excited to be starting his professional career in Denver. The Newark, NJ native was cheered loudly at the draft (in Newark) when his name was called and I think he'll receive an even more vocal welcome in Denver when he makes his Nuggets debut.

Late addition to the team:

Towards the end of the Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri press conference at Pepsi Center last night, the two got word that another trade had become official. The Nuggets sent a future 2nd round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for power forward prospect Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who Masai referred to as "Chu Chu" to the media on hand. He's a 6'9'' and 210 lb. prospect from Nigeria. He's just 20 years old and actually shares my March 19th birthday (has to be good news!). Ujiri likes Chu Chu's athleticism and I think the Nuggets will likely store him overseas or in the D-League to get some seasoning.

Your newest Nuggets:

Andre Miller - coming over from Portland to re-join the Nuggets.

Kenneth Faried - the No. 22 pick in this year's draft.

Jordan Hamilton - the No. 26 pick in this year's draft, comes to the Nuggets via the Dallas Mavericks.

Chu Chu Maduabum - the No. 56 pick in this year's draft.

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