New Nuggets GM Tim Connelly wasted little time putting his stamp on the Denver Nuggets. Gone is Kosta Koufos and gone was the 27th pick. Denver's first move of the night was drafting Rudy Gobert, a center from France, with the 27th pick and promptly trading his draft rights to the Utah Jazz for the 46th pick, in the second-round, and cash considerations.
Moments later, it was announced that the Nuggets would be trading away starting center Kosta Koufos, who for the second year in a row was pulled from the starting lineup in the playoffs, to the Memphis Grizzlies for power forward Darrell Arthur and the 55th pick, in the second-round.
The Nuggets went on make selections with both second-round picks. First up was the 46th pick where the Nuggets were able to grab point guard Erick Green out of Virginia Tech. The senior guard led the country with points per game with 25 ppg and was the first ACC player to do so since the 1956-57 season. The ACC with Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Maryland, Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia in it; impressive.
With the 55th pick the Nuggets grabbed Joffrey Lauvergne - a 6'11" and 240 pound power forward out of Mulhouse, France who signed a two-year deal with KK Partizan in Belgrade, Serbia in December of 2012. He's 21 years-old and could have an NBA buyout, but might be left overseas for some added seasoning.
Erick Green on being drafted by the Nuggets:
Green: It was an amazing feeling. Hearing my name called - well not hearing it because of commercial break - but just getting a chance to see myself on TV and announced in the NBA was a great feeling. I heard I had a good workout for them and they liked some things I showed there. I felt like that was a great fit for myself.
On his game:
Green: I'm a good leader. I can score the ball very well. I can defend the ball. I can definitely come in and contribute and help the Nuggets win.
How soon will he be here and get to work?
Green: As soon as possible. I'm so excited to be a Nugget and just to get out there and get used to everything and get to work. I think it's a great situation. We have some young guys that are very talented and they can play.
Here is what Connelly had to say about the Koufos for Arthur and Lauvergne:
Connelly: We tried to be aggressive with our pick. It was a difficult evening, we traded a key piece of our team last year. A guy that has a really bright future, it was not easy. We targeted a certain type of player and Arthur fits that role. He's an elite front-court defender. He's able to spread the court [on offense]. He has been part of several successful playoff teams. It was not an easy trade. Koufos is a consummate professional and a great kid.
Connelly on what Arthur can do:
Connelly: His ability to defend the pick-and-roll, his athleticism is rare at that position. I know coach [Brian] Shaw and I were really impressed with his ability to spread the floor, maybe create space and he comes from a winning program. I think it was a good trade for both sides and hopefully it kind of balances our front-court a bit and compliments the skill sets of our other front-court guys.
When I took over this job I tried to be objective as possible with what we needed - potentially to take the next step. We had three very good centers and it was hard to get those guys on the court. I thought potentially that was an area where we could address a different need. We had a need for a spread four and we had a need for a high-level pick-and-roll defender in the front-court.
The last couple days this deal came together and we're really excited about what [Arthur] can bring to our team.
Does this move have anything to do with getting JaVale McGee more playing time?
Connelly: Not really. I think it's unfair to the three centers that we had. It's hard at times ... you can cannibalize each other. That wasn't the purpose. I think the purpose was to find a guy that was more complimentary to JaVale and [Kenneth] Faried.
And we're excited about [Timofey] Mozgov, we tendered him his restricted offer today. We're looking forward to having him back. We thought that maybe it was a better fit.
I'm a big believer in consensus decision making. Over the course of the last week I've canvased everyone's opinions. There were pros-and-cons on both ends. Both players are excellent and we're going to miss Kosta, but we want to see what's behind this door with Timofey. We want to give him a chance and see if he can run with it.
(Mozgov is now a restricted free agent with a $3.9 million qualifying offer. This means he can either sign the offer and play one season with Denver for $3.9 million and then become an unrestricted free agent, or he can sign an offer with another team and the Nuggets would have three days to match that offer, or he can just re-sign a new deal with Denver at whatever price his agent and the team agree on.)
Does the addition of Arthur mean the starting power forward job is up for grabs? Is there an issue with Faried and McGee playing at the same time?
Connelly: That's up to coach Shaw. That concern [Faried and McGee together] has been echoed by a lot of guys on this staff. I'll leave that up to the coaching staff. I will say that I think Arthur bring a complimentary skill set to those guys that maybe we lacked in the past.
Did you see the draft breaking the way it did?
Connelly: Herb Livsey (Nuggets scout) did a fantastic job. Over the last several days I thought we had the draft down. We were not enamored with anybody in the first round and there were a couple of guys that we really thought highly of in the second round that we tried to target. We were fortunate enough to get two of them. You know, it's a fluid environment - we didn't know it was going to end like this this evening. Both guys we selected were high on our board - higher than where they were selected - and we felt fortunate to get those guys.
We have so many younger players as is that had trouble getting on the court. All-in-all we're pretty happy about this evening.
(This is footage of Joffrey from this past season)
Did they expect Green to be there?
Connelly: No, we had him higher on our board. He's a scorer, he a natural scorer. He brings dynamic attributes in the back-court that's rare to see. We had him much higher, we had Joffrey much higher [too].
Will Green and Lauvergne?
Connelly: The great thing about our team right now is competition. When you are fortunate enough to win 57 games and you have picks 46 and 55 - rightfully the expectation levels are quite low. Erick Green is the leading scorer in the country. I can't wait to see what he can bring to our team. Joffrey I've seen play the last five years, he's an intriguing player. He plays for one of the proudest programs in Europe in Partizan Belgrade. He actually left France to go to Belgrade, that kind of speaks to his passion for the game. I'm not sure what he's going to do. I've talked to both of those guys recently, I'm going to sleep on it, and figure it out tomorrow.
It's all about competition and we want the best 15 guys on our team. If these guys are among that group: great. We'll see.
Did Green's workouts sell Connelly on him? (I didn't ask this one!)
Connelly: No. I'm not a big workout guy. I was lucky enough to see Erick play quite a bit. He actually played high school in the D.C. area, I kind of knew him a little bit. He scored the ball. It's hard to lead the country in scoring, especially coming from a power conference like the ACC. We had a clear deficency last year in shooting and he kind of checks that box. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do once he gets in our gym.
Has Julyan Stone been tendered a qualifying offer?
Connelly: I don't want to talk about that until ... I'm going to talk to his agent tomorrow. We're still in the process of deciding. Julyan is really talented and coach Shaw is excited about him. His positional size, his defensive ability. We'll talk with his agent and Julyan tomorrow and make a decision.
Anything Nuggets would have done differently?
Connelly: We tried to get LeBron, it went nowhere. Yeah, of course. We were close on a couple of deals that I thought would have really helped us. We were really aggressive this evening ... and you know you're one yard away a couple times. In the course of the chase you can get your heart broken. But when I reflect on the whole evening I feel pretty good.
On Arthur: He can defend and hit the open jumper. He's athletic and will use his body to get to the rim at 6'9" and 235 pounds. I liked his game with the Grizzlies, but he does come with injury concerns. He just wrapped up his 5th NBA season, but missed the entire 2011-12 year recovering from a torn Achilles. He only appeared in 59 games last season for the Grizzlies and missed the start of the season and a good chunk of games in March.
I also worry a bit about adding a guy who can hit the jumper. Will this mean the Nuggets will take more jumpers instead of higher-percentage shots in the paint? Probably just means that the Nuggets want to open up the floor a bit with a diverse player. I am excited about adding the 25 year-old (26 in March) who averaged 6 points and 3 rebounds last year in 16.4 minutes per game. Not exciting numbers, but court time isn't easy to come by with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on your team.
On Green: Loved this pick. I thought Denver needed to address their point guard position with Andre Miller's advancing age and shrinking contract (only one guaranteed year left). What if Miller starts making a stink about playing time again? Will his role be reduced by Shaw? Will he be on the roster if Stone and Green play well (if Stone is brought back)?
Also, let's put a little perspective on Green's situation. Yes, I like his game. As the 46th pick, not a lot of other teams were eager to take him. He was thought to be a guy in the 27-33 range of the draft. He slid back. Teams like to take chances on guys with upside in the second round. You will see seniors slid for the likes of Ricky Ledo - a fascinating one-and-done guy who never got to get on the floor at Providence (ineligible by NCAA).
The past five seasons have seen the following player go at 46: Darius Miller to the Pelicans, Andrew Goudelock to the Lakers, Gani Lawal to the Suns, Danny Green to the Cavs, and Trent Plaisted to the Sonics. Maybe Green can be the next Green and find a home in the league. I'll be rooting for him to succeed.
On Joffrey: I'm going to call him Joffrey or King Joffrey. Love Game of Thrones. I like that Connelly took a chance on a young big man (21 years-old) that he's had his eye on. It sounded like Connelly is very familiar with his game and with the league he's playing in with his Partizan team. Will he make the roster? With him having a two year deal the Nuggets might have a buyout option if they want to bring him over, but they could store him overseas for a season or two and let the already full roster play out a bit.
On a bigger move? This quote from Connelly really struck me: "We were really aggressive this evening ... and you know you're one yard away a couple times. In the course of the chase you can get your heart broken. But when I reflect on the whole evening I feel pretty good."
What was he talking about? What deals were on the table? Might we see more moves aka trades when the free agency period opens? Connelly didn't waste any time reshaping the roster - trading your starting center for 81 games is a big deal.
With the GM change and the coaching change the next step was roster changes. We saw some tonight. We may see more soon.
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