In an "unfortunate season," as Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw called it before the final game against the Golden State Warriors, there was a glimmer of hope that the team could wind up with a pretty nice draft pick. The New York Knicks were in a free-fall from Feb. 21st to March 3rd that saw them lose seven games in a row. Things were looking good for the Nuggets to perhaps secure a top 5 or top 6 pick, but then the Knickerbockers went on an eight game win streak and gave my colleagues, Andrew Feinstein and Jeff Morton, a playoff scare.
While the Knicks didn't do the Nuggets any real favors, they did still miss the post season and that will give Denver two chances to move into the top 3 of the NBA draft when the lottery balls are revealed on May 20th (there will be a Denver Stiffs party for that, bring your good luck charms!).
How far can the Nuggets move up in the draft?
Denver can only move into the top 3 of the draft. They cannot move up to, say, the fourth pick, or the sixth pick, or even the ninth pick. Teams can only move into the top 3 or they draft based on where their record puts them. So it's top 3 or 11th for the Nuggets.
There is a chance Denver could actually move down to the 12th or 13th pick if the Timberwolves (13th) or Suns (14th) got super-duper lucky and got a top 3 pick ... that would cause the Nuggets to "slide down". That scenario actually did happen to Denver in 1991 when they slid down to the fourth pick, after being the team that was supposed to "win" the lottery. They did draft Dikembe Mutombo that year, so it worked out well for Denver.
|# Chances out of 1,000||1st||2nd||3rd|
What players have recently been drafted with the 11th pick?
Let's take a look at the 11th picks and 12th picks over the past 10 seasons:
|NBA Draft||11th Pick||12th Pick|
|2013||Michael Carter-Williams||Steven Adams|
|2012||Meyers Leonard||Jeremy Lamb|
|2011||Klay Thompson||Alec Burks|
|2010||Cole Aldrich||Xavier Henry|
|2009||Terrence Williams||Gerald Henderson|
|2008||Jerryd Bayless||Jason Thompson|
|2007||Acie Law||Thaddeus Young|
|2006||J.J. Redick||Hilton Armstrong|
|2005||Fran Vazquez||Yaroslav Korolev|
|2004||Andris Biedrins||Robert Swift|
For those scoring at home, with the 11th pick - there are four or five guys (depending on how you feel about Meyers Leonard's development) that are or are shaping up to be pretty steady role players for their respective teams: Carter-Williams (a rookie of the year candidate this season) in Philadelphia, Leonard in Portland, Thompson in Golden State, Bayless in Boston, and Redick in LA. Biedrins had a nice start to his career, but catered after losing major confidence at the free throw line. So, you could say the Nuggets would have about a 40%-50% chance of landing a solid role player if they draft in the 11th spot.
From the 12th spot, the odds are again about even at 50% that you can find a role player as Adams and Lamb have been decent for Oklahoma City, Burks has been a 14 point guy for Utah this season, Henry revived his career with the Lakers before getting injured this season, Henderson has been a key player for the Bobcats, Thompson is steady for the Kings, and Young has been a bright spot for the 76ers.
Of those guys above, Carter-Williams might have the most upside, Thompson has been an exciting player for the Warriors, and Redick has been a solid pro, but none of them really scream: STAR!
Here is a quick look at some prospects (from Draft Express' prospect list from no. 9 through no. 15) that could/should wind up on the Nuggets radar with the 11th pick (we'll delve WAY more into this as the lottery process plays out next month):
|Doug McDermott||SF/PF||Creighton||22 yrs old|
|Dario Saric||SF/PF||Cibona Zagreb||20 yrs old|
|Jusuf Nurkic||C||Cedevita||19 yrs old|
|Tyler Ennis||PG||Syracuse||19 yrs old|
|Gary Harris||SG||Michigan State||19 yrs old|
|Nik Stauskas||SG||Michigan||20 yrs old|
|James Young||SG/SF||Kentucky||18 yrs old|
Could the Nuggets strike gold with one of those guys? Perhaps another guy that isn't among those seven names? Would Aaron Gordon from Arizona fall to 11th? Could Rodney Hood out of Duke climb into the picture? It's too early to tell, but one thing is for sure ... look at the positions above - the guys cover all the bases and it's anybody's guess where the Nuggets may look to draft.
I can talk myself into just about anybody. McDermott might be a scorer and rebounding threat in some type of Ryan Anderson form, Ennis could be an up-and-coming point guard (but what about his defense, 'Cuse runs a zone!), Harris might be the shooting guard of the future that played for a tough coach in Tom Izzo, and Young might grow into a real steal as the 11th pick.
It sure won't be easy for Tim Connelly and company to figure out what the team will do on draft night. Might we see the team forego drafting a player and make another draft night deal? How would fans feel about that? Who are some players the team could target that are already in the league? Brian Shaw has spoken about wanting to find a veteran presence for the locker room, but couldn't the team sign a cagy veteran? Maybe the team can move some long-term salary, the cost of which might be including the pick ... maybe that'd mean moving back in the draft or getting a future first or no picks at all?
The Nuggets' front office has their work cut out for them this summer, that's for sure.