Now that we know the Denver Nuggets are picking 7th in the June 25th draft, let's take a quick look around the world of NBA Mock Drafts and see what the reporters are forecasting for the Nuggets.
Chad Ford of ESPN has Denver selecting Justise Winslow out of Duke:
The good folks over at Draft Express are in line with Ford and also have the Nuggets taking the Duke Freshman, Winslow:
Kevin O'Connor of SB Nation sees things in a similar light as Ford and Draft Express, it's once again Winslow for the Nuggets.
7. Denver Nuggets: Justise Winslow, SF, Duke
Few players show the tenacity on the defensive end of the floor that Winslow does on a nightly basis. He's long, has a strong base and can defend multiple positions. Most important of all, he wants to shut his man down. Winslow is raw on offense, but he'll provide complementary scoring earlly in his career. He's a solid ball handler and could eventually run secondary pick-and-rolls.
Somebody has to see things differently, right? Let's take a look at CBS Sports' mock by Gary Parrish:
And the folks over at NBADraft.net also have the Nuggets taking Hezonja, out of Croatia, by way of FC Barcelona.
There already has been trade buzz surrounding the draft. Adrian Wojnarowski with an immediate bomb regarding the Knicks, he tweeted this out moments after their pick was reveled (the Knicks fell out of the top three, in favor of the Lakers):
At No. 4, expect that the Knicks draft pick will be very available in trade talks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 20, 2015
That is interesting news because many reporters in Denver believe the Nuggets want to acquire a second first-round pick in this draft, especially a top 10 pick. And Chad Ford has been tweeting more trade buzz:
Wolves genuinely torn between Towns and Okafor ...— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 20, 2015
If Towns is gone, Lakers like Okafor, but also need Russell’s shooting— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 20, 2015
The Knicks will talk trade with everyone & are also big Justise Winslow fans. Not sure they’re sold on Mudiay ...— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 20, 2015
Let's start with the trade buzz. How much of it is a smokescreen? It all could be! Then again, teams in the top 10 have decisions to make on what direction to take their team. Many believe teams like the Lakers, Knicks, Magic (they've been very patient thus far), Kings, Nuggets (maybe?), Pistons, and Hornets all want to speed up their rebuild. I can easily see the Magic and Nuggets wanting to build up or commit to the rebuild process.
If the Knicks, Magic, and Kings are actually interested in dealing their picks, the Nuggets would have prime targets there to acquire a second pick. But would getting picks: 4, 5, or 6 guarantee Denver gets the player they most covet?
Chris Dempsey got the following quotes from GM Tim Connelly last night and posted the following to Twitter:
"Certainly we had our fingers crossed that we were going to move up but at the end of the day we stayed where we're supposed to be slotted."— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) May 20, 2015
Connelly: "If that guy is at 7 then great. If we feel like we have to maneuver in the draft...then we'll be aggressive in doing so" #Nuggets— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) May 20, 2015
Who was Denver's target in the top three? Connelly told us on the Colorado Sports Guys podcast that the front office would get "smarter" if they got a top three pick. Why is that? Well, the joke there is that it's harder to mess up with a top three pick. Denver could of had their choice between Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell, or Emmanuel Mudiay.
Now Denver has to determine if the player they love will be available at no. 7 when they draft. According to the mocks above, the reason Winslow is "falling" to Denver is because Mario Hezonja is climbing some draft boards. If the Nuggets want Hezonja or Winslow, they may have to trade up to no. 4 (Knicks), or no. 5 (Magic) to get their man.
Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette spelled out Denver's issue perfectly:
Nuggets ownership didn't help the team's chances of landing a top-three pick. Firing Brian Shaw and hiring Melvin Hunt as interim coach was the right move at the wrong time. Hunt's promotion spurred a 6-2 run and boosted season-ticket renewals, the real bottom line for this team's ownership.
But it was a damning decision. The late-season revival dropped the Nuggets from No. 5 to No. 7 in the lottery standings - one game back of Sacramento and five back of Orlando for the fifth spot. The Nuggets finished 10-13; the Magic, 6-15. If the Nuggets had continued their losing ways - the smart move in the tank-friendly NBA - they could've doubled their odds of earning a top pick in the draft.
While people like myself preached that the Basketball Gods would reward Denver in the lottery for making the wise non-tanking decision of firing Brian Shaw. It was lottery ball combinations, aka math, that did the Nuggets no favors. The real world strikes again.
Now the Nuggets must sort through a list of prospects that include: Winslow, Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis, Willie Cauley-Stein, Stanley Johnson, Trey Lyles, Myles Turner, Frank Kaminsky, Kelly Oubre, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, Sam Dekker, and more.
If the Nuggets are truly interested in Winslow and Hezonja, they may be forced to trade up to get one of them. Or they could watch on draft night as both are off the board by the time they pick, which could force Denver to go a different direction. We saw the Nuggets parlay one lotto pick into two first rounders last season, so even trading back could be an option for the Nuggets in this draft. It'll depend on what happens in front of the Nuggets.
Once again, Denver's front office will have make some difficult choices over the next month ahead of the draft. Next step might be naming a head coach ...