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Denver Stiffs crew makes Nuggets draft predictions

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With the NBA draft now just three full days away, we decided to make some predictions and share our opinions on what might happen come June 25th.

Could Emmanuel Mudiay find his way to Denver?
Could Emmanuel Mudiay find his way to Denver?
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It's a roundtable of sorts, but nobody saw what anyone else answered ... until now. It's probably safe to say that Jeff Morton is going to talk about Mario Hezonja, now let's get to the questions and find out what your Stiffs crew thinks happens on draft night.

1.) Who do you want the Nuggets to draft at no. 7? Assuming Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, and D'Angelo Russell are all off the board.

Jeff Morton: I believe the Denver Nuggets must do what it takes to draft Mario Hezonja. He has the most "star" potential of anyone I've seen that the Nuggets can draft in that slot. Mostly, though, the Nuggets can't afford to be "safe" anymore. This is a team that needs to gamble on upside and the ultimate upside gamble is Super Mario.

Evan Wheeler: In this scenario, I would like to see Denver take either Hezonja or Devin Booker from Kentucky. I like Justise Winslow a lot too, but believe both Hezonja and Booker provide more upside to a team aching for a star. Both players would provide much needed size, athleticism and elite three point shooting, for the Nuggets on the wing. Hezonja would provide Denver with a better playmaker, while Booker could give new coach Michael Malone, and the Nuggets immediate effort on the defensive end.

Andrew Feinstein: For the record, IF Emmanuel Mudiay is available at seven (as some mock drafts have predicted) that's our guy ... I just don't think that's going to happen. So, assuming the Nuggets keep their 7th pick, and assuming that Mudiay, Karl-Anthony Towns, Okafor and Russell are all gone by the time the Nuggets draft, I think you go with Duke's Justise Winslow here ... by a nose, over the raw Croatian Mario Hezonja.

Historically speaking, many former Blue Devils drafted in the NBA Lottery have had serviceable but not spectacular NBA careers (Johnny Dawkins, Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Corey Maggette, Mike Dunleavy, J.J. Redick, Gerald Henderson, Austin Rivers) while others have been all out busts for various reasons (Bobby Hurley, Jay Williams, Cherokee Parks, Trajan Langdon, Shelden Williams). And yet, more recently we've seen several former Dukies who have been as good if not better than advertised (Grant Hill, Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Luol Deng, Kyrie Irving, Jabari Parker) which should give us some encouragement for drafting Winslow.

Moreover, like Carmelo Anthony long before him, Winslow helped lead Duke to a national championship as a freshman from the three-spot ... and like him or hate him now, Anthony must be given credit for resurrecting the Nuggets when he was drafted by Denver in 2003. Simply put, the experience of leading Duke to a championship as a freshman will serve Winslow well in the NBA. But I recognize that choosing between Winslow and Hezonja is going to be brain-racking for Nuggets upper management as they're both swing players who could be the steal of the draft at seventh overall. But here's hoping the Nuggets don't have to make that decision.

Adam Mares: I'm on board with the rest of Nuggets fans in thinking that Hezonja is the guy to take at no. 7, assuming that he is still available.  I still have some doubts about him since of all the guys to go in the lottery, he might be the one I've seen the least amount of film on, but the shooting and athleticism are enough to make me think he can develop into a big time NBA player. His downside might be a player like Rudy Fernandez, who was a serviceable role player.  But his upside is very high, possibly even all-star level talent.

Winslow would be an excellent consolation if the Nuggets stay at no. 7 and might even end up being the better player when it's all said and done.  Both Hezonja and Winslow would fill a major need for Denver as a playmaking and shot-making wing.

Two of my favorite sleeper picks in the draft are standout big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Myles Turner. Cauley-Stein is certain to be a very good defensive player and Turner has the upside and unique skill-set to be the best player in this draft. Unfortunately, Denver has a plethora of power forwards and centers on their roster and even though I think both Cauley-Stein and Turner have more upside than guys like J.J. Hickson, Joffrey Lauvergne, and even Jusuf Nurkic, it would still create a logjam in the front court while remaining very thin in the backcourt.

Colin Neilson: The Nuggets should draft Hezonja at no. 7. In many ways, Hezonja reminds me of a "mini-Gallo." He has shown good passing ability, outside shooting, and has an explosive first step. He seems capable of playing as a SG/SF immediately, and with questions swirling about Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye's future with the Nuggets, Hezonja could make a solid addition to the rotation. In terms of intangibles, Hezonja's extensive experience with international clubs like KK Dubrovnik, KK Zagreb and FC Barcelona have provided him a great deal of seasoning with multiple coaches and teammates from a variety of backgrounds. While reports about his cockiness and immaturity are concerning, I'm confident that Malone's no-nonsense approach can quickly mold him into a disciplined, high-quality NBA SG.

Mike Olson: With Malone being the new sheriff in town, every sheriff needs a little Justise. Winslow, that is. The Nuggets have had some of their best seasons with a strong wing defender at the two, and Winslow is NBA-ready for that defensive challenge. With his speed, handles, and improving offense, he'd be a key catalyst for the "defend and start the fast break" game Malone said he wants to play, and is strong enough to keep up with the NBA game early in his career. With Steve Hess giving him more juice, Justise might soon be served everywhere the game is played.

Nate Timmons: It really comes down to who is left on the board. Hopefully one of these three guys is there: Mudiay, Hezonja, or Winslow (that's my order of preference, too). If for some reason those three guys are not on the board, I'm torn between Booker and Turner. I don't particularly have a player that is "my guy" in this draft, but those five guys are the ones that have usurped my attention. If Mudiay is available (he shouldn't be), then he's the guy I want to see the Nuggets take.

2.) Your dream scenario for the Nuggets draft: trades and all that jazz.

Morton: My dream scenario for the Draft would be if the Nuggets could somehow get one more pick in the first round and draft a point guard. This would obviously require trading Ty Lawson or Kenneth Faried, but I think it's worth the gamble.

Wheeler: If I could have my way, I'd love to see Denver secure a top four selection in this draft and somehow select D'Angelo Russell. Although, I'm not sure Minnesota, Los Angeles (Lakers), Philadelphia, or New York would really be enticed by any offer Tim Connelly could come up with. To get anything off the ground, Denver would probably have to offer Lawson, Faried and maybe even sacrifice Gary Harris, if they want to keep the no. 7 pick to get the Ohio State star.

Feinstein: Other than having Mudiay drop to seven, my Nuggets dream scenario draft day is to move Lawson to Sacramento for the Kings' sixth overall pick and point guard Darren Collison. And then, with that sixth pick, take Hezonja at six and Winslow at seven. In that scenario, the Nuggets would have their two / three spots solidified for the next decade (assuming both players pan out and remain in Denver, of course).

Losing Lawson, while taking on a freshman and a raw European talent would probably see the Nuggets sink to the bottom of the Western Conference to which I say: who cares? Even Kevin Durant's Seattle Supersonics stunk during his Rookie of the Year season. Winslow and Hezonja - along with sophomore-to-be Jusuf Nurkic - would form a foundation for the Nuggets future as they look to score a top-three selection in the 2016 NBA Draft and start thinking about 2017 and beyond when they can really compete in the Western Conference again.

Mares: My dream scenario for the Nuggets is to create two lottery picks out of this year's draft. Scouts and draft analysts insist that Nikola Jokic would've been a late lottery pick in this year's draft so pairing him alongside Nurkic, Joffrey, Harris, and two lottery picks in this year's draft would give the Nuggets an excellent base for redevelopment.

Lawson is my preferred trade piece.  He's in the middle of his prime and still a top 15 point guard in the league. I fear that his stock will fall in the coming season, if he is thrown into a Nuggets rebuild that he wants no part of.  Pairing Lawson with somebody like Hickson or Chandler might be enough to gain a second lottery pick and if that's the case, I'd go after Myles Turner (along with Hezonja). If the Nuggets are able to grab a middle first round pick in exchange for Ty, I'd look to take Duke's Tyus Jones, a point guard that I think will transition very well into the NBA with excellent shooting, length, and a fairly high basketball IQ.

Neilson: My dream scenario for the draft is for the Nuggets to somehow find a way to jettison both Foye and Hickson on or before draft day, even if it means sacrificing a player like Chandler and/or a (low) pick in the process. I don't care if I'm beating the dust from the dead horse into smaller dust particles - I want Hickson off this team before the start of the 2015-16 season. I'm more okay with keeping Foye around as a veteran player if necessary, but Hickson is: A.) bad, B.) redundant, and C.) stunts the growth of developing players like Lauvergne.

If a rebuild is truly coming - and it should be - try this on for size: Lawson, Hickson and the no. 7 pick for DeMarcus Cousins and the no. 6 pick, which the Nuggets could then turn into either Justise Winslow or Mario Hezonja (NBA trade machine says it works!). The Nuggets would be relying heavily on Jameer Nelson (his free agent status looming) and Erick Green at the point, but imagine a frontcourt rotation featuring Nurkic and Cousins. That would be terrifying for any team in the league.

Olson: Dream scenario, you said... The Nuggets stay put, and bring Winslow in as their starting two guard, going young across that position. Denver engineers a trade of Lawson, Faried, and Hickson for (drumroll) Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Stop laughing. Coming back to reality, though, I'd like to see the Nuggets take a risk and sacrifice this year to go young, trade all three players mentioned to the Knicks for the no. 4 pick and whatever players will make it work. New York returns to relevance quickly, and the Nuggets use the pick to draft Emmanuel Mudiay. Denver could ask Nelson to come back to show the kid the ropes, and play Chandler and Lauvergne at power forward. Will Barton would be welcomed back, as well. Roster would look like this:

PG: Nelson, Mudiay, Green
SG: Winslow, Harris, Foye? (Sorry, Mancar)
SF: Gallinari, Barton
PF: Chandler, Lauvergne
C: Nurkic, Jokic, Player X (sign a big or trade for one)

Fast, young, smart, athletic, defensive, and with an attitude. Can play several guys in several slots. Defend well, run like hell. Wow, I need a cigarette.

Timmons: The dream scenario would be the Nuggets coming away with another selection in this draft, and being able to obtain Russell or Mudiay and Hezonja. It's hard to see the Nuggets being able to keep the 7th pick in a deal where they get to move up, and where Russell goes is likely too rich for Denver's blood. Mudiay and Mario are risky players, but both very much worth the gambles. I don't much mind what the Nuggets will have to do to acquire a second pick, I don't want to see that pick-swap with the Knicks (for the 2016 draft) go away, but if they identify players they must have - I'm okay with the team making whatever moves they must to get their targets.

3.) What you think will actually happen on draft day?

Morton: What I believe will actually happen on draft day is the Nuggets will have only the 7th pick. There are teams that don't value the Nuggets players as much as say, the Nuggets do, and it will be hard to pull off a trade to move up and/or acquire an additional pick. So, whomever falls to the Nugs at no. 7 will be drafted.

Wheeler: I think the Nuggets stay at no. 7, while finding a way to acquire another first round pick in exchange for Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried or both. I have a gut feeling that Denver will get lucky come draft night, ending up with Emmanuel Mudiay at seven. I'm not sure the likelihood of Mudiay falling to seven, but I believe there's a good chance he will, and he'll be the perfect replacement for Lawson. However, if the board holds to what's projected, I think Denver will decide between Hezonja or Winslow, either player I would be in favor of. If they can get another selection in Thursday's draft, I expect the Nuggets to take one of three players: Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant, Kentucky forward Trey Lyles or Kentucky guard Devin Booker.

Feinstein: I honestly believe that my dream scenario described above [in question two] will happen. The 63 year old, multi-million dollar paid George Karl didn't take the Kings head coaching job last season to lose games with rookies and raw youngsters. Karl and the Kings want to be relevant in the highly competitive Western Conference NOW and open their new arena in 2016 as a playoff participant. Lawson, despite his inconsistencies and faults in Denver, could be just the player Karl and the Kings need to get the Kings back into the post-season for the first time since 2006.

Mares: It's impossible to predict what the Nuggets will do, as evidenced by their hiring of Mike Malone, a candidate that was off the radar up until a few weeks ago. But my gut tells me that the front office really likes Hezonja, and will try very hard to get him, possibly even trading the no. 7 pick to move up a spot or two to ensure they can get him. There have been several hints in the last month from Josh Kroenke, Connelly, and even Malone that some fairly big changes are coming. And at this point I'd be more surprised if there wasn't a big trade made on or around draft day.  My guess is that on Thursday we'll be saying hello to Hezonja and goodbye to Ty.

Neilson: I can't see the Nuggets making huge deals to move up in this year's draft. There isn't a true standout player to me that the Nuggets could realistically acquire, and unless they are truly willing to sacrifice Lawson, they likely could only trade down. While Josh and Tim hit on Nurkic last year, Harris has been somewhat disappointing in his time and could be easily supplanted by Hezonja. I think the Nuggets stand pat for the most part and draft Hezonja or Winslow.

Olson: I haven't the foggiest, this is the least sure I've been of the Nuggets direction in years. Winslow had a so-so workout (but a good interview, according to Jim Clibanoff), that Jeff showcased last week, but with his work ethic, you have to think once he's acclimated, he'll make altitude rough for the other players he's against. I do think the Nuggets will make some trades, but not in regards to the draft specifically, and you could argue that starting the season with Ty slotting into that lineup above, and Faried being relegated to the second team energy guy (tough contract for that, but thank goodness for the upcoming cap bump), you could slot Jokic primarily at backup center, and still be fierce and deep. Will be fun to see what Connelly does with the players left at no. 7, if we stay put.

Timmons: I think the mostly likely outcome is that the Nuggets pick up a wing player at no. 7 in either Hezonja, Winslow, or Booker. And I think the Nuggets will get another pick in the 8-20 range (wide range, I know) and take a flier on one of the following players: Turner, Payne, Grant, or Jones. If Mudiay is the pick at no. 7, then I think the Nuggets will try to acquire an addition pick to get a wing player like Johnson, Booker, or Oubre, or they may take a big like Turner for his ability to stretch the floor, play in the post, and protect the rim. I have a feeling that when it's all said and done, that Turner will be a guy that we look back on and say, "How did so many team pass on him?"

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That's a wrap! Please answer the three questions in the comment section or list out your preference of prospects, if you so choose. We can't wait for the June 25th draft.