The Denver Nuggets came away with two point guards in the 2015 NBA draft in Emmanuel Mudiay, 7th overall, and Nikola Radicevic, 57th overall. Both guys played ball overseas last season, with Mudiay in China and Radicevic in Spain. While Mudiay is already in Denver, Nuggets GM Tim Connelly expects Radicevic to stay overseas, as the team is very familiar with his club Seville, and his role with the club is expanding.
With the Nuggets' draft, one thing is clear: They have their point guard of the future. This sets up a plethora of questions surrounding Ty Lawson, and some additional questions, too. Let's go over some of the questions I received on Twitter last during during and after the draft:
@NateTimmonsCO BEST DRAFT OF MY LIFE!!!!— Viktor Sweat (@ViktorSweat) June 26, 2015
Hard to tell if Viktor is who he says he is, or if this is Tim Connelly's secret Twitter account, I joke. There was a ton of excitement when Mudiay fell to the Denver Nuggets, almost disbelief. But Connelly said after the draft that the team had a good feel for who was going to be picked 4th overall (it was Kristaps Porzingis to the Knicks), and the Nuggets felt pretty good that Mudiay would slip past both the Magic (Mario Hezonja, 5th overall), and Kings (Willie Cauley-Stein, 6th overall). Connelly admitted he and his staff were able to exhale a bit after the Kings made the their pick official and Emmanuel was there for the taking.
Sometimes things fall into your lap, and this is a very good instance of that happening. The Nuggets were looking for a point guard, Connelly saying the team was considering trying to move up to get Mudiay, but in the end ... they didn't need to surrender any assets to get their man.
@NateTimmonsCO On your Amateur Hour podcast, some good points were made about his fit next to Harris. Something to look forward to.— Joel Rush (@denbutsu) June 26, 2015
Joel, phenomenal Nuggets fan living abroad in Japan. He's referencing my podcast with Sam Vecenie and Bryan Gibberman for The Amateur Hour Podcast. I really am excited about the possibilities of Mudiay and Gary Harris in the Nuggets' backcourt. The two can become very good defenders under coach Michael Malone, and their similar size (both guys around 6'5" and 200 pounds) allows them versatility in covering shooting guards and point guards. Mudiay's near 6'9" wingspan should allow him to be disruptive in passing lanes, picking people's pockets, and bothering shots on the perimeter and near the rim (point guard drives y'all!).
Both Mudiay and Harris will need to prove they can hurt defenses on the perimeter with their shooting on the offensive end, but both project to play very well in transition, and can grow together in Denver.
@NateTimmonsCO what do y think of Lawson, Faried & future 1st picks 2 magic for Hezonja?— Joshua Lallement (@JoshuaLallement) June 26, 2015
The biggest question on everyone's mind is what the Nuggets will do with Ty Lawson, and to a lesser extent Kenneth Faried. Connelly said after the draft that the team was in search of an additional draft pick in the 8-16 range, but that the team got less excited about the prospects in the 11-16 range as the draft progressed.
Who could they have been targeting in that range?
The Nuggets brought Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Myles Turner, Trey Lyles, and Devin Booker in for workouts. So it's safe to say they were likely trying to get one of them, and the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla said on Twitter that he felt it was Winslow the team was targeting.
For the Tweet above about swapping Lawson, Faried, and a pick for Mario Hezonja? I don't see the Magic doing anything to disturb their slow rebuild, at least not something involving Lawson since they have Elfrid Payton. Hezonja is exactly what the Magic need (shooting), and I'd say they'll be happy to keep their newest player.
@NateTimmonsCO can we consider mudiay a franchise player?— max tan (@max_tan888) June 26, 2015
Max, I believe we can consider Mudiay that type of prospect. Listening to as much pre-draft analysis as I did, I can confidently say that it would not have been a stretch for the Lakers to take Mudiay with the 2nd overall pick. Mudiay echoed those sentiments in his conference call with the Denver media following his selection, saying his agent told him a range of 2-7 was his window.
Connelly didn't want to heap expectations on Mudiay in his post draft presser, but you can tell the Nuggets are excited to have him aboard, and believe he can be a cornerstone piece.
Remember how the Nuggets got Carmelo Anthony? The Detroit Pistons passed on Melo, in favor of workout king Darko Milicic. That allowed the Nuggets the no-brainer decision on The Melo Man. This go-round it was Vlade Divac that allowed the Nuggets to obtain the highly touted Mudiay. From Marc Spears' piece on winners and losers of the draft:
On Thursday, the Kings had a chance to select perhaps the best true point guard in the draft in Emmanuel Mudiay with the sixth pick. Sacramento, however, passed because Divac said Mudiay refused to work out for the Kings. The Kings took Kentucky forward-center Willie Cauley-Stein instead.
Mudiay "refused to come here and work out and I just felt I didn't know him enough to make that very important decision," Divac told reporters in Sacramento.
Back in 2009, there was a talented point guard prospect who refused to work out for the Warriors, but former general manager Larry Harris drafted him seventh overall anyway. The point guard's name was Stephen Curry.
Connelly admitted after the draft that the Nuggets could not get Mudiay to come to town for a workout, and that he had never met the kid before. Connelly was set to travel to China to see Mudiay play, but Emmanuel's high ankle sprain kept that from happening, as he missed three months of action with the injury. The Nuggets felt comfortable enough with the homework they put in to select Mudiay without having formal conversations and a good look at him.
Top players, well their agents, routinely won't workout for certain teams because they don't want to give the perception they could be available at, in this case, sixth or seventh. Can't blame Mudiay, Divac and the Kings may have missed out on a gem.
@NateTimmonsCO Do you think the front office has a clear plan? Seems like they want to be more D oriented but personnel wise not following— Mark Kieffer (@Mark_Kieffer) June 26, 2015
@NateTimmonsCO now we gotta hear "it's a good problem to have two great point guards" until Ty is traded— John Lewis (@IAmJohnLewis) June 26, 2015
@NateTimmonsCO don't think they expected Mudiay to be available. Wonder if that changed anything.— Talor Meyer (@TalorMeyer) June 26, 2015
These four tweets pretty much run the gauntlet of what I was seeing last night at various outlets and from various people. I admitted after the draft that I was unclear of what the Nuggets plans were, based of what Josh Kroenke and Connelly were saying pre-draft. The two said the direction would be clear after the draft, and that's true to some degree.
But Talor Meyer's tweet is perhaps the most accurate portrayal of what could be happening. The signal of the Mudiay pick? The team will go in a different direction with the position many consider to be a key cog in the leadership of the team. Mudiay will be the point guard of the future, and now the team must decide what to do with Lawson and other pieces on the team.
This pick doesn't mean the Nuggets need to start trading everyone, but it certainly puts Lawson on notice. Had Mudiay been selected before the Nuggets picked, let's say the Kings selected him, then who knows what we'd be looking at today. The Nuggets might have traded their pick, or they could have gone with Winslow. But to come away with a Top 3 talent in this draft ... wow.
Welcome to Denver, Emmanuel Mudiay.