The Denver Nuggets season ended with a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but the offseason begins today, ushering in the hope that comes with the NBA draft and the potential of new faces in new places.
While the top three teams in the draft will be determined on May 17, at least now the Nuggets know the quantity of the picks they'll have. Thanks to a Houston Rockets blowout win over the Sacramento Kings that clinched a playoff berth, the Nuggets will receive the Rockets first-round pick this season. The Portland Trail Blazers clinched a playoff berth earlier, and they will send their first-round pick to their division opponent this year as well. The Memphis Grizzlies staggered to the 7-seed, and the Nuggets right to their first-round pick will carry on to the next season, where it will be protected for picks 1 to 5.
The Nuggets have nine players with guaranteed contracts next season - Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jameer Nelson, Will Barton, Emmanuel Mudiay, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic. Darrell Arthur has an option he can exercise, or he can opt out in search for a new contract in free agency. Joffrey Lauvergne, Axel Toupane, and JaKarr Sampson have unguaranteed contracts that gives the Nuggets flexibility in regards to their roster size.
The Nuggets shouldn't be choosy in regards to the draft - in my opinion they can use help at every position outside of center. Mudiay shouldn't be concerned about losing his spot as the starter, but with Nelson's age and injury concerns, adding a point guard could be a smart move.
Harris had a nice season, rewarding the coaching staff for putting their trust in him by leading the team in minutes played and starts. Barton played as a backup to Harris at times, but also can fill in as a backup small forward thanks to his ability to rebound. The team finished 26th in the league in 3-point percentage, knocking down just 33.8 percent of their 1,943 attempts, and could use an upgrade in perimeter shooting. Finding a player that can consistently threaten opposing defenses by knocking down perimeter shots is important for the Nuggets.
Gallinari had a great season, but both he and Chandler finished the season on the injury report. When those two are healthy, small forward is the Nuggets position of strength, but the key phrase there is "when healthy." If a small forward is available, the Nuggets could take an upside pick and look to develop a player that create offense while helping on the defensive end as well.
Faried is the only power forward with a guaranteed contract next year, and while it was obvious that he was buying into Michael Malone's system on defense, he struggled with injuries throughout the year. The Manimal can still help the Nuggets win games, but it might be best for the team if he isn't playing more than 25-28 minutes a game. He's not a threat to score outside of five feet, and with his ability to offensive rebound, he shouldn't be looking to extend his range. If Arthur returns to Denver, the Nuggets would have depth at the position, but should also not be afraid of investing a pick in a backup to develop behind those two players.
The Jurkic combination is an exciting duo for the Nuggets - Jokic is so versatile on offense, and should only continue to improve on defense as he gains experience. Nurkic should be able to improve his conditioning after laboring back from knee surgery, and he's the Nuggets rim protector. If the Nuggets want to start both of them, they'll need to add a backup center either through free agency or the draft. In my opinion, adding a more veteran player would be preferable to drafting a backup - it would be nice if the veteran of the center rotation had more than 100 career games under his belt.
The Nuggets could create $28,718,413 in cap space, including the salaries for the rookies selected with the No. 7, 15 and 19 pick. If everyone opts in, they'd have 17 players under contract with $22,212,997 available to court free agents. If everyone returns, they'll still be $13,212.997 under the salary floor, so there is room for the Nuggets to spend if they wish. Or maybe they want to give their players a $1 million bonus at the end of the season, that's not something I'd be opposed to getting as an end-of-year bonus.
With all that done and taken care of, here's what you came for: the mock draft. Team needs have been taken into consideration, and the final order of the draft will be determined May 17. I am willing to concede that every single pick will be proven to be wrong. May the basketball gods grant the Knicks the No. 1 pick.
|Pick||Team||Player (Name, Position, Team)||Notes|
|1||Philadelphia 76ers||Brandon Ingram, SF, Duke|
|2||LA Lakers||Ben Simmons, PF, LSU|
|3||Boston Celtics||Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma||from BRK|
|4||Phoenix Suns||Dragan Bender, PF/C, Croatia|
|5||Minnesota Timberwolves||Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky|
|6||New Orleans Pelicans||Jakob Poeltl, C, Utah|
|7||Denver Nuggets||Jaylen Brown, SF, Cal||from NYK|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Kris Dunn, PG, Providence|
|9||Toronto Raptors||Henry Ellenson, PF, Marquette||from DEN|
|10||Milwaukee Bucks||Demetrius Jackson, PG, Notre Dame|
|11||Orlando Magic||Skal Labissiere, C, Kentucky|
|12||Utah Jazz||Wade Baldwin IV, PG, Vanderbilt|
|13||Phoenix Suns||Furkan Korkmaz, SG/SF, Turkey||from WAS|
|14||Chicago Bulls||Deyonta Davis, PF, Michigan State|
|15||Denver Nuggets||Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, France||from HOU|
|16||Memphis Grizzlies||Domantis Sabonis, PF, Gonzaga|
|17||Boston Celtics||Ivan Rabb, PF, Cal||from DAL|
|18||Detroit Pistons||Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State|
|19||Denver Nuggets||Tyler Ulis, PG, Kentucky||from POR|
|20||Indiana Pacers||Marquese Chriss, PF, Washington|
|21||Philadelphia 76ers||Dejounte Murray, G, Washington||from MIA|
|22||Charlotte Hornets||Taurean Prince, F, Baylor|
|23||Boston Celtics||Diamond Stone, C, Maryland|
|24||Atlanta Hawks||Stephen Zimmerman, C, UNLV|
|25||LA Clippers||A.J. Hammons, C, Purdue|
|26||Philadelphia 76ers||Malik Beasley, G, Florida State||from OKC|
|27||Toronto Raptors||Thon Maker, PF, Sudan|
|28||Phoenix Suns||Jonathan Jeanne, C, France||from CLE|
|29||San Antonio Spurs||Juan Alberto Hernangomez, PF, Spain|
|30||Golden State Warriors||Damian Jones, PF/C, Vanderbilt|
Be sure to read Mike Olson's piece, "33 reasons to love the Denver Nuggets."