Denver Stiffs: Thanks for taking the time to talk about the 2016 NBA Draft with Denver Stiffs today! You have a unique experience set in basketball, as you played in college, have been involved in the pros with recruitment, coaching, and even the league offices, eventually overseeing some pretty important pieces of the puzzle: Rules, Discipline and the Competition Committee, among others. You're now serving as an Associate Commissioner for the Big East. In other words, you've done a bit of everything along the way. Does that breadth of experience shift how you look at young players coming up in the draft, both from a skills and maturity perspective?
Stu Jackson: I've wondered the same. I think the many roles I've held, culminating in the current role with the Big East, have really given me an appreciation for young players. It helps in the ability to see where those young players are now versus where they may be in their later years.
In today's NBA, oftentimes we fall into the trap of having the expectation that players produce immediately. That's not always fair, as it's not the current climate in today's draft. You end up with players that are one-and-done or two-and-done, and it's become a rare skill in projecting what the value of the player you draft will be.
That's how I always looked at it, as you would from a General Manager's perspective. I also had the advantage of being at the league offices and going through many drafts there, and draft combines, seeing years of players over and over. Now here at the collegiate level, I can really appreciate players skills of today and project what they're going to be down the road. I think that's the real value in my background in evaluating players.
Stiffs: The Denver Nuggets sit in the same draft slot they had last year, where they landed an exciting pick in Emmanuel Mudiay. What do you see as the team's needs this season, and who do you think will be on the board to help address those needs?
Jackson: It's interesting with the Nuggets, when you look at their depth chart. If you're a Nuggets fan you have be excited. You've got some very good young talent that projects out very well for a number of years, when you talk about a Gary Harris, an Emmanuel Mudiay, a Jusuf Nurkic, and a Nikola Jokic. Youth-wise, even a Kenneth Faried and a Will Barton. You know, this is a good core of young players. So, it's not like you're trying to go out and reinvent the talent wheel.
The decisions that the Nuggets make in this draft are going to have to be focused around what fits with their existing talent. They've got players in that young core that I think are going to be keepers for a long time.
If I had to identify areas in which they can continue to improve, you'd have to look at three point shooting and continuing to improve their overall athleticism in the front court, that size and athleticism. Those would be the two needs I would look at for them.
In terms of who's around at that time, first and foremost, you know, if a guy like Dragan Bender did drop that far, he would be a good person to consider. If you're looking for shooting, you have to consider Jamal Murray, from Kentucky, who's a very good shooter. And then in the frontcourt, looking for size. Deyonta Davis from Michigan State is also someone you'd have to look at. Finally, if you're looking for another slasher just to be more athletic, Jaylen Brown comes to mind, from Cal.
They say Marquese Chriss has really vaulted up in the draft to the top three or four, but if he falls out of that range, he'd also be someone to consider.
Stiffs: The Nuggets have three picks in the first round of this year's draft. If you were running their draft, would you bring three more young bodies into the fold, or would you try to make a deal for something different? If you'd make a deal, would you look for higher draft picks, or someone experienced?
Jackson: You know, if you're running a draft, you want to have versatility in the mix. If I'm Denver, I'm not sure that I would include the seventh pick as part of any package I trade. I say that because there just seem to be some players that high with great potential that look like can't-miss NBA-type players.
I think if you're looking for a mix of young players and veterans, then as the old adage goes, ‘you can't pay them all'. Nor do you want to. So packaging 15 and 19 in an effort to get back a starter or even two in your rotation with more veteran play may make some sense for them, playing alongside that seventh pick.
Stiffs: Who are your favorite guys in the draft this year up top?
Jackson: You know, I love Brandon Ingram from Duke. I really love him out of all the guys in the draft. He's probably not ready to put into an NBA game as a starter, and may not be for some time, but just given his skill level, size, length, character, and basketball IQ, I would project him as someone who might be an All-Star someday.
I also really love Buddy Hield, I don't know if he's an All-Star, but in today's NBA you need a knockdown shooter, and I don't know if there's a better knockdown shooter in the draft.
I'm a little bit biased in my next pick with Big East guard Kris Dunn, as I don't think Dunn is someone the Nuggets need, but as a prototypical point guard with size and length and the ability to play two-way, both offensively and defensively, I love him a lot. You combine that with his athleticism, and his work ethic, I think he's going to be a very good player.
Going back to Jamal Murray, I like him because I think he's the second-best shooter in the draft, next to Buddy Hield, but Murray has a little more playmaking ability. So, I happen to also like him a lot.
Stiffs: Any sleepers in this years draft?
Jackson: You know, in terms of a guy that nobody's talking about that may be a little bit of a sleeper, I'd probably point to the big kid at Utah, Jakob Poeltl, I think there's something about him as a defender and rim protector, someone who can potentially run the floor who is developing an offensive game. If you project him out, he could really be a good player in time.
Stiffs: Which team do you think is going to surprise us in this year's draft? Anyone going to throw us a curveball?
Jackson: Well, in my opinion, there's a curveball that has already been thrown, it just hasn't reached the plate yet. Everyone is projecting Philly to take Ben Simmons as the number one pick, and I'm just not convinced it's going to happen. You might see someone like Ingram become the number one pick in the draft, or even some one else. That would be the big curveball I believe might be thrown.
Stiffs: What's the best part of sitting in that war room on draft night, from your time as a head coach?
Jackson: Look, if you're not excited on draft night, you don't have a pulse. It's always an exciting night for everyone: the owner, the president, the GM, the coaches, and the organization because it's a night of hope. It's anticipation of what you could potentially add to your team. That being said, if you look through the history of the draft, the number of All-Stars that come out of the first round of each draft averages around the four-to-five range. There aren't very many. But you have an opportunity as a franchise to potentially pick one. You don't always know who it's going to be, but coming out of draft night, it's just a great night of hope and excitement.
Stiffs: The Nuggets are a young team with a young head coach, and a lot of the crew only a year or two into the program. What do you see in the Nuggets future?
Jackson: As far as the draft this year, I don't think that the Nuggets are forced to draft talent that can perform right now, because they have so much good young talent they're already developing. With some nice veteran pieces coming back into the mix, I think you guys can take a big step forward this next year if things fall right.
Things look good for the Nuggets. You've got some good young talent, the team has big upside in terms of the development of that young talent, so it's only going to get better.
Stiffs: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with Denver Stiffs. Any parting words for Nuggets Nation?
Jackson: Don't give up out there, you guys! You have some nice young pieces, just continue to get after it! Golden State won't win the West every time!
Many thanks to NBA TV and Stu Jackson for taking the time to visit with the Stiffs!
NBA TV analyst Stu Jackson will be part of the network's week-long NBA Draft coverage, including Draft HQ (Monday, June 20 at 9 p.m. ET), Mock Draft 2016 (Wednesday, June 22 at 9 p.m. ET) and live draft day coverage beginning at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 23.