The NBA Draft is June 22, with coverage beginning at 7:00 PM ET. There are lots of rumors, theories, and projections that are swirling around, and once Adam Silver begins the draft, they’ll all be for naught. Here are a few of our thoughts on the draft.
Who is your favorite prospect in the NBA draft?
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): Deonte Burton. He's 6’5”, has a 7’ wingspan, and weighs 260 pounds. He doesn't really have a position to play in the NBA, and he probably won't be drafted, but I love watching him play basketball. He's like a heavier version of Dion Waiters - much heavier. He can dunk, shoot 3-pointers, block shots, and he's a lefty.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): I don’t even know anymore. It’s been months of staring at the draft board and looking up every prospect, hunting down reams of footage on them, it could be anybody.... Ah, who’m I kidding, it’s still OG Anunoby. Even if he doesn’t play this year.
Ryan Blackburn (@RyanBlackburn9): Everyone who knows me knows it’s Zach Collins. I genuinely believe that he could be the next Unicorn-type big man in the NBA if his skills translate. He can shoot, rebound, block shots, and score efficiently inside. The only question was competition level, then he torched the NCAA tournament.
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): Lonzo Ball and it isn’t close. Lonzo is one of my favorite prospects in the last 5 years or so. I have compared him to Jokic, of all people, because he has elite vision and feel for the game and plays within himself. Forget all of the distractions with the dad and that funky looking jumper, Lonzo is a basketball savant, and those are my favorite types of players.
Will the Nuggets trade up, trade down, or stay at 13?
Lewis: I think they really want to trade down. In an ideal world, they'd trade up for Jonathan Isaac or Josh Jackson, but if that isn't an option, I think they'd like to trade down. Getting a future pick would be even better, in conjunction with a first this year too.
Gross: After throwing away the 20th pick in the draft because there was no room for it on this roster, I’ll be pretty annoyed if Denver trades down to around #20. Moving assets into future years is sometimes a better option than taking them this year, though. I think it’s more likely they stay put, but I won’t be shocked if they move down - just annoyed, as I said.
Blackburn: Honestly, I have no idea. The best situation is to move up and draft Jonathan Isaac or Josh Jackson without giving up important, young talent. That’s unlikely to happen though, so instead, I will go with moving down. After the first 10-12 picks, this draft will still likely produce two or three quality starters or even all-stars in the 13-40 range. There isn’t much separation between those prospects now though, so having multiple shots at taking said player is better.
Mares: Smart money is on them staying put since deals are hard to get done and the more likely outcome is that they stay where they are. But I think moving down is the second most likely outcome and whether they stay at 13 or draft somewhere later in the 1st round, I think they will take the same player. What I mean is, don’t be surprised if Denver is like Milwaukee was last year and picks someone several spots ahead of the mock drafts.
Who will the Nuggets select with their first round draft pick?
Lewis: I've been predicting OG Anunoby for a long time, but I think it'll be someone else. I'd really like to see Jordan Bell be the Nuggets first round pick, ideally not at 13. But if they can't find a trade partner, get your guy. After the draft is over, they are all NBA players anyways.
Gross: I’m still on OG, as Denver is a team that doesn’t need him to play much this year and can afford to take an injured talent and sit him, Hinkie-style. I expect Denver to try to move up a few spots (again, would have been easier with the #20 pick still in hand) but at 13, OG should be there. It’s going to be a weird draft night for sure, with all the potential for pick movement.
Blackburn: It’s hard for me to sign off on any pick that won’t improve the 29th ranked defense in the NBA. OG Anunoby is the guy best suited to do so at 13 or possibly lower. I trust my evaluation of his defensive talents, and if they line up with what the Nuggets desire, then he will be the player selected.
Mares: OG Anunoby is a real possibility but I’m going to guess TJ Leaf. He fits Denver’s offensive profile quite nicely and he plays the spot Denver needs most, power forward.
Who is your favorite sleeper in the draft?
Lewis: Nigel Hayes out of Wisconsin. When surrounded by NBA talent, he was an amazing role player, knocking down 3s, sharing the ball, and locking down on defense. With his combo forward frame, IQ, and personality, he could be a steal.
Gross: Cam Oliver. Mobile 4, has great defensive potential, cleans the glass as a terrific athlete and he actually has the makings of a real shot, too. Everything with him is about attention to detail and a better court IQ. He’s gonna wind up somewhere like the Spurs and be another terrific player for them in a couple of years.
Blackburn: Devin Robinson is skinny as a rail right now, but if there’s one player that I can see making it to the NBA, spending a year in the G-League, and making an impact the next year, it would be him. He has the tools to succeed in the NBA as a stretch four, but he will likely be drafted too low because of his body type. Does that remind Nuggets fans of anyone?
Mares: I think this is the draft of sleepers. Lots of interesting prospects late in the draft. I’ll go with Jonah Bolden, who might be a player Denver likes in the 2nd round.
This is a big question - what is your perfect Nuggets offseason? Draft, free agency, Summer League, player development, everything.
Lewis: In the draft, the Nuggets select Jordan Bell, Sterling Brown, and Nigel Hayes. Those are three players that can bring defense, defense, and defense. They are all older players, which should help them have an easier transition into the NBA.
In free agency, the Nuggets sign Kyle Lowry to a max contract. If anyone can be a model for Jamal Murray, it's Lowry. His ability to defend his position, play off ball, and shoot off the dribble makes him perfect for the Nuggets. With the Nuggets guard depth, they can afford to keep Lowry fresh during the season by resting him occasionally and can survive any injury spell.
I'd also like to see them sign Mason Plumlee to a new contract. I don't want to judge him off 30 games when he's been productive for so many more.
In Summer League, I'd like to see Malik Beasley dominate when he is on the court. He didn't play in SL last year, and this is his time to show how much he's progressed.
If the Nuggets could find new homes for Jameer Nelson and Will Barton. I still believe in Mudiay, even if it takes a while, and I believe in Beasley. I also believe Barton will want a big paycheck when he hits free agency at the end of the 2017-18 season.
Gross: Draft All-Stars, trade spare pieces for more All-Stars, have Michael Malone get a defensive coach to help him whip that side into shape while also getting an offensive coach to pick up where Chris Finch left off and improve Denver’s sparkling offense. It’s so easy.
Honestly, I might take the all-injury squad in the draft and grab Anunoby and Edmond Sumner, both of whom are good defenders with offensive potential but suffered serious knee injuries. Sumner is a defensive PG with a load of athleticism and could be an interesting backup. Stash Jonathan Jeanne with the last pick until he knows what’s up with his Marfan Syndrome. Sumner and Jeanne would have been first-rounders without the health issues and Anunoby would go much higher in the lottery as well. Denver could afford the risk.
But it really depends on whether Denver wants to go play real basketball right now. Is a perfect offseason signing CP3 and Paul Millsap somehow, and taking this team to home court in the West next year? It messes with things down the line but it’s really interesting.
Is it trading players for future picks and Eurostashes and kicking the can of contention down the line to another year or two? Maybe that means Denver goes for a Joe Ingles or a Patrick Patterson and re-signs Plumlee, which isn’t sexy and doesn’t get fans in Denver to unsnooze their alarms and watch Nuggets basketball. It might be perfect for 2 years from now, though.
I don’t have a perfect Denver offseason in mind. I’m trying to stay flexible. I want Beasley to get more minutes (another reason Barton might need to be moved), and I’d love to see Mudiay get it together. I want to add more defenders without compromising the offense with complete non-shooters. But mostly my perfect Denver offseason involves levelling up around Jokic and finding better-fitting pieces to make this a playoff squad. It doesn’t have to be exotic - just effective.
Blackburn: Draft wise, I would like to see Denver draft Zach Collins, Sindarius Thornwell, and Devin Robinson with their three picks. All three project as excellent defenders, and all three showed they could shoot at the college level. The two most important skills.
In free agency, Denver should start by signing Otto Porter to a max contract, then offer to sign and trade Wilson Chandler to replace him. The Wizards need to free money to improve the bench, and in the right situation, they could let go of Porter. After doing so, Denver should clear the necessary cap room to make offers to both Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry. Paul signs with the Nuggets on a max deal, and Denver rolls out Paul, Harris, Porter, Hernangomez, Jokic as its starters next season with Murray, Barton, and Collins serving as the main subs.
In summer league, Malik Beasley should dominate for three games, then turn things over to Nikola Radicevic, Petr Cornelie, and the three rookies for a Nuggets championship. Jamal Murray comes back even stronger and faster in the offseason, ready to shoot 40% from deep. Gary Harris improves as a defender. Juancho Hernangomez improves his body. Nikola Jokic improves his leadership skills. The Nuggets gear up for a 55 win season and a deep playoff run
Mares: I don’t think it’s realistic to get Jonathan Isaac without giving up Jokic, Murray, Harris, or Juancho but if they somehow do that, give Tim Connelly and company whatever they ask for! Realistically, I think grabbing Anunoby and Bolden would be pretty solid. Sterling Brown and T.J. Leaf are intriguing to me as well.
In free agency, I don’t think Denver needs to swing for the fence. They have such a likeable and promising core that another year of figuring each other out would be fun to watch, even if that means missing the playoffs again. Adding Patrick Beverley and Joe Ingles would be solid additions, especially if they replaced Jameer Nelson and Danilo Gallinari. I’m not too high on re-signing Plumlee but snagging him for $11 million per year would be a steal (and a tradeable contract).
Summer league is for the young pups so I’m exciting just to see whoever the team drafts as well as a game or two of Beasley and Juancho. The real excitement is the player development. I’d like to see Jokic come into camp in the best shape of his life and mentally recharged and driven for the season. I think he wore down mentally last year (and physically) so a renewed focus from him to go along with a new, improved body will help him become a real superstar.
Murray needs to get more experience and confidence shooting the NBA three. We all know he can shoot, I’m thinking a healthy and experienced Murray is going to shock some people next year. Harris can continue to work on his handle. And Mudiay, if he’s still around, just needs to spend the next 4 months in Denver working with the coaches and showing that he wants to be an NBA player. Lastly, Juancho can add some body weight and continue working on that three-point shot. I’m not sure he’s really a 40% three-point shooter but if he is, he is going to be a stud for the Nuggets for a long time.