The Nuggets are primed for a postseason run, their first serious chance at reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The Nuggets are projected to finish seventh in the Western Conference by 538, with a 45-37 record. That would put them in line for the No. 18 pick, a good chance for them to find a bench rotation player.

As of now, the Nuggets hold the rights to their own 2018 first round pick. They owe their second round pick to the L.A. Lakers, but they’ll be receiving a second round pick from either New York or from the L.A. Clippers (it’ll be the Clippers), as well as the Golden State Warriors second round pick.

This is a huge first year in the draft for the Nuggets. Many of their young core players are going to begin getting paid for on their second contract soon. Gary Harris signed a big contract. Jokic will be signing a very large contract soon. Trey Lyles might be getting a large contract from the Nuggets. A player on a rookie contract, especially in the late teens, that can be a contributor and not just the 15th guy on the roster, would be incredibly useful for the team both in terms of wins and in terms of the salary cap.

To help with this mock draft, I recruited one of the draft experts from The Stepien, Jackson Hoy. You can find Hoy hosting the Hardwood Homies NBA Draft Podcast, writing at The Stepien, and writing at Lock Draft. Come talk all things NBA draft with him on Twitter too. Jackson had the first pick, and we alternated after that.

Here’s the second Denver Stiffs mock draft of 2018.

Pick Team Player (Position, Team) Notes
1 Suns Luka Dončić, SG, Real Madrid
2 Hawks DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona
3 Nets Jaren Jackson Jr, C, Michigan State to Cavs
4 Kings Michael Porter Jr, F, Missouri
5 Mavericks Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas
6 Grizzlies Marvin Bagley III, PF, Duke
7 Magic Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma
8 Bulls Miles Bridges, SF, Michigan State
9 Knicks Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
10 Lakers Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami To 76ers
11 Hornets Troy Brown Jr, SG, Oregon
12 Pistons Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky to LAC
13 Pelicans Wendell Carter Jr., C, Duke to CHI
14 Clippers Collin Sexton, PG, Alabama
15 Heat Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG, Kentucky to Suns
16 Trail Blazers Bruce Brown, SG, Miami
17 Pacers Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State
18 Nuggets Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati
19 Thunder Killian Tillie, PF, Gonzaga to T'wolves
20 Jazz Shake Milton, PG, SMU
21 Wizards Jontay Porter, C, Missouri
22 Bucks Daniel Gafford, C, Arkansas
23 76ers Jevon Carter, PG, West Virginia
24 Spurs Chandler Hutchison, SF, Boise State
25 Timberwolves De'Anthony Melton, PG, USC to Hawks
26 Cavaliers Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky to LAL
27 Celtics Mitchell Robinson, C, N/A
28 Raptors Khryi Thomas, SG, Creighton to Nets
29 Warriors Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona
30 Rockets Dzanan Musa, SF, Cedevita to Hawks

Mock Draft Thoughts

Which player/team is your favorite fit in the draft?

Jackson Hoy: I was extremely excited to pick Jaren Jackson Jr. for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Even though they just traded him, we saw how much of an offensive impact Channing Frye made for the Cavaliers over his past few seasons there. Jackson Jr. can fill the Frye role on offense right away, even if he doesn’t project to instantly be a 40%+ three-point shooter. His offensive fit is great, but Jackson Jr. is ranked so highly by myself and others mainly because of his elite defensive impact. His combination of motor and versatility on the defensive end makes him an attractive fit for a Cleveland team that is notorious for its defensive issues. Considering LeBron James’ tenuous future with Cleveland, Jackson Jr. would be a great pick for them as a guy who fits great with LeBron should he return, but who also could serve as a future building block should if The King walks. Jackson Jr. would give the Cavaliers (assuming LeBron comes back) the opportunity to play 5-out on offense and switch everything on defense while keeping a rim protector on the court. He’s the type of guy who can help them beat Golden State.

Daniel Lewis: I think that Marvin Bagley III landing with the Memphis Grizzlies would be amazing. Bagley is an incredible athlete, and has the ability to play between the 4 and the 5 in the NBA. His ability to score in the post and attack off the dribble would give the Grizzlies a bona fide building block to help them transition into the next great Grizzlies team. I think he’d be able to thrive next to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr., and he seems like the kind of guy that would grow to love the city as well.

Who is a steal?

Lewis: I’m going to go with Collin Sexton, who went at No. 14 to the LA Clippers. Sexton is an emotional player, playing with a great competitive spirit and a lot of confidence. He has reason to be confident, because he’s a player that is capable of taking over games for stretches. He’s the kind of player that gets up for big games, and plays better when the competition is more difficult. He doesn’t have outlier size or athleticism, but his drive to succeed is high, and is a solid indicator for his chances of sticking in the league.

Hoy: Getting Wendell Carter Jr. at 13 is a huge steal for the Bulls. I feel strongly that he is one of the 10 best prospects in this class, and I honestly don’t see much separation between him, Marvin Bagley III, and Mohamed Bamba, both of whom went top-6. I thought Carter Jr. would have been a reasonable selection with the Bulls’ first pick at number 8, but given the glut of bigs at the top of this class, he seems like a strong candidate to slip past where his ability suggests he should be picked. Carter Jr. would pair fantastically with Lauri Markkanen in the Chicago frontcourt, giving them two highly skilled big men who can face up from the perimeter while also scoring inside. Neither is a bona fide rim protector, but Carter Jr. has plus defensive instincts and his NBA-ready frame helps him eat up space underneath the rim. Quietly 4th in the NCAA in BPM and 13th in Win Shares Per 40 Minutes, Carter Jr. has the ability to make an impact right away while carrying some perimeter creation upside as his handle improves.

Who is a reach?

Hoy: I think that both Miami guys – Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown – are a reach at their respective spots. I understand the appeal with Lonnie Walker IV, but I struggle to see how he’ll add value to an offense when his shot isn’t falling, and that’s before his lackluster defensive effort is taken into account. I’d be comfortable with him in the 20s, but 10 is too rich for me, even given his promising off-dribble shot-making. Philadelphia would be in a tough spot at 10 with Mikal Bridges off the board, and I can understand the logic in taking a home-run swing on Walker, but I just don’t like the value there. Brown is a guy for whom I struggle to see first-round value. One of the oldest sophomores in college basketball (22 in August), his sharp regression on offense is particularly concerning given his physical tools and his productive freshman season. I think he has made progress as a decision-maker with the ball in his hands this year, but his efficiency numbers are down across the board. If I’m taking a wing defender with questionable offensive projection, I’d rather have Zhaire Smith or Melvin Frazier. Smith’s combination of youth and feel and Frazier’s improved shooting offer more projectable paths to offensive value for each of those players. 

Lewis: I don’t think Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be a good fit for the Heat. They’re committed to Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson at that position for the next few years, and with so many athletes that can’t shoot, I don’t see how they add a player that is putting up 1.3 3-point attempts per game. I think ShaiGA can be a backup point guard; he doesn’t turn the ball over often, and he is a lanky defender. I would much rather have Landry Shamet.

Who would you have picked for the Nuggets? Why did you choose Jacob Evans for the Nuggets?

Hoy: I loved your selection of Jacob Evans III – one of the most underrated players in this entire class – but I’m going to throw out a name that people might not know as a potential Nuggets selection this June. I recently wrote about French point guard Elie Okobo for The Stepien, and for teams looking for a point guard in the mid-late first, he’s an outstanding option. Okobo’s greatest strength is his off-dribble shot-making, but he has his fair share of turnover issues, so having Nikola Jokic there to help balance playmaking duties would help him play to his strengths on offense as a drive-and-kick creator and pull-up shooter. Best of all, Okobo has enough size to alternate between guarding different backcourt positions and would fit right in with the versatile stable of guards that Tim Connelly has put together. If there is no clear 3-and-D option for the Nuggets with their first-round pick, they could do a lot worse than Okobo as a new backcourt piece.

Lewis: I think the two biggest areas of need for the Nuggets this offseason will be finding a 3&D wing that can play in the starting lineup sooner rather than later, and finding a veteran point guard to lead the second unit. The Nuggets can’t draft a veteran point guard – they have to be signed or traded for in the offseason. The Nuggets can draft their future 3&D wing, and I think it should be Evans. He was one of the top catch and shoot players in all of Division I basketball last season, and is shooting about 40 percent on his 3-point attempts this season. He’s one of the best defenders on one of the best defensive teams in the nation – sounds like a solid fit.