After a disappointing season under first year head coach Brian Shaw, the Nuggets had finished 26-46, fourth in the Northwest Division. That left them in the unenviable position of drafting outside the top 10, with the No. 11 pick in the draft. They were a team full of young veterans, but no star player. With an eye towards establishing more depth, the Nuggets wound up trading their first pick, which turned out to be Doug McDermott, to the Chicago Bulls who had two picks, at No. 16 and 19. The Nuggets drafted Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris with those pick, grabbing the Bosnian big man to reinforce their frontcourt and grabbing the Michigan State guard after he fell out of the lottery.
With the No. 41 pick in the draft, the Nuggets took a chance on a Serbian big man, Nikola Jokic. Here’s video of the ESPN draft coverage when the Nuggets made their pick.
An account of the night from Leo Sepkowitz at Bleacher Report, revealed what Jokic was doing when his name was called in the draft.
On the night he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, Nikola Jokic was home in Serbia, fast asleep. His older brother, Nemanja, called from New York to break the news while popping a bottle of champagne. Nikola answered groggily. Nemanja shouted into the receiver: “You got drafted in the NBA! How do you sleep right now?”
While ESPN cut to commercial for the new queserita (they’re not bad, to be honest) and Jokic slept, the Nuggets had just drafted their franchise player.
What did the media experts have to say about the Nuggets draft?
- Sports Illustrated - grade, B+. Analysis: nothing.
- Bleacher Report - grade, A-. Analysis, “Don’t forget about Jokic, even if it’ll be a few years before you hear his name again.”
- Nate Duncan - Analysis, “Perhaps this sounds harsh, but Jokic is being talked up as an NBA prospect and it is hard to see how he gets there unless he can really improve his athleticism. Given how his body looks, that does not seem to be in the offing even if he does hit the weights.”
- NBA Draft Net - grade, B+. Analysis, “At 41, they chose Serbian big man Nikola Jokic. He is yet another player with fantastic size and a very nice touch from the perimeter, but his lack of footspeed and athleticism could make his NBA hopes a challenge.”
- USA Today - grade, B+. Analysis, “Jokic was very productive as a 19-year-old and could end up being a decent sleeper pick. The Nuggets also took Jusuf Nurkic, but Jokic has proven himself more even though he doesn’t have the same upside.”
- Draft Express
A lot to like about Denver's draft tonight, especially if you're a fan of analytics. Nurkic, Harris, Jokic all rated highly by diff. metrics— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 27, 2014
- (not yet) Denver Stiffs
Well done Nuggets front office. Well done.— Dan (@minutemandan) June 26, 2014
Looking back, it’s easy to see how the rest of the world missed on Jokic. He was a fat kid who couldn’t jump, didn’t have athleticism that jumped off the page, and didn’t fit the mold of what teams were looking for in a center.
But Denver fans aren’t going to complain about that. He still can’t jump, he may always look like he eats more turnovers per day than he has per game, and his game may never conform to what a traditional big man does.
But he’s ours, and we love having him aboard.