The NBA draft is around the corner and we’re left with time for just one more roundtable before the madness begins — three stiffs writers have gathered round to dish out their final draft takes ahead of Thursday night. Who would you take at 14? Which prospect scares you the most? How would you make some noise on draft night if you were sitting in Tim Connelly’s chair?
Let’s go around the table to find out.
Enough beating around the bush—the Nuggets are on the clock. Bridges, SGA and all the names you’ve heard associated with pick 14 are still on the board. Who are you taking?
Jeremy Poley (@JeremyPoley): The obvious answer here is Miles Bridges. I think it’s so obvious that I’m going to move on to my second choice: Robert Williams. Robert Williams was the most dominant defender in the NCAA two seasons ago, and he salvaged a slow start to this season to rank as one of the best again. He’s 6’9” with a 7’5” wingspan and 9’4” standing reach. If you are pleasantly disgusted, so am I. That’s equal to or more than Ayton, Bagley, Porter, or Jackson. But he has better quickness than any of them and can cover everything from the center to the point guard. He was one of the greatest lob threats in all of college and was one of the leading offensive rebounders. Remind you of anybody? The Nuggets offense is best with Faried at the 4, hanging out of the paint at the baseline, grabbing boards and dunks while Jokic works the floor with three shooters/cutters behind him. Williams would fit this role fantastically. Here’s a clip of his lateral quickness, positioning, and hands faster than DeAndre Ayton can believe.
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): At 14 you want the best player you can get. Denver didn’t have Donovan Mitchell on their radar last year, it seems, thanks to already having a pair of good guards. But if they’re playing the long game then they need the best players they can get and at this point I expect Miles Bridges might be that player. He will be playing small forward more in the NBA than he did as a freshman and rounded out his game a bit in his sophomore year. He has Faried-like athleticism, not unlike Robert Williams as mentioned above, also plays defense, but unlike Williams has an offensive game that you don’t have to squint to catch a glimpse of. Denver would have to clear out a couple of forwards to get him playing time at the 4 and not just the 3, but they’ll have to do that anyway. The Nuggets missed on the right combo forward in the last draft - if another talented one falls their way in this one they should seize the moment.
Brendan Vogt (@Bvogt422): For the sake of variety, I’ll ignore the rules and pretend Bridges is gone here. In this scenario, I’ll take Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out of Kentucky. SGA might not be a true wing, but there’s hope that he’s a switchable and capable defender in the 1-3 range. If it’s the case that SGA has the ball handling chops to assume the back up duties at the NBA level, then he’s a nice fit for Denver. It’s getting harder and harder to believe that Barton comes back unless ownership is willing to dip far into the luxury tax, and in that case Denver would be in desperate need of someone to wear some of the many hats that he donned last season.
The last thing the Nuggets need right now is a bust at pick number 14. With that in mind, who are you most wary of the Nuggets taking on Thursday night?
Poley: Kevin Knox. He’s being packaged as the “high-ceiling” guy with physical comparisons to LeBron. It’s really easy to get excited about his potential. But based on his merits he’s not even worth a first round pick. He wasn’t a very efficient shooter, putting up 15 points a game as the focal point of the Kentucky offense. His 3 point shot was barely acceptable. His rebounding was weak, averaging only 1 more a game than his point guard Gilgeous-Alexander. His defense was almost non-existent. Sure, he can cover point guards IF he gets faster. Sure, he can cover centers IF he gets bigger. He’s all potential. He’s all marketing. Reminds me of the hype around Michael Beasley when he was on his way into the league.
Gross: Jeremy stole my guy (I have age and growth-arc concerns) but since he was nice enough to leave me Miles Bridges I’ll let it pass. I’ll take Džanan Musa as a player I’m concerned about. I don’t know that his eventual NBA role will match the one he envisions for himself (especially if he thinks he’ll be a point guard). If he actually turns into the sharpshooter he thinks he is then he can work out, but if he doesn’t then he’s strictly a bench player with some of the woeful defense he’s put on tape. I’m not sure his ego can take being a bench player and Denver has not shown itself capable of handling high-ego players recently, so I consider it a bad match between player and team.
Vogt: With all do respect to Zhaire Smith and his near 42” vertical, he scares the crap out of me. The last thing Denver needs is a high flyer who projects to be at best, a long term project and at worst, a total bust. Smith can run, and smith can dunk, but can he play the game of basketball at an NBA level? That remains to be seen. With questions surrounding his true height and his ball handling ability, I’m all the way out on Smith.
You’re sitting in Tim Connelly’s chair—congrats, you’ve made it. Now how are you going to make some noise on Thursday night? Hit me with your craziest trade.
Poley: Faried, Murray, #14, #58 and next year’s first rounder for Atlanta’s #3 to draft Doncic, and their second rounder next year that should be high enough to get a cheap quality backup for 4 years. This would allow us to easily sign Jokic long-term, maybe even make room to resign Barton or seek a mid-level player in free agency. Doncic would be an immediate upgrade over Murray for playmaking. He could get the ball to Jokic in all of the ways that Murray struggles with. Combining a point center with a point forward would be something this league has never seen.
Gross: Trey Lyles and the #14 for OG Anunoby and their 2019 first rounder. Obvious reasons. Toronto apparently really wants to move up for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who probably won’t be there at 14. If he is, though, I’m happy to get OG back and turn the clock back on last summer. Thanks in advance, Toronto.
Vogt: Rumor has it the Grizzlies are open to moving pick number 4 for the right return and a trade partner who is willing to take on Chandler Parsons’ contract. No one should be willing to take on Chandler Parsons’ contract. But with the looming possibility of Luka Doncic sliding as far as pick number 4, that can be reframed as being willing to eat the second half of Parsons’ deal in exchange for quite possibly the best player in the draft. Should Denver do it? They likely can’t afford to take on that deal unless they convince Memphis to take on Faried’s expiring, let Barton walk and throw in a prized piece on a size-able contract, like say, Gary Harris. With Faried off the books, would you be willing to trade Harris for Doncic? Would Memphis want much more than Harris, Faried and 14? I’m not sure, but as a fake Tim Connelly who is eager to make an impression, I’m making the call.