There’s no secret that the Denver Nuggets are in need of improved defense. With an all world talent at center like Nikola Jokic who is a savant on offense but lumbering and slow on defense, the need to stop penetration from the wings is paramount to improving Denver’s defensive profile. It’s also no secret that the Nuggets have been rumored to be looking to move off salary, potentially by using their current #14 pick in the draft. A team like the Atlanta Hawks may offer the best case scenario for Denver. With the Hawks owning three 1st round picks in this draft and more cap space than anyone, they make a natural fit to make a cap driven deal with Denver. If the Nuggets end up packaging, say, the 14th pick and Kenneth Faried for Atlanta’s 30th pick, then there’s a chance that rangey wing Melvin Frazier will be there, and he’s just what the doctor ordered.
Height: 6’ 6” (w/ shoes)
Wingspan: 7’ 1.75”
Standing reach: 8’ 9”
Hand length: 9.5”
Length: The number that immediately jumps off the page when considering Frazier is the wingspan. Despite being just 6’6”, there were only 15 players at the combine with longer wingspans than Fraziers at 7’ 1.75” and none of them play on the wing. Frazier’s ridiculous wingspan make up for being a little undersized at the three and he’s capable of playing both small forward and shooting guard. He also has ridiculous hands. At 9.5” in length, only 7 players at the combine had longer hands, all of them centers. While I joke about it a bit, players with abnormally large hands do tend to do well in the NBA (Jahlil Okafor not withstanding). For a wing who specializes in perimeter defense and also dabbles in ball handling, it’s easy to see why Frazier’s giant mitts give him an advantage.
Defense: If you’re picking Melvin Frazier, you’re not picking him for his offensive prowess. Frazier’s length gives him the ability to be an elite wing defender and he has all the other skills required. He has great lateral quickness which make him extremely difficult to get around off the dribble. He “gets skinny” going over screens and rarely loses good defensive position. He’s also unlikely to duck under a screen, preferring to fight through it. He has good anticipation of passing lanes so when he gets those giant hands in there he generates turnovers regularly.
Potential on offense: There’s no mistake, Frazier is definitely a work in progress on the offensive end, but he has shown some promise. He’s not a great shooter by any means but he made significant jumps in all of his shooting percentages last year at Tulane. He’s also shown he can be effective in the pick and roll as a ball handler. His length allows him to finish above the rim and his long strides get him to the basket quickly. While Frazier isn’t the greatest creator for others off a screen, he can get to the hoop and finish effectively. His physical gifts and upward trend shooting make one believe that he can certainly become a decent player on offense rather than being a negative.
Shooting: For all the improvement Frazier has made shooting the rock, he still has a long way to go. His shot can be downright ugly at times and has shades of Emmanuel Mudiay (I can feel Nuggets Nation’s collective cringe) with him releasing the ball on the way down from his jump. Frazier is a sub 30% shooter from the NBA three point line so one has to wonder if he’ll ever be able to effectively space the floor at the NBA level. The other discouraging part of his shooting is Frazier hasn’t developed a strong mid range game to compensate. While he is a solid finisher at the rim his pull up game leaves a lot to be desired as he almost changes his shooting motion on dribble pull ups by cutting off his follow through. The gameplan on Frazier in the NBA will clearly be to pack the paint and force him to take jumpers.
Ball security: Frazier profiles as a 2⁄3 combo in the NBA which means he’ll do at least some of the playmaking on offense (or at least you’d like him to) but creating for others isn’t his strong suit. He’s never been a big assist guy (though like everything that improved last season) and he turns the ball over at an alarmingly high rate for a wing at just under three turnovers a game. His handle isn’t the fastest which can cause him to lose the ball in traffic but he also appears to not be able to keep his hands up with his brain, sometimes committing silly turnovers as a result of losing his handle or making a poor decision.
Fit with the Nuggets
Frazier would be an outstanding get late in the 1st round if the Nuggets trade back. He’s definitely raw and likely would spend his rookie season mostly in the G-League, but if he can continue his upward trend on offense then he profiles as a very solid rotation player if not a fifth starter. He could potentially be an Andre Roberson type with his game changing ability on D and if his trends are to be believed, then there’s reason to think he won’t be as much of an offensive liability as Roberson. He would provide the Nuggets with much needed perimeter defense and wing depth with the hope that one day he develops into a 3 and D piece of a championship roster. He certainly has the potential and physical tools to become that so focusing on proper development in the NBA will be crucial to make Frazier as effective as possible.