Today may go down as a nonessential piece of history in Denver’s long term story. It’s always possible that whatever Denver does has minimal impact on Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris as a core, or whether the Nuggets becomes championship contenders. Maybe Denver moves their first round draft pick in an attempt to clear some long term salary.
Or maybe the decision they make affects their long term future. What if they select a diamond in the rough at 14th overall? What if they identify the next Nikola Jokic with the 43rd or 58th pick? What if they trade up in the draft and make a power play? What if they select a bust?
All of these scenarios are being taken into account. President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly is leading the draft war room tonight, and his work in even years has been glorious. Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley were all selected in 2014 and 2016. That’s some serious talent. Here’s hoping the trend continues in 2018.
Here are ten questions I can answer about the Nuggets and the NBA Draft so far:
1. When and Where is the NBA Draft?
The draft will take place at Barclays Center today (June 21st, 2018) and will begin at 5:00 PM MST.
2. How can I watch the NBA Draft?
ESPN is the best place to do it if you want the up-to-date action, but other outlets like CBS and Yahoo will be having live streams as well.
3. Where can I find all Denver Nuggets updates?
Right here at Denver Stiffs! Every important news item and rumor will be covered, primarily by three of our stud writers: Gordon Gross, Evan Fiala, and Zach Mikash. Jeremy Poley will be updating Denver Stiffs social media accounts as well, so make sure to follow all DS accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Adam Mares, Brendan Vogt, and myself will have boots on the ground at Pepsi Center, so make sure to follow all of us writers on social media for some extra tidbits during the draft process. There will be rumors heard on the ground there, as well as a press conference afterward, so make sure to check Twitter especially.
4. Okay, what picks do the Nuggets own this year?
Denver controls the 14th, 43rd, and 58th picks in tonight’s festivities (as of June 21st at 12:00 am MST).
5. Will the Nuggets use all of those picks, or will they make a trade?
It’s likely that Denver will make at least one trade tonight. Since Tim Connelly became general manager right before the 2013 draft, the Nuggets have made trades in four of the five previous drafts.
- 2013 - Traded 27th overall for a second round pick and cash
- 2014 - Traded 11th overall and Anthony Randolph for the 16th pick, the 19th pick, and a future second round pick
- 2016 - Traded a second round pick for cash
- 2017 - Traded 13th overall for Trey Lyles and 24th overall
Connelly likes to move down and acquire more chances to select good players. If I were a betting man, I’d consider it likely that Denver trades the 14th pick, either to move up or down, in some fashion.
6. What do the Nuggets need?
- There may not be a true small forward under contract for next season if Wilson Chandler opts out of his deal, so bringing in someone to fill that hole is important.
- There are also some questions about backup point guard, given Devin Harris’ free agency and Monte Morris being on a two-way contract, so don’t be surprised if Denver selects a point guard at some point.
- A long term big man that can play power forward next to Jokic or center when Jokic exits would be a nice luxury.
- Finally, defense in general is a key factor in any prospect being selected. Denver was 26th in defensive rating last season, and in order to be a playoff team, that need to eventually change.
7. Will there be players available that would satisfy Denver’s needs at 14?
At small forward, there’s an outside chance that one of Mikal Bridges or Miles Bridges falls to the 14th pick. If that were the case, I have a feeling Denver would select either player. If neither player is available, players like Kevin Knox, Troy Brown Jr., Kevin Huerter, Josh Okogie, and Zhaire Smith will all likely be in contention.
At point guard, the player that makes the most sense at 14 is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the top wings are off the board, Denver may select SGA as the next best player available. The only other point guards that would be in contention here are Collin Sexton and Elie Okobo, but neither is a great fit.
Finally, at the big man position, the only player in the projected range that makes sense is Robert Williams. If one of the top bigs like Wendell Carter Jr. drops to 14, then he might make sense as well.
8. Will Kenneth Faried be traded on draft night?
Back on May 29th, Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Faried was available on the trade market and the Nuggets might dangle the 14th pick to move him and his salary. Time will tell if Faried is actually moved, but it’s clear that at least one side wants to move on, and the draft may be the best time to make that happen.
9. Should the Nuggets trade up for Luka Doncic?
If there’s a viable trade proposal out there, the answer is 100% yes.
There are very few players in the last few drafts that have come close to accomplishing what Doncic has already done at 19 years old. Having just come off an ACB championship, claiming Euroleague MVP and Finals MVP along the way, Doncic is a proven winner with a skill set tailor made for the Nuggets and the rest of the NBA when he plays his first game.
He pairs well with Nikola Jokic skill set wise, and a foundation of Doncic and Jokic for the next ten years would likely lead to some of the best offensive basketball the NBA has ever seen. Both players think the game at an advanced level, and both being able to do everything on the floor would be a major plus for Denver’s contending chances.
According to Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the Nuggets are among the teams interested in trading up to the 4th overall pick that the Memphis Grizzlies currently own, and as long as the Nuggets don’t give up Jokic, almost no price is too steep to pair the two basketball savants long term.
If the price is reasonable, it’s time for Denver to make a power play. Go get another potential top 10 NBA player in Doncic to pair with a borderline top 10 player in Jokic. With those two in the lineup every night, the games become easier.
10. What do you think will happen, Ryan?
At this point in time, my guess is Denver will go through four primary options on draft night:
- Explore trading up for Luka Doncic
- Sit at 14 and wait for either Mikal Bridges or Miles Bridges to fall
- Take a long look at Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Zhaire Smith
- Trade down and shed salary
These are in progression, so don’t expect Denver to immediately trade down. They will explore all of their options for sure. I would also think they are in reverse likelihood. Trading down is the most likely option in my opinion as it’s the most realistic.
Denver will certainly shoot for the first few options though, hoping that one of them sticks. Any of the four would be a successful draft, depending on the value of potential deals; however, my favorite is probably trading for Doncic or hoping Mikal or Miles Bridges falls. Each of those three fits well with Denver’s current trajectory.
That’s it for the 2018 Stiffs NBA Draft Primer. Make sure to keep checking Denver Stiffs and follow Stiffs writers on Twitter for any news, updates, and analysis on today’s events!