It’s that time again folks! Happy Friday! Mailbag is here. I appreciate the questions submitted on Twitter and via email, and once again, I will be answering five questions regarding the NBA Draft situation for the Denver Nuggets this year. If you want to submit a question, either ping me on Twitter (@NBABlackburn) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Let’s keep the content flowing and the dialogue open between Stiffs writers and readers.
Now, onto the questions!
“How many prospects in this draft would realistically be in the starting 5 of the Denver Nuggets in game one of the season? (Assuming no trades)”
Realistically? I think about four prospects would start immediately for Denver.
- Luka Doncic
- Michael Porter Jr.
- Mikal Bridges
- Miles Bridges
Jacob Evans and Keita Bates-Diop also have a chance, but the above four are the only ones I would expect to start immediately, and they would all play small forward in Denver. It’s hard to see one of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, or Nikola Jokic moving to the bench immediately for any of the talent in this draft, meaning that the big wing spot where Wilson Chandler and Will Barton current reside is the only gap.
I think Doncic and Mikal Bridges would immediately be excellent, while Porter and Miles Bridges would be solid. They would take some time to develop, but both of those guys would provide the Nuggets with a dimension they just don’t have right now: versatility and scoring instincts at 6’6 or taller on the wing.
Other prospects that would have an outside shot beyond Evans and Bates-Diop: Kevin Knox, Troy Brown, Chandler Hutchison, and Melvin Frazier.
“Why wouldn’t we go after Lonnie Walker in this draft or whoever the next Donavan Mitchell is?”
I think Denver would be absolutely willing to take a swing at the next Donovan Mitchell. The important factor though is identifying WHO is the next Donovan Mitchell. Walker certainly LOOKS like that player type, but Mitchell presented a lot of indicators that he would be excellent.
- He was statistically strong in college. On top of his actual college production, Mitchell’s advanced metrics (0.194 win shares/48, +11.6 Box Plus-Minus) were excellent. A guy like Lonnie Walker struggled in the advanced metrics department.
- Mitchell displayed A+ athleticism in college.
- Mitchell showcased one of the best perimeter shooting forms during pre-draft workouts.
- Mitchell’s interviews were excellent.
Mitchell really is one-of-a-kind as a prospect. There’s no reason he should have fell as far as he did, and the majority of teams missed the boat on him. Guys like that in the 2018 draft class that will likely fall further than they should but were also excellent in college: Miles Bridges, Zhaire Smith, and Josh Okogie. All of those guys are physical freaks, but all of them performed at the college level, just like Mitchell.
It doesn’t mean that all of them will be breakout stars, but taking them relative to their draft position and hoping they pan out? I can sign off on that if Denver’s interested.
“Will Juancho/Malik/Lydon/Lyles + the 14th pick get us into the top 10?”
This is the ultimate question, and it also ties in with this one:
“Is there a must-have player in this draft that Denver should be willing to go all in on to acquire? What would Denver have to give up to get him?”
How does Denver make sure they get the right guy in this draft, especially if that player may be selected before they pick?
Denver must first identify players they are willing to trade up for at a reasonable price. Of the players currently mocked in the top ten, I would trade up for each of the four players listed in the first questions: Doncic, either Bridges, or Porter. Assuming that Denver is unwilling to trade Murray or Harris to move up for Doncic, that eliminates him. So, now there’s Michael, Miles, and Mikal.
Next is identifying trade partners. Some teams may miss on the player they want, in which case, there may be a willingness to trade back. It’s impossible to know which teams are interested in moving back without knowing what their draft board looks like or what actually happens on draft night or how they value Denver’s trade assets. Still, I’d be willing to make a wager that the Chicago Bulls, the New York Knicks, and the Charlotte Hornets may be willing to move down in this draft. All of those teams are back in the talent acquisition phase, and Denver has some talented pieces that may fit to a certain degree.
Lastly, are the Nuggets willing to move up in the draft and sacrifice some assets in order to acquire a potential starter? I assume so, but I have no insider info on the matter.
“In your opinion, would Denver attaching 14 to avoid a heavy luxury bill be a mistake, or is it the only move left after the original sins of Faried signing, DA signing, and Plumlee signing?”
Brendat Vogt - Denver Stiffs Writer
Thanks to Brendan for asking the final question this week.
My preference for the Nuggets’ draft pick this year at 14 is in the order of the following options:
- Trade up
- Trade down
- Stay at 14
- Trade out of the first round
Moving the salary of a Faried, Arthur, Plumlee, or some combination fo the three would involve utilizing option 2 or 4. If the Nuggets can strike a deal where they simply move down in the first round (or even pick up an early second rounder), then I would be happy, depending on who they pick and how much money they shed of course.
If Denver cannot find a deal where they move down, and they have to trade the pick altogether, then that’s more of an issue. There are players all throughout this draft who can develop into playoff caliber rotation players, even starters, if given the opportunity. Getting rid of the best asset Denver has to acquire that kind of player would be a REALLY tough price to pay.
That being said, if the trade allowed Denver to retain Will Barton at a reasonable price, or even sign a potential starter at the 3 using the midlevel exception (Danny Green perhaps?) then they might have to do it. Sacrificing the 14th pick to do so might be worth it for a Nuggets team that could easily be a top 6 seed in the West next year, maybe even have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, if they can identify the correct free agent or trade piece. For example, if the Washington Wizards offered Otto Porter and Jason Smith for the 14th pick, Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried, and Mason Plumlee, the Nuggets would have to consider it, even if the salary situation wasn’t fixed.
At this point, the Nuggets and Josh Kroenke seem to be okay with paying some luxury tax this year, so making a short term cap decision and sacrificing long term flexibility isn’t the way I expect them to go. If they identify a player in this draft that they really like, they should do their best to take him, even if that means moving up or down, taking on salary or shedding some in the process.
Thanks to everyone who participated today! If you want to be a part of the next mailbag, tweet or email me your questions. I love the interaction with our readers and would love to keep this going.
As we move closer and closer to free agency, I will start taking questions about what I expect Denver to do during that portion of the summer. For now, most of the questions will be draft and trade related, but I expect this mailbag to evolve into whatever it needs to be for current and future Nuggets events. If you have any thoughts or concerns, let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I always appreciate honest feedback.
Enjoy the weekend!