What outcome are you hoping for with the Nuggets on draft night?
Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): The Denver Nuggets are currently in a championship window, so adding another piece to the puzzle who can contribute right away has to be priority number one. Whether that comes via drafting a player or using their draft pick to trade for a high impact player, the Nuggets have to find a way to add someone who can contribute as early as this upcoming season to help them compete for a title.
Daniel Lewis (@denverstiffs): I hope that the Nuggets are able to add a player that can immediately fit into their nine-man rotation, and can help the team avoid having to either pay up in free agency or fill that spot with a veteran who doesn’t bring as much to the table. The Nuggets are quickly transitioning into a veteran team with two players on max contracts that are vying for a championship. NBA teams cannot win a championship without quality depth that also is under control on a team-friendly contract. The Warriors didn’t just win all those titles because of Steph Curry, they were able to be dominant because of the contract he signed and the depth they had with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. The Nuggets need to draft a player that can fill that kind of role for their team for the next four to seven years.
Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): There are a variety of ways the Nuggets can be successful on draft night. They could sit at 22 and draft a player like Josh Green or Tyler Bey. They could move down and draft players like Paul Reed or Isaiah Joe. They could move up into the top 10 and take a versatile wing like Devin Vassell or Isaac Okoro. My choice would be entirely different though. Jrue Holiday rumors have been floating around the team for a long time, and I believe the addition of Holiday relative to the cost of getting him gives the Nuggets their best chance to win a championship next season. He’s one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and his versatility gives the Nuggets another option offensively to complement Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr. in every aspect.
Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): Similar to Dan, I’m hoping that Denver finds a player that can slot into their rotation for years to come. This Nuggets’ roster is one that is expensive and looks like it’s going to continue in that direction. With Michael Porter Jr. trending towards needing an extension in the next few years, you need cheap depth behind the stars. This draft lacks a ton of elite talent, but it has a fair bit of depth everywhere. If they can get a guy like Jaden McDaniels or R.J. Hampton at 22, there is potential to really fill out their wing rotation.
Which player do you think will go first overall?
Ewing: LaMelo Ball. I remember watching Ball’s high school mixtape and just knew this guy was going to be a stud. Is he the best player in the draft? Eh, probably. Anthony Edwards is right behind him if you ask me, but I think Ball is just to good for Minnesota to pass on. Not only is Ball a really solid basketball player, but he’s also someone fans will pay to come see. Ball will help put butts in the seats and that has to be another factor in the decision for making him the number one overall pick.
Lewis: Anthony Edwards. I don’t see how LaMelo Ball makes the Timberwolves that much better of a team, James Wiseman and Karl-Anthony Towns play the same position, and the same is true for Onyeka Okungwu. Edwards is, in my opinion, the best player and helps the Timberwolves the most. If they do select Edwards, it does create an interesting conversation for Minnesota about what to do with their other shooting guards in Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie, with Malik Beasley sitting there as a restricted free agent — let’s just say I’m curious about trading in-division again for Denver.
Blackburn: I’m with Dan. Anthony Edwards is the most likely selection because of the fit in Minnesota. LaMelo Ball might be a slightly better prospect, and James Wiseman has the highest floor of the three, but Edwards is the player that is most likely to optimize the fit between Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. If the T’Wolves believe in those two as a star tandem, then Edwards helps the team the most long term, giving him an opportunity to develop the other parts of his game in the short term. It’s the best of a bunch of middling options to say the least though.
Bridgford: It’d be nice to be different than these guys, but, if Minnesota keeps their pick, it looks like Edwards would be the guy. Especially with the uncertainty of Beasley, it makes more and more sense to choose him. He isn’t a point guard like Russell, and he’s not a center like Anthony-Towns. He’s the only one of the consensus top three that doesn’t go in direct conflict with the team’s two stars.
Will the Nuggets make a draft night trade?
Ewing: I don’t think Denver will make a draft night trade. If the Nuggets trade their first round pick I think it’ll happen a day or two before with the hopes of landing a higher pick to help sweeten a potential Jrue Holiday deal. If we get to draft night and the Nuggets still hold pick 22 I think they keep the pick and take the best player available.
Lewis: I sure hope so! They have shown that they are willing to trade with other teams to get a second round pick so they can take a project they like. The Nuggets have had success drafting in the second round, and I think they could find value this year again. Having a project on the roster, someone that has raw tools but needs a lot (A LOT) of polishing has value to the Nuggets, who can afford to spend a season or two ironing out the wrinkles in a young players game to fit them into a specific role.
Blackburn: I think they make a trade. It just might not be the one people are expecting. As mentioned above, I could see the Nuggets trade up, trade down, or even trade out for a big upgrade in Holiday. One option I left unmentioned was the possibility of Denver buying a second round pick in this draft. There are a lot of capable players with the potential to be role players in this class, and adding a second rounder to select someone that fell unexpectedly down the draft board is a very Tim Connelly move to be made. After taking Monte Morris in 2017, Jarred Vanderbilt in 2018, and Bol Bol in 2019, I would be surprised in the Nuggets to draft a player in the second round in 2020.
Bridgford: I think they’re making a trade. I have my doubts about them trading up, although that would give them a better shot at getting a legitimate rotation player. If anything, I could see them trading out of the first round to target later talent while getting some possible cap relief. I’m not sure who they would be sending out, but this team is up against it right now. They need to find a way to get this roster cheaper sooner rather than later when things will get really hairy.
What is your best bold prediction for the draft?
Ewing: It’s not the boldest of predictions, but my money is on Tyler Bey to get selected somewhere in the first round. Hopefully the Nuggets take Bey if they stick and pick at 22, but if they don’t I could see another team swooping him up before the first round is over.
Lewis: The Atlanta Hawks trade their first round pick for a veteran. I think there is a deal out there for Atlanta to go away from drafting another young player and try to get someone on their team that will help them reach the playoffs. Whether it’s trading for someone like Kevin Love or Blake Griffin, I could see them go big and try to make an addition that way rather than pick up another teenager.
Blackburn: One of the elite wing prospects is going to slip out of the lottery. Despite a heavy focus on wings in the NBA, it’s no secret that this draft is heavy on guards and bigs. The best wing prospects are currently clustered around the top 12, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija, or Patrick Williams fell out of the top 14. Sometimes, teams fall in love with someone else. Sometimes, there’s alternative thought that other wings are actually better. If I were the Nuggets, I’d track the progress of Vassell and Okoro on draft night to see if there’s an opening to snag one of them for cheap.
Bridgford: Despite having three first-round picks, the Boston Celtics will make one or less picks. They are either going to trade all three of them to move up into the top 10 by possibly swapping into the Detroit Pistons’ pick, or they could trade all of them for an established veteran. They aren’t looking to bring in more rookies that can’t contribute right away. They need players that are going to help them compete for titles right now.
Who is your favorite sleeper in the draft?
Ewing: Tyler Bey. Dude is just a solid basketball player who is going to turn into a really good pro. All coach Tad Boyle does is develop solid NBA players and Bey is next in line of what’s becoming a pretty long list of former Buffaloes to get drafted.
Lewis: Kira Lewis Jr., and it’s not just because of his name. I think he has the ability to step in and make a big difference for a team from Day One, but I’m not sure if he’ll wind up on a team where he’ll be able to right away. He has a good jumper, but his speed will help him stand out once he gets into the NBA. My second favorite is James Wiseman, I think he’s going to have a rough rookie year, but I think he has a really high ceiling.
Blackburn: It has always been Paul Reed. I don’t understand why a player with his understanding of defensive concepts and ability to do so many things on that end isn’t graded higher. He has more athletic limitations than someone like Precious Achiuwa—who I also like—but between Reed’s ability to make plays for himself and others, his defensive intelligence, and his operation in the dunker spot, he should definitely have a role at the NBA level, maybe a starting role. If it’s on the Nuggets, I’d be elated.
Bridgford: My favorite sleeper is selectable under one condition. If Denver doesn’t plan to keep Monte Morris around for the long term, they can grab Cassius Winston out of Michigan State. He’s a slightly better scorer than Morris, and he still brings the ability to capably run the second unit. Winston doesn’t help them compete in the immediate, but he also them to keep a cheaper backup guard rotation moving forward.