Just over a month away from the 2021 NBA Draft, it’s time for Denver Stiffs to begin its coverage of the next wave of potential NBA stars and the next step in their journey to the big leagues. Denver Stiffs will be releasing plenty of draft content over the next month, culminating in an all day affair on July 29th, 2021. The Denver Nuggets have the 26th overall pick and will most likely select a player (or two) to add to their playoff core for the next several years. In preparation for that, Denver Stiffs will be putting together draft profiles, big boards, and various rankings with the hope of informing readers on the next wave of draftees.
In this piece, we begin with a roundup of several mock drafts from the most trusted sources around the internet. One of the major mock drafts listed below had connected Zeke Nnaji and the Nuggets at 22nd overall in last year’s draft for a significant amount of time beforehand. So, there’s something to be gleaned from hearing what the experts have to say about Denver’s draft options.
Every two weeks, Denver Stiffs will be revisiting the mock draft roundup as information changes and players move up and down draft boards. For now, let’s take a look at who the experts have the Nuggets selecting at 26th overall this year:
SB Nation - Ricky O’Donnell, June 22
26. Denver Nuggets - Joel Ayayi, G, Gonzaga
Ayayi was the best fourth option in the country playing on a Gonzaga team that started three All-Americans in Suggs, Kispert, and returning center Drew Timme. The 6’5 French guard was a perfect complementary piece playing in such a talented ecosystem, providing spot-up shooting (39 percent from three on 95 attempts) and supplemental playmaking for the second most efficient college basketball offense since 2002. Ayayi isn’t a brilliant creator off the dribble and will have to add muscle to his frame, but it feels like he can be a nice addition to a Denver backcourt that was ravaged by injuries last season.
Like O’Donnell stated above, Ayayi was a perfect complementary piece to an efficient Gonzaga offense. He shot 36.0% from three-point range and an absurd 64.3% from two-point range in his three-year stint with the Bulldogs. Listed at 6’5 and 180 pounds, Ayayi may need to add some muscle to play a wing position. Still, he’d be helpful for a Nuggets backcourt that will be vertically challenged at times with Monte Morris and Facundo Campazzo playing major roles.
Check out the full SB Nation mock draft here.
ESPN - Jonathan Givony, June 22
26. Denver Nuggets - Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Adding quality wing depth should be a priority for the Nuggets, who will likely be without Jamal Murray next season and will see several rotation players enter free agency. Dosunmu was one of the best players in the college game and looks like an easy fit in the NBA game as a versatile 3-and-D guard with strong competitive traits. He can defend multiple positions and has strong role-playing potential operating alongside stars.
Dosunmu is an intriguing three-year college player from Illinois who has great size for the point guard position and solid defensive skills. He was given the Bob Cousy award for best collegiate point guard this year, an award given to players like Payton Pritchard, Ja Morant, and Jalen Brunson in each of the last three seasons. Dosunmu’s game should translate well as a combo guard at the next level, and the Nuggets could always use more playmakers with defensive skills.
Check out the full ESPN mock draft here.
The Athletic - Sam Vecenie, June 22
26. Denver Nuggets - Greg Brown, F, Texas
The player: Brown is all over the place for NBA teams. On one hand, he’s one of the most explosive athletes in the class, a genuinely elite explosiveness guy as a leaper who can sky as a dunker and weak-side shot blocker. He showed some flashes as a shooter. If the right team can develop his game, he has the upside of a starter. Or at the very least, as a useful rotation player as an energetic backup center. Look at how guys like John Collins, Blake Griffin and Marcus Morris have had success playing bigger in the playoffs. It’s valuable if you can find the right guy. Brown’s athleticism gives him a shot to be that guy if he can get stronger and shoot it.
The fit: The idea would be to take a flier on someone who can eventually play in a frontcourt with Michael Porter Jr. and Nikola Jokic. Brown is a strong fit if his game comes together, and the Nuggets have a history of trusting their developmental staff to improve players and set them up for success. It’ll take Brown a year or two, but the Nuggets have proven patient, and he’s such a strong fit if it works that I’d love to see him end up here.
Brown would be a project player for the Nuggets who almost certainly wouldn’t play in his first season in the NBA. At such a young age, that wouldn’t be the expectation, but the Nuggets would hope for quick progress from an athletic forward like Brown, whose athleticism and leaping ability stick out in a major way. He wasn’t a great college player, and there aren’t many instances of freshman with subpar shooting indicators suddenly being able to contribute to high level NBA playoff basketball. Still, if the Nuggets deem Brown worthy of a flyer, then it’s because they’re willing to be patient once again.
Check out the full The Athletic mock draft here.
Bleacher Report - Jonathan Wasserman, June 22
26. Denver Nuggets - Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
Wasserman didn’t share any specific thoughts on Dosunmu to the Nuggets in this piece, but he has had Dosunmu connected to the Nuggets before. Wasserman has ranked Dosunmu in the 30 to 50 range on his NBA Draft big board as it has evolved over the last few months.
The Nuggets have been known to reach on prospects they like or that fit a nee as well as apply the best player available approach at different times. Both strategies have produced hits for Denver, and neither is explicitly a better option for where the Nuggets currently stand as a franchise. They need role players to contribute around their stars, but they also need top end talent to sustain their contention window.
Which category Dosunmu falls into remains to be seen, though it appears that Wasserman would call this selection a reach for Denver based on need.
Check out the full Bleacher Report mock draft here.
The Ringer - Kevin O’Connor, June 25
26. Denver Nuggets - Rokas Jokubaitis, G, Žalgiris Kaunas
The Nuggets have done a great job of acquiring high-IQ talent who can vibe with Nikola Jokic, which is why Jokubaitis makes sense as a project to grow in their system. He brings a craftiness to the floor, and with Will Barton and Facundo Campazzo both set to hit free agency in the next two offseasons and Jamal Murray recovering from a torn ACL, Denver could use backcourt support.
Jokubaitis isn’t one of the names I’m most familiar with, but as an international player in a Lithuanian league, the Nuggets are uniquely connected to parts of the basketball world otherwise under-discussed by folks like me. Žalgiris Kaunas is a EuroLeague team where American players like Thomas Walkup and Nigel Hayes are playing, while old friend Joffrey Lauvergne, so for a 20-year-old like Jokubaitis, it will have been good professional experience. O’Connor compares the young Lithuanian to Tomas Satoransky in the NBA and highlights his playmaking skills at 6’4 as reasons for the Nuggets to take a chance on him.
Check out the full Ringer mock draft here.
Yahoo - Krysten Peak, June 23
26. Denver Nuggets - Jared Butler, G, Baylor
Peak didn’t share any additional commentary on the selections in the back half of the first round, but the Butler selection is very much in the Monte Morris mold. After winning a championship with Baylor in his junior season, earning consensus All-American first team as well as Big 12 All-Defensive first team along with his teammates Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital, Butler will look to carve out a role at the NBA level. He won Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament this year, so he’s likely to do so in my eyes.
As more of a point guard than a shooting guard, he’d have a difficult time finding an immediate role in Denver, though he would be great insurance for Monte Morris and Facundo Campazzo. When Jamal Murray returns to full health though, it’s unlikely that any point guards outside of Murray and Morris would have a significant role. Still, if Butler is the best player available, then he would be a good selection for the long term.
Check out the full Yahoo Sports draft here.
CBS Sports - Gary Parrish, June 22
26. Denver Nuggets - Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
Jaden Springer made above 43% of his 3-point attempts in his one season of college, which is an encouraging stat even if it was on limited attempts. Among the youngest players in this draft, he could develop into an important piece that upgrades Denver’s backcourt.
Springer is one of the youngest players in the draft but also has some of the best shooting indicators for long term success. He shot 43.5% from three-point range at Tennessee (albeit on just 46 attempts) and he also shot 81% from the free throw line to back those shooting numbers up. Measuring at roughly 6’4 with a 6’8 wingspan at the NBA Draft combine, Springer shows an ability to drive into the lane, absorb contact, and make great decisions while in the teeth of the defense. Doing so at such a young age is encouraging.
The Nuggets could add Springer in the way they added RJ Hampton last year and expect him not to play. He projects to be a player they could utilize though, and his basketball IQ appears wise beyond his years. He would be a great fit next to Murray in the Nuggets offense led by Nikola Jokić, and he’d be my choice among all players if he were on the board at 26th overall.
Check out the full CBS Sports mock draft here.