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Denver Stiffs 2021 NBA Draft Roundtable

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NBA: NBA:Combine David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Who is your dream pick for Denver tonight?

Tommy Knowlton (@TommyKnow303): Since dreams don’t always correlate to reality I am going with Davion Mitchell. He will most likely be selected in the top 15, but I think he profiles to be one of the best players in the draft. Denver needs a shooting guard and although Mitchell is only 6’1,” he plays bigger than his size thanks to fantastic defensive play. He reminds a lot of people of Donovan Mitchell, including myself, but he possesses the defense that Donovan does not have. Denver desperately needs defense and consistent offense from their second guard spot. They have nobody to effectively defend elite guards and if they miraculously got Mitchell, he can make an immediate impact on a win-now team.

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): Not sure how the Nuggets pull it off, but Chris Duarte has been my dream pick for awhile now. Duarte could step in and be a contributor from day one whether that is off the bench or as the Nuggets starting shooting guard. Even though is is the oldest player is this years draft class (24), Duarte’s 3-and-D potential is something the Nuggets have been searching to add for years. The Nuggets don't tend to draft older prospects, but for a team looking to add players that can contribute right away, there might not be a better realistic option than Duarte.

Ryan Blackburn (@NBABlackburn): It has to be Jaden Springer, the freshman combo guard from Tennessee. He’s 18 years old and already thinks the game well on both ends of the floor, and he has the athleticism and mentality to translate those skills as well. I think he’s going to be a great defensive player who can defend on-ball, in a team concept, and switch. The real question is the jump shot, but he already has a solid foundation there as well. The repetitions of NBA training will help him develop more confidence with his jumper, and if he hits outside jumpers on top of everything else, that’s a high quality starter at a position of need.

Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Cade Cunningham. Oh, at 26? Gotta say I’m a Miles McBride guy. Deuce has basically the same profile as Jrue Holiday: short for a shooting guard but with a good build and a huge wingspan and showed passing skills this year. Always aggressive on-ball, moving off-ball on defense. 40+ percent from three this year, 80+ from the line, has leadership qualities, fine playing a role... Denver is missing Gary Harris, and this is a chance at maybe a healthier Harris with longer arms who isn’t in quite as much trouble against lengthier opponents - and can play immediately. At 26, I’d be pretty thrilled with McBride, and he’s consistently mocked in the early-to-mid-twenties, which means him getting to Denver isn’t a huge stretch.

Gage Bridgford (@GbridgfordNFL): I’m a big fan of Quentin Grimes out of Houston for a few reasons. While he’s not the youngest player available, he’s ready to contribute now. Denver’s window to win is open, and they can’t afford to have players that can’t be on the floor. They need guys that can contribute in some way, shape or form as rookies. While they may never develop into anything other rotational players, that’s ok as long as they can actually play. That’s what Grimes brings. At 6’5.25” with a 6’8” wingspan, he has the size to play the shooting guard spot on the defensive end, and he also brings production on the offensive end. He shot 40.3 percent from 3-point range during his final college season after averaging 33 percent over his first two seasons. He’s available at their draft spot, and he can push to play in Year 1. It’s a win-win.

If the Nuggets were to trade up for a player, who would you want it to be?

Knowlton: Again, I would say Davion Mitchell but Chris Duarte would also be a great option. The Knicks are apparently very interested in him, so it might not feasible to pass certain teams that view him in high regard, but he is another player that can make an immediate impact. Denver is in a win-now mode. They won't have an elongated 5-6 year championship window because most teams do not especially in a smaller market. They need to select players who can be an instant force in the NBA, and I think these two can and will do that.

Ewing: Duarte is another solid option for this answer, but I’m going to say Jared Butler from Baylor. The Nuggets shouldn't have to go up to many spots to draft him — 10 max — so it’s a realistic option that would net them a really solid player in Butler. When you watched Baylor play this past season it was hard to not notice Butler and that was with a potential lottery pick in Davion Mitchell on the floor as well. Butler is a do it all guard who can score, pass, and defend as he possesses one of the best basketball IQ’s in the draft. Not only does Butler play smart, but he is crafty and competitive which feels like a perfect player the Nuggets could add to their roster.

Blackburn: Moses Moody of Arkansas seems like a great fit. He will probably go in the Top 10, but if he were to slip out of the lottery, I would consider moving up to get him. At 6’6” with a 7’1” wingspan, he helped carry the Arkansas offense as a freshman and profiles more like a Mikal Bridges type on the wing. The Nuggets need effective two-way players going forward, and Moody has as great a chance as anyone to defend perimeter players at a high level while being a productive offensive player.

Gross: Usman Garuba. He would be a replacement for Aaron Gordon down the line, more PF/C than the forward combo that Gordon is, but if you like Bam Adebayo defensively then Garuba is your man. Is his offense there yet? No, but there are plenty of signs. Do you take him and try to make him an Ibaka/Bam type, with the fallback that he just destroys everyone as a weak side helper and keeps those pesky guys off of Jokic while dunking everything? Sure. Clint Capela had value early on too, y’know. If Garuba falls out of the lottery then Denver could make a play, but he’s had some recent helium and might have climbed too far for them to even think about it. Still, weird things happen on draft night...

Bridgford: Trey Murphy III out of Virginia is a guy I’ve been a fan of for awhile. Again, I’m looking at a guy that’s older than other prospects, but he’s also able to play right away. Murphy is 6’9.25” with a 7’ wingspan. He’s a little on the bigger side for a traditional shooting guard, but, in the era of positionless basketball, that doesn’t matter. Murphy is a strong player on the defensive end where his length allows him to alter shots and get into passing lanes, and he’s coming off of a college career that saw him shoot 40.1 percent from 3-point range. He’s the prototypical 3-and-D wing that every team is searching for and Denver is in need of. He’d be Denver’s version of De’Andre Hunter, and they really only need to get in the late teens to get a chance at him. While that involves moving more assets, when you’re competing for titles, the price doesn’t matter.

If Denver traded down for other assets and a player later in the draft, who is the sleeper they should be targeting?

Knowlton: If Denver does decide to trade down then I think they go with more of a bench fit, and I think Jeremiah Robinson-Earl or Joe Wieskamp could be effective pieces. There are two things Denver needs off their bench and that is a big presence inside and a consistent shooter. Robinson-Earl is 6’9” 230 with the ability to guard multiple positions, and Wieskamp was one of the best three-point shooters in the NCAA over his time at Iowa. These are more developmental pieces, but the two were coached well so they could surprise some people at the next level.

Ewing: Absolutely love Ryan’s answer of Joel Ayayi, he would be a perfect fit in Denver. To change it up though, I’m going to say Aaron Henry from Michigan State. We just did a draft profile on him the other day here at Stiffs so check that out if you haven't already, but the more I watched him the more I liked him. Henry can be a really good defender at the next level and has all the tools to be a solid offensive player if he can make three-pointers more consistently. If the Nuggets are able to trade back and add more assets while still getting a pretty solid player in return Henry could definitely be their guy.

Blackburn: Joel Ayayi is the player to trade down for and still feel pretty good. At 6’5” with a 6’7” wingspan and just 180 pounds, Ayayi is a bit undersized to switch and defend some of the best athletes in the NBA. Still, he’s a great fit offensively for the Nuggets with a versatile skill set and role player mentality. He moves, cuts, relocates, and goes to the glass more than any player in the class, and Ayayi is set to be a second rounder because teams question his athleticism. The IQ and skill set is there though, and that’s enough to make a gamble.

Gross: Ryan took mine and I don’t think Jeremiah Robinson-Earl gets out of the first, so let’s go with Josh Christopher, the freshman Arizona guard. He fits Denver’s type. Very athletic with 6’9 wingspan, very raw, and had a leg injury that probably should have sent him back to college for another year. Instead, Christopher wanted to cash in now and it’s still possible he gets that first round bite at the apple. More likely he’s a second rounder though, and with a bunch of upside and Denver likely needing a Barton replacement or clone off the bench, Josh could fit there.

Bridgford: Joshua Primo is a guy that I think slides a little more than he should. He breaks from the mold I’ve had so far of players that are older and pro-ready, but that’s not to say that he’s a long-term project. Primo showed flashes as a freshman at Alabama of driving to the rim while also being able to knock down 3-point shots off the dribble or off of the catch. Denver lacks a ton of creators on their second unit, and that’s an area Primo could contribute to right away. He needs to put in a lot of work to polish off his game, but, as a player at the beginning of the second round, Denver could find a lot of worse options.

What is the surprising bold move the Nuggets make tonight?

Knowlton: I don’t think they do, but the boldest move they can pull is to trade up. If they trade up that means they are extremely confident in a certain player and that could be exciting for Denver fans. A very bold yet intriguing player is Baylor’s Jared Butler. He is an extremely talented prospect, but his heart condition is a concern for many teams. The Nuggets aren’t known for being bold in terms of trading to the top of the draft, but they do excel in finding diamonds in the roughs later in the draft. Most likely, they trade down to acquire more assets, and possibly a player they believe can make a fairly quick impact. But if they do decide to be bold, Jared Butler or Davion Mitchell is the pick.

Ewing: I don’t think the Nuggets make a splash move in trading up, but I wouldn't be surprised if they found a way to add two players tonight. Similar to what they did last year with Zeke Nnaji and R.j. Hampton, the Nuggets are in a spot where they need to add at least one contributor tonight and if they can make it two, great. This draft has a ton of depth at guard so if they can add say a Miles McBride at 26 and trade into the second round to target a guy like Ayayi or Henry I would be all for it.

Blackburn: I don’t see the Nuggets making a bold move, but I believe they could walk away with multiple players. Whether that’s trading down and adding a pick or staying at 26 and adding a second rounder in some other way, I can see the Nuggets circling a player that drops to a spot that’s comfortable for them and adding that guy to their roster, either two-way or full-time. Whether it’s Ayayi or someone else remains to be seen.

Gross: The Nuggets don’t really have the available trade pieces to swing a massive move. If there’s a move, its more likely they target a couple of people in the second round, move down, and get guys playing time with their new G-League affiliate the Grand Rapids Gold. I’d look for Scottie Lewis as another second round target as well - he worked out with Denver and brings a lot to the table from an athleticism and hustle standpoint. His shot isn’t broken either, he just never quite found his college rhythm, which with the pandemic and the rest is not unusual.

Bridgford: I fall in line with what the other guys have been saying. Denver doesn’t really have the pieces to necessitate a major move. They can’t trade up super high into the draft without giving up a young piece, and they don’t have the pieces to acquire any of the disgruntled superstars around the league. More than likely, the bold move would be moving down into the second round to add multiple young players for their G-League affiliate unless a player they had their eye on started to slide down the draft board.

Who is the pick going to be?

Knowlton: The Nuggets need a shooting guard who profiles to defend elite guards and can shoot on a consistent basis. With that being said, that is what they need, I am not sure if that's what they will do. The more I think about Jared Butler the more I think he can be a realistic pick if Denver stays where they are and Butler falls. He is in a similar position as Michael Porter Jr. where teams are scared to pick him because of health issues but Denver has a track record for picking these prospects. If Butler did not have any health concerns, he would be a top ten pick so if Denver can acquire a top ten talent, they might pull the trigger. It’s a very bold move as I said with the last question, but so was MPJ and that has worked out so far. I think Jared Butler slides to where the Nuggets could grab him, and I don't think they pass it up.

Ewing: This is an incredibly tough draft to predict for the Nuggets because there is so many different players they could select at 26. The Nuggets need to add a shooting guard and there are a ton of them to pick from, no matter who gets drafted in front of Denver. I want to say McBride, but I have a feeling he may be gone when the Nuggets are on the clock. Because of that, I think the most likely selection will be Ayo Dosunmu out of Illinois. Dosunmu is a combo guard that does a ton of things well on both ends of the court and could contribute right away for the Nuggets next season.

Blackburn: At 26, it really is impossible to tell who’s going to fall and whether Denver drafts the best player to drop or reaches for someone they believe in. My guess is they go with the former and select the player who falls, and that’s Jaden Springer. Teams will find more functionally athletic players like his teammate Keon Johnson, better shooters like Tre Mann, better playmakers like Sharife Cooper, and those players will be selected because teams are latching onto an elite skill. Springer, surprisingly, falls because he’s a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. It’s a long shot, but the Nuggets could really use a do-it-all athletic guard like Springer going forward.

Gross: Gonna say McBride because I like being happy on draft night. As long as they can avoid any major debacles and find a rotation-capable player, it’ll be a good night. If they sell the pick for cash you’ll find me at the bar.

Bridgford: If Denver stays at 26, I see them targeting a position they’re weak at. Their primary weaknesses are at shooting guard and backup center. I think they can address center more easily in free agency, so they end up going with shooting guard Cameron Thomas out of LSU. Thomas is 6’4” & 210 pounds and is coming off of a season at LSU where he averaged 23.0 points per game. While I may not be the biggest fan of Thomas’ game, he fits a lot of what Denver likes in their guards. He’s not necessarily the best shooter from outside, as he shot just 32.5 percent from 3-point range in his lone college season, but he has a ton of athleticism and decent length. Thomas may not be able to do much in Year 1, but he brings them a long-term scoring guard off of the bench.