We’re going to have a ton of draft content here at Denver Stiiffs gearing up for the NBA Draft on July 29th. The Nuggets are currently slated to have the 26th pick of the first round and we will have a draft profile each and every day here at Denver Stiffs leading up to the draft to help get you ready.
A lot of the players we’re going to highlight are projected to go near or around when the Nuggets make their pick. Whether the Nuggets stay and make that pick remains to be seen, but the hope is Denver will draft a player we highlight throughout our draft series.
To start our draft coverage we highlight Chris Duarte, who is a rising prospect in this years class out of the University of Oregon. Duarte is from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and spent two years at Northwest Florida State before going to play for head coach Dana Altman at Oregon.
After a solid junior year Duarte went on to explode during his senior season being named First Team All Pac-12 to go along with being named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive team. Duarte also brought home the Jerry West award which goes to the best shooting guard in all of college basketball.
Duarte projects to be a three-and-d player at the next level and is a sharpshooter from beyond the three-point line. Not only does Duarte shoot the ball with ease, but he projects to be a plus defender at the next level after a solid defensive career at Oregon.
As a team that once again made it past the first round of the playoffs, Duarte could be a great fit in Denver for a team that is ready to push for their first championship. Duarte is one of the oldest prospects in this years class, but that could be just what the Nuggets need as they are looking for players to contribute right away.
Chris Duarte - University of Oregon
Age: 24 (born June 14, 1997)
Weight: 190 pounds
Per game Stats (Senior season)
Duarte appeared in 26 games for the Ducks during his senior season averaging 17.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game to go along with a 53 percent field goal percentage and 42 percent three-point percentage. His most impressive stat might have been his 1.9 steals per game as Duarte is a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor.
Duarte uses his solid wingspan and athletic ability to shine and projects as a plus defender in the NBA. Whether he is making a defensive play to stop a transition bucket or contesting a shot at the rim, Duarte constantly makes an impact on the defensive end of the floor.
With the Nuggets tendency to struggle defensively from time to time, Duarte would instantly give them another plus defender who could slot into the rotation as early as next season. The beauty of drafting a seasoned player like Duarte is he would be able to jump in right away, which is something this Nuggets team could use.
It has not been the Nuggets tendency the past few years to draft older players as guys like Michael Porter Jr., Bol Bol, Zeke Nnaji, and R.J. Hampton were all younger prospects. With where the Nuggets currently are though it might not be a bad idea to draft someone like Duarte if he’s available when they pick and his defensive upside certainly is enticing.
Duarte combined to shoot 38 percent from three during his time at Oregon. The big jump came during his final year in a Ducks uniform as Duarte followed up a 33 percent three-point percentage during his junior year by shooting 42 percent from distance this past year.
Oregon's Chris Duarte with 27 points last night vs. Colorado, 5th time scoring at least 20. Shoots and hustles, 44.4% 3PT, 2.2 steals, 1.1 blocks for 6'6" SG. Potential 2nd-rounder. pic.twitter.com/lNDa7aOhBR— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) January 8, 2021
A lot of Duarte’s points are manufactured from the three-point line as he shot over five threes a game during his time at Oregon. The good part of that is Duarte made over two a game last year (2.3) so he is making a lot of the shots he puts up from beyond the arc.
Here's some interesting trivia: Chris Duarte was a more efficient jump shooter than Kispert last year on similar volume (1.22 PPP vs 1.20).— Draft Dummies (@DraftDummies) June 28, 2021
Duarte was also one of the elite pull-up shooters in CBB. Just a very, very good shooter in all aspects. pic.twitter.com/UnxAN7g9SY
Because of his ability to defend at a high level and shoot the ball so efficiently, Duarte projects to be a phenomenal three-and-d player at the next level. The Nuggets could certainly use one of those and Duarte may end up being one of the best two-way players in this entire draft.
Ability to make an immediate impact
On one side of the coin Duarte’s older age could scare teams away, but on the other side presents a player that could make a huge impact as early as his rookie season. Duarte played in a ton of big games at Oregon and performed well when the bright lights were on. That experience could push Duarte up some draft boards as we’ve already seen his stock rise a ton from when the college season started.
Oregon’s Chris Duarte declined his 2021 NBA Draft Combine invite, fueling talk among teams that the combo guard could have a first-round promise, per sources.— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) June 7, 2021
Could that first round promise be from the Nuggets? Possibly, but it feels like it may be a team a little higher considering Duarte declined to workout at the combine. With how he finished his senior season it would be a massive shock if Duarte fell out of the first round so the real question is will he even be available when the Nuggets select at 26?
This is the biggest concern with Duarte considering he is the oldest prospect in this years class. Some teams will immediately remove Duarte from their board because of the age and the Nuggets could potentially be one of those with how often they’ve drafted younger prospects over the past couple of seasons.
For example, the Nuggets drafted an older prospect in Monte Morris back in 2017 who was 22 years old at the time. Duarte is two years older than Morris was, but it seemed to work out pretty well for Denver the first time so maybe they go down that well one more time.
Ability to create offensively
We touched on Duarte’s three-point shooting ability as one of his greatest strengths as a player, but it also contributes to one of his weaknesses. Duarte’s not the most athletic prospect in this class which often limits his ability to score off the dribble and one-on-one.
A lot of his baskets at Oregon came on spot up shots where Duarte found soft spots in the defense and made them pay with his sharpshooting ability. As great as that is — especially playing next to Nikola Jokic — we just never really saw the other parts of Duarte’s offensive game develop. It’s not to say Duarte couldn't grow as a scorer once he reaches the NBA, but it currently is a weakness in his game that could use some polish.
High floor, but low ceiling
No prospect is ever a safe bet, but Duarte is about as close as one could get. Duarte should easily be able to contribute in his first NBA season and projects to have a solid NBA career, but you can argue his ceiling is a lot lower than some of the other prospects in this class.
Duarte can be a great three-and-d player at the next level, but whether he possesses the talent to become a star remains to be seen. Some teams draft based off trying to find the next all-star and at his age the chances of Duarte being that are lower when comparing him to a lot of the other prospects in this draft class.
Duarte feels like a perfect fit for the Nuggets with the only real question being whether he will be available when Denver pick at 26th. It could be a situation where if the Nuggets like Duarte enough they trade up to get him, but it would be nice if he just fell in their lap like Porter did just a few drafts ago.
Not only would Duarte give the Nuggets another shooter to pair next to Nikola Jokic, but he would also help Denver out a ton defensively. The Nuggets may be looking for a new starting shooting guard next season and Duarte could be their guy to fill that spot. Even though he is older than most draft prospects, the Nuggets need people who are going to contribute right away and Duarte could do just that.