Happy Friday everyone!

Another week, another NBA mailbag. This one will focus on current Denver Nuggets rumors and more draft prep. Every week, I will take five questions on one or two topics and answer them here. If you have any questions you want answered in a future mailbag, either tweet them to me using #StiffsMailbag (@NBABlackburn) or email them to me at [email protected]. I will go back through my mentions and emails in previous weeks, so don’t hesitate to ask questions at any point.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the questions.

“If the Nuggets do unload Faried with the 14th pick, would [Chandler] Hutchison be in play later in the first round?”

– @_StephenMurphy

Obviously, the Kenneth Faried rumors are prevalent right now. Everyone wants to know about this rumor from Adrian Wojnarowski, and fan bases of opposing teams are intrigued by the possibility of absorbing Faried for an asset.

That potential competition should drive the benefit up on a potential salary dump for Denver. If teams are willing to offer an asset back, Denver could be in position to acquire a later first round pick, which brings us to Chandler Hutchison.

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I’m a fan of Hutchison. As a big, rangy, and smooth small forward, he has shown great skill development over the course of his four years. He was the heart and soul of Boise State last year, and I think he’d be a great fit with Denver, especially if one of Will Barton or Wilson Chandler were to depart.

Hutchison could definitely be in play, but it depends on the pick Denver would acquire in the deal. If Hutchison’s promise in the 20s of the first round is legit, then Denver would have to acquire a pick above the team that made said promise.

“What’s your thoughts on trying to attach NEXT years pick w/Faried instead of this year’s #14? Expectation is playoffs so next years pick SHOULD be in the 20’s, easier for fans to stomach if it’s not a lottery pick IMO”

– @JBnuggs

I honestly believe that Denver could add more money than just Faried’s $13.7 million expiring contract to whatever salary dump they are exploring. Darrell Arthur is due a $7 million player option, which might also be in play on the trade market.

Should Denver consider trading next year’s pick? Absolutely. I doubt that Denver finishes in the 14th slot again, and because of that, trading a pick that’s more likely to finish 18th or later next year would simply be logical.

However, if Denver isn’t sold on a player in their range being an immediate contributor, then drafting a player at 14 would just add to the salary crunch. I personally wouldn’t trade away a pick in this draft without getting another pick back, but depending on the deal, sometimes it just makes sense. If the move of a pick this year allows Denver to keep Will Barton at a reasonable price, then it’s most definitely worth it.

“What should the Nuggets do with their picks in the 2nd round?”

– @coloRendo_18

Here are three (okay, four) players I like in the second round and some ways to maneuver the second round that may be beneficial:

  • Jarred Vanderbilt is a forward out of Kentucky with intriguing potential as a player who can switch on defense, possibly guard all five positions, and even handle the basketball offensively. He has that kind of talent, and he could develop those skills for a year and become a contributor soon after.
  • Isaac Bonga is a 6’9 point guard with a 7’0 wingspan currently playing overseas in Germany. He’s still 18 years old and won’t turn 19 until November, and the skill set is tantalizing. He’s in the same mold of a Giannis Antetokounmpo, and while Giannis is a better athlete, some of that burst was developed after he was drafted. Bonga would be a great draft-and-stash candidate.
  • Josh Okogie would be the last guy I’d mention, but as I talked about him last week, I will refrain from singing his praises too much today. So instead, the third guy I will pick is Gary Clark, a forward out of Cincinnati with excellent defensive instincts and tools. He contributed to the Bearcats’ suffocating defense last year next to Jacob Evans, and his 11.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game imply a smart and active defender with the physical tools to be a role player today.

Either the Nuggets can use picks 43 and 58 to select multiple players, possibly even a draft-and-stash candidate, or they can trade one or both of those selections. They could use those picks to move up in the round and make sure they take a specific guy. They could trade out of one of those picks for a future selection or more cap relief.

I would probably focus on making sure they get a guy they identify as a sleeper. They drafted Nikola Jokic 41st overall back in 2014, so there’s a precedent for capitalizing on second rounders. In my opinion, Denver should do the best they can to take some big swings in the second round, especially if trading the 14th pick is in the cards.

“Is Lyles or Juancho the future at the PF position?”

– @gcarey23

The short answer is I don’t know because we haven’t seen enough of either guy next to Nikola Jokic in the starting lineup.

The long answer is that based on what we’ve seen so far from Jokic, Trey Lyles, and Juancho Hernangomez, it’s unlikely that those two power forwards give Denver what they need from their starting 4.

Both players have excellent qualities though. Lyles is a skilled shot maker, either in the pick-and-pop, the dribble drive, or the post-up. He’s more versatile than he initially showed in Utah, and he’s worked to expand his game on the offensive end. The problem is defensively. At least to this point, there’s little evidence that Denver’s defense improves with Lyles on the floor. He’s a good defensive rebounder, but if he wants to become a permanent starter, that has to improve.

Juancho Hernangomez is even less likely to be a solid defender next to Jokic in my opinion. At this point, he plays smaller than he really is. He has some range as a shot blocker and makes some nice rotations, but his man-to-man defense against most players isn’t great. I’m hopeful that next season is where he takes a leap on both ends, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his defense remained subpar throughout his NBA career.

Denver needs a solid defender next to Jokic if they want to succeed long term. Does that player have to start games? Not necessarily, but it would certainly be a more healthy situation if the team didn’t put a ton of pressure on Jokic to be a defensive anchor.

“Does Nikola [Jokic]’s maximum athletic ceiling look like the current Kevin Love? Watching Love in the Finals could possibly give us a peek at what the Joker would look like in the playoffs, what do you think?”

– @WC_Buckets

This is related to the previous question in that Jokic has some serious athletic deficiencies. A lot of this can be corrected with the proper training, and my friend and Altitude play-by-play commentator Chris Marlowe seems to believe he has some room to get better.

Love has turned into a quicker, slighter version of himself in his Minnesota Timberwolves days, and it has allowed him to become less of a liability while switching defensively. Sometimes, he will get beat badly, but if teams constantly go after Jokic and are met with more resistance than before, that’s a win for Denver in my book.

So to answer the question, I think Jokic can be on par with Love athletically, but his 7’3 wingspan should help him add something slightly more defensively during his prime years.

I don’t think Jokic is best used as a player to switch frequently, but if he makes that part of his game a little bit more bearable, he will be able to succeed as a defender.

That wraps it up for this week’s mailbag. Again, make sure to leave questions at my Twitter or email address listed at the top of the article. it could be solely draft related, or the topics could vary.

See ya next week!

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