If recent history is any indication, the 20th overall pick in the NBA Draft can be just as valuable as the 10 or so picks before it.

We don’t have to look too far back for proof that steals can be had drafting around 20th in the NBA Draft. Or even look beyond the Nuggets own roster for that matter.

Just last year, Nuggets’ vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri pulled off one of the great steals in NBA Draft history by selecting Morehead State University’s Kenneth Faried 22nd overall. After being forced to play Faried due to an assortment of injuries befalling his team’s big men, Nuggets head coach George Karl gave the rookie ample playing time and Faried delivered … and then some. Averaging 10.2 ppg on an astounding 58.6% field goal shooting, 7.7 rpg and 1 block per game (and the stats don’t tell the story of what Faried did energy-wise for the Nuggets all season long), Faried cemented himself as the NBA’s second-best rookie by season’s end.

But Faried isn’t the only draft steal on the Nuggets roster who was selected in the 20ish range. All-star-in-waiting (?) point guard Ty Lawson was drafted 18th overall (by Minnesota for Denver) in the 2009 NBA Draft. Kosta Koufos was drafted 23rd overall in 2008 (by Utah). In 2008, JaVale McGee was selected 18th overall (by Washington). And in the 2007 NBA Draft, Wilson Chandler, Rudy Fernandez and Arron Afflalo were drafted 23rd, 24th and 27th, respectively.

Soon, Jordan Hamilton (drafted 26th last year by Dallas for Denver) could be added to the list of late first round steals on Denver’s roster.

Surprisingly, recent picks – by the Nuggets and others – in the 20ish range have proved to be more fruitful than those between 10 and 20. The 2010 draft saw productive players like Eric Bledsoe, Avery Bradley, Quincy Pondexter and Greivis Vasquez drafted 18th and beyond. The 2009 draft produced Jrue Holiday, Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, Omri Casspi and Taj Gibson after 17. In 2008, Roy Hibbert, McGee, J.J. Hickson, Ryan Anderson, Courtney Lee, Koufos, Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, George Hill and Darrell Arthur were selected 17th or later. And in 2007, Marco Belineli, Jason Smith, Daequan Cook, Jared Dudley, Chandler, Fernandez, Aaron Brooks, Afflalo and Tiago Splitter were picked up from the 18th spot and later.

Need I go on?

(Lest we forget that huge mistakes can be made at any point in the draft, like when the Nuggets stupidly drafted Julius Hodge with the 20th pick in 2005. Although they made up for that somewhat by astutely drafting Jarrett Jack at 22 and trading him for Linas Kleiza at 27.)

There are very few “sure things” in the NBA Draft. The likes of Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and others of their superstar caliber are long gone before even the 5th overall pick comes along. After the 10ish pick, its a crapshoot. Therefore, unless the Nuggets can crack the top five on Thursday’s draft by packaging their 20th pick with a player or two, it behooves them to be patient and pick up yet another quality player at 20 when their selection is up.

On to the links …

Denver Nuggets' roster stocked with players drafted low in first round – The Denver Post
Benjamin Hochman notes the many current Nuggets players who were picked up late in the NBA Draft.

Mark Kiszla: Ty Lawson has advice for Nuggets coach George Karl in NBA draft – The Denver Post
Kiz catches up with Lawson who likes Baylor's Quincy Miller.

Hochman: Denver Nuggets could make a big deal down the road – The Denver Post
Hochman notes that the Nuggets are assembling pieces to pull off a trade for an All-Star player … someday.

Draft prospect Will Barton has Denver Nuggets connection | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE DENVER NUGGETS
Aaron Lopez connects the dots between Will Barton and George Karl.