It’s that time again folks! Happy Friday! Mailbag is here. I appreciate the questions submitted on Twitter and via email, and this time, I will be answering five questions on LeBron James and the NBA Draft. After that, I will be sharing my first and last draft big board for the upcoming year. There will be heavy takes. If you want to submit a question, either ping me on Twitter (@NBABlackburn) or via email ([email protected]). Let’s keep the content flowing and the dialogue open between Stiffs writers and readers.

Now, onto the questions!

“Does Miles Bridges’ measurements concern you at all for defensive versatility on the wing and as a small ball 4?”


On the contrary, I think his measurements should excite everyone about defensive versatility going forward. P.J. Tucker is currently listed at 6’5, and because of his wider, bulkier frame, he was able to stick at power forward and center for much of this year. Bridges is lighter and way more athletic at his ceiling, so I think he spends the majority of his time as a small forward and power forward that switches screens late in the shot clock.

So, to answer the question fully, I’m not worried at all about him. He’s a skilled shot-maker and playmaker on offense, and he’s probably the most “switchy” player in this draft honestly. With a bit more size than my other favorite, Mikal Bridges, Miles won’t struggle in the post quite as frequently, and in today’s mismatch NBA, he will never be the weakest link, which is encouraging for a Nuggets team that needs versatility.

“What do you think about a Nuggs-Hawks trade: Faried, Malik and the 1st for Kent bazemore or Prince and their 1st?”


I’m a fan of Kent Bazemore’s game. I think he would be a solid piece in Denver as a versatile wing that can do a bit of everything while adding more quality defense. The only qualifying wings in the NBA to shoot over 35% from three point range while adding a 2% steal rate and 2% block rate were Robert Covington, Josh Richardson, and Bazemore. His contract is a big large, and it wouldn’t save Denver any money, but if they aren’t getting LeBron James (more on that later), Paul George, or another star wing to bolster the rotation, this is a pretty darn good move instead.

So, I assume that the deal would be:

Hawks receive: Kenneth Faried, Malik Beasley, and 14th overall

Nuggets receive: Kent Bazemore and 19th overall

I think Denver would be intrigued, but adding an extra year of salary (Bazemore makes $18.1 million this coming year and will exercise a $19.3 million player option the following year). Furthermore, it would likely mean no return of Will Barton, so I don’t think Denver does it.

As for Taurean Prince, I don’t think the Hawks will involve him in many deals. As a big wing, he just shot 38.5% from 3 on 457 attempts, which is a big deal in one’s second season. So, I believe the Nuggets say no to the first iteration and the Hawks say no to the second.

“How much do you think it would take to trade for say 9 if Mikal Bridges drops there?”


Honestly, it depends on who’s on the board and how willing the Knicks are to exploring a trade down. If the Knicks are dead set on a player they don’t think will last until the 14th pick, then the price for Denver to move up may include next year’s first round pick as well, as difficult price for any team. If, however, both sides are willing to explore a deal, I would expect the Nuggets to offer the following trade package to jump ahead of Philadelphia to draft Mikal:

Knicks receive: Trey Lyles, 14th overall, 43rd overall

Nuggets receive: 9th overall

Depending on your view of Mikal Bridges, this could be a large overpay; however, my view of Mikal is a player who will almost certainly be a top ten contributor from this class. He may not be top 3, or top 5, but his skill set is desperately needed on the Nuggets. As a smart player with a nice feel for cutting to the basket and understanding his own role, Mikal would immediately start in Denver beside Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, providing another spacing, cutting, and dribble handoff option for Nikola Jokic. Furthermore, his defensive instincts are good, and as he refines his role for the NBA, I expect him to be the next Otto Porter with a bit of Trevor Ariza in his game, a player type that fits seamlessly in Denver’s starting lineup.

“Hey folks. Do you see the #Nuggets making a leap next year if they don’t make any major moves? Assuming they re-sign Barton & move off of Faried’s money, will there be a particular free agent that fits within the cap/scheme?”


I will get into this more in this offseason on both fronts. My early estimation is for at least one of Murray, Harris, or Jokic to average 20 points per game and become a go-to guy. If any of those guys make an additional leap (and I expect all three to make at least small improvements) then the Nuggets will win 52 games and be a top 6 seed in the West.

Assuming they move Faried and re-sign Barton, I doubt excessive money is spent in free agency. I think Denver will do something though, probably signing a backup point guard that they trust to be in the rotation for the full season. Players like Fred VanVleet, Shabazz Napier, and Cory Jospeh make the most sense if Denver’s willing to spend a bit.

“Hey Ryan, here’s a LeBron to the Nugs scenario for you for your next mailbag, if you’re so inclined:

Denver might be the only team that could stomach taking Melo’s contract since we could make a marketing bonanza out of Melo’s return. Rescuing Melo from an inglorious end to his career and winning with CP3 might be enough to get LeBron’s ear. 

What do you think about the following:

Denver gets Melo, LeBron, CP3, Cavs future first top 12 protected

Cleveland gets Faried/Chandler expirings and 14th pick

OKC gets Millsap and gets out from under Melo contract

Houston gets Will Barton at 12mm a year and Plumlee, plus whatever picks necessary

Houston and Cleveland don’t have a lot of leverage here so I don’t know if we have to give up Gary Harris to either one of them, although I’m sure they’ll ask. Not sure if Millsap better going to OKC or Houston but doubt he makes sense in Cleveland.”

-Winston Crowley

The Banana Boat scenario! I love it.

What many people haven’t realized is that Chris Paul hasn’t officially committed to the Rockets just yet. It’s expected, but not guaranteed.

If Melo and CP3 committed to playing in Denver if they could get there, it might lead LeBron James to deciding that he wants to play with his friends, rather than worry so much about which team he ends up on. It just so happens that the Nuggets have a great foundation, and playing a starting lineup of Chris Paul, Jamal Murray, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Nikola Jokic would be the most entertaining brand of basketball in the 21st century for the sheer number of storylines, highlight passes, star power, and buckets.

I will go into more detail about Team Banana Boat soon enough, but this is a fun idea that may prompt some interesting discussion on how to creatively bring LeBron to Denver. The Nuggets would likely have to sacrifice Gary Harris. There are a million financial questions, but to bring in the best player in the world, the point god, and a Melo reunion at the same time? It’s intriguing.

Lastly, here’s my top 50 player Big Board for the 2018 draft class:

  1. Luka Doncic – PG/SG/SF, Real Madrid
  2. Jaren Jackson – PF/C, Michigan State
  3. Mohamed Bamba – C, Texas
  4. DeAndre Ayton – C, Arizona
  5. Mikal Bridges – SG/SF, Villanova
  6. Wendell Carter Jr. – PF/C, Duke
  7. Miles Bridges – SF/PF, Michigan State
  8. Marvin Bagley – PF/C, Duke
  9. Michael Porter Jr. – SF/PF, Missouri
  10. Zhaire Smith – SG/SF, Texas Tech
  11. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – PG/SG, Kentucky
  12. Trae Young – PG, Oklahoma
  13. Kevin Knox – SF/PF, Kentucky
  14. Robert Williams – PF/C, Texas A&M
  15. Chandler Hutchison – SF/PF, Boise State
  16. Keita Bates-Diop – SF/PF, Ohio State
  17. Josh Okogie – SG/SF, Georgia Tech
  18. Collin Sexton – PG, Alabama
  19. Jacob Evans – SG/SF, Cincinnat
  20. Lonnie Walker – SG, Miami
  21. Landry Shamet – PG, Wichita State
  22. Melvin Frazier – SF/PF, Tulane
  23. Donte DiVincenzo – SG, Villanova
  24. Khyri Thomas – SG, Creighton
  25. Troy Brown – SG/SF, Oregon
  26. Jalen Brunson – PG, Villanova
  27. Elie Okobo – PG, France
  28. Kevin Huerter – SG/SF, Maryland
  29. D’Anthony Melton – PG/SG, USC
  30. Isaac Bonga – PG/SF, Germany
  31. Mitchell Robinson – C, Western Kentucky (kinda)
  32. Džanan Musa – SF, Cedevita Zagreb
  33. Shake Milton – PG/SG, SMU
  34. Anfernee Simons – PG/SG, IMG Academy
  35. Aaron Holiday – PG, UCLA
  36. Gary Trent Jr. – SG, Duke
  37. Jarred Vanderbilt – PF, Kentucky
  38. Gary Clark – PF, Cincinnati
  39. Omari Spellman – PF/C, Villanova
  40. Grayson Allen – PG/SG, Duke
  41. Bruce Brown – SG, Miami
  42. Moritz Wagner – PF/C, Michigan
  43. Jerome Robinson – SG, Boston College
  44. Jevon Carter – PG, West Virginia
  45. Rawle Alkins – SG, Arizona
  46. Ray Spalding – PF/C, Louisville
  47. Rodions Kurucs – SF, FC Barcelona
  48. Devonte’ Graham – SG, Kansas
  49. Malik Newman – SG, Kansas
  50. Brandon McCoy – C, UNLV

The most important factors are these:

  • I am a Luka Doncic believer. I think he’s going to be the next great thing and the only player from this class to ever be a top 10 player, with Jaren Jackson coming close.
  • I am not a DeAndre Ayton believer. I debated having him lower, but common sense prevailed. He’s a behemoth with great skills that remind some of Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins. I’m not as high on his ability to be an efficient scorer rather than his top end being a 25 and 12 guy who struggles to score efficiently and contribute to elite offense.
  • Michael Porter is 9th, and he could be higher or lower than that on many boards based on his medical records.
  • The three big combo forwards (Kevin Knox, Chandler Hutchison, and Keita Bates-Diop) are 13th, 15th, and 16 respectively. All three are respectable selections at 14 in my opinion.
  • While Lonnie Walker and Jacob Evans have been moving up and down respectively in the general public’s opinion, I have them 20th and 19th, right next to each other.
  • The highest rated player Denver has worked out so far is Zhaire Smith. He’s well liked by the analytics community, and next to a player like Nikola Jokic, he could be extremely successful.
  • Targets for Denver at 43rd and 58th respectively: Jalen Brunson, Isaac Bonga, Shake Milton, Gary Trent Jr., Gary Clark, Jevon Carter, and Rodions Kurucs.

That wraps things up for this mailbag. Next week will focus on the results of the draft, so hold off on sending in questions until Thursday night.

It’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.

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