Nuggets fans, look at the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were a championship caliber team who completely ignored the draft and have slowly crumbled under the pressure of maintaining their high level of play without bringing in young players to help fill in the gaps.

Phoenix’s decision to ignore the draft has been financially based. They did not understand that even though they could get $3 million per pick, down the road they are weakening their team and actually costing themselves more money due to the fact they had no cheap contracts on the roster. They had to sign players like Marcus Banks at $5 million a year instead of Rajon Rondo at $1 million a year.

The Nuggets may not be selling their picks off and at least have the advantage of acquiring future selections when they trade out of the draft, but they are still missing the boat.

Nuggets Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien was on FM 104.3 the FAN this morning and although I missed most of the interview, I have heard some blurbs after the fact. One point Warkentien made was the fact that no rookies made a major impact in the playoffs last season. Mike and Sandy, who were conducting the interview kind of gave him a free pass, but I am not going to. There were rookies that contributed to their team’s success in the playoffs such as Al Horford, Thaddeus Young, Julian Wright, Glen Davis and the big one, Rodney Stucky.

Granted most of those guys were drafted before the 20th pick, but to just outright say there is no one at 20 who can contribute to this team is ridiculous. I keep talking about Mario Chalmers, but he would be the best point guard on the team if they drafted him this year. He would also be cheap bringing in a salary of only $1 million as the 20th selection. Now there is certainly a good chance that Chalmers will be off the board when they pick, but why not wait until someone drafts him before you opt out of the process?

The draft is the one chance you have to get something for nothing. Every team is awarded a first round pick and a second round pick every year. You do not have to do anything to earn it, other than staying solvent and not making under the table deals with Joe Smith. We know that probably about half of the players will stick in the league and half will not. Some will even become stars. If you use your pick wisely you have just earned a competitive advantage over the teams who used their picks poorly. This is especially true the later you are drafting.

Obviously the success rate of draftees falls off as the draft progresses, but there are still tremendous players who are drafted in the late first and second rounds. If you draft a Tony Parker, Josh Howard, David Lee or even Linas Kleiza you have just added a tremendous asset very cheaply. In addition you have earned a big advantage on the teams who drafted Wayne Simien or Sergei Monia and received nothing for their pick. Every other way to improve your team costs something. Trades can cost you players, draft picks and/or salary cap space. Signing a free agent will cost you money, perhaps even a lot of money (right Orlando fans), and cap space.

The draft is a free shot at gaining an advantage over your competition and the Nuggets rarely take that shot at going after that advantage.

The other reasoning Warkentien provided for why they made the deal was that they are basically stockpiling assets. Knowing what we know about this organization they are probably going to use this pick to package in a future trade. Taking into account what I have heard from the interview and the comments after it, they will probably look to trade it this offseason to acquire a veteran player. Warkentien made it very clear that the Nuggets are playing for this season and they are going to let the future worry about itself.

That brings us to my biggest problem with the management. They think this team is better than it really is. We have seen this team fail in the playoffs time and time again, including twice with the current mix. They are more than a tweak here or there from making any noise. I had written that the draft was their chance to begin to chart a new course and instead they chose to kick on the afterburners even though they do not have enough gas to reach their destination.

None of us know what kind of deal the Nuggets are cooking up and I may turn out to be wrong. They just might pull off a deal that is better than any of us could have imagined. Even if that happens I still stand by my argument that the Nuggets are missing the boat they way they choose to consistently pass on the draft.

Phoenix is feeling the pain and I fear the Nuggets soon will as well.