I look forward to the NBA Draft every June. I love it. All 30 teams belly up to the craps table, some will win big and some will lose big. Opportunities will present themselves, difficult choices must be made. Of course, there will be many players drafted who never accomplish a thing, but that makes it all the more interesting to me.
The Denver Nuggets are poised to make a splash. They have a roster full of quality players going two deep at every spot, fifteen picks over the next five drafts and a large trade exception. They can be as active as they want to be.
So what should the Nuggets be looking to accomplish on Thursday night? What do they really need?
If you are looking for holes on the roster that need to be filled, they are few and far between. Denver could use a bigger power forward, think Arnett Moultrie, to be a complimentary backup to the undersized, but ferocious Manimal who can step in after Al Harrington has been sent out to pasture. Depending on how the front office views Julyan Stone, they may need a backup point guard. I do not think either of those are so pressing the Nuggets must draft a power forward or a point guard no matter what. Because they have such a solid roster, they can afford to draft the best player available.
That sounds great, but taking the best player available is a cliché. Who is the best player available? Is it the player who can contribute soonest? The safest pick? The player with the most potential? Does the definition of best player available change at different points during the draft?
With Denver slated to draft 20th overall and having such a complete roster, drafting safe does not make much sense. In their situation, adding another player who should be nothing more than a solid contributor will do little to advance the franchise.
I believe the Nuggets need to go for potential over safety. The only way for the 20th pick to make a mark on the future of the franchise is if they become an above average player, dare I say a fantastic player. If they swing for the fences and miss, will it really set the franchise back? You hate to blow draft picks, but if the 20th pick does not pan out, the Nuggets are not going to miss the playoffs next season.
So who is that player who will be sitting there waiting to change the fortunes of the Nuggets? If there was an obvious answer to that question, he would probably be gone before Denver has a chance to draft him. However, we know that all-star caliber players can be available in the twenties. You just need some great scouting and a little luck. (For my money, I believe that player is Quincy Miller, but I am not the draft expert I used to be.)
That being said, because the Nuggets have such a deep roster if they do not believe such a player is available, they have the option of trading their pick for a future first rounder. Of course, a future first round pick can be either a lottery ticket or a Rockies ticket. It can tantalize you with potential while ultimately delivering nothing of substance. However, as noted above, Denver already has a phalanx of draft picks they possess over the next few years. Those picks can be packaged to move up, or as part of a package to acquire a player. One future first may be somewhat meaningless, but combined with the picks in Denver’s arsenal, it could be much more.
Of course, more fun than trading down is trading up. There has been a great deal of speculation, at least among the comments on RMC, that Denver can package a player, players and a pick or picks to move up in the draft. This is certainly a strong possibility as well that is afforded management thanks to their depth, three picks in the 2012 draft and plethora of picks in upcoming drafts to fiddle with. If there is a player the Nuggets want, they have the ammo to go after him. I will say that with the depth in this draft class, Denver has a great shot at acquiring just as good of a player at 20 as they would at 10 or 15 so trading up, unless there is one player they are positive is going to be a star, does not make much sense.
Moving on to the second round, the Nuggets also own picks 38 and 50. I think it is fairly obvious that Denver does not need to add three rookies to the roster. First of all, in order to add three players, Denver would have to get rid of one or two that they are probably not planning on parting with. What do they do with those other two picks?
Again, they have options. They can sell them, which is not fun for fans, but sure can help pay for the new contract that JaVale McGee will likely sign. They can package them and trade up. The consensus is that this draft is roughly 40 players deep. If there is a player they really like sitting there in the early second round, they can use those two picks, or combine one with one of the future second round picks they own to move up and snatch him. Another option would be to draft an international player or two and hope to hit the jackpot there. Of course, trading out and stockpiling future second rounder selections is always possible as well.
Needless to say, I certainly do not expect the Nuggets to draft three players who are all expected to be on the roster for the 2012-13 season.
We know that the Nuggets front office will not just be sitting on their hands. Following on the heels of last year’s draft night deal that brought Andre Miller, Jordan Hamilton and Rudy Fernandez to town I expect them to do something. Of course, I could be wrong, they may decide the best course of action based on the options presented to them is to stay put and submit their three picks. That is the beauty of the NBA Draft. There is just no way to know what is about to happen.