Nuggets news from Day 1 at the NBA Draft Combine

For NBA Draft junkies like me, the annual Draft Combine is the commencement of a nonstop obsession for about a month each summer. Although the Combine doesn’t present the ideal opportunity for scouting, there are still an assortment of minor details revealed about teams, players and the intentions of both that can prove invaluable during pre-draft analysis. Here is what I learned regarding the Nuggets from the first day of the Combine.

Last year the Nuggets were rumored to be interested in moving up in the Draft. They were connected to Golden State and took a liking to Bradley Beal, who ended up going No. 3 to the Wizards. Later this year it was revealed the Nuggets were also intrigued by John Henson, who like Beal, ended up being a Lottery pick. These developments proved Masai Ujiri, a draft guru in his own right, will not hesitate to move up if he feels the player he’s targeting is worth the risk. And after one day of Combine action this year, it’s already been reported Ujiri has met with Lehigh guard and projected lottery pick, C.J. McCollum, for a private interview. Per SI.com’s Chris Mannix:

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McCollum is interesting for two reasons: First, he has a very similar game to Bradley Beal, whom, as I mentioned above, the Nuggets showed interest in last year. Both are cerebral, undersized shooting guards who can really stroke it from downtown, give 100 percent every night, rebound at a high rate and possess very well-rounded games overall. But while McCollum is undoubtedly a talented kid, his skill set is not exactly a top priority for the Nuggets at this point in time. The Nuggets have plenty of well-rounded players who can score the rock, and though it’s true McCollum is a solid shooter from outside, his 3-point accuracy is nothing the Nuggets won’t be able to obtain in free agency… Which leads me to one conclusion: Ujiri likes McCollum a LOT and think he’s underrated by his counterparts. That’s really the only reason to justify moving up to take him. McCollum has been drawing a plethora of comparisons to 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, and if any of them are accurate, then Ujiri has a damn good reason to show interest in McCollum.

For those unfamiliar with McCollum, here’s an excellent breakdown of his game as well as a Combine interview from DraftExpress.com:

The other interesting development to arise from Day 1 at the Combine was this bit of information courtesy of Chad Ford:

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If you’ve been following RMC recently you might recall this post I published on April 8 that asked if Ujiri had his eye on a “Greek freak” by the name of Giannis Adetokunbo (who’s recently made it known his last name is spelled “Antetokounmpo,” which is obviously much easier to pronounce). During the Combine broadcast Ford said the team that made the promise to Antetokounmpo was in the late first round. Now, while the term “late first round” is somewhat vague I’d venture to say it generally applies to teams in the 25-30 range, which the Nuggets happen to fall in. And while I’m by no means suggesting the Nuggets are the team to have made the promise, as already outlined in my previous Antetokounmpo post, there are some interesting connections between Ujiri and the “Greek freak” which cannot be ignored. In any case, Ford’s proclamation certainly does nothing to extinguish the already suspicious fire burning between the Nuggets and Antetokounmpo.

Lastly, one of the most intriguing and mysterious prospects in this year’s draft, Steven Adams, had an incredibly good showing during the first day of the Combine. Chad Ford raved about how impressed he was with Adams, as can be seen in the following tweet. Below that is Adam’s DraftExpress video scouting report.

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Adams is a guy with a fascinating background (he’s from New Zeland, has 17 siblings, often played against women due to lack of competition growing up, etc.) who was highly touted coming out of high school but who struggled mightily in his first year at Pittsburgh. I watched him numerous times throughout the season and always came away thinking he was a good two or three years away from being able to compete at the NBA level. However, he’s also a really smart kid who grew as the season progressed and showed maturity in his game once March rolled around. But while his athleticism and defensive instincts are elite, his offense and feel for the game are still almost nonexistent — at least, that’s what I thought.

According to Ford, Adams not only showed up at the combine but showed well. He looked intelligent in his interviews and shot the ball as good as any big. If Adams displays even more progress over the next month or so, this is a guy I’d fully endorse the Nuggets attempting to grab even if it means paying to move up in the draft. Much like Andre Drummond last year, his stock is gonna take a hit due to his deficiencies, but his potential is through the roof and likely not as far away as many have thought. In three years, he could end up being one of the most threatening, defensive-minded anchors in the entire league — which is exactly what the Nuggets need to bolster their chances of winning a title.

(If anything significant unfolds on the second day of the Combine, I’ll be sure to post an update. So stay tuned! And as always…)

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  • http://Denverstiffs.com slader

    FIRST!
    Good piece, Kalen! Ah here we go again: the NBA draft. I love it too, it is a kind of dreamland where you get to imagine how the Nuggets would be if they could only land this player or that. Wonderful.
    That said, I kinda think we should blow off this year’s draft if we can’t find a real steal. I say this because we already have so many young guys who need to develop – half the roster, actually.
    We might do better to package 27 with Mozzy (s+T), Chandler or Hamilton to get a veteran difference maker. Just a thought. In Masai we trust, so I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised.

    • Stephen Hernandez

      Agree but if package pick with anyone should be Andre miller that’s it.

  • dynamo.joe

    Well if there is one thing the Nugs know how to do it’s coach up FT shooting, so that 44% from Adams wouldn’t worry me at all.

    • http://Denverstiffs.com slader

      Me neither. Might actually bring the team average up a tad.

  • Max

    Great article! I think Masai is going to very aggressive this summer.

  • GB

    The real question is–if Masai continues to crush it in the draft, will GK give any of these guys minutes?

    It’s hard to get excited for these guys, even the ones that would fit in the system well, until GK shows that he’s willing to coach through some growing pains to develop his players. Where he got his rep for “developing” talent is beyond me.

  • Stephen Hernandez

    1. Let brewer and mozgov walk
    2. Resign Quincy miller and stone
    3. Trade Andre miller for pick or good back up point guard
    4. Sign a 3 pt shooter korver or reddick
    5. Start McGee
    6. Resign iggy and the Masai
    7. If George won’t start McGee and plays miller too much again this is his last season as coach for nugs
    8. If iggy doesn’t resign sign oj mayo to play the two
    9. Starting lineup Lawson, mayo/iggy, chandler till gallo healthy, Faried, and McGee
    10. Bench rotation: back up pg, korver/reddick, Koufus sparingly, chandler when gallo gets back, Randolph, Hamilton and Fournier
    11. Get out of first round and finally make run at a ring
    12. Trade draft pick don’t need it

  • Chris

    Something I’d like to see is the Nuggets package up Chandler, Miller and Mozgov for a veteran 4 who can start alongside McGee. We’ve all seen the disaster that results from having McGee and Faried on the floor together; why not roll the dice a bit, shore up some of that duo’s issues by separating them, and let Faried come off the bench as a near-unstoppable energy guy?

    Has this been discussed before? Seems like an interesting move, and if we do it that way we’d still likely have cap money to straight-up sign a 3-point specialist.

    • JoelK

      Who would that 4 be? Pau Gasol? (could be interesting, but his pay is really high and his definitely in the latter half of his career) Amare? (no D and hurt often) Demarcus Cousins? (doubt Chandler would get it done) Garnett? (like Pau but on his last legs)

      Not sure who is really out there that would make a sizeable jump over Faried, especially for just Chandler (not like Mozgov/Miller are going to be much more than throw ins in an upgrade trade)

      • mc

        Any chance the Timberwolves would trade Kevin Love? I love Faried, but would totally give him up for Love. And is Gallo (who seems to get injured every year), really that much better than Chandler? Some combination Gallo, Faried, Mozgov and Miller + picks, should get the Nuggs someone amazing and clear up the roster to let some of these young guys get some playing time.

        • dynamo.joe

          Who wouldn’t jump at a chance to pay $10M for a guy who won’t play at least half the season and might come back as a shadow of his former self?

          Come on, be reasonable. Gallo is untradeable right now. If he was an expiring and we were packaging him with Faried just to make the numbers work MAYBE someone would take him. But as it stands Gallo isn’t a trade option this summer. Depending on how his rehab goes, maybe that’s an option at the trade deadline next season.

      • Chris

        Someone who seems like an interesting option that could come out of a trade is Al Horford, but I’m not educated enough to know the possibility of Atlanta trading him (especially if Dwight Howard is headed for Houston/Dallas).

      • http://Denverstiffs.com slader

        How about Amir Johnson – underrated, underpaid, has real PF size and strength and is a better shooter and defender than Manimal. Toronto might give him up for Chandler and pick 27.

    • dynamo.joe

      Benching your best player is a dumb idea under any circumstance.

      • Joel

        Lawson is the best player on the Nuggets. Don’t be confused. Faried is the heart of the team, but most of what he provides is relentless energy and strong athleticism over pure skill.

        • dynamo.joe

          I’d make the direct opposite argument.

          Faried is the best player on the team. Lawson is the straw that stirs the drink, but most of what he provides is speed to break down transition D and some spot up 3pt shooting.

          • dynamo.joe

            For completeness, let me say good Ty is really good and maybe he is better than Faried, but we got half a season (til late January anyway) of bad Ty and that has to be factored in.

            • Chris

              I would argue that because of his deficiencies on defense—most notably an inability to rotate and his tendency to get beat on the pick-and-roll—that Faried is probably the third or fourth best all-around player behind Ty and Gallo (and maybe Iggy, though offensively he can be awful). I love Faried, more than any other Nugget, but I’m hesitant to call him an above-average two-way player…yet. Bringing him off the bench, albeit for 25-30 minutes a game, could be an interesting way to maximize his abilities.

              • nugswin

                “Bringing him off the bench, albeit for 25-30 minutes a game, could be an interesting way to maximize his abilities.”

                This is exactly right. His best role on a contender is off the bench where he would be awesome, a multiple 6th-man winner. Even if he plugs a few of the holes in his game he’ll still have some and they’re best masked as a big minute guy off the bench where a coach can better manage the matchup issues.

  • Poz

    Guilty! As much as I believe Nuggets should probbly get out of this year’s draft cant help but follow the combine.

    Three things which I agree with RBM are resign Masai, resign Iggy and GET RID of Andre Miller (save $5 million).

    I think there are FAs which can fill Nuggets voids…

    (1) Pure shooter – Reddick, Korver, Morrow etc
    (2) Low Post defender/rebounder/scorer – JJ Hickson, would love a Landry or West but could be hard to get them

    Now if we do manage to get rid of A.Miller, we have a need for a back-up point guard, yes we can retain Stone and play Fournier there (options) but if we did want to stay in this year’s draft I would say PG might be what we would want to draft.

    So thats the position I am most intrigued by for this year. Not much there from what I have read though there may be some diamonds in the rough… Erick Green can score and may be available so thats an option.

    Other possibility for the Nuggets is draft an international and stash him overseas for a couple of years.

    • dynamo.joe

      There are zero PG’s in this draft. The best case scenario is a guy who can be a spot up shooter who can’t do anything else (the guys I like who are listed as guards actually played as undersized forwards (Oladipo, DJ Stephens, Malcom Miller)).

      What does that sound like, a back up (or even 3rd string) 2 guard, that’s what. And that’s the best case.

      This draft is deepest at 4/5. If we let Moz walk we have a spot for another Big. Clearly Randolph hasn’t convinced Karl that he is even a good back up at the 4. So we should probably take someone who can be a stretch 4 or at least a poor man’s Faried (good rebounder who can score on put backs). That’s Jack Cooley, DeQuan Hicks, Kelly Olynyk, Taylor Smith, Mike Muscala.

      Jack Cooley is a monster rebounder, O and D, and we as Nugget fans, should realize that one thing that translates well from college to the pro’s is rebounding.

      • Poz

        I’m not BIG (no pun intended) on drafting bigs as they tend to be projects.

        I would hope Nuggets can get JJ Hickson in FA. He averages a double-double (12.7ppg and 10.4 rpg in 29min) and can play PF or Center.

        Currently making $4 Million a year. He is only 24 yrs old. I would take him over Mozgov and 2K.

        What do you think of Erick Green, Shane Larkin or Isaiah Canaan?

        • dynamo.joe

          Those were basically the guys I was talking about. Those guys are all shooters, who would be better suited to play the 2 than the point. The reason they are considered PG’s is because they are below average height to play the 2 in the NBA.

          I made a list of all the possible points and combo guards and sorted it for Ast and TOV the highest guy on your list was 116th. That is not the guy you want running your offense.

          My basic point tho, is ignore scoring. Scoring is the easiest thing to do in basketball. That’s why there is a guy who scored 100 pts, but not a guy who got 100 ast or rebs or stls, etc. You should use scoring or rather TS%, eFG% to distinguish between guys you feel are equal in the important areas.

          So, if you really want a PG in this draft look at guys like;

          Player Class Height School Conf
          Trey Burke SO 73 Michigan Big Ten
          Jeff Elorriaga JR 74 Boise State MWC
          Glenn Cosey JR 73 Eastern Kentucky OVC
          Todd Fletcher SR 74 Air Force MWC
          Shannon Scott SO 73 Ohio State Big Ten
          Corey Schaefer SO 73 Lehigh Patriot
          Eric Atkins JR 74 Notre Dame Big East
          Quinn Cook SO 73 Duke ACC
          T.J. DiLeo SR 75 Temple A-10
          Larry Drew SR 74 UCLA Pac-12
          Caleb Willis SR 74 Pepperdine WCC
          Jacques Streeter SR 73 Texas-El Paso CUSA

          • mitchell james

            payton siva from louisville would be an interesting second round pick IMO. has great handles, played in a uptempo system in college and flourished, and if it doesnt work out well all that was wasted is a second round pick, which is basically every second round pick anyway.

            • dynamo.joe

              Siva missed the cut because he turns the ball over too much for a PG. An issue I assume would get worse in the NBA.

              I think if he was 3 or 4 inches taller he would be a hot 2guard prospect. Lots of steals, good scorer, enough of a creator to be your secondary ball handler, good free throw shooter who is better than average at getting to the line.

              Not that undersized players can’t excel, see Nate Robinson or our own Kenneth Faried/Ty Lawson, but I don’t think he has enough pluses to overcome the height differential. Plus, I thought we didn’t have a 2nd round pick?

      • Mike K

        I’m not big on anyone in this draft. If the Nuggets can send our picks and say Andre Miller for, I dunno, a ham sandwich, take that deal.

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    I love the draft… However KARL HATES young players unless they are in the Anthony class… Anything less gets them banished to the bench until MASAI forces KARL’s hand……. The same loser KARL that lost in the first round back to back years in PAYTON/KEMP Sonic days…… Right now the future looks bad…… UNLESS MASAI saves the day….. So hard to get excited about a draft when all the kid is going to do is sit on the pine and get traded to another team in 3 years…

    • dynamo.joe

      2 things. If you drop the older guys and get younger guys Karl has no choice but to choose younger guys. The 2nd is if it pisses Karl off enough, maybe he decides to retire.

    • Mike K

      The Nene trade got Faried on the court instead of collecting dust. Wonder what a buy out of Andre Miller would run and what that would force Karl to do.

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    NUMBER 1 issue at hand:

    RESIGN MASAI…..

    What the hell is joshy boy waiting for?? For Masai’s price to get bid up to outer space??

    Memo to Nugget fans:
    MASAI is one of the LOWEST PAID GM’s in the NBA… So I hope their is no resentment on MASAI’s part… Why the hell didn’t we resign him before now???? If we lose him then the whole team is in KARL’s hands….. And that would suck beyond belief….

    • Poz

      Totally agree. Pay the man. He is the best GM in the business, everyone knows it, not just Nuggets fans. It’s not everyday a fan base appreciates their GM like Nuggets fans appreciate what Masai has done. If we want a championship in Denver the cornerstone is Masai and not a “Super Star” player.

    • Mike K

      Agreed. Pay the man what he wants. He is worth it. Don’t let him go back to Toronto, who seem to be the ones about to break out the checkbook.

  • steve

    If Nugs want CJ, they will need to move up to around 8 which is exactly where the wizards are. They need a SF. They want to win now with Nene Okafor Beal and Wall.

    Would they trade 8th pick for Chandler? Or maybe something crazy like Chandler, Miller, Sign and trade Mozgov and our 1st for 8th pick, Ariza (cap dump) and a big like Seraphin or Booker? We get the shooter guard we want in CJ McCollum, athletic wing defender to replace Chandler and a big to replace Moz.

    • Poz

      I have been against trading Chandler especially since Gallo got hurt but to get CJ you are pretty much spot on, likely take Chandler.

      Now is CJ worth it? Might be worth doing the trade just to get rid of A. Miller :)

      • Ryan

        Lawson, Stone
        Fournier, McCollum
        Iggy, Ariza, Jham
        Faried, Randolph
        McGee, Koufus

        Not really sure about that lineup… No defense except Stone, Iggy and Ariza

  • http://espn herpderpnuggets

    http://www.nbadraft.net/2013mock_draft

    This mock draft has the nuggets picking up Jeff Withey. I would not be mad at all with this pick. Whoever we pick, we only have one so I hope it’s good!

    • Poz

      No thank you. He may be OK in college but he is not athletic enough, let me correct that, he is not laterally quick enough to play D in the NBA.

      I would rather re-sign Mozgov (similar player) and go after someone else.

      • http://espn herpderpnuggets

        The thing is though, Mozgov probably isnt going to sign with the nuggets this offseason especially after hardly playing at all this year.

        • Poz

          True, I am sure there is a level of frustration from going as a starter in 2011 to 4th in rotation in 2012.

  • Max

    Once the draft order is set Tuesday night we’ll start to get a better feel for potential trade partners. I think the best candidates are:

    Washington, Cleveland, Atlanta and maybe Utah.

    Where is Masai at nowadays? I don’t believe he attended the combine in Chicago last week. We HAVE to get his contract extended. This is so frustrating. I hate how the Kroenke’s do business.

  • http://Denverstiffs.com slader

    McCollum seems like a real talent, and is such an intelligent, well-spoken fellow that I’d love to have him around. But at what price? Chandler? Hmmmm
    There are SGs and PGs who can shoot to be had at 27, and there may be more come draft day, as total spazz project bigs slide upward against all reason.

    I hope Masai knows the answers to these questions:
    1) Will any of our C’s ever be a solid starter?
    2) Can Fournier cover some PG minutes w/o wasting his best play?
    3) Will Manimal have a J and some smarts on D next year?
    If he does know, then Masai will know how to approach the draft. If those items are unknowable (even for Batman) he will take the best player available at 27, prolly a good one.

  • Charliemyboy

    Don’t think we need to change to meet competition. Cannot believe Indiana and SA, both of whom we beat. Memphis, who we killed isn’t finished with SA yet. Not sure perimeter defence isn’t more important than an outside shooter. Did you see the video on Adams? holy cow can the guy hedge… have McGee and Faried watch that part 1,000 times.

  • Corey

    article — McCollum: I really can’t understand giving up much past 27+(Miller, Jham or randolph, or if signed Moz, Q, stone). Giving up any other player for an unproven talent that is basically Fournier + better shooter (maybe) – general athleticism/playmaking? seems crazy.

    staying at 27th pick, I generally agree with taking the best player available, but neither the Greek(too risky) or Adams(too similar of offensive liability as Faried/McGee) look very good to me.

    commenters — Why is Wilson Chandler *always* included in trade bait talk? Where is the weakness in his game? We also got a great contract on him considering his production. Why would we trade him for an unproven rookie who MIGHT be a good 3 pt shooter considering:
    41.3% 3pt for the season. Without looking, think about another Nugget besides Billups who has done that recently. I’d trade Wilson, but not for anyone I’ve seen talked about yet… I guess I’d go straight up for Kevin Love.

    Also, yes… George Karl played Miller too much in games 2-6 which played a *part* of our series loss. But lets not forget that Andre won us game 1 and a LOT of regular season games where we had no other options on offense. Yes, his D sucks, but we have a lot of players who have crap aspects of their game that get paid a lot more than 5 million.