The 2013 NBA Draft is officially in the books. After months of disheartening analysis regarding its lack of superstars, the draft took a turn for the wild early on and never reverted back to the uneventful night many had anticipated. The Nuggets were active, trading last year’s starting center Kosta Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies for Darrell Arthur. Additionally, Denver traded out of the 27th pick to ultimately possess the 46th and 55th picks instead. Here’s what the Nuggets’ draft puzzle looked like at the end of the night…
Pick No. 46: Erick Green
With the 27th pick in the draft the Nuggets selected Rudy Gobert from France. That pick was then promptly traded to the Utah Jazz for the rights to the 46th pick in the draft and cash, according to Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post. The Nuggets then went on to select Erick Green from Virginia Tech with that pick. Green was profiled a few days ago in my Digging for gold piece where I had this to say about the mercurial shooting guard:
Green is one of the more mysterious prospects in the draft by my estimation, yet the more I learn about him the more I like him. His numbers this past season were insane. He averaged 25 points, four rebounds and four assists per game in route to winning ACC Player of the Year honors. He was incredibly efficient, rarely turned the ball over and got to the line at one of the highest rates in the country. All of those features generally translate well to the next level. That said, Green pretty much came out of nowhere in 2012-13. He never shot above 43 percent from the field before his senior season and wasn’t even slated to get drafted last year. That makes me nervous. But what can’t be ignored is that the dude continuously abused top-notch players in perhaps the toughest conference in college basketball for an entire season. That’s an incredible feat no matter what you did three years before that. If the Nuggets call his name on June 27, I will be a very happy man.
Reaction: There was a general consensus amongst draftniks that this was an excellent pick considering where Green was selected. Like Quincy Miller last year, Green likely should have gone higher than he did. If the Nuggets selected Green at 27, nearly 20 picks prior to when he was actually drafted, people would have applauded; yet Denver traded down, received cash from the Jazz in the process and still landed him. No matter how you slice it, this appears to have been a shrewd move by the Nuggets’ newly structured front office.
Although a rookie, Green should stand a fair chance to earn some playing time at backup point guard next year should Andre Miller be dealt. At 22, he’s two years older than both Quincy Miller and Evan Fournier, who will also be fighting against their fellow teammates for playing time. While he played shooting guard at Virginia Tech, Green has displayed point-guard like vision at times and the ability to handle the rock and distribute at a high level. His long-distance shooting will also allow the Nuggets to stretch the floor. As has already been noted, this is the second year in a row the Nuggets have taken a shooting guard whom they worked out prior to the draft.
Pick No. 55: Joffrey Lauvergne
As part of the Kosta Koufos deal the Nuggets received the 55th pick in the draft which they used to select French big man Joffry Lauvergne. Unknown to virtually everyone outside of diehard draft fans, Lauvergne is an interesting prospect. According to his DraftExpress profile, Lauvergne is a 21-year-old power forward who’s strengths include athleticism, versatility on offense and a high motor. He’s bounced around in Europe over the last several years but has reportedly concentrated on improving his overall game as of late. Here’s more from his DraftExpress profile, followed by some highlights from YouTube:
With roughly 20% of his 8.1 possessions per-game coming in post-up situations according to Synergy Sports Technology, Lauvergne has noticeably improved his ability to score one-on-one with his back to the basket. Working hard to gain position before the catch and possessing very quick feet, Lauvergne’s footwork appears significantly more polished than it did even a season ago, as he’s become extremely elusive down low, coupling quick spin moves and drop steps with the ability to score with either hand from a variety of angles… Though he’s very assertive when he gets the ball in the post, Lauvergne does the majority of his damage working without the ball. His speed makes him an ideal target in transition, he crashes the boards with reckless abandon (ranking third in the Serbian League in offensive rebound rate), and is an active target around the basket in the half court. Surprisingly springy when he looks to score in close, Lauvergne looks to dunk the ball whenever possible, shooting a terrific 69% at the rim thanks to his aggressiveness… Lauvergne is an intriguing prospect for NBA teams looking to draft and stash a player in the second round, as he’s someone that is almost certain to continue making strides over the next few years being that he’s in a very good situation developmentally with Partizan. He’ll likely get plenty of looks particularly from teams with multiple picks, even if it will likely be at least another year or two before he’s available to come over.
Reaction: It’s hard to tell how prepared Lauvergne will be a few years down the road when the Nuggets will presumably inquire about him coming to the NBA. As of now this looks like a draft-and-stash pick, but it could end up being a very good one. Lauverge is still relatively young and appears to be somewhat polished as an all-around player. If he continues to progress and improve his handle Lauvergne might one day play a significant role of the bench for the Nuggets. This marks the second year in a row Denver’s selected a French international as well as a late second-round draft-and-stash player.
Trade: Kosta Koufos for Darrell Arthur
As was reported by Hochman during the draft, Denver has officially traded Kosta Koufos for Darrell Aurthur. The 55th pick in the draft was included as part of the deal.
Reaction: This trade was taking quite a lot of heat from Nuggets fans on Twitter. With two of Denver’s best defenders already slated to become free agents (Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer), fans have been making the argument that trading away the team’s best defensive big man was not exactly a savvy move. This faction has a fair point; however, when assessing this trade it would also be irresponsible to dismiss Koufos’ ugly postseason performance this past year as well as his general inconsistency while in a Nuggets uniform. While Koufos was undoubtedly the Nuggets best defensive big man, he was also not much more than a backup center at best. Yes, there were times when his defense could be relied upon to be fairly effective, but there were also times when he totally shrunk and couldn’t defend guys four inches smaller than him. For the sake of accurate evaluation, it’s important to acknowledging the other side of the coin.
If the Nuggets are ever to get serious about team defense and developing their younger players, a fixed level of commitment must be allotted to certain guys — primarily JaVale McGee. While Koufos would have played the role of a serviceable backup center, it appears the Nuggets have chosen to go all in on McGee. It’s certainly a gamble, but one the Nuggets had to make at some point in time. Because if anyone can get McGee to be the McGee we all believe McGee can be (say that 10 times fast!), it’s Brian Shaw. And it’s worth noting the Nuggets aren’t getting a total scrub in Darrell Arthur either. He’s played a pivotal role on some good Grizzlies teams and has proven to be a serviceable big man in the NBA just like Koufos. Arthur is known for his ability to stretch the floor, which is an asset the Nuggets have needed for quite some time now; but he’s also a pretty solid pick-and-roll defender. He’s coming off a torn achilles, which is never good, but he’s had a year to recover and will have the summer to take additional precautions if necessary. If Arthur can stay healthy he might very well play a critical role in the Nuggets offense as a stretch big man next season.
On a more personal note, I’m somewhat saddened to see Koufos leave just as he was beginning to reach his stride in a Nuggets uniform. I won’t easily forget the story he told about driving to Denver the day after being traded from the Timberwolves because he was so excited to get a fresh start in a new city. Koufos worked his tail off in Denver and was respected by fans and players alike. I had the chance to meet him several times last year and could not have been more impressed by his welcoming and cordial disposition. It’s unfortunate his career in Denver came to an end before he could reach the apex of his development, but I know I speak on behalf of Nuggets fans everywhere when I say it was a pleasure watching him grow and wish him well in Memphis.