With the NBA Draft Combine scheduled to kick off this week, the Draft Lottery taking place the following week and individual workouts to commence shortly thereafter, the time to talk 2014 NBA Draft has officially arrived. We’ll get into more detailed player analysis as the draft approaches (after all, we’re still six weeks away from June 26), but to get our draft coverage underway at Roundball Mining Company we offer first an appetizer — a piquant sampler of strategies and potential selections to watch for in the coming draft, all in 3-on-3 form. As always, we invite you to leave your input in the comments section below by posting your answers to the following questions as well.
1. What type of strategy do you expect from Tim Connelly on draft night and what will his first-round pick say about his legacy moving forward?
Kalen: Connelly has stated multiple times recently that he’s going to be aggressive this offseason. While I have no reason to disbelieve him, I’m also cognizant of how rare it is for teams to move back in the lottery. Given the lack of vacancy on the Nuggets roster, I could see Connelly using the team’s current first-round pick then trading the Nuggets’ two second-round picks away for future assets or a player to be named. But no matter how far he moves either way, this draft is going to serve as a template for the types of players Connelly covets — as well as his overall competence as a talent evaluator.
Charlie: I expect Connelly to be very aggressive on draft night, whether it’s using the Nuggets’ first lottery selection in a decade or making a splash via trade. Unlike last year’s No. 27 pick, essentially a throwaway first-rounder in a weak draft, Denver is holding onto a real asset with their late lottery selection (currently slated at No. 11). It is perhaps the most valuable tool the Nuggets can use to improve themselves this summer and a crucial test for the young Tim Connelly.
William: I fully expect Connelly to do his best to make the team as good as possible, as fast as possible. The chances of getting into the top three are fanciful at best, so I’m assuming the Nuggets will stay at No. 11 in the draft. Barring a complete demolition job this summer, this draft will be about finding a player that can contribute immediately and, 10 years from now, the Nuggets can be proud to tell other teams they stole in this draft. This is a big test for Connelly and co. They could get a Klay Thompson kind of guy (No. 11 in 2011) or an Acie Law (No. 11 in 2005) kind of guy. We can only wait and see.
2. Disregarding the BPA (Best Player Available) strategy, what skill set, asset or position (i.e. small forward, wing defender, shooter, etc.) do the Nuggets need most with their first pick in the draft?
Kalen: As currently constructed, the Nuggets aren’t really lacking anything definitive outside of a starting-caliber shooting guard. They could use more defense across the board, as well as another low-post threat and decent shooter, but most of those problems should be addressed when players that were injured this year return next year. The great thing about the Nuggets’ need for a legit shooting guard is that this draft is loaded with them, especially those slated to be drafted somewhere in the early to mid-teens. Quite honestly, I’d be a little surprised if the Nuggets didn’t select a shooting guard at No. 11.
Charlie: The obvious answer is a wing defender, a shooting specialist or perhaps a young point guard. But more than anything, the Nuggets just need impact players and more talent across the board. Denver is a team with no star and a well-paid core that is already peaking. Up to this point, Connelly has made it his number one priority to surround that with low-ceiling role players and veterans. The next step is for the Nuggets to create value with a legit prospect on a rookie deal — something they don’t currently have which might ultimately help them in the long term.
William: They need a guy who can shoot consistently, be able to defend (at least) and most of all, they need a smart player. Athletic, immature players are a dime a dozen these days, especially with the wretched one-and-done college system, so getting a player who has the smarts to develop beyond an impressive vertical jump or standing reach is paramount. With Mozgov and Faried complementing each other down low and the drive-happy Gallo and Lawson on the wings, a good, versatile shooter is a priority.
3. Which player slated by most mock drafts to go after No. 10 — as of right now — do you particularly like for the Nuggets and why?
Kalen: In years past, because the Nuggets always selected so far back in the first round, most of the really good players were already off the board and I could narrow down a small crop of prospects I liked to “My Guy” — the one player I liked far more than others. But this year is different. There’s at least a handful of players who could potentially be my guy. I’m not going to include Aaron Gordon or Dario Saric on this list (at least not now) because I think they’ll both be gone before the Nuggets’ select at 11; therefore, like Charlie and William, I’m going to select two other players: Gary Harris and James Young. To me, Harris should be “The Guy” Nuggets fans root for on draft night barring a slide by higher-ranked players. He’s a young, smart, athletic, two-way shooting guard who can stretch the floor, find the open man and lock down his opponent on defense. I really think Harris is going to be special at the next level. On the other hand, James Young is mostly in the same mold as Harris except even younger, but not quite as good on defense — though he certainly has the ability to be a good defender on the right team. To me, Young might have the most upside of all the talented two guards slated to drop in the mid-lottery.
Charlie: I am going to cheat and mention two players. The first is Gary Harris, a player almost certain to be there at 11 who looks like a safe bet and great fit in a number of ways. He reminds me of a hybrid Bradley Beal and Arron Afflalo, immediately bringing toughness on the perimeter which Shaw has openly pined for since the season ended. Harris also doesn’t need the ball, doesn’t turn it over and could develop into the catch-and-shoot threat the Nuggets lack. The second player is Dario Saric, the 6-10 Croatian forward who was pure hype and potential one year ago. It’s impossible to ignore what he did this season, dominating overseas and proving he’s an elite prospect with talent that rivals the best in the draft. He’s waffled in and out of the draft numerous times and is not a safe bet to come stateside right away, so falling out of the top 10 in a deep draft is a real possibility. If he slips to the Nuggets, the “best talent” mandate should make it very difficult to pass on a player of his caliber.
William: Two names have been floated a bit already: Gary Harris and Nik Stauskas. Harris is a very promising wing defender, with an NBA-ready body and the ability to put a few points on the board. Stauskas is a fantastic shooter, extremely driven (but not as volatile as Lance Stephenson, for example) and smart enough to become a good team defender. I’d be very happy to see either of them in powder blue (or canary gold). Every time I watched Stauskas this year, I was more and more impressed with the guy. But one player I’ve been warming on lately is Doug McDermott. He’d be the smartest player under 25 in the whole league as of opening night and would make a fantastic shooting guard. At 6-8 and able to score from anywhere, he could absolutely bully the preciously scarce field of good twos within two years. And if the shooting guard experiment doesn’t work out, you’ve got a very good small forward who could do stretches of tall ball at two or small ball at the four. If Cleveland haven’t taken him by 10, I’d be on McDermott like a hobo on a sandwich.