Thursday’s draft brought many surprises, but one of the most prominent was the moves made by the Denver Nuggets. General Manager Tim Connelly was able to maneuver draft picks, and with a little luck, was able to get two promising prospects and a player that will be able to step in and help next year.
The Nuggets had the 41st pick after trading their 56th pick to the Orlando Magic in a trade for Arron Afflalo, and with that pick they were able to pick up Serbian center Nikola Jokic. With the Nuggets already drafting center Jusuf Nurkic earlier in the draft, this pick was a little bit of a mystery for fans, but they are different style of players. Jokic is a big guy that can shoot, he has the ability to step out to the free throw line and can play in the high post, but he will need to get bigger and lacks quickness to be able to guard the more athletic big men. Nurkic is a big body guy, someone who will fight for rebounds and has the size to be able to do so. These guys do have a lot of similarities though, being tall guys that aren’t the most athletic but they both have good touch around the basket. It reminds me of the tandem of Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov that Denver had a couple years ago, except neither of them could hit from outside like Jokic has the ability to do.
Jokic has the potential to become a good stretch 5, but needs to develop in his defending. He is only 19, so he has plenty of time to work on his game, and will be able to do that while he is still in Europe, as the Nuggets will likely leave him to play overseas until he is ready to be brought to the NBA. The same goes for Nurkic, as they will likely be placed next to each other so they can develop together.
The thing that’s disappointing with these kinds of picks is that its still a mystery if these players will ever make it to the NBA, or in be able to produce in the NBA. A great look at this is Andrea Bargnani, a great international prospect that never turned out. He was taken first in the 2006 NBA draft to the Toronto Raptors, and was never able to live up to his comparisons of Dirk Nowitzki. Bargnani was able to shoot from outside, just like Jokic can, but never put on the bulk to be able to play inside.
The Nuggets will be lucky if either Jokic or Nurkic will be able to come into the NBA and play like their projected to. They have alot of pressure on them, expecially being drafted by the same team that drafted one of the best international centers of all time, Dikembe Mutombo, so hopefully these guys will pay off in the future. Lets look forward to what else Connelly plans on doing this offseason.