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Denver Nuggets Draft Night Transcript

Denver Nuggets President & Governor Josh Kroenke:

 

Opening statement

“Obviously we made a couple selections tonight. I think it was a good night for the Denver Nuggets. We’re better than we were a few hours ago. I think that at the beginning of the day we all sat down and we talked, and we thought our team was in a pretty good position across the board. Masai and I talked as late as last night, we sat there and we said our guys, based on how they responded throughout this season, our existing roster we felt deserved to move forward and compete together. Those guys earned that right. There was some speculation around, we obviously stood pat at No. 20. We’re happy with what we got and we are moving forward.”

 

Denver Nuggets Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri:

 

On Evan Fournier

“We followed Evan for a while. We thought, as George [Karl] has said, Jordan Hamilton is our rookie for next year. We’re trying to stack them now where we develop them. Evan might be our rookie next year, or maybe the year after. We’ve followed him for a while. We really like him. He plays how we want to play, and one of the things we want to do is bring players that fit the way we play and fit the style we play. He’s an attack player. He shoots it. He’s aggressive. I think we’re lucky to have him.”

 

On how seriously trades were considered

“There is always stuff you have to listen to. That’s my job; you have to entertain and look into different scenarios. At the end of the day, I think we looked at the draft from the top to the bottom, and I don’t think there was much movement in terms of players. It was quiet. I think that’s what happens when it’s a deep draft. I think that’s what happens when free agency is coming July 1 and with the kind of year we’re coming off, there is some speculation that it wasn’t a great year to evaluate your players. You have to give them more of a chance, maybe. There are different reasons why there weren’t as many trades as usually is. I think most teams are staying pat just to figure out their players a little more.

 

“On our part, I think we’ve said it all along, that our players need to develop as much as we can. It’s a big summer. The guys have been in the gym; they’ve been working out. We’ve kept tabs on everybody and we’re encouraged with what we have. We did try to be aggressive in a couple places, but first and foremost, as Josh said, we’re happy with our team and we’ll keep plugging away.”

 

On the possibility of Evan Fournier playing overseas next season

“We’re going to talk about that. We wanted that option, so we have the option of both. We’ll figure it out with the agent and we’ll see—our roster is pretty full and pretty full with young guys. Another thing that was attractive (with Fournier) was we wanted that flexibility a little bit, and get a very young player. He’s 19 years old and really developing. We’ll see how that goes.”

 

On the reaction when Evan Fournier was available at No. 20

“When we do our draft, we have them in different blocks. He was one of the guys that we had there. Obviously there were a couple guys. Mike and Herb have done an incredible job of scouting for us. Herb Livsey and Mike Bratz scoured all over the world and had everybody covered. Most of the guys we had went in the top 20, so I think those guys have done a great job. Fournier was right there where we wanted him. We were lucky to grab him. You go to a certain point and you get, not worried because you always think you can figure it out, but you get to a certain point where you feel, ‘ok, maybe it’s a drop-off from here.’ Obviously there are a couple players that have issues and you’re a little skeptical. We’re happy we got a very talented player where there will be options. We’ll figure it out.”

 

On the time table for deciding if Evan Fournier will sign with the Nuggets this season

“I think it’s open.  There are contracts and we cannot do anything now until July 1st.  We can’t start talking (to his agent) until July 1st so we’ll start then.

 

On Quincy Miller’s value with the 38th selection

“No question.  It’s unbelievable, he might have been two or three picks right where we were.  We were picking at 20 and he was two or three picks off (down the Nuggets draft board).  This was a top five high school player in America, a McDonald’s All-American, we feel like we got a pretty good young player.  19 years old, he blew his knee out and that’s why he (is where he is).  He struggled a little bit coming off his ACL (tear) his freshman year at Baylor.  We followed him quite a bit.  Seeing him play when he was younger, I saw him play in the American championships.  He played with Austin Rivers and all of those guys and he was the best player on the team.  I even saw him hit a game winner for Team USA (2010 FIBA Americas U-18 Championship) in San Antonio (Texas).  He was a fantastic player until he blew out his knee in December (2010).  It has kind of kept him down the last year.  Right after the season ended at Baylor he was working out, gaining strength and gaining confidence.  We worked him out and took a look at him.  We looked at him at 20 (the Nuggets first round selection).  At 38 we were happy he was there.  (Evan) Fournier and Miller are 19 years old.  Are they going to beat out Jordan Hamilton?  I don’t think so.  We are trying to figure out how we can stack talent and build our team for the future.  We feel like it’s a good way to build in the draft this way.

 

On Izzet Turkyilmaz

“Izzet.  He is seven foot one.  He’s long.  I know we are swinging in the second round.  But we feel he has skill.  He’s going to play in Turkey for the next year or two.  He came out and worked out for us.  We’ve seen him play.  We saw him play in the Eurocamp and we like him.  We like skilled players. I know George Karl likes skilled players and he is very skilled.  He’s still very skinny.  We might even be very lucky to see him play in Summer League (this July).  If we can get a couple things done I think that would be a good look for us in terms of evaluating and continuing to see him grow in to maybe becoming an NBA player.  Those picks (late in the second round) are swings but we feel this guy has a chance.”

 

On Evan Fournier or Quincy Miller playing in Summer League

“Miller definitely. Fournier we will work on.”

 

On process of scouting Evan Fournier in France

“We all scout junior tournaments and stuff like that when they play in international tournaments. We scout the Hoop Summit.  We see these players play at the (Nike) Hoop Summit and we see them playing for their clubs.  All of our scouts will take part in that, I’ll go see him.  At the end of the year we tally up our notes and compare what we’ve seen the whole time.  Then you kind of make decisions.  The best (evaluation) is you have to see them grow.  You have to see them progress.  With the international players a lot of times, you see Gallo (Danilo Gallinari), you see what the growth is.  You measure how their bodies got better, if they’ve grown taller, and if their skills have gotten better.  The concern is always the body and how athletic the game is in the NBA.  Skill-wise those guys are always right there and we try to do our homework as best we can.

 

On whether there has been a dip in international players produced in recent years

“I don’t think it is a dip, I think we are kind of a league that goes with what’s going on. There was a time when international was hot and we flow with it, there was a time when high school was hot and we flow with it, it’s the nature of the league. I think in Europe you almost have a cycle where it slows down a little bit and it picks up. Last year I think there were six or seven players selected in the first round I don’t know if Fournier was the only one this year that was selected in the first round, so next year I think it will perk up a little bit. I think it depends on the player I don’t believe in going with the flow, we just scout the player and if we feel if a player is talented enough we go get him or go scout him.”

 

On Evan Fournier comparing himself to Manu Ginoboli

“Manu Ginoboli is a great player I am not going to sit here and make that comparison. Fournier is Fournier and he is very skilled, he attacks, he has that kind of a mentality but it didn’t come to my head that way. Players are always going to compare themselves with other players. I thought I was Michael Jordan when I played.”

 

Kroenke:

On their approach to the draft with 12 players under contract

 “Yeah like I said before we have 12 guys under contract next year, with a few other decisions to make in the upcoming weeks. Masai and I have talked in length; the first time we talked about the draft was probably this time last year looking forward to this day this year. With the way our team evolved over the course of the year with the guys in China and what not and the course of the work stoppage and then the way our guys responded down the stretch. It was a position where we felt like we didn’t have to do anything unless we really felt like it was going to make us better. Our guys have shown that they are committed to getting better, we have had several guys already back working out since our season has been over, including several of the younger players and it was something that we wanted to give a chance to develop. We still have a lot of excitement going forward strictly with the roster we ended the year with, you know if something is to come our way Masai’s job is to listen and then we are going to talk about it, nothing came across our plate that we felt that we needed to jump for and we are happy with what we got going forward.”

 

On the option to trade away some picks

“There’s always options. There’s stuff that gets floated in the media just strictly to see if other teams will bite. You never know what’s real and what’s not. Did Masai get several phone calls? Yes, because we have very good talented young players. His job is to listen. Our job is to discuss it and at the end of the day, we decided we were better off standing pat and selecting at that place.”

 

Ujiri:

On Quincy Miller’s reaction to being drafted

“He’s very happy. He’ll be here tomorrow. All of them will be here. He’s happy. It was tough for him. He was a top five high school player in America with (Anthony) Davis and (Austin) Rivers. I watched him play early on. He was the guy on the team. You’re excited about college and then you tear your knee up and it’s almost like you have to start all over again. Pretty cool kid. Determined. We’ll see where it goes. He works hard. He’s worked hard to strengthen that knee. He’ll figure it out. It’s going to be a big hill for him to climb, but the talent is there and that’s what we saw.”

 

Kroenke:

On Quincy Miller’s reaction to being drafted

“The talent’s definitely there. He’s a good kid. He’s always got a smile on his face. I’m sure he’ll come right in and go to work. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

 

Ujiri:

On what separated Evan Fournier from John Jenkins

“Playmaking. Playmaking is very key in how we play in George’s system. We saw playmaking, we saw shooting. He’s four years younger and a bigger player. Evan is 6-6 without shoes, so he’s a good 6-7. The other kid is a good player and had a very good career at Vanderbilt, but at that point we decided to go with Fournier.”

 

Kroenke:

On Ty Lawson’s influence on the Quincy Miller pick

“No matter who we picked, I’m sure Ty would have welcomed them with open arms.”

 

Ujiri:

On current Nuggets players working out in Denver

“Guys have done a great job of working hard. The most important thing we’ve seen is these guys are identifying with the city of Denver. To get our guys in the gym working out at this time of the year is pretty big for us – Ty and Wilson and Koufos and JaVale and Jordan Hamilton.”

 

 Kroenke:

On current Nuggets players working out in Denver

“People forget that we haven’t had a chance to be with our players in the summer yet. The summer is a huge development period. We’re genuinely excited about getting all of our guys in here this summer to get to work.”

 

Ujiri:

On Evan Fournier’s confidence

“He’s very confident. You’ll see. He’s very confident. His game is the same way. He doesn’t back down. When you play in the pro league at 17 and 18 in Europe, you start to build that. You’re playing with grown men. Sometimes it’s not the greatest of competitions, it’s not the NBA, but you’re playing with grown men who are being paid to play basketball. That’s very big for a 17, 18, now a 19-year-old kid. He’s very confident.”