Miller, Faried, Hamilton highlight Denver's big draft night
Nuggets blend veteran savvy with new crop of young players
Toughness, veteran savvy and tantalizing young talent.
In one whirlwind evening, the Denver Nuggets added all three.
The Nuggets bolstered their defense and rebounding Thursday night by selecting Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried with the 22nd pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
At that point, they were just getting started.
Denver later appeased point guard Raymond Felton by trading him to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for veteran point guard Andre Miller, the rights to No. 26 pick Jordan Hamilton and a future second-round pick as part of a three-team deal that also included the Dallas Mavericks.
In a final move, the Nuggets traded a future second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for the rights to the No. 56 pick, Nigerian forward Chu Chu Maduabum.
Certainly an impressive night for Denver’s front-office duo of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri and team President Josh Kroenke.
“You start a day like this not knowing what to expect,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We ended up with much more than we thought we were going to get. I think it just shows the proactive mentality of both Josh and Masai. They’re highly engaged and very intense.”
Ujiri and Kroenke proved their negotiating mettle in February when they sent Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the New York Knicks as part of a three-team deal that brought Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov to Denver.
On draft night, they would have been happy to simply add Faried – the NCAA’s career rebounding leader – but they were thrilled to land Hamilton, a versatile swingman out of Texas, and Miller, who spent three-plus seasons in Denver before being dealt as part of the Allen Iverson trade in 2006.
“We’re excited to have Andre back,” Kroenke said. “He was a vital part of the organization several years ago. We think he’s going to be a great addition to the team. We’re just excited in general.”
Miller appeared in 269 regular-season games for the Nuggets from 2003-06, averaging 14 points, 7.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds. Last season, he averaged 12.7 points, 7.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds in 32.7 minutes for Portland.
With third-year point guard Ty Lawson promoted to the starting lineup for the final 25 games of the season, Miller will give the Nuggets veteran leadership in the backcourt similar to Jason Kidd of the NBA-champion Mavericks.
“Andre wants to win,” Ujiri said. “That’s what he wants to do. He said he wants to come in here and he wants to win. He’s going to help us mentor these kids and teach them how to play.”
Known for throwing pinpoint lobs from anywhere on the court, Miller will have a nice target in Faried, a 6-foot-8, 228-pound power forward who broke Tim Duncan’s NCAA record for career rebounds.
Faried, who worked out for the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on June 8, averaged 17.3 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a senior last season. He helped Morehead State upset Louisville in an NCAA Tournament game played at the Pepsi Center in March.
“A lot of Denver fans tweeted me before (the draft), saying I hope you go to Denver, I hope you go to Denver,” Faried said. “I guess I made a lot of people’s dreams come true.”
Including his own.
Faried celebrated his selection by hugging his 1-year-old daughter Kyra as cheers rained down from the Prudential Center in his hometown of Newark, N.J. He quickly turned his focus to getting in the gym and preparing for next season.
“I think I’ll have an immediate impact just bringing hustle and toughness and a no-quit attitude to the whole team,” he said. “They’re changing the face of the franchise to being defense-oriented but still scoring a lot of points.”
Many mock drafts had Faried going 21st to Portland, so there were some anxious moments in the Denver draft room. The Nuggets had Faried and Hamilton both listed much higher than 22 on their internal draft board.
“I never thought we would get both of those guys,” Ujiri said. “They landed in our laps.”
Ujiri commended scouting director Mike Bratz and scout Herb Livsey for their tireless work leading up to the draft. Their efforts also were endorsed by Karl, who believes Faried can be a force on defense and on the glass.
“We feel we ran into one of the No. 1 energy players in the draft,” Karl said. “Dallas and a lot of teams in the playoffs showed that energy and hustle wins a lot of basketball games. The game is about running and jumping as much as it is about size now. This kid knows how to run and jump.”
Faried and Hamilton are expected to be in Denver soon to begin summer workouts. When Ujiri spoke with Hamilton on draft night, he was already working to improve his game.
“I spoke to Jordan Hamilton and he did not even follow the draft; he was playing ball,” Ujiri said. “I don’t know if he was nervous or not, but he was working out. Those guys are basketball junkies; they like to play and I don’t think we’ll have a problem with their development.”