Despite best efforts, Nuggets unable to get into draft

Denver turns to free agency in search for big man

For a team without any draft picks, the Nuggets were certainly active Thursday night.

Targeting a big man in the second round, Denver’s front-office staff feverishly worked the phones in an attempt to add depth to a frontcourt that was hobbled by injuries late in the 2009-10 season.

In the end, nothing materialized for the Nuggets in the 2010 NBA Draft. It was just the second time in team history (2007) that Denver did not select a player or make a trade on draft night.

“We were very active all night long and thought we were very close a couple of times to sticking our toe in the water,” Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman said. “We targeted a couple guys we felt were a little undervalued and would’ve liked to come away with something. I think everybody else (in the league) had the same kind of plans.”

The Nuggets brought in 12 players for a workout on Monday, including 10 forwards and centers. Of those big men, seven were drafted Thursday night, including Jarvis Varnado (41st overall), Jerome Jordan (44), Luke Harangody (52) and Derrick Caracter (58).

“I don’t think it’s any secret that we would’ve liked to have found a big somewhere in the second round,” Chapman said. “We feel like a few of those guys will make the league. It’s hard to see them go to other places and rivals. We’ll just have to be that much more diligent with summer league and a few guys that went undrafted that we kind of had our eyes on."

The Nuggets now will look for undrafted free agents in an effort to fill out their summer league roster. Denver will play five games in six days in Las Vegas starting July 9. One way or another, adding depth to protect against injuries to primary big men Nene (sprained knee), Kenyon Martin (knee tendinitis) and Chris Andersen (torn patella tendon) will be a priority.

“Had we known we were going to suffer an injury or two late in the season, we would have tried to address that a little harder at the (2009-10 trade) deadline,” Chapman said. “You don’t know how those things are going to shake out. We do know that we need to find a player – maybe two – that can help, not only on the court during games but in practices. It’s awfully important to be able to put 10 guys out there in practice every day, especially early in the season.”

Without a first-round selection last year, the Nuggets still managed to make an impact by acquiring Ty Lawson, the 18th overall pick, from the Minnesota Timberwolves. They gave up what turned out to be the 16th pick Thursday night, which Minnesota used to select swingman Luke Babbitt, who was subsequently traded to Portland.

The Nuggets had no such luck finding a trading partner, but Chapman commended director of scouting Mike Bratz, scout Herb Livsey and director of quantitative analysis Dean Oliver for their work heading into draft night.

“Our scouts did an unbelievable job of preparing,” Chapman said. “I feel bad for those guys. I feel bad for our staff because we wanted to try to make the team better tonight.”

Contact Aaron J. Lopez at