With 12 players under contract and a playing rotation that could go 10 deep tomorrow, the Denver Nuggets took a big-picture approach to the 2012 NBA Draft.
Enjoying the luxury of finding young players to develop for the future, the Nuggets invested in a pair of 19-year-olds on Thursday night, drafting shooting guard Evan Fournier of France and forward Quincy Miller of Baylor.
Denver also added Izzet Turkyilmaz of Turkey with the 50th overall pick.
“It was a good night for the Denver Nuggets,” team president Josh Kroenke said. “We’re better than we were a few hours ago.
“At the beginning of the day, we all sat down and we thought out team was in pretty good position across the board. Our existing roster we felt deserved to move forward and compete together. Those guys earned that right.”
Fournier, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound guard, impressed the Nuggets with his shooting and playmaking ability during a workout at Pepsi Center on June 21. Denver executive vice president Masai Ujiri and the team’s scouts also evaluated Fournier at international tournaments in Europe over the past year.
“We followed Evan for a while,” Ujiri said. “He plays how we want to play, and one of the things we want to do is bring players that fit the style we want to play. He’s an attack player. He’s aggressive. I think we’re lucky to have him.”
Fournier spent last season playing for Union Poitiers Basket 86 of the French League. He averaged 14.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals while competing against much older players.
“He’s very confident,” Ujiri said. “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. 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.”
After nabbing Fournier 20th overall, the Nuggets also felt fortunate to see Miller’s name still on the board when they went on the clock with the 38th pick.
Miller was a consensus top-5 high school player before tearing the ACL in his left knee five games into his senior season. After a demanding rehabilitation, Miller went on to be named Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year after averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds at Baylor.
“You’re excited about college and then you tear your knee up and it’s almost like you have to start all over again,” Ujiri said. “Pretty cool kid. Very determined. We’ll see where it goes. He’s worked hard to strengthen that knee. It’s going to be a big hill for him to climb, but the talent is there and that’s what we saw.”
Ujiri said Miller “definitely” will play for Denver’s summer league team in Las Vegas, while details still need to be worked out for Fournier.
As for Turkyilmaz, he also could participate in the summer league but likely will stay in Turkey for at least one more season. He’s a 7-foot-1 forward with a lot of potential and little risk.
“I know we are swinging in the second round, but we feel he has skill,” Ujiri said. “We saw him play in the Eurocamp (in Italy earlier this month) and we like him. We feel this guy has a chance (to be an NBA player).”
Unlike last summer, the Nuggets will get to work with their newest draft picks for several months in advance of the 2012-13 season. Denver players such as Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Jordan Hamilton, Kosta Koufos, Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee and Julyan Stone already have worked out at Pepsi Center over the past several weeks.
“People forget that we haven’t had a chance to be with our players in the summer yet,” Kroenke said. “The summer is a huge development period. We’re genuinely excited about getting all of our guys in here to get to work.”