Nuggets Look to Stay Nimble in an Already Unpredictable NBA Draft Landscape

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Today is NBA Draft Day.

In recent years, this current group of Nuggets executives has been so good at mining talent from almost any draft position, that it brought a smile to team president and governor Josh Kroenke’s face when talking about this year’s possibilities.

“I think that our guys have done basically as well as anyone else in the NBA in drafting, particularly in the last three years,” Kroenke said. “As long as we’re drafting well you put yourself in a position to succeed because you’re creating valuable assets out of thin air. And I think that’s what our guys have done.”

There’s no bigger endorsement of the draft work done by the decision-making team led by Tim Connelly, president of basketball operations, and general manager Arturas Karvnisovas, than that. Many of the Nuggets’ starting, and rotation, players – Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, Juancho Hernangomez – were drafted by Connelly and Karnisovas since arriving in 2013. Thursday, they’re being asked to conjure up a little more draft magic as the Nuggets enter the day with three picks – Nos. 13, 49 and 51.

How it all ends up? That’s anyone’s guess. But Nuggets’ execs say they are prepared for anything.

“There’s two or three different scenarios out there that we really like,” Kroenke said. “But will those come to fruition, who knows? But I think that (tonight) is truly going to set the path for the rest of the summer for us, depending on what happens and what moves we’re able to make – whether it’s moving up, moving down or staying put at No. 13.”

If the days leading up to Thursday are any indication, this draft will be at its unpredictable best. The NBA has rarely seen more wheeling-and-dealing prior to the night itself than what has already taken place this year. The Celtics and Sixers swapped the first and third overall picks in a trade. The Lakers added a late first-round draft pick in a trade with Brooklyn. The Hawks and Hornets swapped second-round picks and a few players. More deals are expected.

The Nuggets could be in that mix.

“You literally can’t predict what’s going to happen in a draft, but you have to be prepared,” Karnisovas said. “I think the second round is the one that is the most live, where you have to adjust every minute of it depending on where you’re picking and who’s available. So, preparation is the key. You spend hours and hours preparing and when the draft comes, you react.”

Connelly agreed, and turned his focus to the general type of player the Nuggets seek.

“We’re trying to find a guy we can grow with,” he said. “A guy that kind of fits, not just our style of play but our style of person.”

In their history, the Nuggets have taken at least one player at each of the current draft spots. At No. 13, they took guards Bryant Stith in 1992 and Jalen Rose in 1994. At No. 49, they took forward Leon Powe in 2006. And at No. 51, forward Ronnie Valentine in 1980.

Kroenke likes the talent he sees in both rounds of this year’s draft.

“It’s a deep draft, there’s a lot of good players available all over the place,” Kroenke said. “What we always say is it doesn’t matter where you draft, it matters who you draft. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to find players all the way from the No. 7 slot all the way down to the bottom of the draft. And, so no matter where we pick, I have absolute faith in our guys that we’re going to pick a guy that’s going to help the Denver Nuggets going forward.”

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv or @chrisadempsey on Twitter