The Nuggets hosted their first official draft workout in almost two years at Ball Arena Monday -- a significant sign of progress from just a year ago.
Last year, NBA teams heavily relied on technology and a minimal amount of meetings to get acquainted with prospects. Although most teams do extensive homework on players they are considering taking, nothing beats being able to have one on one interactions. The Nuggets hosted Matt Coleman (Texas), Josh Christopher (Arizona State), Quentin Grimes (Houston), Jason Preston (Ohio), Jordan Goodwin (St. Louis), and Duane Washington Jr. (Ohio State) Monday. They followed that by bringing in Chudier Bile (Georgetown), Carlik Jones (Louisville), Makur Maker (Howard), MaCio Teague (Baylor), Arnas Velicka (Lithuania), Moses Wright (Georgia Tech)
Here are the takeaways from the workouts:
Grimes sees Blue Arrow in his game
Quentin Grimes had a breakout junior campaign for the Houston Cougars and his confidence was very apparent in his workout with the Nuggets. When asked about who he models his game after, Grimes was quick to point to a certain leading Canadian guard for Denver.
"I watch a lot of Jamal Murray and we have a similar size and frame," Grimes told Nuggets.com.
Grimes shot 40.3 percent from downtown during the 2020-21 season and was connecting jumpers with ease at Monday's practice. Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly stressed the need for players who can stretch the floor and play solid defense in his end of the season press conference. Grimes, who averaged 1.4 steals a game for Houston this season, hopes he can make a difference on that end for NBA teams this upcoming season.
"Playing for Joe Sampson [at Houston], he demands 110 percent effort out of you [on that end] no matter what," Grimes explained. "It's something I pride myself on and I want [to] try to be one of the best defenders in this draft."
Christopher's extensive prep
As Josh Christopher approached to do his interview, he quickly looked at his reflection for a hair check. Don't worry, that's not the only area where he's exhaustive in his preparation. Noting Denver's well-known altitude, the Arizona State guard decided to test himself ahead of Monday's workout with a jog around downtown to get acclimated.
"Like two minutes into it, I felt that wind hit me, so I just pushed through and finished it to catch that second wind," Christopher told Nuggets.com with a grin. "I was good to go for today!"
Christopher admits he got a little bit of encouragement from his brother, who also jogged with him virtually on FaceTime. But it is clear, the freshman likes to be prepared.
"I like to be studious, I love to take the right steps I'm on go for whatever's ahead," he said.
The Arizona State star had an inconsistent start to his sole season in college but showed a lot of improvement as a shooter in his last few games before suffering a injury that ended his season. When Christopher declared for the draft, he initially projected to go in the second round by some mock drafts but his stock is rising after a few impressive NBA workouts. That meticulous preparation is likely a big factor.
"I'm taking this process very seriously," Christopher said. "You only get to do it once, so why not go all the way."
"When I see stuff like my name is rising, it just makes me want to go harder and I'm going to keep going."
Christopher is the godbrother of former NBA player Tayshaun Prince, a title winner with Pistons in 2004, and counts current Nuggets Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, and Bol Bol among players he knows in the NBA. He is hoping Denver will take a chance on him if he is available when it makes its selection at No. 26.
"You guys are going in the right direction," he said of the Nuggets. "You got the MVP...It almost feels like family when I walked in here because of the ties. I'm in the arena with guys who I'm already familiar with."
Velička hoping to stick
Lithuanian guard Arnas Velička has no allusions to grand draft expectations, he just wants a shot at playing in the NBA.
"We're going to see [where I end up], but I'm looking for a two-way contract," Velička said in his press conference Tuesday.
There hasn't been a lot of buzz around Velička during the predraft workout sessions around the NBA, but he could be a player who teams will covet for two-way contracts and Summer League. The Nuggets have an extensive track record of finding unheralded prospects and turning them into useful rotation players. Last season, Markus Howard followed a similar path and became an impact player for Denver in the playoffs. The team is well-known for spotting international talent and has a well-known former Lithuanian basketball star in Martynas Pocius in the front office.
Velička, who last starred for Löwen Braunschweig, hopes he can showcase his game in the best basketball league in the world.
"I like to run the team, get everyone touches and make everyone happy," he said.
Sounds like a potentially good fit for Mile High Basketball.
Makur's unique journey
Makur Maker made a bold decision to reject UCLA and commit to Howard University, a historically Black University. The 6-foot-11 frontcourt player became the highest-ranked prospect to sign with an HBCU, ranking at 16th at the time of his decision. Injuries and COVID-19 limited Maker to just two games, but he is still happy he committed to Howard.
"It meant a lot going to Howard University," Maker said Tuesday. "It was a place where I think the coaching staff had the right vision for how I wanted to play the game. Anytime you're given an opportunity to lead, learn and get better, I'm taking that 100 percent."
Although Maker played in limited action, he still managed to average 11.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
"I take pride in my skill, I [work] on my ball-handling, shooting and passing every day," Maker said. "So, I'm very versatile."
Hometown kid gets a shot to impress
If working out in Ball Arena is surreal for Chudier Bile, there is an easy explanation. Bile is a Denver native and grew up watching the Nuggets play as a child, rooting for stars like Allen Iverson or Kenneth Faried.
"I always watched the Nuggets growing up," Bile said Tuesday. "I was a huge fan and then when I found yesterday that I was coming in for workouts, [it was] crazy and it was almost like a dream."
Bile, who counts Chauncey Billups as his favorite Nugget, isn't sure where he will end up getting drafted in this month's draft, but he hopes he left an impression on his hometown team.
"I'm just trying to stay ready at all times," he said. "It's like this opportunity came yesterday and I just tried to stay ready and that's how I'm going to keep going."