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Why the Nuggets Have a Less Pressurized Draft This Year

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

There is freedom to the draft space the Nuggets occupy this year. And that should allow them to think about what they want to do on draft day, June 21, in a more universal way.

Why?

Because they have a core group of players they like and want to build around. A group that has already proven to be very productive in their young careers. How they go about building around that core is up to them.<.>

Freedom comes in not having the pressure to ‘nail’ the draft for a star player to lead the franchise. They already have that, and then some, in players like Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. The Nuggets are picking in the last lottery slot – 14th – because they had by far the best record of any team that did not make the playoffs (46-36).

And this is a draft full of a lot of players that can capably fill roles.

“Certainly, we need to get better on the defensive end,” Nuggets president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly said. “Positional versatility is something that’s appealing, not just with our team but with all teams right now. I think, as you see our young core start to take shape, it’s a lot easier to pick guys that most accent them and complement their games.”

As a matter of projecting things, the Nuggets’ biggest positional needs are likely to be small forward and reserve point guard. In reality, the team is more focused on adding specific skill sets and mindsets – that of toughness, size enough to guard multiple positions, and an affinity for getting down and dirty on the defensive end.

Through the first handful of pre-draft workouts, the Nuggets have brought a number of players fit the profile – in particular Wednesday’s group that featured Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, Oregon’s Troy Brown, and Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie.

And yet, anything can, and usually does, happen on draft day and the days leading up to it. Connelly said the Nuggets have already seen an uptick in calls coming in related to making deals. As in any year, there is a chance the Nuggets trade away the pick for another player, players or assets.

“I think the key is to be as prepared as possible,” Connelly said. “Have some semblance, as much as possible, to know what other teams are doing, what they are looking to do, what they are looking to accomplish. This week, the phone lines started heating up as we get closer to that day. But it’s a really fun day because of that. It’s the one day where almost everyone is looking to do something. At the trade deadline, you don’t have 30 teams engaged. You have 30 teams engaged in the draft.”

Part of being ready for the draft, Connelly said, means having a wide swath of players that the franchise is comfortable with selecting.

“We never want to be a team that’s solely focused on a handful of guys,” Connelly said. “Because you’re caught by surprise if the draft board changes. But I also think it’s the most active day of the year because, quite frankly, emotions get involved. The trade deadline is one thing, but draft day, there’s moves every which way and they’re quick and they happen on the clock. We view that as an opportunity to be a bit more aggressive, and maybe you don’t have to look as long and far for deal makers on draft day.”

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

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