For some time now, we’ve been begging the Nuggets to watch what the Spurs are doing, then do that as much as possible. This means seeking out international talent and finding multi-skilled and interchangeable players in a league that’s become all about athleticism and three-point shooting. Thursday night’s NBA Draft showed how definitively they’ve headed down this path. (Not that we’re taking sole credit for that; every smart team is the league is trying to emulate the Spurs and Warriors these days.)
Despite having a boatload of tradable assets, the Nuggets stuck to drafting on Thursday night, and now they’ll need a bigger boat. That’s because their haul included several new guys who could, in time, make some of their older guys expendable. The term “older” is relative, as none of the five players the Nuggets landed has turned 21 yet, while core holdovers Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jusuf Nurkic are all 21 or younger.
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The upshot: In Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Will Barton, and Kenneth Faried, the team has a fine selection of veteran mentors who can help these youngsters mature and learn the NBA game while also being attractive trade chips to anyone who’s closer to contending. And with three of the Nuggets’ five draft picks having international backgrounds, the franchise’s front office solidified its growing rep for being a savvy evaluator of foreign talent. Here’s how their haul stacks up.
7th overall pick: Jamal Murray, SG, Kentucky
For the second straight year, the Nuggets get a guy at the 7-slot that many people thought could go as high as 3rd. Murray hit 113 three-pointers as a freshman last season, the highest such total for a first-year college player since some guy named Steph Curry. He’s considered the perfect complement to Mudiay because of his finesse and ball skills. He’s also Canadian, which means A) He might be easier to hold onto after his rookie contract expires, because B) He shouldn’t mind the Colorado winters or be longing for the coasts.
15: Juan Hernangomez, PF, Spain
The type of stretch-4 that’s in extremely high demand these days, he’s seen as a seamless fit between Jokic and Nurkic, and he’ll be under the tutelage (for now, at least) of an almost ideal mentor in Gallinari. Not only that, although the original wave of international players was considered to be relatively soft, today’s version of these exports are often lauded for their toughness (because they’ve played in increasingly gritty and deep overseas professional leagues), and Hernangomez is known for his mean streak. The main question is whether he joins the team right away or is a “draft-and-stash” prospect who’ll arrive next year.
19: Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
A stress fracture in his shin caused this lottery-level talent to slip a bit, but he’s considered to be one of the three best shooters in this draft, along with Murray and Buddy Hield. Although he could be considered redundant given the depth the Nuggets now have at guard, the team was among the worst in the league from 3 last year, and the Nuggets’ first three picks will help remedy that.
53: Petr Cornelie, PF, France
A likely draft-and-stasher and another stretch-4, Cornelie’s length, range, and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect once he adds some strength and experience.
56: Daniel Hamilton, SF, UConn
A streaky shooter and so-so athlete who will rely on his above-average rebounding and playmaking abilities to try and make the roster. But he’s a project and a long shot, even for a lottery team.