The Denver Nuggets season has been anything but boring and yet the Nuggets are on the brink of making the playoffs for a ninth straight season. However, even if Denver misses the playoffs the future is still very bright for the franchise.
The Nuggets have a young core to build around, led by Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson and Jordan Hamilton and they also have a pick in the 2012 NBA Draft – which should be one of the deepest drafts in years.
Denver’s pick can be anywhere between the 12th and 19th pick, and if the Nuggets miss the playoffs they have a chance of hitting the NBA Lottery and landing one of the top three picks. Of course, Denver’s luck in the past hasn’t been great. Since 1990, the Nuggets have only gotten a top-three pick three times (1990 , 1998 and 2003) in which they drafted Chris Jackson (later to be known as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), Raef LaFrentz and Carmelo Anthony.
If Denver wins the lottery, players like Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis would be a jackpot for the Nuggets (or any team for that matter). Davis especially would give the Nuggets their best big man since Dikembe Mutombo.
Of course, there is a slim chance that Denver gets that lucky. But even than, this draft is deep enough that the Nuggets could get a very good player later in the draft.
- Jared Sullinger, sophomore, Ohio State: Sullinger was a lock to be among the top five picks in last season’s draft. However, the 6-foot-10, 265 pound big man decided to stay in college another year to help the Buckeyes go deeper in the NCAA tournament. Sullinger struggled with back problems for part of the season, but still put up impressive numbers (17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds) and guided Ohio State to the Final Four. One of the biggest knocks on Sullinger is his struggles against bigger and more athletic big men. Robinson and Kansas’ big men backed that up by holding him to only 13 points on 5 of 19 shooting. Due to that, Sullinger’s stock has dropped, mock drafts have him going between 6th and 15th pick. Despite being only 20-years-old, Sullinger’s game is NBA ready. He is a very good rebounder and a bruising throwback player, who has great footwork in the post. He draws double-team, something that none of Denver’s current big man can do. He also has great range on his jumper, but is a bit slow-footed. He’ll never be a great player defensively due to his athleticism, but he gets by with his intelligence and length (7-foot wingspan). The most comparable NBA players are Carlos Boozer and Elton Brand.
- Austin Rivers, freshman, Duke: Rivers was a high-profiled freshman at Duke, where he was good – but not great. The freshman shooting guard has shown a knack for hitting big shots, but also a knack for being a gunner and a bit selfish. In his lone season with the Blue Devils, Rivers averaged 15.5 point. He has good size and athleticism to go with a solid ballhandling skills, but his most valuable asset is his basketball IQ – which runs in his family. His father, Doc Rivers, is a former player and is the current coach of the Boston Celtics. Austin Rivers is a natural scorer, who can score in bunches and has a killer instinct. He would be perfect coming off the bench for the Nuggets. Denver has lacked a scoring spark off the bench since JR Smith and Rivers would provide the Nuggets with a more reliable option of the bench. He is projected to be a late lottery pick, but his stock can rise and fall depending on how he does at workouts.
- Tyler Zeller, senior, North Carolina: There is nothing stellar about Zeller. He is a very mobile 7-footer who just goes out and does his job. Zeller is one of the quickest big men in college, where he can outrun most of his opponents. He also has good basketball IQ, which helps him play smart defense and find his spots on offense. Zeller (16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds) has range out to 18 feet and also a soft touch around the basket. He is projected to be a late lottery pick and his potential may not be as great as JaVale McGee’s, but with his intelligent and mobility Zeller would be a great role player for a playoff team.
- Kendall Marshall, sophomore, North Carolina: The Nuggets don’t need another point guard, but Marshall would be a nice backup to Lawson. He may not ever reach Lawson’s level. However, his size, unselfishness and passing skills would be a nice replacement for Andre Miller. Marshall (8.1 points, 9.8 assists) is a pass-first, pass-second and pass-third point guard, which is his biggest strength and weakness. Like Zeller, Marshall has a very high basketball IQ and knows where he and his teammates are on the floor. He’s a bit slow on defense, but the Tar Heels really missed Marshall when he missed two games in the NCAA tournament due to a fractured wrist. Marshall is also projected to be a late lottery pick, but considering he is the top point guard in the draft he could move up the draft.
- Doron Lamb, sophomore, Kentucky: Lamb may be the most underrated player in all of college basketball. Maybe it has something to do with Davis and the rest of the talent in Kentucky. Lamb, much like Jodie Meeks, doesn’t have the size and athleticism for the NBA. However, his shooting and ability to score makes him an intriguing prospect. Lamb is a better ballhandler and has more size than Meeks. He is very patient on offense, and hardly forces his shot and is projected to go in the later rounds of the first round.
- John Henson, junior, North Carolina: Henson is an athletic freak and can be a terror on defense at any level, thanks to his 7-foot-4 wingspan. He reportedly has a great motor and his a high-character player. Henson is a bit undersized for power forward (6-foot-10, 210 pounds), but if he develops a perimeter game he’d be a force at small forward. Offensively, he is great running the floor but struggles in set offenses. A work in progress, but one that could be an anchor of a defense.
- Jeremy Lamb, junior, Connecticut: Lamb broke on the season after his play for UConn in last year’s tournament. He didn’t really improve as much many scouts hoped this last year, but he still is drawing comparisons to Rip Hamilton. He has a monstrous wingspan (7-foot-1) and if he develops his jump shot he’d solidify his spot as a starting shooting guard.
Tags: Andre Miller Arron Afflalo Austin Rivers. Boston Celtics Carlos Boozer Carmelo Anthony Danilo Gallinari Denver Nuggets Dikembe Mutombo Doc Rivers Doron Lamb J.R. Smith Jared Sullinger JaVale McGee Jeremy Lamb Jodie Meeks John Henson Jordan Hamilton JR Smith Kendall Marshall Kenneth Faried Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Raef Lafrentz Rip Hamilton Thomas Robinson And Anthony Davis Ty Lawson Tyler Zeller