There aren’t many playoff models that the Denver Nuggets can copy, but the Indiana Pacers are one.
Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, who built their team around top draft picks (Kevin Durant was the second pick in 2007, Russell Westbrook drafted fourth overall in 2008 and James Harden third pick in 2009), the Pacers have built their team around some good late picks and solid trades. And the moves have helped the Pacers finish with one of the best records in the NBA (42-24) and have them being a major challenge to the Heat in the East.
Arguably Indiana’s two best players were picked towards the end of the first round. Danny Granger was picked with the 17th pick in 2005 and Roy Hibbert, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, was picked in 2008 with the 17th pick by the Toronto Raptors and was dealt to the Pacers in a multi-player deal for Jermaine O’Neal. Both Granger and Hibbert have been chosen to the All-Star Game.
Of course in 2005 the Nuggets drafted Julius Hodge three picks after Granger. Hodge’s NBA career lasted a grand total of 23 games. He also got shot during a drive-by in 2006, not a recipe for success. However, in 2008 Denver traded the pick for a future pick which they turned into Ty Lawson.
The Pacers have added Darren Collison and George Hill in trades and signed David West in the offseason. Indiana’s highest draft picks were Paul George (1oth pick in 2007) and Tyler Hansbrough (13th pick in 2009). While Hansbrough has proven to be a reliable player off the bench, it is George, who is only 22-years-old, that has the highest upside for the Pacers. His defense against Dwyane Wade in the playoffs has opened eyes of many in the NBA circuit.
For the Nuggets, it’s moves like snagging Lawson and Kenneth Faried (who the Nuggets drafted with the 22nd pick last summer) that can help Denver mirror Indiana’s success. The Nuggets have also added Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari via trades and Jordan Hamilton via draft day trade. If Denver can keep JaVale McGee, he could possibly be another move to help the Nuggets reach the next level.
The Nuggets may need a move or two to be a top-seed (Indiana was a top-3 seed in the East), but they have a nice foundation that they can build on. This NBA Draft should help, as young, exciting prospects like Dion Waiters, Arnett Moultrie, Quincy Miller and Doron Lamb are rumored to be around around the 20th pick, which is where Denver is currently picking in the draft.
However, it also would help being active in free agency. Obviously, finding a way to keep McGee is a must but adding veterans like Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry or Ray Allen would help put Denver over the edge. Or going after the younger players like Michael Beasley, Jerryd Bayless and Jeff Green would be nice additions to the Nuggets revamped roster.
Tags: Arnett Moultrie Arron Afflalo Corey Brewer Danilo Gallinari Danny Granger Darren Collison David West Denver Nuggets Dion Waiters Doron Lamb Dwyane Wade George Hill Indiana Pacers James Harden Jason Terry JaVale McGee Jeff Green Jermaine O'Neal Jerryd Bayless Jordan Hamilton Julius Hodge Kenneth Faried Kevin Durant Kevin Garnett Michael Beasley Oklahoma City Thunder Paul George Quincy Miller Ray Allen Roy Hibbert Russell Westbrook Toronto Rapotrs Toronto Raptors Ty Lawson Tyler Hansbrough Wilson Chandler