Despite numerous years of having a pick in the lottery the Denver Nuggets haven’t had a lot of success in the NBA Draft. There have been some major duds (Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Efthimis Rentzias), but some big hits (Carmelo Anthony, Kenneth Faried and Dikembe Mutombo). Here are some of the Nuggets best drafts:
2003 NBA DRAFT: Drafted Carmelo Anthony (3rd pick), Sani Becirovic (46th)
Say what you will about Anthony, but it’s tough to find a better Nuggets’ draft. Not only did the Nuggets jump their win total from 17 to 43 in Anthony’s rookie season, but Denver made the playoffs each of the seven seasons he played on the team. He also averaged more than 20 points each year and was second in scoring in the 2006-07 season (28.9). In the end, Anthony was dealt to New York in a mega-deal which brought Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets. Becirovic, who was a prominent player in Europe, has never taken his talents over to the U.S. and it is highly unlikely he’ll ever play a game in the NBA. He is 31 years old and his career has been devastated by knee injuries.
1991 NBA DRAFT: Drafted Dikembe Mutombo (4th), Mark Macon (8th) and traded for Winston Garland
Macon never panned out for the Nuggets and was quickly traded two seasons later for Alvin Robertson. However, Mutombo was a solid performer for Denver (see here for his accomplishments). Probably the biggest accomplishment for the 7-foot-2 finger-wagging defensive enforcer was guiding the eighth-seeded Nuggets past top-seeded Seattle Supersonics. Mutombo left Denver in 1996 and signed a max deal with the Atlanta Hawks. Garland was Denver’s starting point guard in 1991, but was waived later on.
1992 NBA DRAFT: Drafted LaPhonso Ellis (5th pick), Bryant Stith (13th)
Stith and Ellis were never at the magnitude of Mutombo, but both were legitimate starters for the Nuggets. Ellis was chosen to the All-Rookie Team and also nearly averaged a double-double (15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds) his rookie year. He was an intense rebounder, defender and a solid offensive threat. Later in his career he developed a three-point shot as Denver tried to move him over to small forward. He was hampered by a knee injury during his third season in the NBA, which limited how he played the next two seasons. Despite playing only 55 games in 1996, he led the Nuggets in scoring (21.9 points).
Stith was the Nuggets starting shooting guard from 1993 to 1997 and made his living on the defensive side of the ball (averaging nearly 1.5 steals from 1993 to 1996) and his team-first mentality. In 1996 when a number of free agents were cashing in on new paychecks Stith deferred and re-signed with the Nuggets at a discounted price ($22 million for five years). In 2000, Denver traded Stith to the Boston Celtics.
1998 NBA DRAFT: Drafted Raef LaFrentz (3rd pick), Tremaine Fowlkes (54th), Ryan Bowen (55th) and traded for Nick Van Exel
LaFrentz was suppose to be the safe pick on the draft and he was. However, the Nuggets passed on three would-be stars in Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and Paul Pierce. LaFrentz toyed with the Nuggets with his potential. One game he’d have a 20-point, 10-rebound performance, but would follow that up by barely cracking 10 points. He was a great weak-side shotblocker, but wasn’t a great defender and constantly received the wrath of Dan Issel, who coached the Nuggets at the time.
Van Exel was the big gamble that paid off for the Nuggets as they dealt Tony Battie, aka ‘El Busto’ and the draft rights to Tyronn Lue to get the All-Star point guard with a bad attitude. Van Exel was everything the Nuggets needed and more. He raised his scoring in each of the three seasons he was in Denver and nearly averaged a double-double in 1999, averaging 16.1 points and 9 rebounds. He teamed up with Antonio McDyess to put Denver in the playoff race each season, but in the end the Nuggets fell short. After failing to make the playoffs for three straight seasons, the Nuggets packaged Van Exel and LaFrentz to Dallas in a salary-dumping trade.
Bowen was drafted for his energy and hustle and he didn’t disappoint. After spending a season overseas playing basketball, Bowen played for the Nuggets from 1999 to 2004. Despite never averaging more than five points a game, Bowen was a key factor of the Nuggets rotation, playing hard every time he got on the floor. Fowles never played for the Nuggets.
2009 NBA DRAFT: Traded for Ty Lawson
The 1995 Draft could be considered one of Nuggets better draft due to Antonio McDyess’ success. But McDyess was traded two years later and played his best years when he returned to Denver as a free agent. The 2011 Draft when the Nuggets snagged Faried and Jordan Hamilton may end up as one of Denver’s best drafts, but it’s too early to tell. However, when the Nuggets acquired Lawson in the 2009 Draft may have saved the franchise. Imagine the impact the Anthony trade would have on the Nuggets if Lawson wasn’t there? Raymond Felton and Andre Miller were good, but not great and both can’t do half the things that Lawson can. Lawson is one of the quickest player up and down the court and shoots the ball at a proficient rate and rarely turns it over. His confidence continues to grow and we saw how dangerous he can be in the first-round playoff series against the L.A. Lakers.
Tags: Andre Miller Atlanta Hawks Bryant Stith Carmelo Anthony Dan Issel Danilo Gallinari Denver Nuggets Dikembe Mutombo Dirk Nowitzki Efthimis Rentzias Jordan Hamilton Kenneth Faried LaPhonso Ellis Los Angeles Lakers Mark Macon Minnesota Timberwolves New York Knicks Nick Van Exel Nikoloz Tskitishvili Paul Pierce Raef Lafrentz Raymond Felton Ryan Bowen Sani Becirovic Timofey Mozgov Tony Battie Tremaine Fowlkes Ty Lawson Tyronn Lue Vince Carter Winston Garland