Jarnell Stokes is a grown-ass man, and that should be reason enough for the Denver Nuggets to take notice.
The 6′ 8″ junior out of Tennessee is 263-pounds of brute strength. You won’t find any sinewy beach-muscle that’s just for show on Stokes’ frame. His arms look like a pair of shooting sleeves filled nearly to their breaking point with jagged rocks and his legs are tree trunks the likes of which would cause the heartiest lumberjack to reevaluate his career choice. He is a thick-necked prehistoric reptile in a world dominated by graceful soaring birds, a hard-bodied mix of horsepower and bad intentions. Stokes is basically Godzilla: He was built to inflict pain, to destroy, to rampage. And that’s exactly what he does on both ends of the court. Whether it’s backing down his man deep into the paint before calling for the ball, or willfully inserting himself between the rim and any ball handlers stupid enough to come into the key, he’s a force of nature who has the ability to alter the landscape whenever he’s in the lineup.
Last season, Stokes used his physical gifts to help lead Tennessee to the Sweet Sixteen where they ultimately fell to the Michigan Wolverines. He finished the year ranked in the top 15 nationally in rebounds per game, averaging more than 10 per contest (he was in the top 10 nationally in total rebounds for the season, as well), and he put up about 15 points per game. He is a tenacious rebounder with a nose for the ball and scouts consider him one of, if not the, best offensive rebounder in this year’s draft.
The knocks on Stokes are about what you’d expect of a player with his set of tools: He’s a bit undersized for his position in terms of height, his perimeter game is basically non-existent, and most of his post moves are simplistic at best, relying more on raw aggression than artistry. But his intensity alone should guarantee him a chance to prove himself in the league. In the video above, Stokes talks about the intangibles he would bring to a team. Read this quote and tell me you don’t want this dude on your side when things get hairy:
“My effort is there. If I miss 100 shots I’ll still compete and have positive energy and help the players around me. If I can’t shoot, dribble, anything, the effort is going to be there. I’m going to run the floor. And no one will punk me.”
That’s exactly the kind of guy we want patrolling the paint in Denver, right?!
As I mentioned in my recent post about Cameron Bairstow, the Nuggets haven’t had a tough, intimidating presence in the paint in years. Kenyon Martin was really the last “muscle” player on the Nuggets roster, but even at his wildest, Martin was always more of a loose canon than an enforcer, and he toned his act down considerably by the time he left Denver after the 2010-11 season. I’m convinced the franchise could benefit greatly from the addition of a player like Stokes, who would immediately add a brand of toughness and grit that the team lacks. I’m not saying adding Stokes will instantly transform the Nuggets into the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons of the mid-to-late 80s, but a healthy dose of good old-fashioned MEAN certainly wouldn’t hurt.
Stokes is currently projected to be selected at the end of the first round or start of the second. Assuming the Nuggets keep the number 11 pick, they could have a shot at him if they package some combination of their two second round picks to move up to the tail-end of the opening round. I can think of a lot worse moves they could make than turning two second round picks into one behemoth from Tennessee.
What say you, Nuggets fans? Is Stokes the kind of old school force that could change the perception of the Nuggets? Share your thoughts in the comments below or get at me on Twitter @TheSEShepherd.