The 2014 NBA Draft is two weeks away and the Denver Nuggets are continuing to evaluate and workout potential prospects, who they could select with the eleventh overall selection. Nate Timmons over at denverstiffs.com reported yesterday that the Nuggets will hold several predraft workouts this weekend, featuring the likes of Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis, UCLA guard Zach LaVine and Kentucky guard James Young. All three of those players will workout together in a group on Saturday, while several other prospects like Arizona guard Nick Johnson and UCF guard Isaiah Sykes will workout for the team today. It seems to me the Nuggets know they have a hole to feel in the backcourt, given all the guards the team will work out and has worked out so far(Denver worked out Michigan St. guard Gary Harris, Duke guard/forward Rodney Hood and Mizzou guard Jabari Brown last week).
Ennis had a heck of a freshman season for the Orange last year averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, shooting 35% from beyond the arc. The Ontario native earned second team All-ACC, All-ACC freshman and All-ACC defensive team honors last season, he also helped Canada win a bronze medal during the FIBA Americans U19 Championship in 2012. Ennis is one of the best floor generals in this draft, he has a great feel for the game, great court vision and is a very capable shooter and defender. He has tremendous poise under pressure as well, hitting several clutch shots for Syracuse this past season and would add a calm demeanor, that the Nuggets could utilize in crunch time situations. Ennis does lack quickness and struggles to finish at the rim at times but, does have good size for a point at 6’2″ and having a 6’5″ wingspan. The Syracuse star reminds me a bit of Spurs point guard Tony Parker without the same finishing ability. He would be a solid pick for Denver to make at eleven and be a quality backup to Ty Lawson or maybe even give the Nuggets some flexibility with Lawson and be the point guard Tim Connelly and Brian Shaw want to had the team over to.
Zach LaVine might be the most intriguing prospect the Nuggets will be working out this weekend and maybe the biggest boom or bust player in this draft. He only averaged 9.4 points per game for the UCLA Bruins in his lone season there but, did manage to make the Pac-12 All-freshman team and shot 37% from the three point line. LaVine has been a “workout warrior” if you will throughout the draft process, shooting up team’s boards after he was arguably the best player at the 2014 NBA Draft combine. There is an argument to be made that LaVine is the best athlete in this year’s draft class, he recorded a max vertical jump of 41.5″ inches at the combine and an even crazier 46″ max vertical jump when he worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers last week. The former Bruin has immense upside due to his unique skill set at 6’6″ with a 6’8″ wingspan, LaVine has great size for a guard and has phenomenal shooting touch to go with freakish athleticism. He can handle the ball fairly well, shoot off the dribble or screens, has natural play making skills, can finish above the rim and is great in transition, which would fit great in Denver with the Nuggets. The knocks on LaVine are he needs to get stronger as he only weighs 180 lbs., he really has no left hand what so ever, his defensive awareness, his decision making and struggles to create his own offense, especially in the halfcourt. He reminds me of a combo of two former UCLA Bruin stars in Hall of Famer Reggie Miller with his shooting touch and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook with his athleticism. LaVine may not make an immediate impact but, his upside is HUGE and he would be the perfect running mate for Ty Lawson in the Nuggets backcourt. Given time to work with Coach Shaw a known developer of younger players and time to fill out his scoring skills and frame, LaVine could end up being one of the best players from this class and a steal for the Nuggets, if they choose to select him at pick eleven.
Possibly the most underrated prospect the Nuggets will look to find out more about on Saturday is Kentucky guard James Young, who helped lead the Wildcats to the National Championship game this past season. For Big Blue as a freshman Young averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game, while shooting 35% from distance and 41% from the field. He also managed to receive SEC All-freshman and All-SEC second team accolades last season for his play. Young has tremendous size for a shooting guard at 6’7″ and possesses a wingspan of 7’0″, bullying smaller guards with his size advantage and attacking the rim well. He’s a very good rebounder due to his length for a guard, has a nice floater in the lane and has very good shooting touch from the perimeter, especially in transition. His ability to knock down three’s in transition would compliment Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson’s pace of play well, while giving the Nuggets great size at the two guard spot. Now Young really like LaVine, needs time to develop and grow before he can make a serious impact on a team like the Nuggets, especially given his defensive skills and frame. He lacks awareness and effort on the defensive end, something Brian Shaw would not like nor tolerate and he really doesn’t handle the ball very well. The former Kentucky standout plays somewhat like former Clippers guard Cuttino Mobley and Knicks forward Lamar Odom, he has great size for his position but really lacks some fundamental skills on both ends of the floor. Young is only nineteen years old though and given time to mature, especially with his handles and defensive ability, could be a really nice fit in Denver and a heck of a two guard at the next level.