The Denver Nuggets have been one of the most puzzling teams to figure out, leading up to the 2014 NBA draft. They’ve been included in more rumors then I can remember and no one seems to have a pulse, on what they are going to do tonight during the draft. Most draft experts had the Nuggets targeting a two guard with their draft selection at pick eleven but, given the team’s trade for guard Arron Afflalo today, a two guard may be an unlikely option now for the team. I have to give Tim Connelly credit for acquiring a legitimate starter for only a second round pick, a TPE and Evan Fournier. Afflalo returns to the Nuggets, after being traded from the team in a four-way deal two years ago to Orlando, that netted the Nuggets guard Andre Iguodala(which blew up in the team’s face, when Iggy left for Golden State last summer). He will give Denver what they need most, a upgrade at the two guard spot, a perimeter defender who’s consistent and a second scorer in the backcourt alongside Ty Lawson, a player Afflalo is very familiar with.
Afflalo has improved every season he’s been in the NBA, evident by his scoring averages going up every year. In Orlando last season with the Magic, he averaged a career high 18.2 points per game and shot 43% from the three-point line. Afflalo has become more of a polished scorer, since he last played for the Nuggets as he can shoot off the dribble, score in the post, attack the rim and consistently knock down jump shots. The familiarity he has with the city of Denver alone and playing with a majority of the team’s current roster, should help for a smooth transition back into the mile high city for Afflalo. In three seasons for the Nuggets, Afflalo averaged 12.2 points per game and shot at least 40% from beyond the arc, while being the team’s stingiest defender. He will desperately help the Nuggets perimeter defense, with his ability to make opposing guards consistently work for positioning and shots. Afflalo is also not one to shy away from taking big shots and that should be a welcome addition back to Denver. More importantly, it’s what Afflalo brings off the court that will be valuable to this team, he’s one of the hardest working and competitive guys in the league. He will also bring some much needed leadership and toughness primarily on the defensive end of the floor, that Denver has lacked at times and will be a player who Brian Shaw will embrace right away. The move will also improve Denver’s bench, sending guard Randy Foye to the second unit and add more scoring firepower to the bench.
Now with Afflalo being brought back into the fold, the Nuggets draft plans I’m sure have changed somewhat. The pressing need they had for a two-way playing shooting guard, is no longer there as Afflalo gives them just that. I would expect the Nuggets at this point, to take the best player available at number eleven and position of need, really won’t matter anymore. I’ve heard a lot of the rumors and have seen a lot of the mock drafts that have Denver selecting Croatian forward Dario Saric, which I wouldn’t be a fan of at all. Yes Saric is a good player with immense upside but, he just signed a two year deal with a Turkish team that will prevent him from coming to the NBA for two more seasons. As a Nuggets fan regardless of the depth of this team, I want the Nuggets to take a player at eleven who can compete for minutes from day one. Drafting Saric doesn’t help your team right away, may not help your team in the future and is a complete waste of a good pick in a great draft, in my opinion. I would much rather see the Nuggets take Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, Michigan St. guard Gary Harris, Michigan St. forward Adreian Payne, UCLA guard Zach LaVine or Louisiana-Lafayette guard Elfrid Payton at number eleven. All those guys can contribute right away, compete for minutes, have as much upside as Saric and help improve the Nuggets team more so now, then in two years. Plus even if they don’t contribute at all right away, they all will get to work with Brian Shaw right now and develop sooner, where as again you’d be waiting two years to even get Saric to practice in Denver. Who knows what Tim Connelly and the Nuggets will do tonight with pick eleven but, they are off to a nice start bringing back a former starter in Afflalo and it’s good to have “AAA” back in the gold and blue.