2015 NBA Draft: Three Options That Could Turn The Nuggets Around


As the most disappointing Denver Nuggets season in recent memory comes to a close, the only thing fans have to look forward to is the NBA Draft. For a team that doesn’t typically land big-name free agents, Denver has to ace the draft every year to ensure that they have a competitive team the following season. This year, there are a lot of great players with tons of upside, but let’s take a look at three guys who could turn the Nuggets around sooner rather than later.

Mar 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Justise Winslow (12) shoots as Gonzaga Bulldogs center Przemek Karnowski (24) defends during the second half in the finals of the south regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Justise Winslow, SF, Duke

Winslow is quite possibly my favorite player in this year’s class. For perspective on how good this kid is, let’s assume the Minnesota Timberwolves do end up with the second overall pick, as their record would suggest. I would not blame them in the slightest for taking Winslow, considering the log jam of big men and point guards at the top of the draft — two positions they don’t really need. Winslow can play either swingman position alongside Andrew Wiggins — forming an absolutely terrifying backcourt with Ricky Rubio and/or Zach LaVine.

But back to the Nuggets. While a strong performance in the Final Four could make Winslow unavailable when Denver is on the clock, if he is available, he is a must-draft player. His pro-comparisons include Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and even James Harden, all of which are fair assessments. He has ridiculous length and he is expected to be a great defender at the next level, something the Nuggets could certainly use. He is a versatile scorer, shooting over 41% from behind the arc this season, while also able to finish at the rim consistently. Moreover, he is an aggressive rebounder for his size, averaging 6.3 boards per-game this season. Not to mention, he has been severely out-hustling his higher profile teammate, Jahlil Okafor, during the NCAA Tournament, averaging 9.5 boards compared to Okafor’s 6.3.

Winslow has the talent to be the best player in this draft. In order to land Winslow, the Nuggets would likely have to hope for a sub-par performance from him in the Final Four (so his stock stays where it is), and then pray he falls to them at the six or seven spot. But if he is there, this could be the franchise player the team has been lacking.

Mar 26, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Xavier Musketeers guard Remy Abell (10) moves the ball against Arizona Wildcats forward Stanley Johnson (5) during the first half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Stanley Johnson, SF, Arizona

He’s a freshman, he’s a small forward, and he can pretty much do it all. Sound familiar? If not, you didn’t read what I just wrote about Justise Winslow, and frankly I’m offended. On a serious note, Johnson is much more likely to be available when it’s the Nuggets turn to pick on draft night.

While they do share a few similarities, including defensive prowess and ability to get to the rim, Winslow and Johnson do differ in a few areas. First, Johnson is bigger, and he plays like it. Standing 6’7″, 245 lbs, he is comfortable going to the post and can defend larger players around the rim. He improved his three-point shooting in his first (and likely only) year at Arizona, hitting the long ball at a 37-percent clip this past season. Despite the solid shooting from behind the arc, Johnson’s Achilles heel is offensive consistency. He was poor at finishing around the rim this season, despite being able to get good position because of his size.

It wasn’t long ago that mock drafts had Johnson going in the top five, while Winslow was around 7-12. But a weak finish to this season for Johnson, and a strong one for Winslow, has the roles reversed. Regardless, Johnson has the tools to be an elite defender, and if he polishes up his game offensively, his size-speed combination could make him a game changer in the NBA.

Mar 26, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Sam Dekker (15) grabs a rebound against North Carolina Tar Heels during the second half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Dekker, SF/PF, Wisconsin

We’ve seen what Danilo Gallinari can do when he is healthy. Gallo is capable of scoring 30 on any given night; his only problem is actually staying on the floor. What if I told you we could have another Gallinari, but with minimal injury history? Enter Sam Dekker.

Dekker has been lighting it up from downtown in the Tournament this year, draining ridiculous shots like this one. He has the guts to take over games, with his unique ability to both handle the ball and drain threes despite his size. I’m hesitant to say Dekker could turn the Nuggets around by himself, but having an option like him off the bench, or potentially as a starter in a smaller lineup, is a tempting idea.

The reason he is comparable to Gallinari is that, while he has played a majority of his college career at power forward, Dekker is not your normal big man. He has the height (6’9″), but not the weight (220 lbs) or the rebounding ability. However, when the Nuggets struggle to score, a lineup of Ty Lawson, Will Barton/Randy Foye/Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Sam Dekker, and Jusuf Nurkic doesn’t sound too bad. This would put four guys on the floor who can all handle and shoot the ball, while not sacrificing height — with Gallo at 6’10” and Dekker at 6’9″. Splitting minutes between a floor spacer like Dekker and a rebounder like Kenneth Faried is a nice yin and yang type of combination.


The Nuggets are desperate for someone to turn this franchise around. Lawson is a great player, but he has shown maturity issues and an inability to be a true leader. It’s been consistently said that the Nuggets don’t have someone to take the big shot at the end of games. All three of the guys I listed have that capability. It’s time for the Nuggets to have a face of the franchise; a household name that fans will love, and a guy that can help dig this team out of the horrible rut it is in. Hopefully Denver makes the most of its favorable position in this year’s draft.

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