Three Prospects The Denver Nuggets Must Avoid


The lottery pick the Denver Nuggets possess is not to be taken lightly. For a team with so much talent, one good draft pick could send them over the edge and back into playoff contention. For the most part, lottery picks tend to work out — at least to some degree. However, there are some guys who either have major bust potential, or are simply not good fits for Denver, and the Nuggets must avoid them at all costs.

Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia

On the surface, Porzingis is a very intriguing prospect. He’s 7’1″, a great shooter (including from three-point range), and he possesses unbelievable footwork for someone his size. The problem? This combination is unlikely to allow him to succeed in the NBA.

His strengths suggest he should be a shooting guard or small forward, but at 7’1″, his body disagrees. Sure, good footwork and great shooting would be highly sought-after assets in a big man, provided he actually is a “big man”. Porzingis is alarmingly thin — weighing only 220 lbs. In comparison, other NBA seven-footers include Rudy Gobert (245 lbs), Hassan Whiteside (265 lbs), and our old pal Timofey Mozgov (250 lbs). While some players do bulk up in their first few years in the league (according to, Porzingis has not seen consistent improvements on his frame over the last few years. This weakness leads to him avoiding contact in the paint, getting knocked around on defense, and he looks like an oversized shooting guard.

I’m not guaranteeing Porzingis ends up as a bust. Maybe he does fill out his body, maybe he learns how to post up and defend down low, or maybe he paves the way for a new type of player and becomes the first 7-foot tall guard/forward combo. But based on what I’ve seen, all of that seems unlikely. The Nuggets are better served finding someone who can contribute right away, and who doesn’t have so many physical question marks.

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Mario Hezonja, SG/SF, Croatia

Before you ask, no, this is not article where I intend to bash all international players. A lot of them do succeed, as we’ve seen with our own Jusuf Nurkic. However, I don’t believe Hezonja will join the ranks of the international elites.

Hezonja’s shooting is his claim to fame. He shot over 40-percent from three-point range this past season, and around 45-percent overall, which is excellent for a guard. However, he is really only comfortable as a spot up shooter. According to, Hezonja settles for pull-up jumpers if he is unable to blow by his man. This is an obvious concern considering the athleticism of NBA players tends to be greater than overseas, meaning he will struggle to get by defenders, leading to low-percentage shots. While having a great shooter is tempting, considering the success of teams like the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks who are so proficient shooting the three, he is not the right fit for the Nuggets.

I honestly believe Hezonja will find limited success in the NBA. I think he’ll make it as a spot-up three-point shooter and he will have a nice career as a bench player. The problem is that he’s a projected lottery pick, and I don’t see him living up to that potential.

Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky

Willie Cauley-Stein will more than likely be an above-average NBA player. As far as the players on this list, he is the only one about whom I can say that confidently. He is often compared to Tyson Chandler because of his defensive skillset and minimal offensive contribution. Perhaps a player like this would be a good fit for the Nuggets another year, but not this one.

As of right now, Nurkic looks like the Nuggets center of the future. He’s a fearless force on both defense and offense, and he is improving every night. Simply put, the Nuggets don’t need Cauley-Stein. There are a lot of other positional needs they should address before trying to add unnecessary depth at center. If he had a well developed post game, then maybe the Nuggets roll the dice and have him and Nurkic split time, but that’s simply not the case. They would be smart to go after a shooting guard or small forward who can be a reliable option on both ends of the floor.

Come June 26th, a team will likely be very happy to make Willie Cauley-Stein a part of their roster. But if they know what’s good for them, the Nuggets will not be that team.