The Denver Nuggets have been around for over half a century. Here are the 15 best draft picks the franchise has made to date.
In over 50 years of existence as a professional basketball franchise, the Denver Nuggets have had some good, but not great on-court success. While they have won their division an impressive 10 times, the Nuggets have never played for an NBA or an ABA Championship. Yes, the Nuggets were one of four franchises that had the distinct pleasure of joining the NBA in the ABA/NBA merger in 1976 along with the Indiana Pacers, the New Jersey Nets and the San Antonio Spurs.
For those that are very knowledgable of the back story of the Nuggets as a franchise, they were initially known as the Denver Larks in 1967. However right before their first season, they were renamed as the Denver Rockets by owner Bill Ringbsy after his big rig trucking company.
Of course, when the Rockets were making a push to join the NBA, they had to switch nicknames, as it would have been ultra-confusing with there already being a San Diego Rockets team. Denver re-branded as the Nuggets as a tribute to the original NBA team that played in the Mile High City in from 1948 to 1950.
With the Larks/Rockets/Nuggets having had a lengthy hoops history, of course Denver has made some incredible draft selections over the years. However before we begin the exercise of listing the top-15, here are a few players to keep in mind that don’t qualify.
Shooting guard Kiki Vandeweghe was originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1980 before forcing a trade to Denver. Swingman David Thompson went No. 1 overall to the Virginia Squires in the ABA before signing as a free agent with Denver in 1975.
Point guard Jameer Nelson wouldn’t play with the Nuggets until 2015. He spent most of his career with the Orlando Magic. Without further ado, here are the 15 best draft picks the Rockets/Nuggets have made as a professional basketball franchise.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Bowen, SG/SF, Iowa (1998, No. 55), Francisco Elson, C, Maria Regina M.A.V.O (1999, No. 41), Evan Fournier, SG, Poitiers Basket 86 (2012, No. 20), Jerome Lane, PF, Pittsburgh (1988, No. 23), Marcus Liberty, SF, Illinois (1990, No. 42), Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Guangdong Southern Tigers (2015, No. 7), James Ray, PF, Jacksonville (1980, No. 5), Anthony Roberts, SF, Oral Roberts (1977, No. 21), Robert Smith, PG, UNLV, (1977, No. 65), Rob Williams, PG, Houston (1982, No. 19)
SF, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 1993 (No. 9)
In college, small forward Rodney Rogers was an absolute stud for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the ACC. He was named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1991 over Grant Hill of the Duke Blue Devils. Rogers was first-team All-SEC twice, ACC Player of the Year in 1993 and a second-team All-American that season.
Denver took the swingman out of Wake Forest with the No. 9 overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. While Rogers would only play two seasons in the Rocky Mountains, he would carve out a successful 12-year NBA career with seven different teams. Rogers spent the bulk of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers.
His best season came in 1999-00 with the Phoenix Suns where he would win NBA Sixth Man of the Year. In his two years with the Nuggets, Rogers averaged 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 22.3 minutes per game. Rogers would be shipped to the Clippers along with Brent Barry in the Antonio McDyess trade during the 1995 NBA Draft.
Rogers would play his last NBA season in 2004-05 partly with the Philadelphia 76ers. While his No. 54 jersey was retired by his alma mater in 1996, Rogers would suffer a life-altering dirt bike accident in 2008. He is paralyzed from the shoulders down. However, Rogers remains of the best players in Wake Forest history and had a respectable NBA career.