The Denver Nuggets had become one of the league’s bottom dwellers, but steady drafting has made them a contender in the western conference.
The modern NBA has become much more focused on free agency than on the draft. The Nuggets, fortunately for them, adopted a much different approach as they transitioned from the Carmelo Anthony era. Beginning in 2012, the Nuggets began a slow turnaround that got them within one win of the western conference finals.
After the team acquired Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade that involved Dwight Howard going to the Lakers, the team began hoping to build a team around Iguodala for the future. But he eventually moved on and signed with the Warriors in free agency.
Denver began by drafting Rudy Gobert, before ultimately trading him to the Utah Jazz. One year later, Doug McDermott was the team’s draft pick. Both Gobert and McDermott remain in the NBA and have enjoyed successful careers, particularly in the case of Gobert. In the second round of the 2014 draft, the Nuggets drafted one of the best players in franchise history, stealing Nikola Jokic 41st overall in the second round.
2015 was a bit of a rougher year for the team, as they drafted Emmanuel Mudiay seventh overall, ahead of Justice Winslow, Myles Turner, and Devin Booker. Mudiay remains in the league, but the Nuggets missed out on a chance to truly become an NBA powerhouse in the event they drafted another of the league’s most promising young stars.
In 2016, with the seventh pick all over again, Jamal Murray fell into the team’s lap and became among the best point guards in team history within three years. It was a good thing they did, as the 2016 draft was one of the worst draft classes in recent memory. Murray is a franchise cornerstone, and the Nuggets would have virtually no chance of being competitive with just Jokic on the roster.
Juan Hernangomez, Monte Morris, Michael Porter Jr., and Malik Beasley have all contributed to the team one way or another in recent years, and in the case of Morris and Porter Jr., remain key cogs for a deep roster littered with young talent. While the Nuggets may regret trading both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell to the same team, their own draft record speaks for itself, and is the biggest reason why the team is in a firm position to contend for the foreseeable future.