Nuggets: Is Tyler Bey a realistic option in the 2020 NBA Draft?

2020 NBA Draft prospect Tyler Bey could be the disruptive perimeter defender that the Denver Nuggets need.

With the 2020 NBA Draft nearly two weeks away, Tyler Bey’s name should be familiar to the Denver Nuggets.

Bey set an NBA Combine record for forwards when he posted a 43.5″ max vertical over the weekend but even before then, he had distinguished himself as a staunch defender at the University of Colorado.

Amazingly, though ESPN rated him a three-star recruit before signing with Colorado, Bey managed to start every game of his career.

Primarily playing as a slightly undersized power forward, the Las Vegas averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block per game in three seasons. Though the numbers don’t particularly stand out, Bey still managed to be a decorated player in his last two seasons, with two All-Pac-12 selections, a Pac-12 All-Defensive selection (2020), a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award (2020) and a Pac-12 Most Improved Player award (2019).

Bey has great athleticism, length, strength, instincts, technique, awareness and quick hands.

As a result, he’s a versatile and disruptive defender with the potential to instantly be a defensive stopper. One of the older prospects in the draft at 22-years-old, this is where he’ll make his money in the NBA and where comparisons to memorable defenders like Kawhi Leonard, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion and Jimmy Butler viable.

Another reason to bring up players like Battier and Marion or Butler and Leonard is because that’s the range that Bey will have in terms of his offensive development.

As of now, Bey is much more active trying to score around the basket than anywhere else and his guard skills are limited, restricting him almost exclusively to post-up attempts, straight-line drives and free-throw attempts from drawing contact.

However, Bey shot a career-high 41.9% on 1.0 three-point attempt per game in 2019-20, demonstrating his potential as a perimeter threat. Further evidence of him developing into a reliable outside shooter is his free-throw percentage over the past two seasons (76.1%).

Should he do that, he’ll at least be able to function in the stretch-four offensive roles held by Battier or Marion, who shot 38.4% and 33.1% from 3-point range respectively. If he can steadily develop his ball-handling and jump shooting, Bey can give himself a career trajectory that resembles Butler or Leonard.

While age is often seen as a limit-setter for potential development (despite the number of players who have added new skills or enhanced old ones later in their careers), it’s interesting to note that Marion, Butler and Battier were all at least 21-years-old at the time of their NBA debut. Leonard was 20-years-old. That said, there’s no reason to believe that Bey being an older prospect will prevent him from the type of development he needs to be a quality starter or upper echelon wing.

At his worst he’ll be an Andre Roberson-level player. Roberson has started 269 of 302 regular season games over the course of his six-year career after being taken with the 26th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Bey’s fit with the Nuggets

With Bey’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s clear that he can be a valuable defender for the Nuggets and a potential replacement for (the soon-to-be 30-year-old) Torrey Craig. Like Craig, Bey is a limited offensive player but a tough defender.

Bey just happens to be a better on-ball and off-ball defender than Craig while being nearly eight years younger.

Taking him with the 22nd overall pick may be a bit of a reach, as he could be picked anywhere from the late first round to the second of the 2020 NBA Draft. However, if a preferred prospect is off the board when Denver is on the clock, he would be a worthwhile selection whom it would be difficult to be disappointed in.

The Nuggets could also trade for a second-round pick (or trade back in the draft and acquire a second-round pick) or purchase one, using it on Bey.

Whether Bey makes Denver’s rotation in the 2020-21 season or not, the Nuggets’ need for perimeter defenders was clear throughout the 2019-20 season as they struggled to defend the 3-point line, to contain dribble-penetration, to disrupt opposing offenses, to play aggressively at the point of attack, to rebound and to protect the rim.

Bey can improve Denver’s play in every one of those areas. So much so that, if his name is called upon, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone may have difficulty taking him back out of the rotation.