This guide will look at some of the names the Nuggets might select with the 26th overall pick, any trade-up possibilities, and how some of the noise from around the league affects Denver.
Denver Nuggets 2021 Draft guide: Targets with the 26th pick
Over the past month, NuggLove has been diving deep into some of the more interesting prospects who may be available at 26. While some argue that this draft is shallow after the first handful of picks, the back end of the draft is filled with prospects and solid contributors.
One of the main needs for the Nuggets this offseason is finding a capable in-season replacement for Jamal Murray while he recovers from his torn ACL. The team isn’t going to be able to find a player of Murray’s caliber, but with more minutes for the veterans, there’s playing time up for grabs for an incoming rookie.
The first name to mention would be Jared Butler out of Baylor. Butler could turn into the ideal 3-and-D wing for this Nuggets team. He led the Bears in scoring on the season and his keen eye for the ball on defense saw him rack up plenty of steals and deflections.
What’s most exciting about Butler is his off-the-dribble game. It’ll be interesting to see if his ball handling will translate to the NBA from day one.
Another guard who can come in and score from day one is Florida’s Tre Mann. I can already hear Chris Marlow’s call when Mann comes off the bench, it’d be something along the lines of “man… can he shoot the ball?!” (Pun intended).
Mann’s an interesting prospect and I’ve seen some draft analysts have him in the lottery while some have him going in the second round.
His off-the-dribble shooting will surely translate to the pros as he makes all kinds of tough buckets. The question is his inside game, will he be able to score over NBA big men?
“I’ve been following [Jamal] and he’s really grown since coming [to Denver]. So, it’s really nice to be in this gym, somewhere where he’s worked, and be able to work hard and compete right here.
“(Jamal’s dad, Roger) has given me some gems. Me and my father, he’s taught us somethings about going into this process, how it’s going to be, and then going from there.”
If Denver moves away from the guard options, there are interesting forward prospects on the board as well.
Usman Garuba, who’s currently playing for the Spanish National Team in Tokyo, has some incredible defensive highlights in his time with Real Madrid. Even if Denver doesn’t draft him, I suggest people watch his team on League Pass as he has a real knack for highlight blocks.
When looking at Garuba, think of Kenneth Faried’s offensive game but plenty of upside on defense. No, you’re not getting much on the scoring front but he could unlock something magical on D.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a prospect who worries me a bit. He’s a scoring forward who was technically sound in his time at Villanova.
The issue I have is what’s his role in the NBA? In college, these scoring forwards can get on fine, but as soon as they make the leap to the pros, they sometimes get eaten alive to the tune of Trey Lyles, T.J. Leaf, or others of that mold?
I could be overthinking things because in terms of feel, Jeremiah knows where to be, and is always making the right passes. He’d be a wonderful offensive fit next to Nikola Jokic with a pass-first frontcourt.
Denver Nuggets 2021 Draft guide: Trade buzz
The Denver Nuggets have stayed out of the headlines since being eliminated from the playoffs. This is likely due to the fact that Denver can’t get involved in any of the big trades without moving on from a key piece.
But Tim Connelly and the Nuggets brass have been quiet before but then jumped in when helping other teams orchestrate bigger deals.
With Will Barton and JaMychal Green declining their player options, Denver finds themselves with a bit of cap space to play with. I’ve predicted that it’ll likely be used to resign the two players, but it could act as a temporary dumping ground if another team wants to move off of a contract.
At the time of this article, Ben Simmons is very much on the out with the Philadelphia 76ers. Sam Amick, The Athletic reported that Simmons is likely to be traded with the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, and Washington Wizards in the mix.
That same Amick report adds that Damian Lillard will evaluate the Portland Trail Blazer’s offseason moves before deciding on making a trade request.
One of my favorite gems from that report is that Lillard began to question his future following their first-round exit against the Denver Nuggets (#MileHighBasketball baby!)
The Washington Wizards recently confirmed that Bradley Beal hasn’t requested a trade via Fred Katz, The Athletic. Beal hasn’t explicitly requested a trade as of yet but subsequent reporting suggests that the scoring guard would ask for one after the draft.
Why wait until after the draft? Well, with all these trade rumoring swirling about, maybe the Wizards can get involved and seriously upgrade their roster in a bid to keep Brad.
Then there’s the Golden State Warriors who, armed with James Wiseman and two lottery picks in this year’s draft, could get involved in any trade discussion. Marcus Thompson, The Athletic added that Beal is at the top of the Warriors list, should he request a trade.
A smaller name who finds themselves on the trade block is Cam Reddish from the Atlanta Hawks. Chris Kirshner, The Athletic reported that the Hawks are hoping to move up in the draft, using Reddish to buff a potential deal.
With two years remaining on his rookie-scale contract, Reddish would be a prudent investment for any young team out there, or maybe an older team looking for cheap production… like the Denver Nuggets.
At the very least, it’ll all be fun to watch.
Denver Nuggets 2021 Draft guide: Trade-up scenarios
While the Nuggets only have the 26th pick, they have plenty of open cap space with Green and Barton’s declined options and Paul Millsap’s contract expiring. This could be used to help facilitate a salary dump in exchange for a better draft pick.
We saw how one of these trades look with the New Orleans/Memphis swap, dumping the exorbitant salaries of Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to Memphis, letting them move up seven positions on the draft board.
If there’s a team out there with free agency ambitions and they want to ‘pay’ a team to take on bad money, Denver could do it for a price.
Usually, a team in Denver’s position doesn’t make these kinds of trades, but with Jamal Murray’s injury possibly shutting off one of Denver’s title contention years, Connelly might use this season as one for development, bringing in more young talent to make a stronger push in the 2022-23 season.
It is very unlikely that the Nuggets do that as it could leave them without the space to resign Barton, Green, or Millsap, but it’s an option.
In an early trade-up possibility article, I looked at Denver’s chances of taking on Eric Bledsoe from the Pelicans in exchange for their tenth pick. That’s now impossible with Bledsoe in Memphis and the pick gone, but there will be more salary dumps.