The Denver Nuggets came into the 2022 NBA Draft as a team with very few needs. Led by the back-to-back MVP, Nikola Jokic, as well as All-Star caliber talent like Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Not to mention a quality supporting cast of Aaron Gordon, Bones Hyland, Monte Morris and Will Barton. It’s hard to argue that the franchise really needed these picks to be home run hits anyway.
Which is probably why they opted for three players who could develop into impactful role players but nobody with the potential to become a bonafide superstar.
Obviously, you never really know how any player will turn out or what they will evolve into over the next few years. Although, at first glance, it doesn’t appear like any one of Christian Braun, Peyton Watson or Ismael Kamagate are set to “take the league by storm”, as it were.
Even though I can understand the reasoning behind each one of these picks, I also believe that there were a few other options still available on the board who could turn out to be better fits long term.
Here are three players that the Denver Nuggets could have drafted but chose not to.
One player the Denver Nuggets could have drafted at pick No. 21 – MarJon Beauchamp
The Nuggets have always had an unconventional way of drafting NBA talent. As a team that tends to select players who fit their system and needs for the upcoming season instead of drafting the best prospect on the board. Hence why they selected two players who were projected to fall into the second round (Braun and Watson).
As for Christian Braun, I think he’s got a very good chance to provide some key minutes off the bench next season for the Denver Nuggets. As a player with the perimeter shooting ability and defensive prowess to make an immediate impact, albeit in limited capacity.
That being said, I’m also a firm believer that MarJon Beauchamp was the better option at 21.
At 6’6” with a near 7’1” wingspan, Beauchamp was one of the more intriguing wing players from the draft. As a member of the NBA’s G League ignite, he was a deadly physical presence with the size, length, versatility and competitiveness to draw interest from across the league.
Despite being relatively unpolished, Beauchamp’s got the defensive chops and basketball IQ to make him an elite perimeter defender in the NBA. He’s also got an incredibly high motor and a dog mentality, which are two things that every team can find value in.
It’s also worth noting that he’s consistently improved on the offensive end as well. Finishing second on the team in scoring last season with the G League Ignite, averaging 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game. While shooting over 57 percent from the field in 36 minutes of action.
His efficiency from the free-throw and three-point line will need some time to develop but he more than makes up for it with his ability to defend the opposing team’s best player. Once he’s able to pack on some more muscle, Beauchamp should blossom into an elite two-way player, and one of the better perimeter defenders the association has to offer. Which is something that Denver doesn’t currently have.
One player the Denver Nuggets could have drafted at pick No. 30 – Christian Koloko
Peyton Watson was probably the biggest shock of the draft if you’re a Denver Nuggets fan. On the one hand, he’s a former consensus five-star recruit who garnered a lot of attention in high school, drawing comparisons to NBA players like Trevor Ariza, Moe Harkless and Justin Holiday.
On the other hand, he averaged 3.3 points per game, shooting 32.2 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from deep in his lone season at UCLA. Never playing more than 12 minutes a game.
As a result, many scouts view him as more of a long-term project and a very raw prospect on both ends of the floor.
It’s also no secret that the Denver Nuggets are looking for a back up center, a role that Arizona’s Christian Koloko could have filled beautifully.
At 6’10”, 221-pounds, Koloko finished with 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and a ridiculous 2.8 blocks per game last season with the 2022 NCAA champion, Arizona Wildcats. As a result of his impressive junior campaign, he was awarded the PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
He’s a renowned rim-protector who averaged nearly three blocks per game for the best team in college basketball and has the potential to emerge into one of the best shot blockers in the NBA. While his offensive game is basically limited to being a lob finisher, Koloko has all of the tools necessary to slot in right away and make plays on the defensive side of the ball, which Denver needs.
Even though the Denver Nuggets chose to wait until pick No. 46 to grab Ismael Kamagate, Christian Koloko is a player who’s a little more developed and already has experience playing against elite competition. Meaning he’s probably going to be ready to play in the NBA before Kamagate.
One player the Denver Nuggets could have drafted at pick No. 46 – EJ Liddell
For this last one, I want to start off by saying that trading a future second-round pick to move up and grab Ismael Kamagate at 46 was a genius move. The Denver Nuggets need to find their long-term solution at the back up center position and Kamagate has serious potential to be that guy for the team moving forward.
However, the second that Denver saw EJ Liddell tumble into the 40s, they should’ve made a move.
As a 6’7”, 240-pound forward with a 6’11” wingspan and a versatile skill set on both ends of the floor, he’s a player who could’ve been thrust right into Denver’s rotation straight from the get-go. As a prospect with a strong frame, high-motor, and optimal length, he has the potential to impact all facets of the game.
With Ohio State last year, Liddell averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.6 blocks per game with .490/.374/.765 shooting splits. Proving to be a player with the court vision and awareness to find the open man, as well as the strength and timing to chase down long rebounds. Not to mention the face-up and spot-up game to shoot with the best of them.
As a result of playing at a high level for one of the college basketball’s top programs, Liddell was widely regarded as a top-25 prospect heading into the 2022 NBA Draft. So, the fact that he fell to No. 41 is absolutely mind boggling.
The truth is that if Denver felt comfortable enough trading for pick No. 46, they should’ve made the move a few picks earlier and grabbed EJ Liddell. It probably wouldn’t have cost them anything more than they gave up for Kamagate and Liddell is somebody who could actually contribute right away next season.
Overall, there are mixed reviews about how the Denver Nuggets drafted this year. While the players they selected all have tremendous upside, the franchise also passed up on some pretty big names in favour of Braun, Watson and Kamagate.
Only time will tell how things pan out.