The 2020 NBA Draft was one of the weirdest drafts of all time, as the draft was held on TV, and the players were at home when they were drafted by their teams. For the Denver Nuggets, they selected Arizona big man Zeke Nnaji 22nd overall. They also traded for the 24th pick and selected guard R.J. Hampton.
Hampton is no longer on the Nuggets, while Nnaji barely received playing time last season for Denver. Nnaji averaged 13.7 minutes per game last season in 53 total regular season games. He barely saw the court in the playoffs and was only in the games for a few minutes at a time for only a few games.
Looking at Nnaji, he will be a restricted free agent next offseason, and it’s hard to say what his future will look like, not just for Denver but the NBA as a whole. The Nuggets do not really have a great bench, and their backup center and power-forward spots are question marks at this point.
Nnaji could get a good amount of minutes next season, especially considering Bruce Brown left in free agency earlier this summer. Depending on how he plays, he could be a quality backup big man for next season and maybe years to come.
One of the main reasons Nnaji’s minutes took a hit last season was his efficiency from beyond the arc. During the 2021-22 season, he shot 46.3 percent from the 3-point line, but that dropped to 26.2 percent during last season. Considering Nnaji’s defensive lapses, it made sense that he didn’t get as many minutes.
If Nnaji’s shot doesn’t start to fall more from the perimeter, he may not even get a qualifying offer next summer. His future for the Denver Nuggets really just relies on consistency. His role wasn’t very consistent, which is not all his fault. His defense, however, really needs to be improved upon. Considering the lack of rim protectors on the Nuggets’ roster, being able to consistently alter shots in the paint could really benefit his team, as well as give him more minutes.
Nnaji could even be traded this season. If Denver wants to compete for another championship, giving up on younger players to try and get more veteran help could make sense. A rebuilding team definitely could want a player like Nnaji, as he is still only 22 years old, and we have not seen a lot of him so far.
Maybe considering the lack of frontcourt depth could give Nnaji a lot more minutes than he has in the past, which could benefit both Denver and Nnaji. We would finally be able to see what Nnaji has to offer a team full-time, as well as see if he really is a good fit for Denver.
Zeke Nnaji’s future with the Denver Nuggets may be a bit blurry right now, but all in all, he definitely will have a chance this season to prove that he can be a part of Denver’s long-term plans and could get himself a contract next offseason.