Was Julian Strawther the right pick for the Denver Nuggets?

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: Julian Strawther #3 of the Denver Nuggets(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: Julian Strawther #3 of the Denver Nuggets(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

In the 2023 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets did not have a selection to begin with. Their own first round pick was sent to the Charlotte Hornets, and that selection was 27th overall. A bit leading up to the draft, the Denver Nuggets made a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which netted them the 29th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, where they sent a protected 2029 first round pick back to OKC.

Trading into the first round was a good idea, especially considering how well Denver’s 2022 first round selection Christian Braun played in the playoffs. There were multiple players that the Nuggets could have selected, as there were still a ton of great prospects when Denver had to make their selection.

With their pick, they ultimately selected Julian Strawther, an older prospect out of Gonzaga. He played three seasons for the Bulldogs, and was an All-WCC in his last season. Yes, he was a great prospect, and will get ample playing time, but his ceiling is a lot lower than most first round selections.

Looking at some other selections after Denver’s pick, there was Jalen Picket and All-Summer League First teamer Hunter Tyson, both players drafted in the second round by the Nuggets. The second round had a lot of great players. Emoni Bates, the 49th pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, was on the All-Summer League Second team and helped Cleveland win the Summer League Title.

Looking at what the Denver Nuggets need on the roster at this point in time, the backup center spot is definitely questionable. DeAndre Jordan and Zeke Nnaji are the only backup big men the Nuggets have, and both of them aren’t really going to be long-term players on the roster. Hunter Tyson could play backup center if he really needs to, though.

Did the Nuggets make the right call with pick 29?

James Nnaji could’ve been a pick, considering he only went two spots after Strawther. Nnaji won’t play in the NBA this season, as he will be stashed overseas for at least this year for the Charlotte Hornets. The 2023 NBA Draft wasn’t a great one when it comes to big men talent, outside of San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama and Dallas’ Dereck Lively II, so the 29th pick probably wouldn’t have netted Denver a great center.

The Denver Nuggets could also use a backup point guard, as Reggie Jackson seems to be slotted in that spot as of now. Jalen Pickett might get some run for that, but Sacramento’s Colby Jones looks to be a great player. He was a tremendous perimeter defender in college at Xavier, and went with the 34th overall pick. He could also play the shooting guard spot, as he is a great combo-guard.

If Denver wanted to go get a prospect with a lot of potential, they could have taken Leonard Miller out of the G-League Ignite team. He was drafted 33rd overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and has a really high ceiling, if he can reach it. His floor is really low, and probably won’t play a lot of meaningful minutes for Minnesota.

Considering Christian Braun will get a lot of playing time as the backup small forward, and maybe even the sixth man, drafting Strawther did not really make a lot of sense. Yes, he will be a good player, and is a great prospect for a win-now team like the Denver Nuggets. But the fit isn’t really the best, and he might not get a lot of playing time next season.

Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson seem to be better players, and will probably both have more minutes next season than Strawther, and could be more effective, as well. He was a great player in college, and definitely deserved to be drafted, but maybe Denver could’ve tried other prospects.

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Julian Strawther will still probably be a great player for the Denver Nuggets, but don’t expect any All-Rookie team votes next season.