With Bruce Brown and Jeff Green leaving the Denver Nuggets in free agency, there were questions if Denver could replicate their success. Brown was one of the most vital pieces in the Nuggets’ championship run, and Green is one of the NBA’s most tenured players and a great locker room presence.
Yes, Denver’s bench took a hit in terms of talent, but that does not mean the Nuggets will have a falling from grace this season. Christian Braun, a key contributor for Denver in the playoffs, will now be trusted into the sixth man role.
Looking back on the 2023 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets were able to trade into the first round with the Oklahoma City Thunder, sending a future draft pick to get the 29th overall pick as well as a second round pick who turned out to be an All-Summer League 1st-Teamer, Hunter Tyson.
The 29th overall pick, though, turned out to be Gonzaga forward, Julian Strawther. Strawther was an older prospect, as he stayed three years in college and will turn 22 next April. The Nuggets want NBA-ready talent, and Strawther fits that mold.
He has done an amazing job in terms of preseason basketball. He is the second leading rookie scorer behind San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama. The Nuggets have been a solid team in the preseason, as they have gone a respectable 2-2, with Strawther leading the way.
As of the time of writing this, Strawther has averaged 17.8 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game in 23.2 minutes per game in four games. He also has shot 51.1 percent from the field, 45.2 percent from distance, and 90.0 percent from the free throw line.
His 3-point shooting is eye-opening. In his last season for Gonzaga, he shot 40.8 percent from beyond the arc. 45.2 percent is a big jump, especially considering the volume, of 7.8 attempts per night.
Chances are, he will not be able to continue this level of play into the regular season, and it could be a while until he is a prominent member of the Nuggets’ bench rotation.
The Nuggets already have a lot of players in the wing rotation. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr., Christian Braun, Justin Holiday, and others could all play the shooting guard or small forward spot, just like Strawther can.
At the time of the draft, multiple analysts had Strawther going into the second round, and few were projecting him to go in the first round. Some were questioning whether he was the right selection for the Denver Nuggets. But he has quickly proven his doubters and naysayers wrong.
Whether he’ll be able to help Christian Braun fill Bruce Brown’s shoes, Julian Strawther should make an impact for the Denver Nuggets sooner than later this season.