The Denver Nuggets went 33-49 last year, good for 4th in the Northwest Division. It was a slight step up their 30-52 season the year before, but Denver has now gone three straight seasons without making the playoffs after 10 straight playoff appearances, and fans are wondering what the team will do to recapture their former glory. There’s already young talent, like All-Rookie Nikola Jokic, and the Nuggets will be looking for players that can complement them.
Stu Jackson of NBA TV believes that what the Nuggets’ biggest needs are “size and athleticism.” As such, some mock drafts predict that Dragan Bender, a 7 foot international player that some predict could fall to the 7th slot where the Nuggets pick after a subpar season.
Other mocks, like NBA.com, suggested Buddy Hield from Oklahoma, who could potentially shore up their shooting percentage. And if someone like Marquese Chriss from Washington is still around, the Nuggets could pick him up after his impressive rise in the rankings.
In addition, the Nuggets have the 15th and 19th picks in the draft, giving them versatility. Here are the Nuggets’ draft picks in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Jamal Murray, PG/SG, University of Kentucky
Jamal Murray had a fantastic freshman season at the University of Kentucky. Standing at 6’5, Murray averaged 20 points a game, with over 5 rebounds and 2 assists a game. He provides Denver a lot of versatility as a possible point guard or shooting guard. Scouts say he’s aggressive, with fantastic scoring instincts.
One fun highlight of Murray’s young career was playing in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, and earning MVP honors. A question mark with him, however, is going to be turnovers – in his only season at Kentucky, he averaged more turnovers than assists per game. The Los Angeles Times also described his defense as “not that impressive.” The true test for Murray, it seems, will be whether or not he can improve those other skills and be a more complete player.
Juan Hernangomez, PG, Spain
At 6’9, Juan Hernangomez was a breakout player in the Spanish league last year. Halfway through his season with Movistar Estudiantes, he was averaging 11.3 points per game, an incredible feat for someone who was just 20. Ultimately on the season he finished with a 9.7 PPG stat, but the potential there became very clear. Scouts praise his height and his fluidity, as well as his improved shooting abilities.
One place he could stand to improve, however, is the defense. The aforementioned scouts also noticed that more experienced players regularly took advantage of his inexperience on defense. If he can work on that, and reach the shooting potential people see in him, he could very well reach that potential for Denver. A CBS Sports scout noted in particular his ability to “stretch the floor and provide floor-spacing.” Spain’s most exciting young player could quickly become Denver’s most exciting young player.
Malik Beasley, SG, Florida State
Beasley turned heads his freshman year at Florida State. The 6’5 shooting guard averaged 15.6 points per game, with a .471 shooting percentage. At one point he was third among all rookies in the country in points per game, behind only number 1 pick Ben Simmons and his now Nuggets teammate Jamal Murray.
Beasley showed a lot of talent and a ton of promise, but one possible reason he fell to number 19 is that he wasn’t able to do full pre-draft workouts after undergoing surgery to fix a stress fracture in his leg. Scouts see him as an efficient, athletic scorer, a solid pick-up.
Interestingly, Beasley’s dad Michael is a working actor. He’s made multiple appearances in shows like HBO’s Eastbound and Down and Netflix’s Bloodline.
Petr Cornelle, PF, France
Cornelie, 6’11”, plays with intensity according to scouts. Cornelie shot 40% on three point attempts throughout the season, but faltered a bit at a Eurocamp. He’s got a very slight frame, but that height, combined with a smoothness and fluidity on the court, makes him someone with a lot of potential, and what made him stand out to teams.
Daniel Hamilton, SF, UCONN
In his sophomore year at UCONN, the 6’8″ forward averaged 12.5 points per game, and 15.7 per 40 minutes. He also averaged 8.9 total rebounds per game, with the overwhelming majority of those coming on defense, and 4.7 assists per game.
Though scouts praise his versatility, it comes with the addendum that he doesn’t have that long a wingspan, has a slight frame, and isn’t the most athletic on the court. His strengths lie in passing and rebounding, and his scoring isn’t efficient enough yet. Converting more of his scoring attempts will be his biggest test as he tries to become a solid NBA player.