NUGGETS

The Denver Nuggets weird 2022 NBA Draft was basically a disaster

Jun 24, 2022, 12:18 AM | Updated: 12:37 am

Nikola Jokic, Josh Kroenke...

Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

DENVER—The Denver Nuggets first move of this year’s NBA Draft was to trade a future first-rounder and JaMychal Green to get No. 30.

With that selection, Denver took a project. A project in Peyton Watson that scored just three points per game last season at UCLA.

So why did the Nuggets trade a rotation player and a future first-rounder? To get something that could help them now. What did Denver get? Somebody that absolutely will not help them now.

In what was considered to be one of the most important offseasons in club history, a summer that started with the owner talking about titles—so far all the Nuggets have done is soften their tax bill and punt on some of their most valued assets.

Watson was a top 10 recruit coming out of high school who played on a stacked, veteran-led UCLA team. One day he could even be a solid player for the Nuggets.

“All-NBA potential defensively,” first-year General Manager Calvin Booth said. “But he’s the kind of guy that it might take two years or might take two months,”

So it’s pretty clear he’s likely to spend more time in the G League than with the Nuggets.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets own pick at No. 21 was spent a bit oddly. Just two picks later, Memphis traded for No. 23, giving away valued player De’Anthony Melton. They even got Danny Green back. Could this not have been an option with Will Barton?

The Nuggets took Christian Braun at No. 21. A fine player who fills some needs but there’s a big question of if he can even crack the rotation this coming season. Plus they reached for him, with many mocking him to the Nuggets nine picks later or having him go in the second round.

Still, there are definite benefits to Braun, a big-time jumper who plays with energy, has strong defensive skills and won a National Champions a few months ago. One could make the case that Braun is one of the three-best wing defenders on the Nuggets immediately. But again, Braun is not a guarantee to play right away.

So why not trade up? Why not move one or both picks for an established NBA player?

“Nothing really came close in that regard,” Booth said and then later followed, “we got our guys.”

The Nuggets did make a trade on the night, getting back into the second round for a future second rounder, taking Ismaël Kamagate. While impressive in his Mile High City Workout, Kamagate is not the backup center the Nuggets need today. He’s a draft and stash player who could be a good NBA player someday, but for now, he will stay overseas and not impact the Nuggets in 2022-23.

The Nuggets final add of the night was five-year Villanova point guard Collin Gillespie. He’s on a two-way contract after a very strong college career. A two-way contract undrafted guy isn’t going to take the Nuggets over the top.

“It’s trying to thread the needle. I think there’s some things that need to be done with the roster,” Booth said. “We need to get bigger, need to get more athletic. We need to get more two-way players. And quite frankly, those guys are hard to get in trades and in free agency. So you try to backfill the roster with guys like Peyton and Christian and hope they develop. But in the meantime, we will try to go acquire some guys that fit those needs until those guys are ready to play.”

“We’re not expecting these guys to save our season next year. They’re taking up two roster spots, right? So we’re gonna have a lot of veteran experience. We’re gonna have guys that we feel like can play deep into the year. There’s some work to do.”

There’s a lot of work to do because the Nuggets need more than just a healthy Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. to complete their roster around Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets need a playable wing right now, and a starting two-guard with more defense. And Booth said it himself, the drafted players aren’t going to save their season.

Thursday’s NBA Draft was the Nuggets best chance to make a trade to improve their roster right away, they didn’t exactly do that. What Denver did do was replace an $8 million contract with one worth $1 million, and left a lot of questions about the organization’s seriousness in title chasing.

“I think the Draft went really well,” Booth said. “Great teamwork, great support from ownership. Mr. K and Josh were there the whole time. We had some experience in the room and teamwork. Helped drive the decision making process the whole night.”

Don’t get me wrong, Green wasn’t great but he’s a solid capable NBA roll player. They dumped him for more question marks and less dollar signs.

As for the four players added? You probably won’t see any of those Nuggets play meaningful minutes season, not because the team still isn’t on TV, but because none of them are good enough to contribute. But hey maybe someday they’ll be good players, it’s just that the Nuggets are fresh out of somedays if they actually want to win the franchise’s first title. The time for championship chasing is today, not someday.

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