not merely superfluous, but ridiculous
If I had to guess, I’d say the Denver Nuggets would rather not have held a draft this year.
Looking at the Nuggets’ roster as it’s currently constructed, this makes sense. They didn’t have enough playing time available to properly develop the prospects they picked up last year, and now they’re expected to add another 2-4 players and either keep them overseas or find time for them in practice and games. The Nuggets have stumbled upon a paradox in which a lot of young teams find themselves: their young players who get the most playing time will develop the fastest, but they don’t know which ones will make the most out of that time.
To be sure, a couple of players have stood out: it’s clear that Nikola Jokic and Gary Harris are locked in as the Nuggets’ starters at center and shooting guard. Jamal Murray is likely to stick around, coming off the bench as Harris’s backup. And Wilson Chandler probably has the small forward spot locked down for the last year of his contract. But this leaves Denver with no clear answers at point guard or power forward.
Denver clearly drafted with this in mind: they picked up two power forwards in Trey Lyles and Tyler Lydon, pulled a draft-and-stash on Mega Leks wing Vlatko Cancar, and picked Iowa State point guard Monte Morris, who projects as a solid backup.
The problem with these picks, according to many of the journalists who follow the Nuggets, is that they overload Denver at already-crowded positions: Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur, and free agent Danilo Gallinari are all listed as power forwards, and backup center Mason Plumlee plays minutes at the position as well. And Morris may be a promising point guard, but he’s going to be sharing minutes with Jameer Nelson, Emmanuel Mudiay, and a cluster of shooting guards who all play minutes at the point.
The real problem, though, is not that Denver failed to definitively fill their gaps. The problem was that no one available at their draft slot could have filled them.
Remember, this was a draft in which the most promising pick for Denver seemed to be wing OG Anunoby, and the primary reason he seemed like such a good fit was that he’d be recovering from an injury for his entire rookie season. The best point guards were off the board within the first 9 picks, and the only power forward who would constitute a major upgrade, Jonathan Isaac, was taken with pick 6.
So, with an absence of sure-thing talent to fit its two most pressing needs, and a trade deal that apparently fell through at the last second, Denver decided to acquire two promising power forward prospects, deciding that two chances at finding a transcendent wing were better than one. Of course, now they need to decide which of their 5-6 power forwards to prioritize in development.
This seems to just be how Denver is most comfortable making its roster decisions. Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne, JJ Hickson, and JaVale McGee all spent time at center before the organization decided to go with Jokic as the starter. Gary Harris competed for his starting spot with a number of talented shooting guards, some of whom are still on the team. Tim Connelly and Artūras Karnišovas obviously believe in their ability to find the right player through training camp and summer league.
There are few strategies, however, that instill less confidence in a front office than the shotgun approach. If Connelly and Karnišovas can’t hit the target, or at least sign some free agents, their recent elevations may prove to be short-lived.