The Nuggets have the 13th pick in the NBA’s Thursday night draft.
Now that Tim Connelly has been promoted to Nuggets’ president of operations and Arturas Karnisovas to general manager, the onus supposedly is on them – although Josh Kroenke still is the real president of the franchise, and his father Stan Kroenke still is the real owner of the team.
Since the elder Kroenke took over in 2000, the Nuggets have managed to hit in the first round on just one Hall of Fame-type player – Carmelo Anthony (No. 3 in 2003) – and one Hall of Shame-type player – Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5 in 2002).
Most of their first-round selections (15 overall) have been fair to middling, completely average, poor to good or ho to hum, as it’s turned out.
Here are the Nugs’ best (?) five No. 1 picks during the King Kroenke (father and son) reign:
1.) Carmelo Anthony
2.) Kenneth Faried
3.) Jameer Nelson
4.) Jamal Murray
5.) Emmanuel Mudiay
Not saying much. Ugh.
Nelson was traded immediately in 2004 to Orlando, but finally came to Denver late in his career and has been a contributor. Murray is a starter-in-waiting, so no final judgment can be made. Mudiay was intended to be the point guard for a decade, but he has been injured, inconsistent and incomplete.
Faried is what he was when he was drafted – a high-energy court-runner with outstanding rebounding skills and no offensive game. He would be a special sixth or seventh player on a great team.
Carmelo, with the help of many others, did reach the Western Conference finals once with the Nuggets.
Five worst Nuggets’ first-round draft picks:
1.) Tskitishvili, who was a bust in every sense of the game.
2.) Frank Williams. (Who?)
3.) Julius Hodge. Uh.
4.) Rudy Gobert.
5.) Mamadou N’Diaye.
I could go on.
However, the Nuggets did strike gold in the second round of 2014. With the 41st pick, they got Nikola Jokic, who could be an NBA All-Star next and other future seasons based on what he accomplished in the past season.
The vast majority of the Nuggets’ second-round choices. Ousmane Cisse is one example. Izzet "The Turkey" Turkyilmaz is another.
So, the Nuggets hold the positions 13, 49 and 51 in the draft in Brooklyn.
Will the brain trust screw it up again or nail it down?
Probably somewhere in between.
I’ve been around the Nuggets longer than anybody in this town, and certainly all of those with the Nuggets’ organization. And in those 43 years, nobody with the franchise has asked me for my opinion on the draft. But I think I would have done a better job than all those owners, general managers, coaches, scouts and presidents on the draft.
If I were in charge now, I would trade all three draft picks to the Magic (not Magic Johnson) for the No. 6 overall selection, and I’d choose Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen, who has been called "The Unicorn" – not because of a horn sticking out of his head, but because he’s unique.
I don’t think he’s unique. I think he’s Dirk Nowitizki.
Both Markkanen and Nowitzki are from Europe (the great one from Germany, the young one from Finland). Both are 7-foot power forwards who can play all three up-front positions. Each is a prolific shooter inside, outside, beyond the three-point line. Both can rebound some, run the court, are smart, can pass and know how to play basketball in the classical style.
Neither is much of a defensive player, but defense is a state of mind, not a born trait. And defense can be taught, trained, thought out.
Markkanen. 2K. Remember the name. He will be an exceptional NBA player.
He’s only 20. Son of a former player, Lauri played only his freshman year at Arizona, but he averaged 15.6 points (54.5 percent on two-pointers, 43 percent on three-pointers). He made 83.5 percent from the free throw line. He averaged 7.2 rebounds in 37 games. At 40 minutes he would have averaged more than 20 points and 20 rebounds.
He will be grabbed in the top 10.
At 13, the Nuggets would have two other legitimate candidates – 7-foot center/power forward Zach Johnson out of Gonzaga and 6-8 power forward Ogugua Anunoby from Indiana. Johnson earned a reputation in March Madness and The Final Four is another excellent outside shooter and strong man around the basket, and Anunoby is the defensive presence, although he’s not much of a shooter (especially at the free throw line), except on dunks. Yet, OG tore the ACL in his right leg last January, and has dropped in the draft rankings. Both played only one year of college basketball, too.
Do the Nuggets have the guts to move up? Not likely.