Inside the Nuggets’ draft philosophy as they prepare for “crapshoot” night

Most years, the NBA draft is Christmas for league executives.

Years of scouting, hundreds of flights and thousands of conversations culminate in one night that can shape a franchise’s fortunes. Find a gifted, 7-foot Serbian center midway through the second round and the trajectory of your team can flip on a dime.

This year, the NBA scouting calendar was uprooted by the coronavirus pandemic. There was no NCAA Tournament. The Power 5 leagues all canceled its conference tournaments. The NBA draft combine in Chicago – a melting pot of league executives, basketball luminaries, college coaches and a few dozen media members – was canceled. No hosting prospects by the Nuggets and introducing them to Denver. Even if only one or two of them got drafted, at least the Nuggets had established a working relationship with players. Not in 2020.

Instead, teams have relied on Zoom interviews to interact with incoming prospects. It wasn’t until recently that teams were permitted to travel and watch up to 10 individual workouts — never against competition. The sobering reality for next Wednesday’s NBA draft is that organizations, including Denver, are dealing with much the same information they had back in March.

“Collectively teams are probably less certain what might be happening around them, what other teams are thinking, because we’ve lacked those avenues to get together and talk about what this team’s doing, that team’s doing,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly told The Denver Post. “It should make for a fun night. There’s some clarity on the very top of the draft, and then after that, it’ll largely be a free-for-all.”

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That could be an advantage for the Nuggets, who’ve explored moving up from No. 22 into the top 10 of the draft, according to two league sources. One possibility as a result of the atypical process: One of Denver’s lottery targets could slip within a reasonable, attainable range. Another, more likely, possibility: Denver’s draft philosophy will prove fruitful yet again.

Under Connelly, who’s overseen the organization’s last seven drafts, there have been some notable mistakes, including facilitating the 2013 and 2017 draft-night trades of Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, respectively, to the Utah Jazz. The Mitchell trade stung, not only because of who he became, but because the Nuggets missed on their primary target that night (OG Anunoby) and were stuck with Tyler Lydon. Of course, several other teams passed on Mitchell as well. Nonetheless, it was a miss.

In totality, Connelly’s hit big more than he’s whiffed.

In 2014, he traded down, swindling Chicago, to snag Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. That same year, Connelly found franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic with the 41st pick. Two years later, Connelly struck again with Jamal Murray at No. 7 – a pick team officials now say they never expected to be there. He salvaged the 2017 debacle by finding Monte Morris at No. 51. More recently, the Nuggets pounced on opportunity and bet on talent. Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol represent two of the most intriguing players on Denver’s …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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