NBA draft preview: Why Nuggets might look for another small forward

Editor’s note: The third of a five-part series previewing the Nuggets’ positional outlook heading into the July 29 NBA draft. Today: small forward.

When the Nuggets made their all-in, blockbuster deal for Magic forward Aaron Gordon, they did so with positional versatility in mind.

Not only would Gordon be interchangeable with Michael Porter Jr. at either forward spot, serving as the interior ballast to Porter’s 3-point shooting, the hope was that he could cover their defensive warts. In the postseason, Gordon’s defense on Damian Lillard cooled Portland’s superstar enough to survive the Blazers, even without two starting guards.

Even though his offense abandoned him against Phoenix, Gordon’s flexibility was crucial to the fit. His positional prototype should serve as an example if the Nuggets opt for a small forward with the No. 26 pick in the July 29 draft.

Gordon, with one year left on his deal, is extension eligible. It’s fair to assume the Nuggets wouldn’t have traded R.J. Hampton, a future first-round pick and Gary Harris for a guy they weren’t prepared to keep. So any wing would theoretically sit comfortably behind Gordon on the depth chart.

But just because a longer commitment to Gordon could be coming doesn’t mean the Nuggets should rule out drafting a wing — arguably the most coveted position in the league. Consider their recent history. Before the trade, Will Barton was their starting small forward even though he’s a natural shooting guard. He played slightly out of position because of Harris.

Barton’s impending free agency could make the need for a replacement even more pressing.

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And P.J. Dozier, whose stock within the organization soared after proving trustworthy in the Bubble, is bound to see his minutes rise next season. Nuggets coach Michael Malone has deployed him at every position except center. Switchable, versatile wings are always sought-after regardless of which positions demand the most attention heading into the draft.

Between rotation mainstays Gordon, Dozier and Facu Campazzo, Denver is lacking consistent 3-point shooting. An audit of the roster shows most of the 3-point production will come via the frontcourt (Porter and Nikola Jokic), a fact that will only get amplified until Jamal Murray returns.

With that in mind, a 3-and-D wing might be ideal for the Nuggets on draft night.

1. Trey Murphy, 6-foot-7, Virginia, junior: While not overly athletic, Murphy stretches the floor, moves well without the ball and connected on 43% of his outside looks on 4.8 attempts per game last season. A versatile defender, his frame suggests his defensive instincts will translate well at the next level. He’d check a lot of boxes for the Nuggets if he happened to be sitting there at No. 26 (which might be a longshot).

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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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