Grading the Denver Nuggets’ 2014 Draft Class
1st Round, 16th Overall- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia-Herzegovina (B)
The Denver Nuggets came into the night with the 11th pick in the first round, but when Doug McDermott was still on the board, the Chicago Bulls traded up to grab him and gave Denver the 16th and 19th picks in exchange. With the first of their first-round picks, the Nuggets grabbed international big man Jusuf Nurkic, who’s already 6-foot-11, 280 pounds despite not turning 20 yet. Nurkic is a tantalizing prospect because of his size, but as with any prospect that size, there are questions about his quickness and how well he can stay with more athletic big men. Nurkic is a monster of a man and profiles as a plus shot blocker and rebounder, but he’s very proficient on offense as well. While his post moves are still a work in progress and he often times uses his size advantage to get better positioning, he displays a deft touch and the ability to come out on pick and rolls. Nurkic is still very green and may not even come over to the States for another few seasons, but the Nuggets are confident that when they do choose to bring him over, he’ll be very difficult for opposing teams to handle.
1st Round, 19th Overall- Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (A)
Gary Harris ends up being one of the best picks in the draft, as someone many believed the Nuggets could’ve taken at 11 but who still fell into their laps at 19. Harris is one of the better two-way guards in this draft, a capable scorer from anywhere on the court and a shutdown perimeter defender to boot. While Harris is a bit undersized at 6-foot-4, his tenacity and activity on the defensive end allows him to shadow bigger guards. Harris has the potential to eventually form a dynamic duo with Ty Lawson in the Denver backcourt, but he’ll spell Aaron Afflalo, who was reacquired by Denver on draft day. Afflalo is very much the type of player Harris hopes to become, so it should be a positive experience for him to learn from the veteran. Harris will join Randy Foye in providing instant offense off the bench, but he can also be used to lock down opposing point guards on defense. However they choose to use him, getting a player many expected to go in the top 10 at No. 19 is a steal in any book.
2nd Round, 41st Overall- Nikola Jokic, PF/C, Serbia (C+)
With their second-round pick, the Nuggets opted for another international big man in Nikola Jokic. Jokic is very skilled, but he isn’t the most athletic guy which could’ve contributed to his falling further than other international bigs. At 6-foot-11, 250 pounds and, like Nurkic, only 19 years of age, Jokic has the potential to become another dominant force on the inside. After the success they’ve had with Timofey Mozgov, the Nuggets seem more inclined to try and land enormous foreign centers who are only scratching the surface of their potential. Jokic already has a very advanced post game for his age, although he’ll have to improve on the defensive end to see consistent minutes if/when he comes over. Jokic is another prospect Denver plans on stashing for the near future, but he could pay dividends a few years down the road.
The Nuggets opted against taking Harris with the 11th pick, traded down to recoup an extra first, and still ended up with Harris at 19. For that reason alone, the Denver front office deserves a round of applause as they turned a five-spot move back in the draft into a very promising big man prospect in Nurkic. While Nurkic and Jokic won’t pay off immediately and Harris will begin on the bench behind Afflalo, the Nuggets came out of the draft with some nice prospects and some hope for the future.
Aggregate Grade- A-