The Denver Nuggets enjoyed a rare good day on Thursday between making a trade and the NBA Draft. They can honestly say they got better, now what does that mean? We’ll address that in a bit but here’s a quick recap of why the moves on Thursday should have Nuggets’ fans at least moderately excited.
The day started with the biggest move of the day when the Nuggets traded guard Evan Fournier for Arron Afflalo of the Orlando Magic. Afflalo played for the Nuggets once before but the Nuggets are getting a much player today than the one they traded away.
In his previous stint with the Nuggets, Afflalo was a solid number two guard who played great defense and would knock down the occasional jump shot. Now he returns to Denver with the same defensive intensity and a much improved offensive game. He averaged 18 points, a career high, for the Magic last season and can also provide some much needed veteran leadership.
The presence of Afflalo gives the Nuggets a very solid starting backcourt with Ty Lawson at the point. That’s a combination that can play with any of the backcourts in the league. General Manager, Tim Connelly deserves credit for landing a player like Afflalo while only giving up Fournier and a second-round pick.
The draft started with the Nuggets taking forward Doug McDermott but his was quickly traded to the Chicago Bulls for their two first round picks. It’s the second of those picks that should have fans feeling optimistic.
Gary Harris is a two guard out of Michigan State who many projected to go higher than number 19. Harris is a good outside shooter who can help the Nuggets immediately. He can and should provide immediate offense off of the bench in his rookie season. Harris struggles in creating his own shot, but should benefit from a team that has a many offensive threats as the Nuggets.
Defense is the most polished aspect of Harris’s game and he projects as a defensive stopper in the NBA. He’s fearless and willing to guard anyone on that side of the floor. Harris also displays a high basketball IQ and understands passing lanes, and how to jump into those lanes. In short, the Nuggets may have walked away with the steal of the draft in Harris.
The Nuggets are now a bit overloaded at the two guard position with Afflalo, Harris and Randy Foye who had a solid year in 2013-14. It’s hard to imagine the Nuggets going into next season with all three of those players on the roster, but that depth could be used in a possible trade. The Nuggets are still rumored to be in the sweepstakes for Minnesota Wild forward, Kevin Love and a player like Foye could be part of a package.
As for the Nuggets other first round pick on Thursday night, it was less impressive. Jusuf Nurkic is a center out of Bosnia-Herzeogovina and was selected by the Nuggets with the 16th selection. Now maybe Nurkic will turn into the next great foreign player, but the Nuggets track record is not good. They’ve taken a number of foreign-born players in the past and none of them have worked out.
Nene was probably the best of the bench but he still left you wanting more, and the Nuggets eventually gave up on him. Fournier was promising but now he’s been traded in the Afflalo deal.
Yes I know this is a different front office and a different coaching staff, but I’m just not a fan of drafting guys from overseas. Hopefully I’m wrong and Nurkic turns into a player but when the first thing I hear about him is he has poor fundamentals, I get very worried.
Now to be fair, Nurkic probably won’t play for the Nuggets for at least a year or two. They will continue to let him play overseas and hope his game develops. However if it doesn’t work out, then it’s just another wasted first round pick.
Are they a playoff team with these additions and a healthy roster including Danilo Gallinari? Yes they probably are but they still have a ways to go to be considered anything more than a fringe playoff team.
However that’s a discussion for another day, the Nuggets had a good day on Thursday and they deserve credit for the work they’ve done so far in the offseason.