The Nuggets have options.
Specifically, general manager Calvin Booth has numerous levers to pull ahead of Thursday night’s NBA draft, which will be Booth’s first as the Nuggets’ primary-decision maker. The Nuggets enter the draft armed with the Nos. 21 and 30 overall picks.
What they need – and what the Nuggets are targeting – is fairly obvious: porous on the perimeter, the Nuggets desperately need to improve defensively. Numerous wings have been discussed internally, sources said.
If there’s an intriguing perimeter player who can step in and defend immediately, you can bet he’s on Denver’s radar. If that player can shoot from outside, you can all-but guarantee the Nuggets have debated his potential.
When Booth assumed responsibilities nearly a month ago in the wake of Tim Connelly’s surprising departure to Minnesota, it took him only a few weeks to execute his first trade. He sent veteran forward JaMychal Green and a 2027 first-round pick to Oklahoma City in exchange for this year’s No. 30 and two future second-round picks.
One interpretation of that move is that it gave Booth another chip to negotiate with heading into this offseason. Booth is adamant about maximizing Nikola Jokic’s prime, which is here. Whatever the cost in the future, Booth’s concern is winning now. It was also an early indication of how aggressive Booth planned to be.
That’s why Thursday holds so much intrigue.
Theoretically, the Nuggets could draft two rookies, though that would run counter to Booth’s stated goal of optimizing Jokic’s window. The Nuggets are already expected to give both Bones Hyland (second year) and Zeke Nnaji (third) some runway to develop. As the Nuggets pursue a title – and make no mistake, this season, that’s exactly what they intend to do – it’s difficult to see coach Michael Malone entrusting valuable minutes to two more unproven players.
Numerous sources close to the team suggested trades could be in order. Perhaps Booth dangles one of his first-round picks in an effort to grease a larger trade, possibly one involving a veteran. Maybe he consolidates both picks to move up for an ideal two-way prospect. The point is, adding that extra first-round pick affords Booth even more routes to explore.
If Booth does hold onto his selections, expect Denver to target experienced players with two-way capability. Unlike rebuilding teams, young, unproven prospects won’t do much for the Nuggets this season. Older prospects may hold more appeal to Denver than normal.
Jalen Williams, a 21-year-old out of Santa Clara, could be a possibility. A sweet-shooting wing with an NBA body, Williams could serve as a larger shooting guard as veteran Will Barton enters the final year of his contract.
At 6-foot-6, Arizona sophomore Dalen Terry has the frame and agility to project as a versatile defender at the next level. Offensively, he’s a selfless passer with the mechanics to become a proficient 3-point shooter. The fact that he’s not a score-first guard may actually help his case in Denver because the Nuggets should have no trouble scoring the ball next season. With good positional size, Terry would be a great fit in Denver.
If Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji is still available at No. 21 (unlikely, but possible), the Nuggets would be wise to pounce. The senior shot over 41% from 3-point range last season and has the strength and maturity to impact a team almost immediately. In fact, he might be worth trading up for.
One other prospect who may fit Denver’s needs is MarJon Beauchamp, who spent last season with the G League’s Ignite. He wasn’t initially scheduled to work out for Denver, but the Nuggets’ front office worked behind the scenes to get him in their gym this week. At 6-foot-5, Beauchamp prides himself on his defense and showed off a much-improved 3-point stroke for Malone and Denver’s front office.
Similar to the aforementioned prospects, Beauchamp wouldn’t be a liability on defense and he has the potential to blossom into a reliable offensive piece.
Thursday will be Booth’s show. Which lever will he pull?