What prospects should the Nuggets pick? What prospects should they avoid?
Today is the 2022 NBA Draft, and the Nuggets have two picks to mess around with. It is entirely possible that neither pick is used, or that both are used. The front office might trade one and use the other. Any outcome calls for some awareness of prospects that the Nuggets should target, and some they should avoid. If you haven’t read our player profiles (I recommend you do) this article will give you some idea of what prospects to keep your eyes and ears out for.
The needs of the Nuggets are quite evident — size and perimeter defense on the wing. There are others; shooting is always nice to have, doesn’t hurt to be able to score. However, the Nuggets need to address the defensive end of the floor the most. In a guard and wing driven league, the Nuggets are lacking in that area. Their best perimeter defenders on the roster last season were Aaron Gordon, Austin Rivers, and probably Zeke Nnaji. All of them are good defenders, and provide reliable perimeter defense. However, Zeke Nnaji being the team’s third best perimeter defender isn’t ideal. Part of his appeal is that he’s a switchable big. He shouldn’t be who you’re asking to guard the top end talents though. Same with Aaron Gordon. Gordon is utilized best as an off-ball defender who can free safety and provide great help defense. He’s a solid on-ball defender, but it’s not his ideal role. Getting actual guards and wings to defend guards and wings will allow both to fulfill their best defensive roles. It will also provide depth at positions that the Nuggets are lacking in. With all that being said — let’s dig in to it!
1.) MarJon Beauchamp
MarJon Beauchamp is a nearly perfect fit with the Nuggets. He provides an athletic wing defender with good size and length. At 6 feet 6 inches tall with a wingspan of over 7 feet, he has the frame you’d look for in a wing defender. Playing for the G-League Ignite this past season, he took a more low-usage role that saw him mainly feature as an off-ball scorer and slasher. He bought into this role happily and spoke about taking a similar role with the Nuggets at his workout on Monday. The biggest question mark with MarJon is his jump shot. He only shot 27.3% from 3 at Ignite. His jumper has some positive indicators to project him as a shooter long term though. He shot 39.8% from the 3 point line at the junior college level when he played for Yakima Valley College and 71.2% from the free throw line at Ignite. At the junior college level, he featured as an on-ball creator and more as a scorer.
With the Nuggets, he would fill more into the role he played at Ignite rather than the scorer he was at Yakima Valley. Slotting him in as the long-term starting shooting guard is possible. If the jumper can become respectable enough for MarJon to produce close outs, he can leverage his on-ball creation to either score or make some dump off and kick out passes. He showed he can do that at Yakima Valley, but where he’d mainly excel is providing a long defender next to Jamal Murray. He could take the opposing teams best player and provide an athletic slasher on the other end of the floor. He is one of the best off-ball movers in the class, and that is exactly the sort of player you want next to Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, and Michael Porter Jr.; a low usage cutter who can help sure up the Nuggets defense. If I was Calvin Booth, I’d be running to the podium if MarJon Beauchamp is still available and taking him quicker than the Disney ruined Star Wars.
2.) Wendell Moore Jr.
Wendell Moore Jr. is by no means the “sexy” pick. He doesn’t project to have as much upside as MarJon Beauchamp, isn’t as athletic as Kendall Brown, and doesn’t have the fans as excited as either Nikola Jovic or David Roddy. He is my second favorite among that group though. He struggled his first two years at Duke after being a highly touted high school player. When I say struggle, I mean struggle. He averaged just 8.6 points per game on 41.7/28.3/82.3 splits in his first two seasons. However, this season he improved in nearly every aspect of the game. He’s solid to good at most things and can fill a variety of needs for whatever team takes him. Early in the season, Duke didn’t have a good ball handler. Jeremy Roach started off very rough, and Paolo Banchero didn’t come along as the passer he is until later in the season. During this stretch of the season, it was Wendell Moore who stepped up as the primary ball handler. He runs the pick and roll well, shot great off of the catch and shoot this past season at a blistering 45.7% clip. He has some self-creation upside, but he is also a great off-ball mover. He’s a better off-ball scorer than he is shot creator, but has the ability to do both.
His defense can be a little hit or miss at times depending on what he’s asked to do. As an off-ball defender he needs a lot of work. He had defensive lapses and wasn’t the most communicative when he was not guarding the ball handler. His close outs were sometimes rough off the ball as well. However, his on-ball defense was good. He has a 7 feet and some change for a wingspan, and is 6 feet 5 inches tall. This with generally being a good on-ball defender with quick hands lead to a decent amount of steals and isolations fizzling out against him. He doesn’t project as good of a defender as MarJon does long term, but is a more well-rounded pick on offense and is also a bit younger.
3.) Dalen Terry
Dalen Terry is someone who I think the Nuggets would look at more at 30 than at 21, but he’s still a good pick for the Nuggets either way. The Arizona sophomore was given All Pac-12 Defensive Team honors this past season. The tape speak to the selection too. Right now Terry has a wiry build, but is athletic enough and has the feel, instincts, and skills necessary to defend the point of attack well against positions 1 through 3. He’s 6 feet 7 inches tall and has a 7 feet 1 inch wingspan. He’s a big guard and has the grit, frame, and want to defend. He has quick hands and gets in passing lanes, turning defense into offense. Transition is where he thrives.
In the open floor, Dalen Terry’s passing is on full display. He has good passing placement, speed, and vision. As is a common theme among the prospects I like for the Nuggets he’s a fantastic off-ball mover and finds holes in the defense with ease. He struggles to create points for himself and doesn’t project to be much of a scorer in the NBA. He needs to improve his shot too, despite shooting 36.4% from 3 at Arizona this past season — it was on low volume and the mechanics of the shot could use some tweaking. He should be a fine shooter to start off though. If the Nuggets want a two way connector Dalen Terry is a name to take a good look at.
1.) Kendall Brown
A name mentioned sometimes among Nuggets fans is former Baylor forward Kendall Brown. He has athleticism and a good frame at 6 feet 8 inches tall with a 6 feet 11 inch wingspan. He’s one of the most explosive leapers in the draft, and also moves well laterally. He is a good passer, and I mean just in general. It’s not flashes with him, he’s a legitimately good passer. He’s among the best off-ball movers in the draft. The problems with him arise when you look at the other areas of his game though. He’s very raw, and the Nuggets don’t have time for a project pick. His shot, despite okay percentages, is a long ways away. The mechanics are not the best and he was hesitant to shoot it from 3.
Defensively, he is good on-ball. He tries hard when guarding the ball handler and is able to keep them in check well. Off the ball, he was a bit of a wreck though. He got beat off the ball a decent amount on back door cuts, and other things like that. He doesn’t have that great of a feel defensively, and while he has a high defensive ceiling, he isn’t all there right now and isn’t someone that fits the Nuggets timeline.
2.) Bryce McGowens
Bryce McGowens has been a name mentioned by a few Nuggets fans and is a low key late riser among people who have been getting into the draft. The numbers and stats don’t look good, but the pitch for him is more contextual. He played for a pretty bad Nebraska team and was relied on to create offense in a very bad offensive context. The floor wasn’t space well for him and you can chock some of his inefficient scoring to that context. At 6 feet 7 inches tall, he has an intriguing frame and has a development path to be a good scorer. However, he’s a project pick. The surrounding areas of his game are all pretty bad and need significant improvement. His passing could use some work, and his defense was atrocious. Just like Kendall Brown, he doesn’t fit the Nuggets timeline and also doesn’t fill the needs he has.
3.) Tyty Washington
Tyty Washington is good enough to not be put into the ugly category. He’s been mocked to Denver by a few outlets, and is someone who early in the cycle was seen as a top 20 sort of player. However, he fell throughout the cycle and has a big draft range. Some people still see him as a pick in the teens, others in the second round. The reason he finds himself here is because he is yet another small guard that is best with the ball in his hands. His best skill at the moment is his pick and roll ball handling. The Nuggets don’t need that and don’t need small guards in general. Tyty Washington will be a fine player in all likelihood, but would not be a target if I’m the Nuggets front office.
1.) Nikola Jovic
Nuggets fans are fiending for Nikola Jovic. The reason? His name. Outside of that he doesn’t have anything that the Nuggets need right now. Now let me say this, in a vacuum I like Nikola Jovic. However, he’s a really bad defender. Therefore, should be off the table for the Nuggets. His feel, mobility, athleticism, and technique on that end are all pretty bad. If Kendall Brown’s off-ball defense makes him a meh pick for the Nuggets, Jovic’s defense would make him a pretty bad misfire. The positive traits of his game are shooting, passing, and ball handling at 6 feet 11 inches. That’s why I like him in a vacuum, but Denver has all of those bases covered. Despite the fanfare, memes don’t always make for the right pick.
2.) Small Guards
The guards in this draft are all kind of small for the most part. Kennedy Chandler has been mocked to Denver at times, he’s too small. Jean Montero, too small. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. The Nuggets, unless Monte Morris is traded on draft night, are loaded at the guard positions and don’t need another small guard. Even if they’re good at defense, there are no switchable small guards in this class. The Nuggets need wings, and this is a wing heavy class. They should be targeting a wing or even two wings. If the Nuggets make both picks and only one is a wing, they should pick a center instead of another guard. Christian Koloko and Ismael Kamagate are both centers that should be good right away and can fill in as backup centers for Denver if they were asked to. Just no small guards!
3.) Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. has not been mocked to the Nuggets, and that should stay the way it is. He is a forward from Milwaukee and played under a rough context. Being a five-star recruit out of high school, he could have played at a lot of different schools — Duke for example. His father was the coach for Milwaukee though and Patrick decided to play for his dad. There was a lot of pressure on him, and he underperformed big time. His elevator pitch was that he is a big shooter. He shot 27.5% on jumpers at Milwaukee. It was a tough context, but he was playing against weaker competition than most and also dealt with injuries. Given the injury risk and the underperformance — say it with me now — he’s a project pick. Denver should not take a flier, and especially one on Patrick Baldwin Jr.