Roundtable: what to make of the Nuggets draft haul

2022 NBA Draft
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Stiffs writers join together to discuss what the Denver Nuggets did on draft night.

What do you think of the Nuggets selection of Christian Braun at 21st overall?

Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip1717): I honestly love it, I would have loved it more if the selection came with the 30th pick, but I still think Christian Braun is pretty solid value for the Nuggets. Not only can Braun score the ball at a pretty high level — especially from beyond the arc — but he’s also a really solid off-ball offensive player, which fits in perfectly with the Nuggets.

Braun is also really solid at defense and possesses the traits to be a lockdown defender at the next level. Not only is Braun incredibly athletic, but he also has a little nasty to his game and that is something you are always looking to add to your basketball team. Braun is a “dog” who never backs down from the opponent, which is something the Nuggets have desperately been looking to add. I think it’s a really, really solid pick by the Nuggets.

Peter Leensvaart (@petepizza27): I think Braun is a perfect system player for Micheal Malone, he fits the mold of what Malone wants in a rotation player and should compete for minutes immediately. Braun showed good defense and athleticism in his tenure at Kansas and at his 6’7 frame, he is exactly the player Denver needed to add this offseason. He showed off an ability to shoot from the perimeter but it wasn’t something he especially excelled at, only making 1.3 threes a game in his Junior season.

Braun has the potential to be a fantastic role player, his defense and his ability to score from 3 levels makes him a threat to be a rotation player from the get-go. He can improve with his scoring from off-the-dribble and creating for himself but with Nikola Jokić on his team, Braun won’t have to do much of either of those.

Asher Levy (@asherlevynba): Christian Braun was one of the guys I wanted the Nuggets to pick. MarJon Beauchamp and Wendell Moore were players that I thought the Nuggets would take instead, but he provides a lot of what the Nuggets need. He is a good off-ball scorer, and shot well in college. He had some hesitancy to shoot at times, but when he did he was a good shooter.

Defensively he is a sound defender with both technique and athleticism. He’s a very functional athlete, and can throw it down in transition. His rotations and footwork are good as well. He gets into ball handlers well. The negatives with his game include him not being much of a shot creator and his negative wingspan. He’s not someone with a ton of star upside, but projects to be a good role player. He fits what the Nuggets are doing and is a good pick to me.

North Carolina v Kansas
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What are your thoughts on the Nuggets drafting Peyton Watson at 30th overall?

Ewing: This one was a bit of a head scratcher because it feels like the Nuggets needed to add players that could help right away and Watson is not that. Watson is an upside pick and is certainly a project the Nuggets are banking on. After averaging just 12.7 minutes per game last year at UCLA, Watson just wasn’t able to stay on the floor with the Bruins on a consistent basis.

At 6’8’’, 200 pounds, Watson certainly has the body to grow into a solid NBA player and flashed the ability to be a solid defender during his time at UCLA. Watson shot just 32.2 percent from the field and 22.6 percent from three during his time in college, so his offensive game will definitely require some fine tuning. With players like E.J. Liddell, Kendall Brown, and even Andrew Nembhard on the board, it was certainly surprising to see the Nuggets select Watson.

Leensvaart: Watson was a surprise pick for me and as it seems it was for most people. He did not play much in his time at UCLA averaging less than 13 minutes per game. Watson is certainly a project player, but in the limited time we saw him on the court he played impressive defense at times. Watson also scored 19 points in a game on 8-10 shooting and showed offensive flashes at times, but with his 3.3 points per game in his only year at UCLA raises some concerns.

Watson has the frame to be a productive NBA player at 6’8, but I feel that there were players who fit the Nuggets scheme and timeline better available at 30. Watson will likely spend a lot of his rookie year with the Grand Rapids Gold, in a year where Denver is trying to compete for a championship I don’t see why the front office felt so strongly about Watson at 30.

Washington v UCLA
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Levy: Peyton Watson was someone who I didn’t think the Nuggets would even look at. He was outside the top 60 for me. At UCLA, he played in a very rough context for himself. It was a veteran lead team and he didn’t get much playing time. However, when he did play he was incredibly raw. When he decided to not return to school and enter the draft it was rather surprising to me. On offense, there isn’t much he provides. He was a bad shooter, finisher, and had only flashes of passing. His main calling card is his defense. He’s a physical defender who can defend multiple positions. He was a statistically impressive defender, but he still has some things to iron out on that end. I didn’t like this pick much.

Were you surprised the Nuggets traded back in the second round and what are your thoughts on Ismael Kamagte?

Ewing: I was a little surprised they used both first round picks, especially when one of the picks was on a project player. It felt like the Nuggets needed to make a win-now move and acquire an established player from around the league or package their two picks to move up in the draft and target a player they liked. The Nuggets decided to hold onto both Will Barton and Monte Morris, while adding two players that hopefully could contribute next season. It feels like Braun certainly has a chance to do that, Watson is a little more of a question mark though.

Denver then traded back in the second round and picked up Ismael Kamagate, who can hopefully solve their issues at back up center in a few years. Kamagate worked out for the Nuggets a few weeks ago and is someone who is likely to get stashed next season. Time will tell, but it’s certainly interesting the Nuggets decided to add three rookies tonight.

Leensvaart: Yes, I was quite surprised. I was totally under the assumption that one of Monte Morris, Will Barton, pick 21, or pick 30 would not be on the roster after the draft. There’s obviously a reason nothing went down, Denver could’ve not gotten any offers that they really liked or maybe they were just that infatuated with Braun and Watson. I was ready for a win-now move seeing as the Nuggets championship window is open, using pick 30 on a project player was a real head-scratcher. I do like the Christian Braun pick though so tonight is not an all-out loss.

North Carolina v Kansas
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Levy: Yes, I was surprised that the Nuggets made no trades for veterans. I expected there to be a new veteran wing on the roster, and for the Nuggets to bring someone that would be in their projected playoff rotation. However, they ended up taking one player I liked and a project pick that I wasn’t as much of a fan of. It felt more like a financial move to move on from JaMychal Green and a lightly protected future first round pick than it did when the move was first made. I’d consider the fact they didn’t make a trade for a veteran to be disappointing.

When they traded into the second round of the draft to take Ismael Kamagate, it surprised me. However, it’s a good pick in my opinion. They’re stashing him for a year and he’s someone that can come over next season and make an impact. His shot blocking and rim rolling are impressive. He has some shooting upside and short roll passing flashes too. I’d consider him to be a good pick.

It’s obviously tough to give grades right away, but do you think the Nuggets got better tonight with the players they added?

Ewing: Time will tell, but I think the Braun pick will end up being a really solid pick by the Nuggets. I think Braun has a chance to contribute as early as next season and I like the attitude he is going to bring to the Nuggets. Braun is certainly a Michael Malone type of player and his ability to potentially be one of the best defenders on the Nuggets roster right out of the gate could definitely get him on the floor sooner rather than later.

Watson is obviously more of a question mark and time will tell whether or not he was a good use of a first round pick for the Nuggets. Following the limited sample size at UCLA, Watson is a bit of an unknown who could hopefully grow into a contributor for the Nuggets sooner rather than later.

The Kamagate one was another selection that was a little surprising as going into tonight it felt highly unlikely the Nuggets were going to add two rookies to the roster, let alone three. Hopefully Kamagate either takes a roster spot or earns a two-way contract for the Nuggets and can contribute next season and beyond, but I think it’s more likely he will be stashed.

Leensvaart: Yes, the Nuggets got better by the addition of Christian Braun. I don’t think that Peyton Watson will make a significant impact on this year’s roster but he still has promise. Braun is someone who I can envision playing playoff minutes if he fills the role he is asked by Coach Malone. While the Nuggets did get better tonight, I think they could’ve gotten much better. Drafting Marjon Beauchamp was something I (along with many other fans) was really hoping for. I think that Braun would’ve been available at 30 and that Denver could’ve traded pick 21 or used it on someone else. If I had to give Denver a grade I would give them a 3/10, Braun was a good pick but everything else about tonight was not great to say the least.

Levy: I think the mileage will vary. Christian Braun is someone who has potential to be in the playoff rotation in his rookie season, and will make an impact on both ends of the floor. He’s one of the more prepared rookies and is someone to look out for Malone to take a liking too. However, I think the Peyton Watson pick doesn’t make sense for the Nuggets. He will take years to develop into a player ready to contribute to winning. The Nuggets whiffed on that pick I think. I’m disappointed that the Nuggets picked a project over someone who could help contribute now, and even more so that they didn’t trade the pick.

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