Editor’s note: The 4th of a five-part bid previewing the Nuggets’ positional outlook heading into the July 29 NBA draft. Today: powerfulness forward.
Second-round playoff exit oregon not, the Nuggets learned an invaluable acquisition past season: Michael Porter Jr. is simply a lethal scorer and a worthy portion of the franchise’s foundation.
Amid his torrent of 3-pointers past play (170, 25th wide successful the league), it was casual to hide that extracurricular of a fewer tantalizing games successful the Bubble successful 2020, Porter hadn’t yet enactment it together. And that was to accidental thing of his defense, which needs work.
But adjacent successful a truncated season, with small clip to retrieve betwixt games and adjacent little clip to practice, Porter made seismic strides. His second-half numbers, including much than a period of carrying the reigns arsenic Denver’s No. 2 scoring option, mightiness person warranted All-Star consideration. Over the last 35 games, helium averaged 22.3 points connected 46% 3-point shooting and 7.5 rebounds per game.
If immoderate presumption connected the Nuggets’ extent illustration is successful bully hands heading into Thursday’s NBA draft, it’s powerfulness forward.
Porter’s emergence, Aaron Gordon’s accomplishment and the slew of seasoned large men (Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green and JaVale McGee) each blocked the maturation of promising rookie Zeke Nnaji. But with each 3 reserves perchance facing escaped bureau this offseason, Nnaji has a way to playing clip adjacent season. Even successful spot minutes, his seamless 3-point changeable stood out. To Nuggets officials, including manager Michael Malone, it was his quality to support successful isolation that had them giddy.
Though the minutes weren’t determination for him past season, Nnaji appeared the uncommon rookie mature capable for a bigger role. His capableness to support perimeter players oregon bruising large men volition springiness Denver’s 2nd portion meaningful flexibility.
If Green returns, that would lone further assistance their extent astatine forward. But here’s the script wherever different guardant could travel into play. If the Nuggets consciousness assured successful their quality to re-sign Will Barton, the spread astatine shooting defender becomes little glaring. P.J. Dozier’s steadfast instrumentality adjacent play besides provides immoderate backcourt insurance. In that case, the Nuggets could warrant adding frontcourt depth, particularly considering that Gordon is entering a declaration year.
If they spell big, present are their champion options.
1. Kai Jones, 6-foot-10, Texas, sophomore: Rim-running, diversion large antheral who profiles arsenic a plus-defender successful the NBA. Jones has shown hints of a face-up game, but his discourtesy would instrumentality years to develop. He’ll request to get stronger, but the model of an intriguing, change-of-pace NBA subordinate is undeniable.
2. JT Thor, 6-foot-10, Auburn, freshman: Athletic, switchable defender with fantabulous size and anticipation. He changeable nether 30% from 3-point scope past season, but his changeable is creaseless and could construe to the adjacent level. He’s earthy but has sleeper imaginable and mightiness beryllium determination for the Nuggets astatine No. 26.
3. Isaiah Todd, 6-foot-9, G League Ignite, 19 years old: Todd flashed immoderate morganatic stretch-four skill, nailing 36% of his 3-point looks. Another diversion large antheral with violative gifts, Todd needs to get stronger and perpetrate much to the glass. Not arsenic diversion arsenic either Thor oregon Jones.
4. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, 6-foot-9, Villanova, sophomore: A jack-of-all-trades, Robinson-Earl is going to find himself successful the NBA 1 mode oregon another. He’s excessively astute a subordinate with excessively galore bully qualities not to get a chance. He’s not overly athletic, nor does helium person a standout skill, but helium defends, switches and is ever successful the close spot connected some ends of the court.
5. Greg Brown, 6-foot-9, Texas, freshman: Brown’s an elite jock who’s inactive highly raw. His athleticism gives him existent imaginable arsenic a versatile defender. Offensively, his crippled is unrefined – a spot similar a young Jerami Grant. Brown could thrive for a squad that is consenting to hold for his crippled to develop.