NBA draft preview: Will Nuggets find Nikola Jokic’s backup at center?

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Editor’s note: Last of a five-part bid previewing the Nuggets’ positional outlook heading into Thursday’s 29 NBA draft. Today: center.

The Nuggets person an opening for 1 of the hardest roles successful the NBA. Backing up Nikola Jokic sounds similar a dainty until you recognize what the occupation statement entails.

Mason Plumlee was bushed of his reduced responsibilities, which explained his determination to prime lottery-bound Detroit implicit Denver successful escaped bureau past year. Then the Nuggets tried to plug the spread with Isaiah Hartenstein, whose crippled was miscast successful Houston and past underutilized erstwhile helium got to Denver.

In precocious March, the Nuggets chopped bait with Hartenstein and sent 2 further second-round picks to Cleveland for JaVale McGee. The three-time champion played sparingly to extremity the regular play and past played a expansive full of 34 minutes successful the playoffs. Aside from McGee’s funny usage – helium was apt acquired successful the lawsuit the Nuggets ran into the Lakers successful the postseason – second-round picks person historically yielded golden for Tim Connelly’s staff. The commercialized looks worse successful retrospect, and Hartenstein went connected to play good for Cleveland.

As the Nuggets tally done their last iterations up of Thursday’s NBA draft, does drafting a halfway down the league’s MVP marque immoderate sense?

That depends connected what Denver’s plans are successful escaped agency. McGee, presently astatine the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA, is simply a escaped agent. He was a unfortunate of the overcrowded frontcourt that besides caught veterans JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap. The Nuggets learned that three-headed experimentation didn’t work.

But the aforesaid happening that was existent astatine the commercialized deadline remains existent arsenic the draught and escaped bureau approaches: the Nuggets request rim protection.

Despite however the play ended, McGee is funny successful returning to Denver, according to 2 league sources, but is expected to person aggregate suitors. Nuggets manager Michael Malone raved astir McGee’s locker country beingness passim the playoffs, and has said the squad intends to find much remainder for Jokic adjacent season.

Having a trustworthy and perchance experienced large antheral down Jokic should beryllium a precedence for Denver this offseason.

Though it’s hard to spot Malone entrusting those backup minutes to a rookie, determination volition beryllium galore options if the Nuggets opt for a halfway Thursday night.

Day'Ron Sharpe #11 of the North ...

Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images

Day’Ron Sharpe (11) of the North Carolina Tar Heels drives to the handbasket connected Cordell Pemsl (35) of the Virginia Tech Hokies during the archetypal fractional of their quarterfinals crippled successful the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament astatine Greensboro Coliseum connected March 11, 2021 successful Greensboro, N.C.

1. Day’Ron Sharpe, 6-foot-11, North Carolina, freshman: Few freshmen are arsenic physically equipped to grip the NBA arsenic Sharpe. An imposing center, Sharpe tin inactive get up and down the level connected accelerated breaks. Though his crippled is inactive developing, he’s already proven to beryllium a menace connected the violative glass.

2. Isaiah Jackson, 6-foot-10, Kentucky, freshman: Long, nimble and agile, Jackson has intriguing antiaircraft potential, some adjacent the rim and connected the perimeter. He needs to get stronger – and volition with clip – and needs to amended his somewhat constricted violative game, but could astir apt beryllium an interaction defender successful the NBA adjacent season.

3. Usman Garuba, 6-foot-8, Real Madrid, 19 years old: He’s much guardant than center; if the Nuggets drafted Garuba they’d beryllium signaling comfortability with a small-ball moving forward. But Garuba tin support and power arsenic smoothly arsenic anyone successful the draft. An elite defender with fantastic instincts, Garuba has already won astatine precocious levels successful Spain.

4. Charles Bassey, 6-foot-11, Western Kentucky, junior: A throwback center, Bassey has bully size but is simply a small stiff with his movements. His strength, though, is simply a immense asset, serving him arsenic helium battles down debased for positioning. Probably a second-round prime and presently retired of the Nuggets’ range.

5. Luka Garza, 6-foot-11, Iowa, senior: The third-leading scorer successful the NCAA past play astatine 23.7 points per game, Garza tin post-up, face-up oregon agelong the level from 3, culminating successful 44% extracurricular shooting past season. Is helium diversion capable and tin helium support astatine the adjacent level? The Nuggets aren’t frightened of taking chances connected change-of-pace centers.

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