Wrote this column for Saturday on the Nuggets’ draft situation. This blog goes with that column.
Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly is smart enough not to tip his hand, but I believe he sees Jabari Parker as the can’t-miss star of this draft. That’s a great sign for the new front office’s ability to evaluate talent. He’s right.
There are four top prospects in this draft. I’ve written several times it’s just an OK draft after you get past the elite prospects, and there are four elite prospects: Parker, Embiid, Wiggins, Dante Exum. The Hype Machine drummed up a load of propaganda for the rest of the draft. The Hype Machine tends to do that, mostly in college recruiting, and then when the talent is exposed as flawed at the college level, the hype subsides by the time the NBA draft rolls around.
So it makes sense that if the Nuggets don’t trade into the top four, the smart move is to trade out of the No. 11 spot, get everything you can, and build assets. The other option is to keep the No. 11 and draft Zach LaVine, if he’s still there, and I don’t expect he will be, because the UCLA guard should shine in predraft workouts.
This Nuggets roster is acutely flawed, at least when it’s applied to the kind of basketball Brian Shaw wants to play. It doesn’t dribble, pass or shoot particularly well, and his system is based on the game’s fundamentals. So the Nuggets, if they stick to the Shaw plan, have a long, hard-to-watch road ahead. That’s tough to say, but it’s true.
The question that dogs the Nuggets from year to year: Do you need that Hall of Famer to win a championship?
“I think that’s the most tried-and-true method. It certainly helps,” Connelly told me. “But I don’t think so. There was more parity in these playoffs this year than I’ve seen in a long time. It’s hard to get that top 10, top 15, top 20 guy. I don’t think there’s one way to win in the NBA. But it’s a whole lot easier when you have one of those guys.”
There’s a notion out there, supported by local writers who don’t know the game, that the Pacers are “winning big” with a unique formula. They suggest the Pacers are “winning big” with a roster that lacks a superstar. In reality, the Pacers are winning big because they play in the vulnerable Eastern Conference. In the West, that’s the fifth- or sixth-best team, at best. If you saw them get swept by the 2012-13 Nuggets, you’d agree.
The Nuggets got good when they drafted a superstar. It happened 11 years ago. Remember that?