It’s that time of year again. Conference champions have been decided, selection Sunday has passed, and March Madness in upon us. Even if you are not a college basketball fan, March Madness is an exciting time of year. It is the time where NBA fans look at most of the next top prospects for the draft. Currently, the Denver Nuggets hold the number 15 overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft. Today, I will give three options of players in the NCAA tournament who I believe Denver could look at with that pick.
Justin Jackson, 6’8″, 22, Junior, SF, North Carolina
Jackson has been a huge reason for UNC being a 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, winning ACC player of the year. He leads the Tar Heels in scoring at 18.2 PPG to go along with 4.6 RPG and 2.7 APG with a 21.4 PER. Jackson is also shooting 44% from the field, 38% from 3, and 74% from the free throw line.
Jackson has always been a capable scorer but this year he took his game to the next level. He was a career 30% 3 point shooter heading into the season and has upped his percentage by 8%. This year he has been much more confident taking his shots off of curl screens and nailing them. Now that he is a much more reliable shooter, he has rounded out his game and increased his career average from 11.5 PPG to 18.1.
Justin Jackson would bring a good spot up shooter to Denver along with a guy who can work the midrange game with pull-up jumpers and floaters. The Nuggets may be at a need for a wing with Danilo Gallinari almost certain to hit the market this offseason. Wilson Chandler and Will Barton will most likely be on the market as well so Jackson would be a good fit for a position that may be a need.
Myles Bridges, 6’7″, 19, Freshman, SF/PF, Michigan State
Unlike Jackson’s Tar Heels, the Spartans have had a rough year at 19-14. Bridges has done his best to give Michigan State a boost each game. He was the number 8 overall recruit in the 2016 class. He is averaging 16.7 PPG, 8.3 RPG, and 2.0 APG. His rebounding is particularly impressive at only 6’7″ with over eight rebounds per game. He is shooting 48% from the field, 39% from 3, and 69% from the free throw line.
Bridges is a freak athlete that would fit in nicely in Denver. He can play small forward as well as power forward in small ball lineups. He is a bit of a streaky shooter but his overall three-point percentage is very good. Bridges is especially good on the fastbreak in transition. He loves to get out running and finish above the rim. Bridges likes to operate from the low post in some situations and he has had success there as well scoring with either hand. Defensively, Bridges has active hands and is also a block machine.
Miles Bridges fits into the Nuggets’ up-tempo style very well. Like Jackson, there could be a need for him by the time the draft comes around. Bridges would add a great rim-runner, a lot of defensive energy, and a good shooter to the Nuggets. I think if he makes his three-point shot a little more consistent, Bridges could be a potential steal for Denver.
John Collins, 6’10”, 19, Sophomore, PF, Wake Forest
The last prospect we will take a look at is the 6’10” power forward from Wake Forest, John Collins. Collins is having a big year leading his Demon Deacons to the NCAA tournament. He is averaging 18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, .5 APG, and PER of 36.0 which leads the ACC. He is shooting 62% from the field and 74% from the free throw line.
Collins might not have three-point range but he is able to step out and hit mid-range shots with consistency. He is an extremely efficient offensive and defensive rebounder as well as an efficient shot blocker. Collins likes to do most of his offensive work out of the low post and has success doing so. The power forward is also very good at moving without the ball which fits exactly what Denver likes to do.
Faried could be on the market this coming offseason leaving a need for depth at the power forward position for Denver. It would be good for Denver to add a PF who can score out of the post but also be used in pick and pop situations in the mid-range. Collins would fit in well with Nikola Jokic with his off-ball movement. What makes him most valuable to Denver would be his shot blocking as the Nuggets could really use a good rim protector.
If interested in watching any of these prospects, Jackson plays Friday, March 17th @ 4 PM EST, Bridges on Friday, March 17th @ 9:20 PM EST, and Collins on Tuesday, March 14th @ 9:10 PM EST. None of these players have definitively declared for the draft but most assume they will. It is still early and Denver has not locked down a playoff spot yet so this could all change very soon. For the time being these are the guys I believe are the best to look at for the upcoming tournament to make Denver take another leap next season.