As the pre-draft process rolls on, the Nuggets seem poised to get an up close look at some of the NBA drafts top prospects.
The Nuggets kicked off their pre-draft workouts last week when they welcomed the likes of University of Tennessee big man Admiral Schofield, former Stanford standout Reid Travis, and Nevada star Cody Martin for the teams first day of pre-draft workouts. All three will return to school for their senior seasons, and the same can be said for the second round of the Nuggets pre-draft workouts, which consisted of Iowa’s Tyler Cook, Marshall’s Jon Elmore, and Michigan standout Charles Matthews. Those six will all return to school for the 2019 college season, as well as the other three collegiate athletes the Nuggets worked out in Isaiah Reese, Mustapha Heron, and Shamorie Ponds. Only two players from the Nuggets first round of pre-draft workouts will be eligible for the NBA draft, Daniel Amigo from Denver University, and William McDowell-White out of Australia.
Photo via: ESPN
McDowell-White seems poised to be a second round pick or a guy who may latch onto a teams summer league squad, while Amigo seems primed for a trip overseas to help improve his game even more. With only two of the players the Nuggets brought in during their first two workouts actually being eligible for the draft, it made the next round of prospects brought in even that more interesting. The underclassman deadline to stay in the draft or head back to school has come and gone, and that has given the Nuggets a greater sense of who will be available when the draft comes around June 21st.
With the underclassman deadline past, Monday’s pre-draft workouts were much more intriguing considering every player in attendance will be eligible to be selected in this years draft. The most notable player at Monday’s workout was potential first round pick, Keita Bates-Diop. The former Ohio State Buckeye is coming off a breakout year in which he won Big Ten Player of the Year after averaging 19.5 points per game and leading the Buckeyes to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Bates-Diop also chipped in 8.7 rebounds per game and showed why he was one of the best players in college basketball last season. Bates-Diop 7’3 wingspan allows him to be a force on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor because of the length at which he can play. The 6’8 forward uses his huge wingspan to not only defend on the wing, but defend big men in the post as well. Bates-Diop projects to be a first round pick in this years draft, and could be a guy the Nuggets potentially target with the 14th pick, or later in the first round if the team is able to trade back.
Photo via: Getty Images-Joe Robbins
Bates-Diop visit to the Mile High City on Monday set the tone for a busy week for the Nuggets. On Tuesday the team will welcome another round of prospects to the Pepsi Center, with this group having some top tier talent. Some of the names to watch on Tuesday will be Aaron Holiday (younger bother of Jrue Holiday), International guard Elie Okobo, and Villanova National Champion Jalen Brunson. All three are projected to be selected in the first round or in the top tier of the second round, and are guys the Nuggets could look at in a trade back in the first round or even in the top of the second round. With a potential need at back up point guard, all three could be guys the Nuggets take a look at come draft night.
Brunson was the Big East Player of the Year last season after averaging 18.9 points and and 4.6 assists per game. After winning the 2018 National Championship over Michigan, Brunson forgo his final year of eligibility and entered the NBA draft. After having such a successful college career, Brunson comes into the 2018 draft as one of the drafts top point guards and offensive playmakers.
The Nuggets will continue their trend of working out playmakers on Wednesday when they welcome some of the drafts highest flyers to the UC Health Practice Court for the teams fifth pre-draft workout.
The Nuggets have added Villanova star Jalen Brunson to tomorrow’s workout. The team also announced another round of workouts on Wednesday that will be highlighted by Troy Brown Jr., Zhaire Smith, and Josh Okogie pic.twitter.com/7qIA9v3sFP
— Brandon Ewing (@B_Skip17) June 4, 2018
Zhaire Smith is the most notable name of that list and is one of the drafts highest flyers. Smith is known for having an ability to finish at the rim, just check out what he did during this years NCAA tournament.
Smith is more than just a high flyer though as he also has the ability to shoot the ball and defend almost every position on the court. Smith’s three-point shot is his biggest question mark, but even that wasn’t horrendous during his one season at Texas Tech as he still made 18 of the 40 three-point shots he attempted. After making 45 percent of his shots from behind the arc, Smith showed the ability to be an effective scorer at the NBA level as he also shot an efficient 55.6 percent from the field. Smith’s solid shooting numbers landed him with a 11.3 points per game average to add onto his average of five rebounds per game. After just 37 games at Texas Tech, Smith is one of this years drafts highest risers and could be a guy the Nuggets seriously consider if they stick and pick at 14.
Troy Brown Jr. is another name to look out for as just like Smith, Brown is one of this years draft highest risers. During his one season at the University of Oregon, Brown Jr. started all 35 games he played in averaging 11.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Brown Jr. also shot over 44 perfect from the field, but struggled from behind the three-point line shooting just 29 percent after attempting 110 three-point shots. Even with Brown Jr’s struggles from behind the arc, he still projects to be a solid scorer at the next level as his sweet stroke was on full-display in the All-American game just a couple years ago.
Brown Jr. also shot 74.3 percent from the free-throw line during his one year at Oregon, which could also help us project that he could be a solid scorer at the next level. What Brown Jr. can be on the offensive end of the court doesn’t even come close to the type of player he can be on the defensive end of the floor. The 6’7, 215 pound forward out of Oregon also has the quickness and agility to be a dominant force on the defensive end of the floor and projects to be able to guard positions one through floor. When I watch Brown Jr. play he reminds me a lot of Nuggets forward Torrey Craig. Both players can either struggle or light it up on the offensive end of the court, and we already know what both can do on the defensive end of the court. Brown Jr. is another one of those guys the Nuggets could potentially target at 14, or late in the first round if the team ends up trading back.
To round out Wednesday’s prospects, the Nuggets will be brining in at least three more potential first round picks in Duke’s Gary Trent Jr, Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, and Georgia Tech’s Josh Okogie. All three are potential first round picks, but are guys the Nuggets would most likely target in the second round, or if they traded back in the first round. Matt Farrell of Notre Dame rounds out the prospects scheduled to work out with the Nuggets on Wednesday.
As the workouts continue to roll on and draft hopefuls continue to funnel in out and of Pepsi Center we’ll have you up to date here at Dig In Denver. It’s certainly shaping up to be another exciting offseason here in the Mile High City, and that all starts with the drafts in just over two weeks.