Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is a scout at heart.
His sterling draft record (2017 notwithstanding) is a testament to the Nuggets’ dedication to the process. His staff relishes traveling to games, sometimes across far-flung corners of the earth, observing and researching potential NBA prospects. All that work, in this case crunched into less than nine months’ time, culminates in Thursday’s NBA draft where the Nuggets sit with the 26th overall pick.
Dismiss the late first-round selection at your own peril. Last November, the Nuggets snagged promising forward Zeke Nnaji at No. 22, then traded back into the first round two picks later to nab combo guard R.J. Hampton. A season later, Nnaji is likely headed for a substantial jump in minutes, while Hampton was the centerpiece of Denver’s blockbuster Aaron Gordon trade. There is value to be had even as the draft snakes toward the second round.
That is particularly true with this draft. The Nuggets are comfortable with their position at No. 26, a league source told The Denver Post, because of the surplus of talent expected to be there from the late teens until their pick arrives.
A report Tuesday from The Ringer said the Nuggets were interested in trading up from their spot, however a league source indicated Denver has actually fielded interest from teams in the early 20s that were interested in moving down. New York owns the 19th and 21st picks, and a second league source said the Knicks were interested in packaging those picks to move up. Atlanta has No. 20, the Lakers sit at No. 22 and Houston has Nos. 23 and 24.