Editor’s note: The third of a five-part series previewing the Nuggets’ positional approach in the July 29 NBA draft. Today: Short ahead.
When the Nuggets signed their all-in, blockbuster deal for Magic forward Aaron Gordon, he did so with positional versatility in mind.
Gordon would not only be interchangeable with forward position Michael Porter Jr., serving as internal ballast for Porter’s 3-point shooting, hoped to cover his defensive warts. After the season, Gordon’s defense on Damien Lillard cooled the Portland Superstars enough to avoid the Blazers, even without two starting guards.
Even though his offense dropped him against the Phoenix, Gordon’s flexibility was key to the fit. Their positional prototype should serve as an example if the Nuggets opt for a smaller forward with the No. 26 pick in the July 29 draft.
Gordon, with one year left on his deal, is expandable. It’s fair to assume that the Nuggets would not have traded RJ Hampton, a future first-round pick, and Gary Harris for the guy they weren’t ready to keep. So any wing would theoretically sit comfortably behind Gordon on the depth chart.
But just because a longer commitment may be coming for Gordon, doesn’t mean the Nuggets should draft a wing — arguably the most coveted position in the league. Consider their recent history. Prior to the trade, his initial was short despite Will Barton being a natural shooting guard. He played a bit out of position because of Harris.
Barton’s impending free agency could make the need for a replacement even more pressing.
And PJ Dossier, whose stock within the organization soared after proving credible in the bubble, is bound to see his minutes rise next season. Nuggets coach Michael Malone has posted him in every position except at center. Switchable, versatile fans are always in demand, regardless of which positions demand the most attention in a draft.
Between the mainstays of rotation, Gordon, Dozier, and Feku Campazzo, Denver lacks consistent 3-point shooting. An audit of the roster reveals that most of the 3-point production will come through the frontcourt (Porter and Nikola Jokic), a fact which will only be enhanced until the return of Jamal Murray.
With that in mind, the 3-and-D wing could be ideal for the Nuggets on draft night.
1. Trey Murphy, 6-foot-7, Virginia, Jr.: While not overly athletic, Murphy straddles the floor, moves well without the ball and has stuck to 43% of his outside looks at 4.8 attempts per game last season. A versatile defender, his frame shows that his defensive instincts will translate well to the next level. Had he been sitting there at number 26 (which may have been a long shot) he would have checked a lot of boxes for nuggets.
2. Jalen Johnson, 6-9, Duke, Freshman: There’s all the physical equipment and even an NBA-ready body. Johnson can handle the ball well for his size and makes plays—two areas of the Nuggets’ greed. He has the defensive ability to convert across the court, but his offense is still in progress. He does not score high amounts and has only played 13 games at Duke. Denver will probably need a draft-night slide to get to him.
3. Ziair Williams, 6-8, Stanford, Freshman: A ball-handling wing with some shot-making and play abilities, Williams has some Jeremy Grant in his game. He’ll need to put the pounds to the next level and his shooting is far from reliable, but it’s not hard to see the structure of a rotation player at Williams. There is a length and anticipation to being a versatile defender.
4. Moses Moody, 6-6, Arkansas, Freshman: Moody’s defensive profile is good, even if he goes as low as three to the next level. He shot from outside about 36% in more than five attempts per game. Not much of an aggressive creator, but that might not have to be with Nikola Jokic. He’s also just a freshman, so he probably won’t contribute immediately next season.
5. Joe Wiskamp, 6-6, Iowa, Jr.: A knockdown shooter, Wiskamp buried 46% of his 3-point attempts last year. He moves well without the ball and the dribble is easy to drive after the defenders are out for competition. He may be better suited as a second-round substitute if the Nuggets maneuver for another pick on draft night.