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The Nuggets currently do not own any draft capital in the second round. They have the rights to Houston’s 22nd overall pick, but that is all. In recent years, though, Denver has displayed a desire to make second round selections, often more than one. Just last offseason they traded cash and a future second rounder to purchase the 44th pick from the Heat. This, of course, was done in order to end Bol Bol’s draft night slide and make him a Nugget. Beyond Bol, the Nuggets currently have three other members of their active roster that were second round selections by, President of Basketball Operations, Tim Connelly. Monte Morris, Vlatko Cancar, and Nikola Jokic are all second rounders that should give the Nuggets front office confidence in their ability to scout the less hyped-up prospects.
There’s a plethora of foreseeable avenues for Denver to wind up with at least one second round selection. Wether it’s via trade, or another purchased pick, the options are far from limited. Unless there’s a player available at 22 that they love, it may be in their best interest to inquire about what they could receive for the pick.
The Stiffs have already made draft profiles for two of my favorite second round targets in Paul Reed and Robert Woodard II, but there are plenty of others worth mentioning. Here are three individuals that could make sense for Denver in the event that they acquire at least one second round pick.
Grant Riller, SG/PG, College of Charleston
Age: 23 (2/8/1997)
Grant Riller is a combo-guard with a scorers mentality and skillset. In his four seasons at College of Charleston, he became their second highest scorer in program history at 2,474 total points. Riller can put the ball in the basket at all three levels. He is a creative finisher and can make jumpers off-the-dribble. His career 51.9 field-goal percentage is even more impressive when you consider how many difficult shots he attempted. These tough looks weren’t due to Grant having poor shot selection; he was often simply the best option to score for the Cougars.
Riller’s career 2.8/1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio shows he has the potential to be a solid secondary playmaker in the Association. His handle and dribble moves are top-notch and he was able to consistently create space or get by his defender. He isn’t the most explosive athlete, but has enough burst that it isn’t much of a concern. His defense is quietly solid on and off ball, but the jump in talent he’s facing will make it much more difficult going forward.
The glaring question mark with Riller is the relatively low-level of competition he went up against in the Colonial Athletic Association Conference. We’ve seen players such as Weber State alum Damian Lillard show that their game translates regardless of who they’re playing against. Unfortunately, for every success story of a small school player making it big, there’s twice as many NBA busts that were dominating scrubs in college.
NBA Comparison: C.J. McCollum lite
Fit with the Nuggets
Given the Nuggets current roster construction, it’s difficult to envision Riller cracking the rotation. They can, however, let him develop in the G-League while still seeing how he does against more talented opponents than he faced in college. Monte Morris’s current contract expires at the end of the 2021 season and if he isn’t retained, it would be wise to have more options already on the roster. PJ Dozier has impressed in limited minutes, but he is no sure-thing. Denver has adequate backcourt depth already, but the addition of Grant Riller could solidify it from top-to-bottom while also providing a natural bucket-getting ability that neither Dozier or Morris posses.
Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas
Age: 21 (9/17/1999)
Udoka Azubuike greatest asset is his combination of size and athleticism. He plays within himself and uses his physical advantages in the paint to dominate the opposition. I have zero doubt that his rim-protection, physicality and rebounding will translate to the next-level. As a Jayhawk, he anchored one of the best defenses in the NCAA while improving every season. He came into Kansas overweight and out-of-shape, eventually working his way down to 270 pounds his senior year and a chiseled 260 pounds for his most recent weigh-in. If there were any doubts about Azubuike’s athletic ability at his size, he more than silenced them with his jaw-dropping athletic testing scores during the virtual NBA draft combine.
— NBAthlete (@NBAthletedotcom) November 11, 2020
So why is Azubuike not projected to be selected until the second round? Well, the game is becoming more and more perimeter oriented and Udoka dominates the paint. If he is ineffective on the perimeter both offensively and defensively, this significantly limits his impact. Additionally, If he can’t improve upon his horrendous 41.6% career free-throw shooting, he may be “hack-a-shaq’d” off the floor.
NBA Comparison: Hassan Whiteside
Fit with the Nuggets
Denver currently only has one pure center on their roster in Nikola Jokic. The backup center role may go to Bol Bol, but if the Nuggets prefer him at power forward, they will look to add at least one center this offseason. Azubuike could, in theory, fill those limited minutes as a solid rebounder on both ends, rim-protector on defense, and physical-screening lob threat on offense.
If Azubuike is drafted by the Nuggets, I would expect Denver to also sign a veteran big in free agency. This player would, at the very least, compete with Udoka for a rotation spot. After all, a contending team is going to feel a lot better about Azubuike as a depth player that can provide situational, spot-minutes, rather than a full-time backup.
Age: 22 (2/28/1998)
One of the best shooters and playmakers in the entire NCAA over the last three seasons, Cassius Winston has the skillset of a modern NBA point guard. In that span, he nailed 43.8% of his three point attempts while launching a respectable 5.1 of them per game. Those three year averages went along 6.77 assists per game without committing too many turnovers at 2.8 per game. He has a handful of dribble moves in his bag to create space and can even hit step-back threes at a solid rate. As for defense, by no means is Cassius a lock-down defender, but he is very smart on that end. His feel and instincts often put him in the right position to make plays even though his unspectacular size and lateral quickness limit his defensive potential. Winston is certainly not the most athletic or flashiest player, but he continuously finds ways to ball-out in spite of that.
His size, age, and athletic limitations are the driving forces that might cause Winston to be a second round selection. He has reportedly put on 15 pounds since he last weigh-in at 185 with Michigan State, coming into the NBA combine at a reported 200 pounds. That will make it interesting to see if he loses some of his quickness as a result. Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple and simply put; Cassius Winston plays winning basketball. He ran the offense of a perennial top team in the country and should continue to have success at the next level.
NBA Comparison: Patty Mills/Jalen Brunson
Fit with the Nuggets
Cassius Winston is one of the safest bets in the entire draft. Even if he never plays significant minutes, he will be in the NBA for a long time providing depth. This low-ceiling, high-floor trajectory might be exactly what Denver is looking to add to their backcourt. He’d slot into the third-string PG role as someone the Nuggets don’t need to develop to be comfortable playing if injuries demanded it. He even has the potential to be a solid backup point guard as soon as this coming season. Winston just understands the game at a level not many players do and, between his jump shot and playmaking, has enough talent to contribute to NBA teams.