We are just a few days removed from the Denver Nuggets winning their first-ever NBA Championship. But head coach Michael Malone made it clear that they aren’t satisfied with just one. The Nuggets are looking to start something bigger than just one run, and that journey toward defending their title in 2024 starts next week with the NBA Draft. Denver does not have a first-round pick this year. But currently holds picks No. 37 and 40 in the second round. The draft proved to be crucial last season for the Nuggets.
Rookie Christian Braun became a key cog in Malone’s rotation. In the playoffs he exploded for 15 points on 7-for-8 shooting off the bench in game three of the Finals. Peyton Watson also gave Denver some valuable minutes during the regular season. Bruce Brown has likely played himself out of Denver’s price range in free agency this summer. He has a versatile skill set, as a screener, cutter, ball handler, and defender. Denver could look to package their two picks to move up into the first round, but if not, here are three players the Nuggets could target to fill Brown’s role and deepen their bench heading into next year.
Andre Jackson, Forward, UConn
Photo Cred: CT Insider
Picking a defending National Champion worked out well for the Nuggets last year with Braun, and they certainly could go that route again with Jackson. The versatile swingman would be a perfect fit in Denver’s offense, next to Nikola Jokic and when the big man must sit. Jackson thrived in Dan Hurley’s motion offense at UConn, showing great feel as a passer and a cutter. When cutting, Jackson has good hands and is an excellent athlete, allowing him to finish at the rim over defenders.
Jackson also loves to rebound and run in transition. That would allow him to fit in seamlessly with the Nuggets bench that loves to push the pace. While he is still developing as a spot-up shooter, he has proven that he can still impact the game offensively, even if defenses are sagging off him. The defensive end is where Jackson really excels.
He consistently guarded the opposing team’s best perimeter player in a league as a versatile scorer and allowed UConn’s weaker defensive guards to hide. Jackson is more than willing to sit in a stance; and stay in front of basically anyone and is engaged off the ball, allowing him to pick off passes and rotate over to block shots on the weak side. He uses his lanky 6’6” frame and 6’10” wingspan to consistently be disruptive no matter where he is on the floor.
Julian Strawther, Guard, Gonzaga
Photo Cred: USA Today
Strawther is a microwave scorer. He developed into an excellent shooter both off the catch and off the bounce. The guard shoot 40% from three last season on 5.3 attempts per game. Gonzaga and head coach Mark Few ran him off screens off the ball while also allowing him to manage the rock in the pick-and-roll. Strawther proved repeatedly that he can score from anywhere in any fashion when he has it going. The junior also scored well from inside the arc, swiftly getting into pull-up jumpers from the mid-range and showing great touch on his floater to avoid shot blockers.
In the NBA, Strawther will likely be an off-ball guard. He’ll thrive on spot-ups and designed opportunities for him to score. On the weak side, he’ll attack scrambling defenses and closeouts with his quickness on drives. Defensively, Strawther isn’t as far along as a prospect like Jackson, but he uses his athleticism and competes hard on the ball. Additionally, Strawther is not afraid of the big moment. He relishes the opportunity to be the guy with the ball in clutch time.
Jordan Miller, Forward, Miami (FL)
Photo Cred: SI
Simply put, Miller projects as a perfect glue guy role player. He’s does all the little things on the basketball court. Miller is a winning player, evidenced by his role in leading underdog Miami to the Elite Eight and the Final Four in the last two seasons. The senior is experienced and has developed into a well-rounded two-way player. Offensively, he is a great cutter and finisher. He’s always in the right spots and shows touch around the rim. He loves to post up smaller guards and uses a plethora of fadeaways and push shots out of the post.
Defensively, Miller is just 6’4”, but his astounding 7’0” wingspan. It allows him to play passing lanes and use his length to bother ball handlers. Despite his wiry frame, he plays with strength and isn’t pushed around by wings. Miller is one of the best pound-for-pound rebounders in this class. He is active on the boards on both ends of the floor. He would be a bonus for the small Denver bench. Denver could go with any of these wings that I mentioned above, or they could look to more of a pure point guard to run the second unit. They could also try to snag a backup center to eat minutes while Jokic is on the bench.
The NBA Draft will be Thursday, June 22 at 8 p.m. EST.