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Armed with two second-round picks for the second-straight summer, the Nuggets figure to deploy a similar strategy to what they did last year in the latter stages of the draft. In 2017, the Nuggets selected Vlatko Cancar, a 6-foot-9 Slovenian swingman who spent last season in Europe, 49th overall and Monte Morris, a high-IQ pure point guard who played mostly in the G League last season, two draft slots later with their two second-round selections.
This year, the Nuggets holds the 43rd and 58th overall selections. Here are a few candidates they may look at in Thursday’s second round.
Gary Trent Jr. – Shooting Guard – Age 19.4 – 6-foot-5, 205 pounds – Duke
Current Draft Projections: 42nd (ESPN), 41st (Sports Illustrated), 42nd (The Ringer)
The son of Gary Trent Sr., who spent nine seasons in the NBA, Trent Jr. was overshadowed at Duke last season by not only Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter in the Blue Devils’ frontcourt but also by Grayson Allen. But make no mistake, the sweet-shooting two guard can play. A former McDonald’s All-American and blue-chip recruit, Trent Jr. shot over 40 percent from three, better than 87 percent from the charity stripe and had a number of big-time offensive showings during his freshman season. Trent Jr. will have to play better defense to find his niche at the next level but should be able to find a roster spot somewhere next season.
Shake Milton – Guard – Age 21.7 – 6-foot-6, 205 pounds – SMU
Current Draft Projections: 48th (ESPN), 42nd (Sports Illustrated), 51st (The Ringer)
Long and rangy with a 7-foot 3/4 wingspan — the longest of any point guard at the combine — Milton is a versatile guard who can play either backcourt spot. He’ll be best used in an equal opportunity offense like the Nuggets’, which relies on high-IQ players who can think the game. Milton is calm, cool and collected when operating out of the pick-and-roll and can easily make reads above the defense thanks to his long frame. He projects well a shooter and hit 43 percent of his threes last season. Milton also has a good floater and feel for the game. He should be a mid-second-round target for teams in need of immediate backcourt help.
Rodions Kurucs – Forward – Age 20.3 – 6-foot-9, 190 pounds – Barcelona
Current Draft Projections: 38th (ESPN), 45th (Sports Illustrated), 38th (The Ringer)
Once projected as a mid-first round prospect and fringe lottery selection, Kurucs’ stock faded this season as he struggled to find a consistent role with Barcelona’s top team. After withdrawing from the 2017 draft, Kurucs spent most of the year in Spain’s second division and averaged 10.7 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. Kurucs is an athletic forward who can play the three or the four and has a good-looking jumper. He shot around 33 percent from distance last season and should be able to hit that shot at the next level, but what’s his game beyond that? Kurucs has talent and flashed some potential as a straight-line driver but will also need to show more on defense.
Devonte’ Graham – Point Guard – Age 23.3 – 6-foot-2, 186 pounds – Kansas
Current Draft Projections: 40th (ESPN, Undrafted (Sports Illustrated), 44th (The Ringer)
Graham could follow the same track to the NBA that fellow Kansas point guard Frank Mason did as a second-round pick. The Big 12 Player of the Year and consensus All-American is a heady point guard with the smarts and skill to find a spot in the NBA. He’s an excellent spot-up shooter who hit more than 40 percent of his threes last season and crafty lead ball handler. Graham is also a hard-nosed defender who fights through screens on the perimeter. He doesn’t have a ton of upside, but Graham should be able to step in and provide an NBA team productive minutes from the get-go.
Arnoldas Kulboka – Forward – Age 20.4 – 6-foot-10, 201 pounds, Capo D’Orlando
Current Draft Projections: 59th (ESPN), 58th (Sports Illustrated), 46th (The Ringer)
A likely draft-and-stash, Kulboka is a skilled shooter and smooth ball handler who could develop into an intriguing scorer in due time. The Lithuanian shot 37 percent from three and showed the ability to move fluidly in the halfcourt, navigating screens and finding openings in the defense for Capo D’Orlando in Italy’s top league last season. Kulboka is a finesse player who will struggle to defend interior bigs with his frame, so he’ll need to get stronger. But he screams upside nonetheless.
Isaac Bonga – Guard/Forward, – Age 18.5 – 6-foot-9, 203 pounds – Frankfurt
Current Draft Projections: 50th (ESPN), Undrafted (Sports Illustrated), 60th (The Ringer)
Bonga is not only one of the youngest players in the draft but also one of the most intriguing. He’s still incredibly raw but has the length and upside that could make him a factor in the NBA after another year or two abroad. Bonga is a skilled pick-and-roll player for his age and crafty enough with the ball in his hands to get to the rim with ease. He’s a 90 percent free-throw shooter but didn’t shoot the ball well from distance last season. Bonga needs to add weight to his slender frame. He’s a project and too turnover prone right now to be a factor at the next level, but drafting him late in the second round could pay big dividends down the line.
Kostas Antetokounmpo – Forward – Age 20.5 – 6-foot-10, 197 pounds – Dayton
Current Draft Projections: 58th (ESPN), 54th (Sports Illustrated), Undrafted (The Ringer)
He averaged just 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds last season at Dayton but at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Antetokounmpo’s measurables and last name could get him a look in the second round. Of course, Kostas is the younger brother of Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The middle Antetokounmpo brother, Thanasis, was selected by the Knicks 51st overall in 2014 and spent most of his New York tenure in the G League. The youngest Antetokounmpo brother could follow a similar path. Of course, he has upside as a defender and creator, but don’t expect results for a few years. At the very least, getting an Antetokounmpo in your organization with his older brother’s free agency three summers away isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Kenrich Williams – Forward – Age 23.5 – 6-foot-7, 210 pounds – TCU
Current Draft Projections: 53rd (ESPN), 50th (Sports Illustrated), 37th (The Ringer)
Williams is undersized at 6-foot-7 and his upside will be limited by his age, but he projects as the ultimate glue guy who could do a little bit of everything at the next level. Williams hit just under 40 percent of his threes last season at TCU and is a gifted rebounder who knows how to read angles and attack the glass, which could earn him a place in the league. The forward worked out for the Nuggets and could be in play at 43rd overall.
Anfernee Simons – Guard – Age 19.0 – 6-foot-3, 183 pounds – IMG Academy
Current Draft Projections: 34th (ESPN), 36th (Sports Illustrated), 35th (The Ringer)
Simons is one of the draft’s biggest mysteries. He was a top-10 recruit out of high school but decided to bypass the collegiate ranks last season and play at IMG Academy in Florida. Simons is a combo guard and plus-athlete who’s also a skilled shooter and playmaker. But he still needs to get a lot stronger physically and get more reps under his belt before he’s ready to play in the NBA. Simons will likely spend most of his rookie season in the G League but is an intriguing long-term play. A playoff-caliber team that doesn’t need their first-round pick to contribute immediately next season could take a chance on him in the late-20’s.
Tryggvi Hlinason – Center – Age 20.7 – 7-foot-1, 260 pounds – Valencia
Current Draft Projections: 60th (ESPN), 56th (Sports Illustrated), Undrafted (The Ringer)
Hlinason was in Denver for a pre-draft workout last week, and he’s as massive in person as he was on film. He only started playing organized basketball when he was 16 and grew up on his parent’s sheep farm in Iceland. He averaged 16.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game at the Under-20 European Championships last summer and showed off an impressive amount of mobility for someone his size. Hlinson moved up in competition this past season to Valencia and played sparingly in Europe’s top league. He’s a likely stash candidate.