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Denver Nuggets Big Board 2.0

Kalen Deremo Avatar
June 24, 2015

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As the 2015 NBA Draft inches closer by the minute, so does the Denver Nuggets’ highest draft selection in over a decade. To reiterate what I’ve been stressing for the last two months: The Nuggets cannot mess this up. When you have the opportunity to draft young, potential All-Stars on rookie-level salaries, as an organization you simply cannot botch it.

Given Tim Connelly’s record in the draft last year I think it’s safe to assume the Nuggets have an excellent prospect-evaluation staff and will likely make the best pick given wherever it is they select in the first round. To give you an idea of whom that player might possibly be, Harrison Wind and I have compiled our second and final big board of the year listing our personal favorite top-10 players in the 2015 NBA Draft. (In case you missed it, here’s my first big board of the year.)

As always, feel free to weigh in on our selections with commentary and don’t hesitate to compile your own big board in the comments section below.

Kalen’s Big Board:

1. D’Angelo Russell | 19 years old | 6-5 | 193 pounds | Shooting Guard | Ohio State

Nothing’s changed on this front since my first big board. I still think Russell is the best player in the draft and projects as a cross between Manu Ginobili and James Harden (minus the flopping). If the Nuggets could somehow trade up for Russell, their “retooling” phase would abruptly come to an end before it ever really got started. Russell is the real deal.

2. Karl-Anthony Towns | 19 years old | 7-0 | 248 pounds | Power Forward/Center | Kentucky

I’ve warmed on Towns considerably over the last month. Why? Because I generally trust those who know more about him than I and those people are swooning over this kid. Given his mental makeup and fervor for defense, I trust he’ll make an excellent pro.

3. Jahlil Okafor | 19 years old | 6-11 | 272 pounds | Center | Duke

Though his defensive focus is worrisome I also think it’s overblown. Okafor has plenty of time to improve on defense in the NBA — and he undoubtedly will. His offensive IQ, however, is almost unfathomable for a teenager. I wouldn’t be surprised if Okafor wins Rookie of the Year in 2015-16 and ends up being the best player in this draft when it’s all said and done.

4. Justise Winslow | 19 years old | 6-7 | 222 pounds | Shooting Guard/Small Forward | Duke

Winslow, aka “My Guy,” is the one player throughout the entire draft process who I’ve always loved and always thought could possibly drop to the Nuggets on draft night. That appears still to be the case. Given everything I’ve read, it sounds like the Nuggets are equally as hot for Winslow as I am. If he’s still on the board at seven, look for the Nuggets to take him.

5. Emmanuel Mudiay | 19 years old | 6-5 | 200 pounds | Point Guard | International

Mudiay seems like a perfect fit for the Sacramento Kings, who have been in desperate need of a franchise point guard for years, yet given the tumultuous nature of their organization and rumors Vlade Divac is on the prowl for an international talent, Mudiay could end up slipping to the Nuggets at seven. He’d be excellent value pick at that point and hard to pass up on — even if Lawson has yet to be traded.

6. Willie Cauley-Stein | 21 years old | 7-1 | 242 pounds | Center | Kentucky

Some might be surprised to see Cauley-Stein ahead of guys like Hezonja and Porzingis, and justifiably so given his offensive dearth. But I have faith Cauley-Stein will continue to develop his scoring instincts, just as most big men do throughout their careers. Meanwhile, it’s his defensive tenacity that will carry him to potential greatness. You simply cannot put a price on 7-1 freak athletes who can defend all five positions on the floor.

7. Stanley Johnson | 19 years old | 6-7 | 242 pounds | Small Forward | Arizona

As I’ve said before, I think Johnson has been criminally underrated throughout the draft process. He played his entire freshman season prior to turning 19 and still has the body of a seasoned NBA vet. I’m not sure he quite has the ceiling of other top prospects in this draft, but similar to Justise Winslow I also think his floor is incredibly high to begin with.

8. Mario Hezonja | 20 years old | 6-8 | 200 pounds | Shooting Guard/Small Forward | International

Though Hezonja looks to be the best shooter in the draft and has elite athleticism to pair, I can’t get over his maturity level and questionable defense. I’ll detail this more in my final draft article before June 25, but essentially I think people are confusing narcissistic confidence in a 20-year-old as a harbinger for future success. This of course couldn’t be further from the truth.

9. Myles Turner | 19 years old | 7-0| 239 pounds | Center | Texas

Turner could very well end up being the forgotten man in predraft analysis who ends up fetching a max contract after his rookie deal expires. Though his gait and shot selection are a bit concerning, doctors claim he’ll be fine in the NBA and really, what freshman doesn’t take bad shots? Fact is, there’s nothing Porzingis does (aside from long-range shooting — which Turner is still pretty good at) that Turner couldn’t do better after a few years of training in the NBA.

10. Kristaps Porzingis | 19 years old | 7-0 | 230 pounds | Power Forward | International

Similar to the positioning of Towns on this list, Porzingis appears where he does because I trust the NBA Draft scouting community is a lot smarter than I. Still, I admit being extremely skeptical of the hype surrounding Porzingis as I just don’t feel you can carve out a career in the NBA as a wire-thin 7-footer who’s best attribute is 3-point shooting. Then again, there is that Dirk guy…

Harrison’s Big Board:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns

Minnesota will grab the best player in the draft and a perfect piece to pair with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Towns can play either the four or five and has no real deficiencies on either end of the court.

2. D’Angelo Russell

The Ohio State product has tremendous vision and awareness and is the best passer in the draft. Russell can play either the one or the two and can burn your from three or take it to the rack.

3. Emmanuel Mudiay

Mudiay is a power point guard who is a tremendous athlete. He can get into the paint and to the hoop with ease and is a tenacious defender. He’s shot the ball extremely well in workouts, quieting the pundits who labeled him a “one-dimensional” player.

4. Jahlil Okafor

Okafor should be able to impact the game from Day 1 with his arsenal of post moves that are well beyond his years. But question marks arise on the defensive end where he often looked disinterested and lazy defending the paint.

5. Justise Winslow

I like to describe Winslow as a shark on defense. He’s someone who will hunt you down in the half court, steal the ball and go 90 feet to the other end of the floor for a finish. Like Mudiay, he’s a power athlete who’s more comfortable going to the rim and getting shots in the paint than shooting from the perimeter.

6. Mario Hezonja

“Super Mario,” who currently plays for FC Barcelona in Spain, is arguably the draft’s best shooter and possesses a rare combination of elite athleticism and supreme footwork. Hezonja played at the highest level in Europe for the last couple years and has experience running complex sets and playing against older and more seasoned competition than he would have seen in college.

7. Devin Booker | 18 years old | 6-6 | 206 pounds | Shooting Guard | Kentucky

There were countless reasons why Golden State just won an NBA title, but shooting, high IQ players and defense all played a part in their success. Booker embodies all three of those qualities. He’s a knockdown jump shooter, he has tremendous IQ for an 18 year old, excellent court awareness, impressive footwork and a body that can go toe to toe with any two-guard he might find himself matched against.

8. Stanley Johnson

A tenacious defender in the mold of Metta World Peace and a supreme athlete likened to Kawhi Leonard, Johnson has the skill set to develop into an elite two-way wing player. The low release on his shot worries a lot of scouts, but if he finds himself in a good situation and works at it the potential is there for Johnson to become a stud.

9. Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis is a long, lean, skilled seven footer with a sweet stroke that stretches beyond the three-point line. Currently he’s as thin as a rail, which continues to be his biggest question mark. How will he adjust to the physicality of the NBA? That is the question.

10. Willie Cauley-Stein

Cauley-Stein fits the mold as a modern NBA center: a rim protector and athlete with minimal offensive game. He can guard four, maybe five positions, has tremendously quick feet, the ability to hedge hard and even switch on pick and rolls. He is 21 and will be 22 before next season begins, but the immediate impact he can make on the defensive end will be invaluable to the team that drafts him.

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