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With the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery in the books, the basketball conscience here at BSNDenver.com is now unequivocally shifting towards the 2015 NBA Draft. The first step in that process can be seen below: a post-Lottery chat between fellow BSN writer Harrison Wind and myself. If you’re wondering what we learned from the Lottery order, whom we like as prospects for the Nuggets at seven and what the Nuggets might try and do with Ty Lawson on draft night, there’s a good chance the answers are available somewhere in our free-flowing conversation below. We’ll of course get into much more detailed analysis of the 2015 NBA Draft in the coming weeks, but for now we invite you to revel in the pre-Draft, post-Lottery appetizer below…
Kalen: Alright man, so first off, what’d you think of the Lottery?
Harrison: Honestly, I had high hopes like I do every time it comes around, and like in years past it was much ado about nothing. I’m pleased the Nuggets at least stayed in the seventh slot — where there will be quality players to be had — and didn’t move down, which really could have been disastrous.
Kalen: I pretty much made peace with the fact the Nuggets were gonna select seventh or eighth a while ago. But I can’t lie, about a minute before the seventh spot came around my heart started beating. You really can’t overestimate how valuable moving into the top three is in any lottery.
So what now? Do you think this is a good draft overall? Can the Nuggets find a star with the seventh pick?
Harrison: That’s spot on. Moving up in the lottery can be a franchise-changing moment like it was for Chicago when they jumped up to get Derrick Rose, Los Angeles when it landed Blake Griffin or Cleveland when it just recently landed Andrew Wiggins. It changed the trajectory of those franchises dramatically.
Yes, I think this is a fairly deep draft with tremendous star power at the top and quality starters and role players to be had as you make your way down the lottery and into the middle of the first round. If Denver stays at seven, they might miss out on some of the guys in the top tier like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns and DeAngelo Russell, but there are still guys like Justice Winslow and Mario Hezonja that might be there who could definitely develop into All-Star type players.
Kalen: To me, this draft stacks up pretty favorably to last year’s for about the first seven or eight picks. And that’s saying a lot considering last year’s draft was pretty much considered one of the best ever. This, of course, is great news for the Nuggets. There are definitely gonna be a few dudes at seven who can really help this team win basketball games. Considering Tim Connelly’s impressive draft last year I have faith he’ll hit on the seventh pick. The real question is, are the Nuggets gonna try and acquire another first rounder by dangling Ty Lawson out there. Got any fantasy Lawson trade scenarios dancing around in your head yet?
Harrison: I feel like all year long in articles, podcasts and rumors we were hearing about a possible trade involving Lawson. We know he was dangled in front of Boston, Indiana and a few other teams, and I even head CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper and Matt Moore float the idea that Lawson could be dealt along with Denver’s first rounder to move up in the lottery. ESPN’s Chad Ford tweeted out after the lottery that with the Knicks dropping out of the top three they might be willing to move their pick for the right price. A trade involving Lawson and the Knick’s fourth pick (although Denver would likely need to give up more — maybe the seventh pick) is attractive, and a package involving Wilson Chandler and that Miami pick at number 10 is something I wouldn’t rule out entirely.
Lawson and Chandler are Denver’s two most attractive trade pieces and if Denver wants to move up or acquire additional trade picks those are the two guys most likely to be brought up in talks.
Kalen: I think Lawson’s outta here on draft night. I just see no way, after everything he’s done in the last year, the Nuggets keep him around — especially given Connelly’s tenacity with picks and the draft last year.
The only thing about the Knicks pick, which people have brought up on Twitter, is that the Nuggets have the rights to New York’s first rounder next year. So if the Nuggets make the Knicks better this upcoming year they’ll likely pay for it in next season’s draft. I’d probably try and avoid that if I were Connelly. I think the Nuggets are best to keep the seventh pick and try and trade Lawson for another Lottery pick even if it’s later. Moving up is ideal, but it’ll take a lot. I just think the Nuggets might be better of ridding themselves of Lawson only rather than the entire team along the way.
Harrison: I like that thinking as well. If Denver keeps their seventh pick and picks up one of those second-tier guys like Hezonja, Stanley Johnson or maybe even Justice Winslow, they could then swap Lawon for mid-first rounder where there is still a lot of talent available. One guy I really like is Devin Booker. The way the league is right now, you absolutely need 3-point shooting if you’re going to survive and make a deep run in the playoffs. Look at the teams remaining: In the regular season Golden State ranked second in 3-pointers made per 100 possessions, Houston ranked first, Cleveland ranked third and Atlanta was fifth. Denver was 15th overall but shot a percentage that was near the bottom of the league. It would be a wise move to grab a shooter like Booker, someone who won’t turn 19 until the start of next year and already has a tremendous basketball IQ and awareness.
Kalen: I agree about shooting. You need it to succeed in the NBA. But the Nuggets are still so far away from contending for a title that their main concern should be obtaining top-tier talent first and foremost. Booker is a good shooter but what else is he? I think like Tim Connelly has stated repeatedly, the Nuggets need a star — or at least guys who are somewhere in that mold.
Speaking of which, outside of Towns, Mudiay, Russell and Okafor (they’re all locks to be gone before seven), give me one player the Nuggets will have a chance to select at seven who you think has the best shot of becoming a stud at the next level. Conversely, who’s one guy who scares the crap out of you?
Harrison: Stanley Johnson is an interesting prospect to me. He didn’t have a great year by many accounts at Arizona, but he’s still looked at as a plus defender who could have a Kawhi Leonard-type trajectory — someone who makes a name for himself with his defense, while his offense gradually comes along. Hezonja’s a guy who could be an absolute stud because of his gifts offensively and athletically, but I’ll be honest, European players still scare the crap out of me given the Nuggets’ history with them. I’ve seen a lot written about his attitude on the court and some of his negative tendencies, and quite frankly, they scare me a bit.
Kalen: Could not agree more on Johnson. He’s been criminally underrated throughout the entire draft process thus far. I feel like he’s one of those guys who doesn’t live up to the unattainable expectations set by the media at the beginning of the year and so we punish him for it, which of course is absolute lunacy. The dude has it all. He’s the type of guy the NBA is structured around these days: versatile, athletic, defensive minded, a lane penetrator, etc. That said, my dream prospect is still Winslow. I’ll get into this more as the draft approaches but to me Winslow is gonna end up being one of the top three players in this entire draft when it’s all said and done.
As for a guy who scares me, I would also agree about Hezonja. The hype for him, especially from Nuggets fans, is borderline nauseating. And the crazy thing is, I have ZERO idea where it came from. Remember last year when nobody knew who Nurkic was and when he was drafted people nearly shut down Twitter with pure outrage? How is it that one year later all of sudden these same people are all over Hezonja? I just don’t get it. Thing is, I do like him as a prospect. I think he’s gonna have a fine career. But I don’t know if I see him as a star. I see him more as a really good role player. But is this is the guy who’s gonna lead your team? Who’s gonna change your culture for the better and lead you to the promise land? I just don’t see it.
Harrison: We’re in the same boat when it comes to Winslow. I’ve currently got him third on my big board behind Towns and Russell and I just can’t see him dropping to seven. As for Hezonja, I have no idea where the hype around Denver came from. It’s almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that if he’s there at seven the Nuggets will take him despite not a single report that there’s any mutual interest between the two parties. When you turn on the film, he looks like a more athletic Kevin Martin. But European players are so still so hard to project.
Kalen: I’ll just say this: I lobbied hard for Faried, Nurkic and Harris and was ecstatic when the Nuggets selected each of them. But if the Nuggets land Winslow, I’ll probably need to be restrained because I might just lose my mind.
OK, last question: What’s your dream scenario on draft night and how does that differ from what you actually think will transpire?
Harrison: You and I both. Winslow’s like a shark scoping out his prey on defense, hunting ball handlers down and straight up harassing them. Plus, he’s further along offensively than Kawhi Leonard or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were in college, which bodes well for his development.
As far as my dream scenario goes, Denver might want to look at acquiring multiple picks in or around the lottery, similar to what they did last year. It’s something I guarantee you Connelly is looking into just based the success he had last year. If the Nuggets could nab Winslow or Johnson, come back in the teens with Devin Booker and grab Delon Wright at the end of the first round, drinks are on me.
Kalen: I’ll remember that! For me, I’m pretty much in the same boat. Winslow is my dream scenario at seven. But honestly, I think there’s no way he slips past the Magic (with a recent history of drafting defensive-minded first rounders) AND the Kings. That’d just be absurd. Also in my dream scenario would be dealing Lawson for a mid-first rounder and taking Cameron Payne as his replacement. That’d be two drafts in a row where Connelly really maximized his assets.
As for reality, if they stay at seven I think Hezonja, Johnson and Cauley-Stein are the targets if Winslow’s off the board. Given the Nuggets have Nurkic at center and Nikola Jokic likely coming over, I think that eliminates Kristaps Porzingis and maybe even Cauley-Stein. I think it’ll be Johnson — and I really hope it is. As for Lawson, even though all signs point to the Nuggets trading him, I still have this weird feeling he’ll be a Nugget heading into next season… Or maybe that’s just my nightmare scenario. Did we talk about that one yet? Maybe next time…