Denver Nuggets: What to do with the 22nd pick in the NBA draft?
The Denver Nuggets picked up Ty Lawson's extension for next year, securing one of the only impact draft picks the team has made since selecting Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Lawson was the eighteenth pick of the 2009 draft and the Nuggets will hope to get similar value with the 22nd pick tomorrow -- although they will likely be drafting a very different type of player.
The Nuggets made moves to secure stability in the back court by extending Lawson and offering qualifying offers to Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler and Gary Forbes. So it stands to reason that the team will look to add size in the draft, especially as it appears unlikely that Kenyon Martin will return; he's an unrestricted free agent and may still harbor ill will towards the team for not offering him an extension last summer.
Nenê, who is set to make $11.6 million next year, can still opt out of his contract, providing extra uncertainty in the middle. He and the team have been negotiating an extension and with the uncertainty of the new collective bargaining greement, under which players will likely make less money, he should be amply motivated to secure a deal under current contract rules.
For a team that has traded its draft picks so frequently in recent years, the Nuggets picked an awful year to actually retain their first round pick. There is no LeBron James or Derrick Rose-type player who is sure to be a star, and drafting at 22, the best the Nuggets can hope for is a solid role player.
Kenneth Faried, who NBA.com's Scott-Howard Cooper has the Nuggets selecting, could be that. As a six-eight power foward from Morehead State, he specialized in rebounding, defense and working his ass off. The main problem with this selection is that the Portland Trailblazers, who select right before the Nuggets, are said to be very fond of Faried.
Tobias Harris, a six-eight power forward from the University of Tennessee, is a good fit for the Nuggets, too, and the choice of ESPN's Chad Ford. A "good at everything, but great at nothing" player, Harris is said to be able to play both small and power forward. He's also only eighteen, so depending on your perspective he's either not ready to contribute or full of upside.
Markieff Morris, a power forward out of Kansas, Nikola Vucevic, a seven-foot center from USC, and Tyler Honeycutt, a guard/forward from UCLA, are other options with size that have been mentioned as Nuggets fits, and they might be available when Denver's picking.
Another scenario to keep in mind come Thursday is a draft-day trade. The Nuggets' decision-makers have said they are open to all scenarios, but maybe the most likely is a trade for back-up point guard Raymond Felton. He is set to make $7.5 million next year and has expressed his desire to be a starter. The Nuggets view Lawson as the future at point guard, so it would be smart to get something for Felton during the season rather than watching him walk away as a free agent (you might remember a similar situation like this involving someone called Melo).
Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings both have interest in Felton. A package that could bring Lamar Odom from the Lakers or Jason Thompson from the Kings would both be exceptional returns on Felton. If Felton is traded, it would shift the team's draft plans entirely and could possibly leave them without a pick in the draft, again.
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