A team stuck in mediocrity: this is what the Denver Nuggets have been ever since Carmelo Anthony was traded to New York. A team that is not good enough to make a mark in the playoffs, but not bad enough to obtain a top five pick.
With the seventh pick in the 2015 NBA draft this will be the highest draft pick for the Nuggets since 2003 when Anthony was chosen 3rd overall. There are many directions Denver can go with the pick but it is widely believed that the first five off the board will be Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Kristaps Porzingis. Though if somehow any of these players slipped past number six, the Nuggets should absolutely draft them. However, that scenario is highly unlikely, and so the Nuggets need to examine the other options they might have with this pick.
While trading the pick is always an option, there projects to be several talented players available and the Nuggets, who already have a solid core of teammates and a new head coach, could use any type of young talent they can find. In order to determine whom the Nuggets should consider at this position, it is important to understand the needs of the team.
Looking at the Nuggets roster from last year, there was a lot of movement as major pieces Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo, and JaVale McGee were all traded allowing players like Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Jusuf Nurkic and Kenneth Faried to take on bigger roles. All of these players are expected to return and form the core of the Nuggets roster entering the 2015-2016 season. If the Nuggets are looking for a player that can start right away (which they should be), they need to look for a SF or SG.
According to NBA.com’s rankings of players entering the draft, the viable options for the Nuggets are Sam Dekker, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Mario Hezonja, Justise Winslow and Devin Booker.
One way to examine who was the most effective college player (or international for Hezonja) each players effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and free throw rate (more commonly known as the four factors) were determined. The results are as follows.
It is important to note that age is also included in order to determine if a player is closer to reaching their potential as an NBA player.
Examining the Nuggets specific needs, shooting and defense appear to be the two biggest holes as they shot just 32.5% from the 3-point line (28th in the league) and gave up 105.5 points per 100 possessions (26th in the league). This puts extra emphasis on the eFG% and OR% as these two categories pertain to these two weaknesses. While eFG% has a direct correlation to 3P% (especially for wings), the OR% correlates to defensive rating as it gives a more accurate representation of how good of a rebounder a certain player is. Effective rebounders allow teams to limit offensive possessions and prevent easy put backs from missed shots, thus taking away one of the highest percentage shots and bettering a team’s defensive rating.
While Sam Dekker seems to be the obvious choice as he has the highest eFG% and one of the top OR%, he is also the oldest of the players and doesn’t possess some of the raw talent that NBA scouts desire. Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both have higher OR% but lower eFG% and Mario Hezonja and Devin Booker have higher eFG% and lower OR%.
This leaves Justise Winslow, who the Nuggets should draft with the number 7 overall pick if he is available. These statistics alone make Winslow a viable option, however he is also known as a defensive stopper; one who could complement the offensively skilled yet defensively challenged Danilo Gallinari. It would be expected that Gallinari would slide to the SG position while Winslow would occupy the SF position taking minutes away from players such as Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye. Using Winslow’s college statistics, this is how the three players stack up when using the four factors.
While both Foye and Chandler did better with TO%, Winslow outperformed both players in the other three categories.
Even further, out of all of these players, Winslow has been touted as the most likely to be a superstar by FiveThirtyEight and as the article explains, jumped to the same level as these other players in only a two month span.
Gaining a potential superstar is something that the Nuggets have desperately needed ever since the trade that shipped Carmelo Anthony off to New York, and Winslow has the potential to be that superstar. While the Nuggets will likely stick with their trend of drafting international players and go after Hezonja, the numbers show that they should use the seventh pick to snag Justise Winslow.
All stats courtesy of nba.com and kenpom.com