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5 Prospects Denver Should Take In NBA Draft

Leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft, we are going to preview each team in the lottery for their needs. Taking a look at the teams individual strengths, weaknesses, roster, and what prospects would fit in with the current and future plans.

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From 57 wins and a trip to the NBA Playoffs as the fourth-best team overall in the entire league to 36 wins and a trip to the NBA Draft Lottery for the Denver Nuggets. This past season was a major disappointment under first year head coach Brian Shaw, but the team is in a position to add another young piece to the puzzle building for the future. With the No. 12 (or No. 11) overall pick in this year’s draft.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

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ONE: 2014-2015 Potential Roster Review
Missing Danilo Gallinari was a major blow to the offense as he can stretch the floor, make plays, and provide versatility to the offense. He played 32 minutes a night, adding in 16 points, five rebounds, and two made threes a night on average for a lethal offense in 2012-2013. Adding him back next year after missing the entire 2013-2014 season is a major boost to the roster that is lead by Ty Lawson, J.J. Hickson, Kenneth Faried, and the emerging Evan Fournier. Also, the Nuggets get to add in Wilson Chandler, who missed some time as well.

The roster is put together with complementary pieces that work well together, but as individual parts are lacking. They could use a “star” player, but also proved they work well with a few fringe stars and complementary young pieces. This could easily be one of the most improved teams in the league next year with Gallo, Chandler, and a quality offseason starting with the draft.

TWO: Biggest Strengths
Youth, athleticism in the front court, and overall rebounding as a team are what the Nuggets can hang their hats on. As a team they have Ty Lawson (26 years old), Kenneth Faried (24), JaVale McGee (26), and Evan Fournier (23) as young and experienced building blocks. Athletically, there are very few teams that can measure up to what Faried and McGee can bring to the court as a rebounding and shotblocking duo. As a team, the Nuggets had nine different players grab at least three rebounds a night with a “gang rebounding” mentality.

THREE: Biggest Weaknesses
Denver is a very average shooting team, terrible free throw shooting, and a bad defensive team that finished the year with the most fouls as a team in the league. They are undisciplined on the defensive end, despite having good athletic tools to work with. Some of that is a rookie head coach, some more is focus, and most of that has to do with the personnel. This is a team of shooters and transition scorers. In the half-court, they struggle to defend and to create offense against a set defense. Basketball IQ on the defensive end and additional playmaking could resolve those issues in the short-term.

FOUR: Odds In The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery
The Nuggets were a part of two superstar trades in recent years for Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. For the latter they gave the Orlando Magic the right to take either their pick or the New York Knicks pick, whichever is the least favorable. In the current pre-Draft Lottery standings, the Nuggets would keep their pick (No. 11 overall) and the Magic would receive the Knicks pick (No. 12) and the Knicks would have Anthony. Got it? The No. 11 pick has a 0.8 percent chance of winning the lottery while the No. 12 pick has a 0.7 percent chance. The Nuggets will pick from one of those two spots.

Keep reading for the five prospects they should be looking to draft…

FIVE: Recent History of the No. 11/12 Pick(s)
In recent years this has been a nice spot to get a steal in the draft. In fact, two of the better overall players in last year’s draft, including the Rookie of the Year, came from the 11/12 picks in Michael Carter-Williams and Steven Adams. Klay Thompson, J.J. Redick, Thaddeus Young and Gerald Henderson also came from these spots. Someone has to fall and generally they get caught up around here.

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Five Prospects That Make Sense For The Denver Nuggets At No. 11/12 Overall

1. Noah Vonleh: 6-10, 240 pounds – PF, Indiana
Stats: (In 26.5 MPG) 11.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 52.3 percent FG

The best possible prospect that fits the Nuggets needs that might be available this low is Vonleh, but teams see the upside in the near 7-footer that is just scratching the surface of his potential as an offensive player. Already shows signs as a high-level rebounder and defender for the next level.

2. Marcus Smart: 6-4, 220 pounds – C, Oklahoma State
Stats: (In 32.7 MPG) 18.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 29.9 percent 3PT

Lawson wouldn’t be opposed to some help with the ball and Smart can play both guard spots on both ends of the floor as well as anyone in this class. Good two-way player that is also a good rebounder, defender and playmaker. Check, check and check.

3. Gary Harris: 6-4, 210 pounds – G, Michigan State
Stats: (In 32.3 MPG) 16.7 PPG, 2.7 APG, 42.9 percent FG

Has some combo guard to his game and could play with Lawson in the backcourt or relieve him to run some point. Another two-way player that is also a good playmaker.

4. Tyler Ennis: 6-2, 180 pounds – PG, Syracuse
Stats: (In 35.7 MPG) 12.9 PPG, 5.5 APG, 35.3 percent 3PT

More of a pure point guard that might not be able to play a lot with Lawson effectively, but Ennis could be a dynamic reserve and contingency plan for the Nuggets at the one.

5. Dario Saric: 6-10, 223 pounds – F, Croatia
Stats: (In 46 Games) 15.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 33.6 percent 3PT

A lot of what Saric can do is similar to what Chandler or Gallo do right now, but as a long-term prospect he could be one of the best overall players in this class with his ability to handle and make plays.

Playmaking and sound, fundamental defense have to be the targets here with this pick. It is very unlikely that one of the best players in the draft fall down this far–even if it happened last year, it is rare in general. Adding a role player, however, is very realistic and this is a good short list to work off of.

Which player should Denver take?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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