In 2019, Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors shocked the world by winning a championship over the Warriors without a single lottery pick on their roster. On their 15 man roster, they only had five first-round picks and the highest of these was Kawhi Leonard who was drafted by the Spurs with the 15th pick in the draft. The rest were late first-round picks that Raptors either traded for or stole in the draft. Five more of these players were second-round picks led by Marc Gasol and Danny Green who were crucial starters in their championship run. Adding to this two more players went undrafted. Usually, these players don’t have a big role on a team, but Fred Van Vleet had different plans. He emerged as a crucial piece to their team and without him, they might have not been champions. This is a testament to the raptors player development alongside the players’ hard work that made some of these players what they are now.
Why Am I telling you this? It’s because another team is emerging right under our noses just like the Toronto Raptors. They are capitalizing on other teams’ mistakes and stealing players late in the draft that looks like future stars in the league.
This team is the Denver Nuggets. In the bubble, the Nuggets put themselves on the map. They made back to back 3-1 comebacks and took down the championship favorite Clippers in the process. Jamal Murray showed out, averaging 26.5 points on 50 percent shooting alongside 6.6 assists. Not to mention his multiple 40 and 50 point outbursts against that Jazz and Clippers that brought them back from the 3-1 deficits. Jokic was right there alongside him. He took his game to a superstar level and he is only 25 years old. Both of these young stars couldn’t do it alone. Besides these usual suspects, more players made key contributions such as Jerami Grant with his defense and Michael Porter Jr. with his offense.
This team is full of second-round picks and players that fell in the draft that has made the Nuggets into a possible future dynasty. This team is full of late first-round and second-round picks, but they still look like a future Nba dynasty. With this being said, how did the Nuggets get all these players from the draft? How did all these future stars and possibly superstars fall to them especially since they have only had 2 top 10 draft picks since Carmelo Anthony was on the team?
It all started in 2014, the year that Nikola Jokic was drafted by the Nuggets. They took a chance on the Serbian big man who apparenlty slept through his draft pick. Looking at his draft-day analysis, he was not supposed to be what he is now. They said he lacked foot speed, that he would have poor defense and that his upside is low because of his lack of explosiveness. Little did they know that this slow-footed overweight big man would be in MVP conversations and average 20.2 points 10 rebounds, and 7 assists a game while getting 1.2 steals and.6 blocks per game. Only the Nuggets saw what Jokic could do, but he was not the only player.
Earlier on in that same draft, the Nuggets had the 11th pick. They traded it to move back in the draft with Chicago Bulls. The Bulls took Doug Mcdermott who has not lived up to the hype while the Nugget got Garry Harris and Jusuf Nurkic who are both consistent starters in this league at the moment. Although Nurkic was traded to the Blazers three years ago Gary Harris is still on the roster. He has been a consistent scorer on the roster and a great fourth or fifth option so far while Doug Mcdermott has turned into an NBA journeyman who has already played for 4 NBA teams in his first six seasons in his career. With 2020 hindsight, it is safe to say that the Nuggets won this trade.
2 years later the Nuggets did it again. In 2016 the Nuggets got the last of their haul from the Carmelo Anthony trade which turned into the seventh pick in the draft. That pick turned into Jamal Murray who has been the Nuggets go to second option. He has blossomed into a great player and probably the reason for the Nuggets recent playoff success. He will definitely be an all-star in the near future if not an all nba player. Once again the Nuggets capitalized on another team’s poor decision making, and have found a future star.
During that same off-season, The Nuggets acquired Will Barton from the Blazers for Arron Afflalo, who is not on an NBA roster at the moment. Will Barton, on the other hand, has been a completely different player since he got traded to the Nuggets. He has been a key reason for the Nuggets’ rise in the past three seasons. Fast-forwarding to the 2017 draft, the Nuggets got Monte Morris with the 51st pick in the draft. At first, he was a two-way player bouncing in between the g league and the NBA. Now he is a quality back up to Jamal Murray and a great shooter off the bench. He even starts some games when the Nuggets guards are injured.
Monte Morris is a solid player, but the 2018 draft is what I believe will turn the Nuggets into future NBA champions. Coming into the draft all the hype was on Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young. Everybody was wondering where they would land and debating who was better, but one player was lurking in the shadows. His name is Michael Porter Jr. Coming out of high school, he was the number one prospect. He was supposed to be a one and done player and become the number one pick. People were calling him the next Kevin Durant because of his gameplay and length, but a back injury stopped all of that. This injury caused him to fall to the 14th pick where the Nuggets nabbed him. Due to his injury, he did not play in his first season and was on and off during this current season, but he has erupted since the Nba restarted. When the bubble first started he averaged 25.6 points 7.6 rebounds with 1 block and 1 steal per game, but cooled down later. He did come up big in some 4th quarters which was a key reason for the Nuggets playoff run.
He looks like a future star and I believe that he will be the key reason that the Nugget win a championship in the future. If getting MPJ was not lucky enough, it happened again the very next year. Bol Bol, just like Porter, got injured in college, which completely decimated his draft stock. He was supposed to be a lottery pick but ended up being a second-round pick. He ended up falling to the Heat, who had the 44th pick but was immediately traded to the Nuggets. In the preseason, we saw what Bol Bol could be with time. If both of these players develop, this team could have built a championship roster right under our noses.