The Denver Nuggets may not have had any lottery picks in the 2013 NBA Draft, but they addressed the necessary needs with their two second-round picks and trades.
On what was a night of selections instantly being traded, the Nuggets joined the frenzy by picking Rudy Gobert with their 27th pick and shipped him to the Utah Jazz for the 46th pick and cash. The Nuggets used that pick to land Erick Green, the 2012-13 NCAA Division I leading scorer from Virginia Tech.
Denver then sent starting center Kosta Koufos to the Memphis Grizzlies and received power forward Darrell Arthur along with the 55th pick. That spot was used to select Joffrey Lauvergne, who most recently played for Partizan Belgrade of the Serbia A league.
(Transactions are via Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post)
This was a lot of activity considering Denver only had one pick to begin Thursday night. Interestingly enough, according to general manager Tim Connelly in Nate Timmons' article at Denver Stiffs, the Nuggets almost locked down some other deals.
We were close on a couple of deals that I thought would have really helped us. We were really aggressive this evening ... and you know you're one yard away a couple times. In the course of the chase you can get your heart broken. But when I reflect on the whole evening I feel pretty good.
Clearly Connelly feels that everything didn't go as smoothly as he had hoped and that this team needed some roster changes to get past the first round of the playoffs.
Nevertheless, the Nuggets general manager did make progress and these transactions will benefit Denver going forward.
Trading Down for Erick Green and Cash
It may not sound appealing when you trade back 19 spots and the only benefit you receive is cash, but it worked in this case.
This was a draft that was widely recognized as being on the weaker side with a lot of average talent across the board. The Nuggets already have a deep, young roster and weren't in need of landing a huge impact player. Trading down also prevents Denver from having to pay more money to a first-round pick who may just sit on the bench next season.
One of the biggest priorities for the Nuggets this offseason, which team president Josh Kroenke made clear, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, is to get Andre Iguodala back on the roster. Hoopsworld.com shows that the Nuggets are paying three of their players over $10 million each year through 2015-16 with that annual number increasing each season. Adding Iggy to that formula should make it a fourth player earning that kind of salary and the extra cash from the trade should help that situation.
Moving on to scoring machine Erick Green, Connelly was surprised the Virginia Tech star was still available when the 46th pick arrived, according to Timmons' article.
We had him higher on our board. He's a scorer, he a natural scorer. He brings dynamic attributes in the back-court that's rare to see. We had him much higher.
I was also shocked when Green was still on the board. I thought there was a possible chance of the Nuggets trading down and still being able to pick him, but not as late as 46th.
He needs some work defensively, but this is a guy that can play the 1 or the 2, shoot off the pass or the dribble and has incredible speed that can be effective in both the halfcourt and fastbreak.
The Hokies struggled during Green's college career, but the 6'3" speedster continued to improve his game all four years and posted impressive and well-rounded statistics by his senior year.
The one number that jumps out the most is the 8.3 free-throw attempts per game, which was tied for the most in NCAA Division I last season. As a guard that can run, attack the rim and improve the Nuggets three-point and free-throw percentages, Green has tremendous potential and will be an excellent fit to come off the bench.
Trading Kosta Koufos for Darrell Arthur and the 55th Pick
This move was a direct reflection of what happened against Golden State in the playoffs. Koufos, who started all 81 regular-season games he played in during the 2012-13 season, lost his starting spot midway through the series and averaged a lackluster 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in the postseason.
Andrew Bogut dominated Koufos in the post, but more importantly, Koufos couldn't defend in the pick-and-roll and Stephen Curry made the Nuggets pay for it.
This is where Darrell Arthur comes in. In Hochman's article, Connelly had this to say about Arthur.
"(Arthur's) ability to defend the pick-and-roll, his athleticism, is rare at that position," Connelly said. "And coach (Brian) Shaw and I were impressed with his ability to spread the floor."
There's the other aspect that Koufos, JaVale McGee, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov don't possess. They can only score inside and don't force the frontcourt defense to the perimeter.
Now if the defense refuses to come up, Denver can utilize Arthur's range with Ty Lawson on a pick-and-pop from the elbow.
Arthur's numbers from last season may not be thrilling (6.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 16.4 minutes), but he was playing behind Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and still helped contribute to the No. 1 scoring defense.
At 6'9", he's also not the rim protector that Koufos is. But when you have two freakishly athletic big men like McGee and Faried who are excellent shot-blockers, Koufos' absence won't be as noticeable.
The pros of Arthur arriving outweigh the cons of Koufos leaving and Arthur will compliment McGee and Faried more effectively. Add that Denver received a second-round pick in the deal, this was a solid decision, but nothing outstanding.
No. 55 Pick: Joffrey Lauvergne
This has the feeling of a wild-card pick, but members of the Nuggets are speaking very highly of Joffrey Lauvergne.
In Timmons' article, Connelly said the Nuggets had Lauvergne "much higher" on their draft board and praised the man he's kept tabs on.
Joffrey I've seen play the last five years, he's an intriguing player. He plays for one of the proudest programs in Europe in Partizan Belgrade. He actually left France to go to Belgrade, that kind of speaks to his passion for the game.
According to Aaron J. Lopez on Nuggets.com, Evan Fournier has played on multiple teams with Lauvergne in the past overseas. Fournier had these brief, yet, positive comments about his game.
“Hard worker,” Fournier said Friday. “He’s a beast, man. He’s strong and he’s very athletic. That’s definitely a good pick.”
I'm not as confident as Fournier, but I agree with him when looking at Lauvergne's versatility.
Joffrey is 6'11" and 240 pounds. He has an outside shot, exceptional quickness for a player of that size and is especially dangerous because he can drive from the perimeter and could be a potential matchup nightmare. He also has a great motor crashing the boards offensively and defensively.
I can envision this pick working out and seeing Lauvergne play significant minutes in the rotation in the future.
Having said that, he's not the biggest guy at his position and the power forwards and centers would take advantage of him in the post right now. Lauvergne will also need to put in time becoming more of a dominant and consistent threat offensively. He averaged 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in eight games with Partizan Belgrade according to Lopez, but only 4.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in the Adriatic League, according to Hochman.
Lauvergne has work to do in order to be effective at the NBA level, but he does have great upside. The Nuggets could also have him continue to play overseas and put him on the 15-man roster next year.
Either way, it's a low risk, medium-to-high reward situation.
While we don't know exactly what other deals Connelly almost pulled off Thursday night for Brian Shaw's team, he did get off to a good start with Denver. Connelly only had 10 days from when he was announced as the Nuggets general manager until the night of the draft, and he fulfilled some of Denver's needs.
It would be an overstatement to say what Denver did was fantastic, but the front office was active and didn't just settle for the 27th pick and wait for July.
Solid job by the Nuggets front office. It's free agency time.
Overall Grade: B