NBA Draft 2011: 10 Prospects the Denver Nuggets Should Consider at No. 22, No. 7

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IJune 22, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: 10 Prospects the Denver Nuggets Should Consider at No. 22, No. 7

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    It's the beginning of summer and, fittingly, the Denver Nuggets have been busy as bees lately.

    Monday Chris Tomasson announced the Nuggets made qualifying offers to Arron Afflalo ($2.9 Million), Wilson Chandler ($3.1 M) and Gary Forbes (minimum).

    The offers were significant because they signify the Nuggets' intentions to move completely to a young team.

    The fact that neither Kenyon Martin nor J.R. Smith were offered deals shouldn't be missed either, as this could be the end of the two veterans' long tenure in Denver. Finally getting K-Mart's long-standing bloated deal off the books will free up a lot of room for the Nuggets to make noise with free agents. Ridding themselves of Smith, a locker room cancer, seems smart with all the youngsters who make up the squad now.

    Of course losing long-time small forward starter Carmelo Anthony left a major void, but Danilo Gallinari and Chandler filled in well, and they even played a more rounded game than 'Melo used to with their energetic defense. But whether or not Chandler wants to back up Gallinari, who head coach George Karl loves because of his size and abilities to shoot and get to the hoop, remains to be seen.

    If Chandler decides to leave Denver, the Nuggets would have to find a back-up small forward.

    If Smith also jets from the Mile High City, the Nuggets would need a back-up two-guard as well (unless they're fully confident Forbes is ready to play more minutes).

    If the aging and oft-injured K-Mart is set free (which seems increasingly likely), the Nuggets could move Nene to the power forward position and start center Timofey Mozgov, a player George Karl is high on.

    But it would also open up another Nuggets' need at back-up power forward.

    While they are burdened by Al Harrington's contract, Denver knows he's not the type of four they need. The Nuggets need a bruiser, a guy who will go after rebounds like his life depends upon it—Harrington is not that guy.

    Other Nuggets-related news is popping up as well; Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports said Tuesday, "The Kings are determined to get a frontline point guard, and have also talked with the Denver Nuggets about Raymond Felton."

    Felton, who was averaging All-Star numbers in New York before the trade, was relegated to the bench as a backup to second-year point guard Ty Lawson.

    Rumors have sprung up that the Kings would trade their No. 7 pick to the Nuggets for Felton and Denver's No. 22 pick, and Karl told Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post that the team was looking to move up in the draft. 

    If the Nuggets pull the trigger on that trade, they would likely take a hard look at many players, including Kawhi Leonard, Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, Jonas Valanciunas and ex-CU Buff Alec Burks.

    If Denver stays at No. 22, there are many players they could take who would also fill needs for the Nuggets.

    Here's a closer look at who they could take.

No. 22: Tobias Harris

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    Tobias Harris is just the type of versatile player the Nuggets need.

    Harris, who was a freshman at Tennessee last year, stands at 6'7" and weighs in at 223 pounds. As a SF/PF hybrid-type player, Harris scored 15.3 points and grabbed 7.3 rebounds per game last season with the Volunteers.

    While he produced well in college, scouts say he needs to work on his offensive game.

    Yes, Harris' turnovers (1.8 per) make him a secure ball-handler, but he still needs to work on shooting, especially in catch-and-shoot situations. Harris shot 46 percent from the field, but only 30.3 from downtown, and the arc moves back in the NBA. Scouts do say he will become a more consistent shooter though since he's not the most athletic player.

    Harris could back up Gallinari, and if he puts on some weight, he could even eventually back up at the four position as well.

No. 22: Jordan Williams

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    Jordan Williams is an absolute beast—the big body the Nuggets want.

    The 6'10", 250-pound Williams averaged a double-double (16.9 PTS, 11.8 REB) as a sophomore with Maryland last year.

    Williams is more of a pick-and-roll big man, but he's also worked on his mid-range game as of late, impressing scouts in a workout around a month ago.

    There's no doubt about it, Williams will have to be a worker at the NBA level, but he seems comfortable in that role, and he loves to bully opponents for position on the boards.

    He's not a freak athlete, so Williams must work extremely hard at the next level to succeed, something he is already geared up for.

No. 22: Tyler Honeycutt

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    Tyler Honeycutt, at 6'8" and 190 pounds, is a lanky small forward.

    As a sophomore with UCLA last year, Honeycutt scored 12.8 points with 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

    What jumps out about Honeycutt right away is his sweet shooter's touch. Whether it be in transition, off screens or curls, Honeycutt is deft at catching the ball and knocking down jumpers from the outside.

    In fact, Draft Express rates him as the fifth-best wing player in the draft because of his shooting, and if Chandler and/or Smith leave, Honeycutt could potentially back up both the SG and SF positions in Denver.

    Another strength for Honeycutt is his high basketball IQ, which is taken down a notch because of his poor decision-making at times.

    Simply, Honeycutt needs to add weight and strength to be truly effective in the NBA; until then, his durability is in question.

No. 22: Chandler Parsons

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    Parsons, who played all four seasons for Florida, has grown into a respectable player.

    The small forward is 6'10" and 220 pounds, quite similar to the size Gallinari already possesses at the small forward spot in Denver, and Karl would love more size at the three.

    Parsons' 11.3 PPG were actually down from his career-high 12.4 in 2009-2010, but he steadily improved his rebounding year to year and was up to 7.8 boards per game last season.

    The biggest upside about Parsons' play is his versatility.

    He is good at catching and shooting from behind the arc, and his shot is smooth, even from the NBA range. Parsons can also get to the hoop off the dribble well for a player his height, and he's good at defending smaller, quicker players. He crashes the glass with ease, using his size to snag boards over others.

    Still, Parsons will have to beef up a bit to fit in at the next level, and he has to continue to work on his outside shooting and shooting under duress from more athletic defenders in the NBA.

No. 22: Chris Singleton

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    Florida State's Chris Singleton is an interesting prospect who could benefit the Nuggets on the defensive end.

    Singleton is one of the finest defenders in this year's draft class, averaging 1.5 blocks and 4.8 defensive rebounds per game last season as a junior with the Seminoles.

    Still, at 6'9", Singleton's offensive output leaves a lot to be desired, especially when he's around the hoop.

    Singleton seemed more comfortable throwing up spinning hook shots rather than attacking the basket for layups and dunks. Many times Singleton did drive to the hoop, he missed lay-ins against taller defenders, awkwardly tossing up ugly shots.

    But it shouldn't be missed that he's a talented player in the low block, and he can actually shoot with some skill as well. And on the defensive end, Singleton is smart and doesn't let bigger opponents push him around. He is a bully, a tough-nosed defender Denver needs, especially if Kenyon Martin is not re-signed.

No. 22: Kenneth Faried

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    Undoubtedly, if Kenneth Faried falls to the Denver Nuggets at No. 22, they must not miss him.

    Faried is just what the Nuggets need.

    At 6'8" and 225 pounds, Faried is slightly undersized to play the power forward position, but you would never know it by the way he works on the hardwood.

    He is a relentless rebounder, setting a new NCAA record—and surpassing Tim Duncan—for career rebounds this season. At 14.5 rebounds per game, Faried led the nation in the category, and his skills would be much appreciated in Denver.

    The Nuggets have been pathetic at rebounding the ball for years; the starting frontcourt of Martin and Nene only averages around 15 boards per contest. Adding Faried as a rebounding specialist would immediately improve Denver's all-around game, and his effort on the court could be infectious.

    Faried scored on 70 percent of put-backs too—second of all the players in this year's draft class—and scoring on rebounds is an asset in the NBA.

    But beyond rebounding, Faried can also score, as he put up 17.2 PPG last year with Morehead State. He's aggressive and knows how to finish at the rim, something he'll look to do at the next level as well.

    Still, many are projecting he will be selected in the upper teens, meaning he may be gone by the time Denver selects at No. 22.

No. 7: Bismack Biyombo

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    Bismack Biyombo, the 6'9", 245-pound center/forward, comes from the Congo and is a somewhat raw prospect.

    He is considered the second-best big in this draft class in some people's eyes, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have many weaknesses.

    Biyombo has huge hands, but he is susceptible to turning over the ball in traffic. And despite his big size, the center/forward misses far too many shots at the basket.

    But Biyombo understands how to utilize the pick-and-roll to his advantage and knows how to finish off rolling and cutting to the rim. And on defense, some believe he will play at an elite level one day in the NBA.

No. 7: Tristan Thompson

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    Like Biyombo, Tristan Thompson is a raw player on the offensive end.

    That being said, the 6'9" power forward is extremely explosive when it comes to and-one situations, taking the ball to the hoop with aggression and getting to the free-throw line a quarter of the time he drives.

    And while he's good at getting to the line (an asset that will come into play much in the NBA), Thompson still lacks touch on his jumper and needs to work on his lacking low-post game.

    Thompson moves well without the basketball, crashes the offensive glass with the best of the players available and his athletic abilities allow him to play active, energetic defense. The stat that stands out the most is his amazing 2.4 blocks per game, and his 7'1" wingspan helps him affect opponents' shots.

    Still, there's no doubt Thompson has a lot of work to do, especially considering how high many teams think he will go.

No. 7: Kawhi Leonard

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    Kawhi Leonard is an athletic and skilled power forward who dominated the Mountain West Conference last year.

    Leonard led the MWC champion San Diego State Aztecs, scoring 15.5 points and snagging 10.6 rebounds per contest last season.

    He was extremely aggressive around the basket, many times taking the ball in on less athletic defenders to finish with authority. Leonard has a solid low-post game, knows how to utilize up-and-under moves to get defenders in the air and can toss shots off the glass with ease.

    On defense, Leonard uses a high-energy style to out-work opponents, and he knows how to put himself in position to block out for rebounds and put-backs.

    Despite his size (6'7", 230 pounds), his arms are very long, and his wingspan (7'3") gives him the length to defend bigger power forwards in the NBA.

No. 7: Alec Burks

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    Remember when the Denver Nuggets selected a young, promising guard out of the University of Colorado?

    While Alec Burks may not be Chauncey Billups, Burks is definitely a dynamic and athletic player.

    The 6'6" sophomore from Boulder possesses the ability to put the ball on the floor and penetrate the lane, and he's been working on improving his shot with his feet set.

    Burks is considered the second-best wing player in the draft, and his ability to catch-and-shoot or pull up from downtown is an asset that will work for him in the NBA. If Smith leaves the Nuggets, Burks could step in to shoot three's off the bench, and his ability to stay balanced improves his accuracy and touch.

    Burks is great at playing off the dribble, and even when he doesn't take the ball in to score, he knows how to find teammates when defenders collapse to stop him.

    He averaged 20.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game last year for CU, and his all-around game is much better than many in this class. Burks looks to be a player who will only grow in the NBA, and his size and athleticism will help him in that regard as long as he continues working on improving year to year.


    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets and NBA Featured Columnist for, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for, a weekly contributor to, a contributor to writing on the Denver Broncos and a contributor to Blake Street Bulletin, part of ESPN's SweetSpot Blog Network.

    Please follow Rich Kurtzman on Facebook and/or twitter.


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