Now, with the Nuggets officially eliminated from playoff contention, the organization can turn it’s attention to the draft. It seems like every year each draft class is considered “loaded” after a handful of sub-seven minute per game foreigners get unearthed.
One position in this draft that is loaded is point guard. That’s great news for a Nuggets team that has plenty of room to improve at that position.
Their current point guard depth chart stands as Jameer Nelson as the starter, Emmanuel Mudiay as the tentative backup, and Malik Beasley hardly seeing the floor. Jamal Murray is the real second option at point although a natural shooting guard.
It’s hard to get a read on Beasley with his limited minutes this year, but he seems to have a lot of potential. Mudiay and Beasley were first round picks in back-to-back drafts by the Nuggets. As the patience for Mudiay’s growth thins, the opportunity for Beasley should grow. It would make sense that one of those two will be gone next year if they are able to draft a top point guard.
But the question remains, who could their pick be?
Dennis Smith, Jr. from NC State is projected to be the fifth point guard off the board on draft night. This makes him a late-lottery to mid-first round pick, exactly where the Nuggets pick should fall. Smith averaged just over 18 points and six assists in his freshman campaign.
Now depending on how you look at it, Smith tailed off toward the end of his team’s losing season. This could be fortunate for the Nuggets because his questionable desire may have slid him right into their hands.
A guy with questionable desire on a team trying to get over the hump doesn’t sound all that great, but his talent level is hard to pass on late in the lottery. In his defense, he was playing under a coach that had already been fired and for a below .500 team. And speaking of tailing off, that sounds a lot like this Nuggets team.
Between Smith’s slide down on the draft boards and the Nuggets bump up in the lottery, the opportunity to take him seems poised to happen.
What Smith would bring to this team would be scoring and playmaking, while also adding another dimension. It’s great for Nikola Jokic right now to be able to show off his passing skills in the high post with Nelson as his point guard, but without guys cutting and slashing around him their guards can hardly get in the paint. Most of their threes are also taken off of handoffs and screens. These traits result directly from their lack in quality penetration.
Currently, a quick attacking guard like Smith would surely provide more drive and kick 3-pointers for the team. Smith could easily utilize the talents around him similarly to how Jokic did this year.
With “The Joker” creating opportunities for guards and slashers (Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Wilson Chandler) at the same time as Smith getting open looks for shooters (Danilo Gallinari, Jamal Murray, and again Gary Harris), this team could be absolutely lethal.
If available, Dennis Smith, Jr. would definitely be worth taking a chance on. He’s hardly a chance at that, he has all the tools to be a cornerstone player for many years. Every Nugget fan should be rooting for his name to be called after the their team’s pick is in.