Grizzlies.gif (6914 bytes) Picking 3rd is the Denver Nuggets and their GM is Thad Williamson.   The Nuggets select with the 3rd pick Michael Olowokandi.

I. Scouting Report

Nowhere to go but up--that's about the best that can be said for the Nuggets, who rode a toxic mixture of wet behind the air rookies and marginal-caliber veterans to the third-worst record in NBA history in '98. The only real accomplishment Denver could claim in '98 was knocking the Wizards out of the playoffs, as it turned out, with a springtime win in D.C. On top of that, the team's most talented veteran, Laphonso Ellis, is a free agent this summer after six up and down years in the mile high city.

Where to begin reconstructing? Plan A would obviously be to land a high profile coach who will not tolerate losing attitudes and can attract quality veteran free agents. Phil Jackson and George Karl could fit that bill, but each would demand a megacontract with guarantees to step into this situation.

In the meantime, the goal is to put together building blocks for the future. Without Ellis in tow for next year, the strongest position on paper appear to be big forward, with Danny Fortson and Tony Battie returning for their second seasons and proven rebounder Eric Williams returning from injury. At point guard, Bobby Jackson remains a credible starter to at least take this team back to mediocrity, especially if he can improve his shot selection. The center position features long-term contract holder Dean Garrett, who would be a nice backup player, and behemoth project Priest Lauderdale, who has one more year to prove he can play in this league. Bryant Stith is a decent player at shooting guard and will be called upon to provide leadership in turning this thing around. Small forward is a complete vacuum,with Johnny Newman as well as Ellis free agents.

Newman had a decent season and might be worth resigning for another year if no better options at 3 become available and Ellis leaves. Of the other free agents, Alexander, Goldwire, and Washington all made a case for them selves as credible reserves at guard. Nonetheless, the inclination here would be to pick and choose between Alexander and Goldwire as the backup PG and let Washington, he of the 40% FG mark, render his services elsewhere. The other two free agents, Harold Ellis and Wolf,  are suited to do no more than fill out the roster, although perhaps Wolf can lend a hand as team babysitter too.

II. Biggest Needs

Hope, credibility, defense, and outside shooting.

III. Who I picked at #3 and why

Michael Olowokandi C from Pacific

Olowokandi--a supremely gifted athlete in a seven footer's body who has a legitimate shot at Mutombo-like accomplishments in the NBA. Olowokandi improved rapidly during his time at Pacific, and should continue to improve as a professional. The big O in the lineup should drastically improve the interior defense--in '98 the Nuggets blocked a paltry 4.8 shots a game, compared to 6.5 for opponents.  The Nuggets had an average point differential of just under a dozen points in '98, meaning that the Nuggets got blown out of the gym on many, many occasions in '97-98. Olowokandi's defenseive presence should help narrow that margin significantly, and give his mates a fighting chance to win. The Nuggets could also field a huge team with Olowokandi at times, with Garrett playing some 4 and a Fortson sliding down to 3. Offensively, the assumption here is that Olowokandi will need some seasoning to mature into a regular inside scorer--any offense above the 14-15 ppg range in the rookie year would be a bonus.

At worst, Olowokandi gives Denver a legitimate NBA starting center, an asset which alone lays the foundation for eventually having a 40 win or better club.

IV. Others Considered

Others I considered: LaFrentz, Jamison, Carter, Nowitzki. LaFrentz is a 4 player, where the Nuggets already have some talent. Jamison is a 3-4 tweener who may not be ready to step in and be a starting small forward, though the attitude he would bring to Denver would be great. Landing Carter, which is very tempting on account of his potential as a Pippen-like defensive stopper capable of battling a Kobe Bryant, would mean eventually getting rid of Stith, one of the team's elder statesman, and not someone the Nuggets would be likely to get a starter quality player for in a trade. Nowitzki is too young to add to a young team.

V. Who I think they will take

If Olokowandi is around, I think Denver has to take him at #3. If not, I'd expect one of the Carolina or Kansas boys--Pierce, Lafrentz, Carter, Jamison--to be the choice. (Given that selection, I'd probably go with Carter and try to sell some tickets.)

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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