Denver Nuggets: Grading Each of Their Main Offseason Moves

Denver Nuggets, NBA, Will Barton
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The Denver Nuggets weren’t the most active team this offseason, but they have made some impactful moves. From the NBA Draft, to free agency, to trades, let’s grade each of the moves that Denver has made this offseason.

Grading the Denver Nuggets’ NBA Draft Selections

Denver Nuggets, Michael Porter Jr., NBA
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Drafting Michael Porter Jr.

Most analysts and armchair GMs on Twitter have exalted the Nuggets for stealing Porter Jr. at the 14th pick. A former consensus top three prospect, Porter nearly fell out of the lottery on draft night due to injury concerns. We do not know the extent of his injuries, but it must be pretty severe if it caused a player with Porter’s talent to slip so far. During his games at the end of the NCAA season with Missouri, he did not look like the same player we’d come to love in high school. Most of his explosiveness had been zapped, and his defense was poor.

Porter is undeniably talented. The 6’10” forward is a multi-faceted scorer who knows how to get buckets. He shoots the long ball well, is a gifted athlete, and has a good handle for a guy his size. However, there are questions about his ability to defend wings at the next level. The Nuggets are betting on Porter eventually regaining full health, but I’m doubtful that will happen any time soon, especially given he couldn’t get out of bed and had to cancel a pre-draft workout.

The Nuggets had a few players on the board who were lottery level talents, those being Lonnie Walker IV and Zhaire Smith. Both would have helped bolster Denver’s incredibly thin guard and wing rotation. Instead, the Nuggets added onto their logjam at the forward position, especially considering Porter may not be quick enough to play the three early in his career. If Porter can return to full health, this pick will be a monumental steal. However, they neglected other needs and talent to do so. Banking on Porter to fully recover from multiple serious lower body injuries is the riskiest play the Nuggets could have made.

Grade: B

Drafting Jarred Vanderbilt

The Nuggets’ defensive woes have been well documented. In drafting Vanderbilt in the second round, the Nuggets found a gem that may be able to make a significant defensive impact in the future. Many saw Vanderbilt as a lottery pick before the season, but multiple debilitating injuries saw his draft stock plummet. His inability to shoot the three and overall limitations on the offensive side caused his stock to fall as well.

However, the 6’8″ forward is a long, wiry defender. He is a tenacious rebounder and a versatile, physical defender. Adding more versatile defenders will be essential for Denver’s success deep in the postseason. Somebody who does all of the dirty work and rebounds well will be invaluable for the Nuggets. Putting him and Millsap next to Nikola Jokic could significantly improve Denver’s defensive effectiveness next season.

Grade: A-

Drafting Thomas Welsh

Welsh is a floor-spacing big with a solid inside post game. However, he is not mobile at all, plays poor defense, and doesn’t rebound well. His floor spacing ability at seven feet gives him value in the modern NBA, but his lack of defense and athleticism could hurt his chances of finding meaningful minutes on the Nuggets, especially given their defensive struggles.

Grade: C