Much like any other team in the league, the Denver Nuggets have found some success in the draft. Denver is not exactly a prime destination for free agents, so the draft serves as a key resource for the Nuggets in terms of bringing in talent to their team.
Denver has done so in more than a few occasions, but we highlight the five best players this team has ever acquired via the draft.
5. Jamal Murray
Seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft
Jamal Murray has been with the Nuggets for just a few years but he has already established himself as the team's star of the future.
Murray did not exactly have the best of starts to his NBA career, with his rookie campaign considered by most as pedestrian. His rise may not have been as rapid as most would have expected from a high lottery pick (especially considering how guys like Pascal Siakam, Malcolm Brogdon, and Domantas Sabonis were all selected below him in the draft), which is why even the most faithful of Denver supporters were unsure if Murray was worth the $170 million five-year extension he signed in 2019.
It wasn't long, however, before Murray proved that he was worth every penny of that deal. His most memorable run came during the first round of the 2020 playoffs, when the 6-foot-4 combo guard dropped two 50-point performances against the Utah Jazz in an epic seven-game series. He averaged 31.6 points in that duel, as he led the Nuggets to a memorable series win against the Jazz.
4. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
Third overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft
In 1990, the Nuggets gambled on 6-foot-1 sophomore from LSU named Chris Jackson (it wasn't until years later that he changed his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf). Similar to Murray, he had a relatively slow start to his career. However, he came to life in his third year with the Nuggets, as his tremendous leap earned him Most Improved Player of the Year honors that season.
Abdul-Rauf helped the Nuggets to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1994 and 1995, which turned out to be their only two postseason trips in the span of 13 long years. Needless to say, Abdul-Rauf's time with Denver cannot exactly be considered as their golden years, but nonetheless, he is still widely regarded as one of the top point guards in franchise history.
Fourth overall pick in the 1991 NBA Draft
Talking about outstanding big men in Nuggets history, there are few greater than the legendary Dikembe Mutombo. The Nuggets struck gold in 1991 when they drafted Mutombo fourth overall.
Mutombo breaks the slow-start mold we've had on our list. As a matter of fact, the 7-foot-2 giant made such an impact in his rookie year that he was named an All-Star in his very first year in the NBA.
This was succeeded by many more successful seasons as the Nuggets' cornerstone big man. During his stint with Denver, Mutombo averaged 12.9 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 3.1 blocks. He led the leagues in rejections for three consecutive years.
Mutombo played five seasons in Denver before he decided to sign as a free agent with the Atlanta Hawks in 1996 (still has to be one of the biggest regrets in franchise history). However, despite his relatively brief stint with the Nuggets, Mutmobo holds the all-time franchise record for blocks (1,486) and is ranked third overall in total rebounds (4,811), behind two other greats in Byron Beck and Dan Issel.
2. Nikola Jokic
41st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft
Imagine scooping up a future MVP candidate in the middle of the second round. That's not a bad deal at all, right? That's exactly what the Nuggets did in 2014 when they plucked an overweight 20-year-old, who very few (if any) envisioned would eventually emerge as one of the best big men in the league.
Slow starts have been a trend on our list, and Nikola Jokic was no different. The Serbian had a mediocre rookie campaign but showed vast improvements as early as his second season. This is a testament to the vision of Denver's scouting team, most especially in the case of Jokic.
It didn't take long before the league took notice of Jokic's talents. His court vision makes him one of the greatest playmaking big men we've ever seen. The 7-foot center is now a three-time All-Star, a one-time All-NBA First Team member, and by season's end, could be the league MVP. Not bad at all for a second round pick.
Third overall in the 2013 NBA Draft
Carmelo Anthony was Denver's unbridled franchise player for many years, and as such, he could argue a case as being a Top 3 player in franchise history. This easily makes him the Nuggets' best draft pick of all time.
The 2013 draft class is one of the most talent-packed ever, with the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, among others, all part of this class with Anthony. Denver had a lot of help from the Detroit Pistons on draft night, as they passed on Melo at the second pick to go for Darko Milicic. The rest, as they say, is history.
With Anthony at the helm, the Nuggets made their first postseason appearance in nearly a decade, and this was in Melo's rookie year. The 6-foot-8 forward led the Nuggets to seven consecutive playoff runs, including that memorable trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2009.
Melo may not have parted ways with the Nuggets in the best of terms in a mid-season trade in 2011, but there is no denying that he is is still an all-time great.
Anthony's 13,970 career points with the Nuggets are third-most in franchise history.