The Nuggets traded for the No. 29 and 32 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft in exchange for the least favorable of their 2024 first-round draft picks and the No. 40 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, according to a Wednesday tweet from ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
“The Denver Nuggets are trading 2024 first-round pick and 2023 40th pick to the Indiana Pacers for No. 29 and 32 on Thursday, sources tell ESPN,” Wojnarowski wrote.
Denver holds the No. 29, 32 and 37 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft. Nine players, including three shooting guards and three power forwards, will be under contract for the Nuggets in the 2023-24 season, according to Spotrac. Denver has six unrestricted free agents, including guard Bruce Brown and forward Jeff Green.
The Nuggets can try to find players who can play right away with their No. 29 pick, or they can try and select a high-potential choice who can develop into a fantastic option for them down the line.
Who are three prospects the Nuggets could look out for with their newly-acquired No. 29 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft?
The Nuggets must find a backup option behind center Nikola Jokic if centers DeAndre Jordan and Thomas Bryant, who are both listed as unrestricted free agents, decide to go to other teams.
Denver rebounded well in the playoffs, taking fifth place among teams that made the postseason with 44.8 rebounds per game.
Nnaji described his game as energetic and physical in an interview with USA Today's The Rookie Wire.
“I would say energetic and very physical,” Nnaji said. “Right now, I’m working on my shot, which I work on every single day after practice. I stay more and shoot more and improve my techniques and I think it is looking quite good right now. Also, I’m working on reading the game. The way the game has changed, most of the centers can pass the ball.
“You can read the game to see where there is a mismatch. You have to read the game to know when you have to have a hand up or know when not to because that might be a steal and a turnover, you know? This is what I’m working on. I personally think, with time, you start getting used to the game and it comes to you.”
Nnaji, a 6-foot-11-inch center for FC Barcelona, will likely need time before he grows into his NBA potential. But, if the Nuggets are patient with Nnaji and select a more established pick at pick No. 32, he can develop into a reliable option as a backup five for the foreseeable future.
The Nuggets will likely need to look for a backup small forward either in free agency or the NBA Draft.
Forward Michael Porter Jr. is the only small forward who could return for the Nuggets next season. Denver can try using its Taxpayer Mid-Level exception to find a decent option in free agency. But it could prove beneficial to pick a player who can contribute immediately in the draft and save their exceptions to address their more glaring needs.
Strawther, a 6-foot-7-inch forward from Gonzaga, has three years and 85 games of collegiate experience under his belt. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 46.9% from the field and 40.8% from the 3-point line during his final year with the Bulldogs. The former four-star recruit highlighted how playing alongside a talented Gonzaga roster prepared him for the NBA in a one-on-one interview with the Indiana Pacers earlier this month.
“It's huge,” Strawther said, via The Pacers. “Just understanding your role. Understanding when guys have it going, being able to get them the ball. Playing with some of the great guys to come to this level, everybody is the best in the world. Understanding that everybody has their own talents and how you fit in.”
Selecting Strawther can allow the Nuggets to select riskier picks with the No. 32 and No. 37 selections or players who could add depth at the one or the five.
No modern team can ever have too much versatility.
Sheppard, a 6-foot-6-inch guard from Belmont, took pride in his versatility when he sat down for a one-on-one interview of his own with the Pacers.
“Super versatile,” Sheppard said when asked how he would describe his game. “Both on the defensive and offensive side. I feel I can do a lot. Most people know me as a shooter, a 3-and-D-type guy. But I think I'm more than that. I can pass the ball too, rebound, stuff like that.”
The native of Atlanta, Ga., saw his role increase throughout his college career. He went from playing an average of 10.8 minutes his first year to 34.3 per game in his senior season, earning 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in his four years with the Bruins.
“Just bigger roles each year,” Sheppard said. “Freshman and sophomore year, I played off the bench. But my junior and senior year, I had bigger roles. With that came growing my game. Shooting, off the ball movement, reads, stuff like that.
Sheppard could be a versatile option at the wing spots if he is available for the Nuggets to select at No. 29. He can provide depth at the two or the three if needed. Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be on a player option for the 2024-25 season, but guards Christian Braun and Peyton Watson could still be under contract for Denver if they accept either one of their club options for the next few seasons.