The Denver Nuggets originally drafted Doug McDermott with the 11th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but his stint as a Nugget lasted only five minutes as the team immediately traded him to the Chicago Bulls for two first-round picks, the newest Denver Nuggets, Jusuf Nurkic of Croatia and Gary Harris of Michigan State.
Even for a team whose oldest player is 29-year-old Randy Foye, it’s good to have some youth in the building! Who doesn’t love watching a couple promising rookies begin there professional lives while being tapped to lockers and forced to carry around the veterans practice gear in Spongebob backpacks?
Plus, getting a glimpse of the potential of a couple of promising talents in Harris and Nurkic is going to be a great story to follow for Nuggets fans.
But just who are these guys? We know where they last played, and we know they’re rookies, but that’s about all the draft will give you at first.
We know shooting guard Gary Harris is 6’4″ tall and 205 pounds, and we know power forward Jusuf Nurkic is a bit bigger being 6’10″ tall and 280 pounds. Both first round picks are only 19 years old right now, and since both are a part of the Nuggets’ long term plans it’s time we got to know them.
Harris has been deemed “a steal of the draft” by multiple sports media outlets, and the defensive minded guard seems like the perfect fit for defensive minded head coach Brian Shaw. Scouting specialty site DraftExpress scouted Harris’ defense by saying, “He has outstanding fundamentals on this end of the floor, always getting in a low stance and putting very good effort in, and showing excellent awareness both on and off the ball.”
He’s also what’s deemed a “coaches player,” or someone with a high basketball IQ who puts in the effort on both ends of the floor. He’ll never be the go to guy on the offensive end of the floor, but he’ll always make the extra pass and score off his quality shooting in the flow of the offense.
With a 57.1 percent true shooting percentage in college (which would be third-best on the Nuggets if it holds), Harris will get his points from drive and kick-outs to the 3-point line.
The 19-year-old Spartan grew up in Indianapolis, and had his sights set on the NBA from the start. He had a banner hanging in his childhood room that said “what did you do today to make it to the NBA?”
He has basketball blood as his Mom was an All-American at Purdue and played in the WNBA, and Gary has never been able to beat his mom one-on-one.
“It’s funny you asked that,” Harris told reporters at his introductory press conference, “I never beat her because she stopped playing me once I got close to beating her, so she was smart about it.”
International players are a little harder to get background on, but Jusuf Nurkic is an exciting prospect. Although he only played 16 minutes a game for his European team Cedevita (from the town of Zagreb, Croatia) his numbers per 40 minutes were just monstrous: 33 points, 14 rebounds, 4.1 steals, 1.9 blocks and 11.7 free throw attempts, according to DraftExpress.
He managed to lead the entire Eurocup league in Player Efficiency Rating.
Basketball’s not as much in his blood as it is in Harris’, and Nurkic only started playing organized basketball since 2009. Still, his back to the basket game will be a benefit for the Nuggets, who don’t have a classic post up player.
He scored 49 percent of his back to the basket shot attempts in the EuroCup, and Shaw will look for him to play the pick and roll game as he managed to shoot an impressive 65 percent while rolling to the rim off a screen.
Nurkic was born in Bosnia, and when he arrived in New York City for the draft it was his first time in the United States. His father never played basketball, but at Jusuf’s press conference he mentioned his dad is 7″ tall and 400 (yes, four HUNDRED) pounds heavy.
The tweet below shows his father’s hands may be bigger than a regulation NBA ball.
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 27, 2014
At his press conference the 19-year-old was grinning like a kid in a candy store. He mentioned that he is “so, so, so happy” to be the newest Denver Nugget, and he’ll do “whatever the coach says.”
Brian Shaw will have a lot to say to his two newest projects, and Nuggets nation has a pair of exciting young basketball players to enjoy following next season.