Two of the best NBA prospects in recent years have fallen to the Nuggets over injury concerns, and it could be a huge win for one of the league’s best teams

  • The Denver Nuggets took Bol Bol, a center who was once considered a top-five prospect, with the 44th pick in the draft on Thursday.
  • It’s the second straight year the Nuggets got a top prospect late in the draft, as Michael Porter Jr., a top-five prospect in 2018, fell to them at 14th in the 2018 draft.
  • It’s possible that Bol and Porter don’t reach their ceilings, but if they do, the Nuggets will have added considerable talent at a low cost to an already strong roster.
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The Denver Nuggets could get the type of boost from the NBA draft that helps sustain the most successful franchises.

The Nuggets are already one of the league’s rising teams, thanks in part to a young nucleus built around All-Star center Nikola Jokic and a back-court of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. However, some recent luck in the draft has given them a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to take another leap up the NBA ladder.

Read more: Why the NBA world loves Nikola Jokic – the Nuggets’ goofy, 7-foot Serbian star who’s been compared to Tom Brady and is dominating the playoffs

On Thursday night at the 2019 NBA draft, the Nuggets traded into the second round to take Bol Bol, a 19-year-old center who went to the University of Oregon, with the 44th overall pick. The son of former NBA center Manute Bol, Bol Bol was once ranked as a top-five prospect before suffering an ankle and foot injury that ended his college season. Concerns about Bol’s health and attitude caused him to slip on Thursday.

It’s the second straight year the Nuggets managed to get a top-five prospect with a lower pick. In 2018, the Nuggets took Michael Porter Jr., a top-five prospect before he suffered back injuries in college when he slipped to 14th in the draft.

Tim Connelly, the Nuggets’ president of basketball operations, told reporters after the 2019 draft that the Nuggets had Bol much higher than where they landed him. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said on “The Lowe Post” podcast on Friday that Connelly said he had Bol in his top 10 prospects.

Connelly also updated the status of Porter, who sat out his entire rookie year. Connelly said Porter is looking as good as the Nuggets have seen him.

“He’s been in the gym twice a day for a long time,” Connelly said (via the Denver Post). “He’s been fully cleared for several months … Again, we’re going to be patient, but he’s been full bore for a long time, and he resembles the player we saw prior to all the injuries.”

Michael Porter Jr. sat out his rookie year.

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Michael Porter Jr. sat out his rookie year.
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Quinn Harris/Getty Images

For the Nuggets, both gambles are worth taking. There is a chance that Porter and Bol don’t recover from their injuries. There is an even higher chance that neither player develops into star players; plenty of top prospects don’t reach their ceilings.

If neither player pans out, the Nuggets won’t have wasted major assets to get them. The players taken after Porter in the 2018 draft have not shown great promise so far. Trading into the second round to take Bol on Thursday only cost the Nuggets a future second-round pick and cash.

But if either Bol or Porter can grow into the type of player scouts initially imagined, it will be a huge win for the Nuggets.

Jokic already signed a five-year, $147 million contract, Harris signed a four-year, $84 million contract, and Murray could sign an extension this summer. The Nuggets, who won 54 games last year, won’t have many opportunities to add to their roster in the coming years, potentially limiting their ability to improve.

The best teams find steals late in drafts that keep their runs going – it’s how the San Antonio Spurs have managed to make the playoffs 20 years in a row. If Bol and Porter reach their ceilings, the Nuggets could continue to move upward, even if they can’t add significant pieces in free agency.