DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets parlayed a draft-day trade with Chicago into a Bosnian big man that very few knew about until Thursday and a shooting guard they long coveted.
After taking Creighton forward Doug McDermott at No. 11, Denver quickly traded his drafts rights – along with Nuggets forward Anthony Randolph – to the Bulls for two first-round selections, which the team used to pick up center Jusuf Nurkic (pronounced you-SOOF noor-KITCH) at No. 16 and Michigan State guard Gary Harris at No. 19. The Nuggets also received a future second-round pick in the deal.
“It’s rare you get to add two guys like that,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said.
Denver went the international route again with its 41st pick, taking Serbian power forward Nikola Jokic (Knee-coe-lah yo-kitch).
The 19-year-old Nurkic is relatively new to basketball, not even picking up the game until he was around 15. He’s been a quick study, though, averaging around 11.2 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks for Cedevita Zagreb in the Croatian League. He also had nearly 12 points a game in the Adriatic League.
He said during a teleconference call that he fully intends to play in the NBA next season. He’s also looking forward to meeting Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant because he’s “my hero. First time seen an NBA game was Kobe. I like him.
“I’m so happy, so, so, so happy. First time in America. I’m so happy.”
At 280 pounds, Nurkic will be tough to push around in the middle. Denver also has Timofey Mozgov of Russia to play center.
“(Nurkic) is a guy that has a world of talent,” Connelly said. “You don’t see guys that big move like him. You don’t see guys that big with that skill set.
“But it’s not a pick for tomorrow. We understand that. It’s going to be a slow process.”
Harris was high on the Nuggets’ list and rather surprisingly slipped down the board to No. 19. He averaged 16.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Spartans.
“I’m just going to come in here and compete, play my hardest and try to do everything I can to earn minutes and help the team win,” said Harris, whose mother, Joy, played for the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in 2000. “They said I’ll have to earn my minutes. That’s something I’m OK with.”
The arrival of Harris, though, creates a log jam at shooting guard, especially considering the Nuggets reacquired Arron Afflalo earlier in the day in a deal with Orlando for guard Evan Fournier and the No. 56 pick in the draft.
Afflalo was a valuable asset when he was with the Nuggets, partly because of his shooting touch but more for his stifling defense. Afflalo wore the powder blue and gold for three season before being traded to Orlando on Aug. 10, 2012, as part of the blockbuster four-team, 12-player deal that also involved Dwight Howard.
The 28-year-old Afflalo averaged a career-high 18.2 points for the Magic last season. He will be reunited in the backcourt with speedy point guard Ty Lawson as they try to restore the luster to the Nuggets.
Denver finished 36-46 in Brian Shaw’s inaugural season in charge and missed the postseason for the first time since 2002-03. The team was ravaged by injuries, with Danilo Gallinari missing all season as the versatile forward recovered from his ACL injury. JaVale McGee (leg) played only a handful of games, while J.J. Hicksonand Nate Robinson tore ACLs. Wilson Chandler, Lawson and Randolph also were in and out of the lineup.
“When the day started, if you would’ve said we were going to walk away with Afflalo, Nurkic and Harris, I would have been pretty excited,” Connelly said.
By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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