Mile High Nirvana

This is the perfect place for Denver Nuggets fans, or should I say Denver Nuggets optimists. But let's be realistic, we are always seeing on the bright sides, you know.

Why The Selection of Evan Fournier is a Wise Decision

[First published on July 7, 2012 at milehighnirvana.blogspot.com]

Is Fournier a good or bad pick? You’ll be the judge

Coming off two consecutive successful drafts where the Denver Nuggets managed to get two players who are now potential all-stars in Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, it seems that the Denver Nuggets have shed the bad memories of their draft failures in the last 16 years. Holding the 20th, 38th, and 50th picks, all eyes are on Nuggets Executive Masai Ujiri again.

Though Denver is already loaded with youth and potential, the pressure still goes on who Denver will get, especially at number 20, their first selection. Before the draft, Nuggets fans can’t stand being so excited because there are numerous prospects they love and could be picked 20th overall. Since the 2012 draft is so deep, picking the best player available at number 20 seemed to be easier than ever for the Nuggets front office.

At first Denver wanted to get Royce White, but the Houston Rockets beat them to it. Then Denver wanted to get Andrew Nicholson, but the Orlando Magic snatched him right before it was Denver’s turn to pick. Now that the Nuggets brass are on the clock, images of Perry Jones III, Jared Sullinger, Marquis Teague, and John Jenkins wearing Nuggets uniforms were appearing inside the minds of Nuggets fans. There was excitement on who will Masai Ujiri get. Even I was confident that he would pick one of the players I mentioned because Masai has proven that he is not that average GM many thought of when he started the job.

But the Nuggets Nation was stunned when the 20th pick was used on a guy from France, Evan Fournier. After that pick, the same question was asked by countless Nuggets fans within seconds: “Who on earth is Evan Fournier?” Many would turn harsh on Ujiri selecting him. They were in disbelief on why did Masai passed up on Jared Sullinger, John Jenkins, Marquis Teague, and Perry Jones III. Because of that alone, many are now criticizing Ujiri’s reputation as a good GM. Add to fact that Perry Jones III was blessedly picked by the defending West Champions Oklahoma City Thunder, many are now questioning the Nuggets chances of contending next season. In fact, many are even questioning the Nuggets chances of competing in a very tight Western Conference.

Although Ujiri made up for the “blown pick” by getting Quincy Miller at number 38, many were still feeling bitter about the Nuggets’ first selection. Even I was shocked on the selection of Fournier. Although it seemed that selecting the Frenchman was a flat-out gamble, the Nuggets fans/Fournier critics should understand these reasons why I think Masai picked the 19-year-old French:

  1. With almost all the scouting this year focused on NCAA players (who are predominantly Americans), it was no surprise that Evan Fournier is the only foreigner not named Fab Melo (Brazilian) or Andrew Nicholson (Canadian) drafted in the first round (Melo and Nicholson played at the NCAA with Syracuse and St. Bonaventure, respectively.). But despite that, Ujiri was able to get enough time to see the Frenchman play, showcasing the talent and the hidden potential Ujiri sees. If memory serves right, Ujiri was an international scout before getting the chance to run an NBA team.
  2. Denver has 13 players under contract (including the newly re-signed Andre Miller). Although Chris Andersen will likely be amnestied, there is a very slim chance for Fournier to get playing time especially the fact that Denver is already full of wing players (Afflalo, Gallinari, Brewer, Chandler, and Hamilton). But at 19 years of age, there is a lot of time and room for development. Either send him to the NBA Development League or play him overseas. I think the D-League option is the better one since he publicly expressed that he is ready to play in the NBA.
  3. Although a lot of foreign players had a hard time adjusting to the NBA, there is also a significant number of them who turned out to have solid careers. Even some of them turned into stars or at worst, key contributors to championship teams. Even some of the successful foreign players are French like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Nicolas Batum. What I heard of Evan Fournier is that he is a willing scorer and an unselfish player. Some compare him to Kevin Martin while some compare him to Manu Ginobili.

Overall, selecting Fournier at number 20 is a safe but a wise pick because despite the uncertainty around him, he brings a lot of promise and he doesn’t have the pressure as high as that of former 5th pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Think of how Manu Ginobili became a successful NBA player after he played for some time overseas. So while most of the players last season will be locked-in for 2012-2013, it will be exciting to see what Evan is really made of if he ever suits up for the Nuggets after a year or two of “growing up”, then it will be the right time to start judging Masai’s decision.

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