When the Denver Nuggets drafted Thomas Welsh just one year ago, they were taking a flyer on a big man with a nice offensive skill set, but with clear weaknesses in his game.
Prior to the draft, Welsh worked out with the Nuggets. During his workout, he left a good enough impression on the organization that they made him the 58th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. It also was a selection the Nuggets did not necessarily have to use. They could have easily traded the pick if they wanted to. Denver had already drafted two players earlier in the night — Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt. Still, they took a chance on Welsh.
It is easy to see why Denver liked Welsh coming out of UCLA. Not only is he seven feet tall, but he is also a player that showed a ton of growth throughout his four-year collegiate career. As a freshman, Welsh averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, but as a senior? Those number jumped up to 12.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Not only did Welsh’s numbers drastically increase, but so did his shooting percentages. Welsh developed into one of the most automatic mid-range scorers in he country while also developing a three-point shot. Welsh made 45 3-pointers as a senior and shot over 40 percent from distance, which was remarkable considering he made just one triple his first three years at UCLA combined.
After a solid first summer league with Denver last season, Welsh will have another chance to impress the Nuggets next week in Vegas. This all comes after a rookie season in which Welsh bounced back and fourth between the Nuggets and the G-League.
Welsh played in 20 G-League games last season, 13 of which came with the Capital City Go-Go and the other seven coming with the Iowa Wolves. In 20 games, Welsh averaged 10.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He shot an extremely efficient 52 percent from the field, while also shooting 46 percent (14-of-30) from three-point range.
Even if it was just limited time, Welsh showed improvement in the G-League. He also got a ton of good experience during his season in the NBA. Welsh did appear in 11 games for the Nuggets last season playing a total of 36 minutes. In those games, Welsh scored 18 points, hauled in four rebounds, and drilled three 3-pointers, one of which was pretty memorable.
THOMAS WELSH FOR THREE pic.twitter.com/1JA8lsTLZo
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 24, 2018
That video really highlights the type of teammate and person Welsh is. As soon as he makes the three, he looks directly towards the bench and celebrates with his team, which is something Welsh said made that moment even more special.
“That was awesome. I mean to have a moment like that and just being able to run down the court and look at my guys on the bench. That was surreal,” Welsh told the media after the Orlando game. “It was a very, very, cool moment.”
Not only is Welsh a solid basketball player, but he really epitomizes the culture that Denver has built. As a franchise, the Nuggets truly have an incredible culture in place and Welsh is a part of that.
“I think it really is a great atmosphere here in terms of team chemistry. I think everyone gets along extremely well,” Welsh also told the media after the Magic game. “To see that only made it that much more of a better moment for me.”
His presence in the locker room will continue next season as Welsh will continue to play on a two-way contract. This will be Welsh’s second and final season on the two-way deal, which makes the 2019-20 a make or break year.
For Welsh, his path to securing a long-term spot in the NBA starts next week when summer league begins. If Welsh plays well, it will only help his case on potentially earning meaningful minutes for the Nuggets next season. Denver is already set with Nikola Jokic at center, so Welsh will be competing for minutes with the likes of Mason Plumlee and 2019 second-round pick, Bol Bol, if he is healthy enough to play.
There is still a lot that could go down this offseason in terms of where Denver’s roster stands. If an opportunity presents itself for Welsh, he will have to take that chance.
That begins next week in Las Vegas.
To read the rest of the Season in Review pieces for other players, click on their name below: