Five shooting guards Nuggets fans should know in the 2022 NBA Draft

Mar 19, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Ochai Agbaji (30) reacts against the Creighton Bluejays during the second round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday morning, it was announced that the Denver Nuggets would be acquiring the 30th pick in this year’s NBA Draft in a trade sending JaMychal Green to the Oklahoma City Thunder. There were other pieces of the deal, but those were the pieces pertaining to this NBA season.

As a result, the Nuggets now have the 21st and 30th selections in the draft, which will happen on June 23rd. There are no guarantees that the Nuggets will use both selections, but the likelihood that the Nuggets select at least one player next Thursday has gone up significantly.

With that in mind, I’m going to share my evaluations of several players the Nuggets might draft, separated by position group.

Let’s start with the shooting guard position:


Ochai Agbaji | Wing | Kansas

Draft Age: 22, Height: 6’5.75″, Weight: 218 lbs, Wingspan: 6’10.25″

2021-22 per game stats: 35.1 minutes, 18.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.5 steals + blocks, 53.4 two-point %, 40.7 three-point %, 74.3 free throw %

Expected Draft Range: Late Lottery, middle first round

What happened last season: Ochai Agbaji initially declared for the 2021 NBA Draft following his junior season. He received intel on how to improve for the NBA before returning for his senior season at Kansas. Agbaji won Big-12 Player of the Year, and the Jayhawks won a national title with him as the best player. His scoring improved, most notably in his shooting confidence and driving abilities.

Expected NBA role: Agbaji will most likely fill a 3&D wing role at the next level. As much as he scored in the final of his four seasons at Kansas, Agbaji projects to scale down his scoring off the dribble and scale up the role player aspects of his game. All NBA teams need floor spacing and versatile defense, and Agbaji represents the most likely player in this year’s draft to fill that role at a high level. Even while taking on additional scoring responsibilities, Agbaji remained a quality defender at Kansas. Defense will most likely have to be Agbaji’s NBA calling card.

Swing skill: Agbaji is a dynamic athlete, possessing a 39-inch vertical leap and some above-the-rim athleticism that translates to games. He uses his physical tools well, guarding opposing scorers well without help and contesting shots on the perimeter and at the rim. Offensively, Agbaji gets out in transition frequently for high-flying dunks. In the halfcourt, Agbaji cuts to the rim to keep defenses honest. If Agbaji becomes a quality starter, it will be because he can match up athletically with top NBA athletes.

Is Agbaji a good fit? There’s no doubt that in the short term, Agbaji represents an archetype of player that the Nuggets desperately need. He helps improve Denver’s athleticism and defense on the wing immediately, and his time as a four-year starter in college should help speed up the transition to NBA offenses.

In the long term, there are questions about Agbaji’s ceiling. If, for whatever reason, the Nuggets needed Agbaji to be a third option in Denver’s offense behind Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, could he do that? Does he have the creativity, playmaking, and versatility to be more of a focal point in the future? If the answer is yes, then the Nuggets should draft him if they can. If not, they should be more hesitant.

Blake Wesley | Shooting Guard | Notre Dame

Draft Age: 19, Height: 6’4.25″, Weight: 187 lbs, Wingspan: 6’9.25″

2021-22 per game stats: 29.3 minutes, 14.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals + blocks, 47.1 two-point %, 30.3 three-point %, 65.7 free throw %

Expected Draft Range: Late first round, early second round

What happened last season: Blake Wesley entered Notre Dame as a freshman outside the RSCI top 100 high school list. It didn’t take long for him to develop into a player the rest of the team relied upon to carry the scoring load. He wasn’t an efficient player by any stretch, but the flashes he showed were exciting enough to intrigue NBA teams. Notre Dame ultimately lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Texas Tech, and Wesley didn’t shoot well in that game. Teams like his combination of athleticism and defensive potential though, both of which he showed in college.

Expected NBA role: It’s probably going to take Blake Wesley multiple seasons to get comfortable at the NBA level. His rise from off-the-radar to first round pick has highlighted some steps he skipped along the way. He will learn, but it’s going to take time. Most likely, he will be a bench scorer by the time his rookie contract ends. There’s bits of Bones Hyland and Malik Beasley in his game. While Bones developed into an immediate contributor, it took multiple seasons for Beasley to do the same. Bones turned 21 years old before his first NBA minutes. Beasley was 19.

Swing skill: Wesley pretty clearly has some creativity and feel as a ball handler, but too often, he drives into traffic trying to create something out of nothing without much of a plan. The athleticism is already there from a vertical standpoint, but Wesley can struggle to move side to side and create space on his drives. If he can learn to play under control more frequently, he could easily become a starter caliber player. It will take some time though.

Is Wesley a good fit? From a positional standpoint, Blake Wesley makes some sense. The Nuggets have to keep getting better and more athletic on the wing, and Wesley could be an option. I worry about his readiness though, and while it’s not healthy to expect rookies to be immediate contributors, Wesley appears to be further away than most. His on-ball defense is pretty good, but the off-ball defense needs work.

Long term, Wesley may have more potential than a player like Agbaji, but the time it takes for him to realize that potential is running against the clock that is Denver’s championship window. The Nuggets need someone that can help them as soon as possible. Maybe Wesley is that guy, but I have my concerns.

Jaden Hardy | Shooting Guard | G League Ignite

Draft Age: 20, Height: 6’4″, Weight: 185 lbs, Wingspan: 6’8″

2021-22 per game stats: 32.6 minutes, 19.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals + blocks, 42.4 two-point %, 30.9 three-point %, 79.4 free throw %

Expected Draft Range: Middle to late first round

What happened last season: Jaden Hardy was ranked second overall in the RSCI top 100 rankings of 2021 prospects (for the 2022 draft). He decided to go to the G League Ignite, much in the same way that Jalen Green (2nd in 2020) did last year. Green was drafted second overall by the Houston Rockets.

Hardy will not be following suit. His G League season was pretty rough, shooting very low percentages from both two-point and three-point range while demonstrating some “chucker” tendencies. It might be unfair to label him a chucker outright given that the G League is supposed to be a talent showcase. Still, he didn’t shoot efficiently enough to warrant taking some of the shots that he did.

Expected NBA role: Some teams still see Hardy as closer to his high school evaluation than what he showed in the G League. That version of Hardy looks a lot like a high level shot creator for himself and others. He creates space well off the dribble for stepbacks and pull ups, but he also has the explosiveness to get to the rim and finish over, around, and through defenders. The version that’s closer to what was seen in the G League struggles to stay efficient due to poor finishing at the rim, and he doesn’t really make it up on the defensive end. Most likely, he arrives somewhere in the middle as a borderline starter caliber scorer that spends time at both point guard and shooting guard.

Swing skill: It’s possible that Hardy has more playmaking vision than he generally gets credit for. The spacing for the G League Ignite roster was bad, and finding passing angles when there aren’t any is generally pretty difficult. In a more spaced out NBA system, would he look better as a ball handler? Probably.

Is Hardy a good fit? The Nuggets don’t need a ton of playmaking at this stage. It’s a nice skill to have, but the ball will probably be in the hands of Jokić, Murray, and maybe one of Monte Morris or Bones Hyland at the end of most games. Does Hardy project to be a better creator than those guys before his rookie contract expires? Probably not. As a result, I tend to discount this fit. The Nuggets need defense, athleticism, and shooting on the wings, and that isn’t Hardy’s wheelhouse. He needs a rebuilding environment that will stick with him through some mistakes.

Wendell Moore | Wing | Duke

Draft Age: 20, Height: 6’5.5″, Weight: 217 lbs, Wingspan: 7’0.5″

2021-22 per game stats: 33.9 minutes, 13.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.6 steals + blocks, 54.4 two-point %, 41.3 three-point %, 80.5 free throw %

Expected Draft Range: Late first, early second round

What happened last season: Wendell Moore struggled to find a footing during his first two seasons at Duke, and it wasn’t until Paolo Banchero entered the program when Moore truly found his role. The junior wing was basically a primary ball handler for Duke this past year, though he ceded control of the offense to Banchero and others when necessary. The Blue Devils made it to the Final Four in Coach K’s final season, and Moore was a big reason why. With 50-41-80 shooting splits, a 2.3 assist to turnover ratio, and a high quality steal rate, Moore made a necessary leap to be considered a potential first round pick.

Expected NBA role: Given his age and growth profile, most expect Moore to be a relatively steady contributor off the bench for a playoff team. With as wing heavy as the NBA has become, quality 3&D players are always necessary. Depending on how real his junior season was versus the first two, Moore could be a 35% shooter or 40% shooter from distance. If he’s closer to the latter, Moore’s closer to becoming a starter caliber player.

Swing skill: Moore’s playmaking and floor vision are fairly underrated. He was often playing point guard for Duke, and he made some high level pick and roll reads this year. If he continues to be a strong playmaker at the NBA level, he becomes a quality shooter, defender, and passer. Players with those skills that also have a 7’0″ wingspan and a 39-inch vertical are often really good.

Is Moore a good fit? Among players in this draft class, there may be no better fit between player and team than Wendell Moore and the Nuggets. Around Nikola Jokić, the Nuggets are hoping to add versatile offensive players with length and athleticism to cover the perimeter defensively. Moore fits that description exceedingly well. He’s pro ready following three seasons at Duke, and he has some positional versatility to fill in wherever the Nuggets need help.

Count me among the staunchest Moore believers out there. He’s going to help a playoff team be successful.

Bryce McGowens | Wing | Nebraska

Draft Age: 19, Height: 6’6.5″, Weight: 181 lbs, Wingspan: 6’8.75″

2021-22 per game stats: 33.3 minutes, 16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals + blocks, 47.8 two-point %, 27.4 three-point %, 83.1 free throw %

Expected Draft Range: Late first, early second round

What happened last season: Bryce McGowens entered the Nebraska program as a top 25 recruit and immediately became one of the top two scoring options on the team. Unfortunately, the team just wasn’t very good, and McGowens struggled to score efficiently as one of the only legitimate options on the floor. He was aided by a penchant for getting to the rim and drawing free throws, but outside of that, his profile leaves a lot to be desired. Nebraska went 4-16 in conference play, and McGowens was a bit of a mess on the defensive end all throughout.

Expected NBA role: There’s no doubt that teams are leaning more heavily on McGowens’ high school projection after a subpar freshman season. With his height, athleticism, and ball handling, teams are willing to project a bit. He looks the part of a wing scorer, but expecting him to get to that level means he either improves in other areas or coaches are simply willing to overlook weaknesses. To me, he looks like a bench scorer and not much more.

Swing skill: If McGowens is going to figure it out and stick at the NBA level, it will be because he kicks into overdrive defensively. He has a long, long way to go, but getting to “average” as a wing defender would mean a lot. There’s belief that he will figure things out offensively and that he wasn’t as bad of a shooter as he showed in college. If that improves, and the defense does too, he could definitely become a starter caliber player.

Is McGowens a good fit? Quite simply, not really. The reason McGowens needs a little projection on what he can be is because he wasn’t as effective at the college level as he probably should have been. The Nuggets need players that can contribute right now in the “glue guy” areas, which is basically the opposite of McGowens. It would take some time for McGowens to become capable enough in those areas to make full use of his scoring skill set. The Nuggets just don’t have that kind of time.

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