Not much as gone right for the Denver Nuggets this season – not even when it looked like losing might land them a higher draft pick. Just when we were starting to learn about players like Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay and DeAngelo Russell, the Nuggets fired their beleaguered head coach and started winning games, much to the chagrin of fans rooting for the losing to continue so it could result in a higher lottery draft pick. The Nuggets were lousy at tanking.

It appears now, with seven games left in the season, that the Nuggets are destined for a lottery pick in the No. 7-8 range. That’s not terrible, but also not a spot that you’re going to land a franchise player. Or is it?

Denver would have to get lucky, but it’s not farfetched to see the seventh pick in the draft turning into a big-time, difference-making player – like this year’s MVP favorite, Stephen Curry, who was the seventh pick in 2009, or Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, taken seventh in 1985. There have been plenty of great players drafted in that slot.

This year, there are a lot of names listed in the area the Nuggets figure to occupy that would provide a nice upgrade for Denver in due time, youngsters like Willie Cauley-Stein from Kentucky and Justise Winslow from Duke. The fact is, most of the kids who will be among the highest picks are barely old enough to vote, and therefore too young to have too much expectation heaped on them from the first day. A lot of these kids still have a lot of growing up to do.

The NBA wasn’t always a schoolyard playground. There was a time when great college players stayed in college for more than a single year. In fact, back in the day, most stayed until they’d completed their junior seasons, and some NBA stars like Tim Duncan, Roy Hibbert, Damian Lillard, Steve Nash and David Lee actually stayed in college for four full years. Really.

That, of course, is rare today for any player that figures to be at the top of the draft. But how nice would it be to be able to draft an experienced, NBA-ready star like Nash or Lillard with the seventh or eighth pick? Sadly, that player doesn’t appear to be out there this year.

By the time the Nuggets pick rolls around, and all the supremely talented kids are spoken for, Denver will likely have the opportunity to select a throwback – 6-foot-5 senior point guard Jerian Grant from Notre Dame.

Many will recall Grant as the player who threw up a no-hoper, last-second shot that missed as the Fighting Irish fell to Kentucky in the Elite 8. Think harder and you’ll recall the long three-pointer he drilled as the shot clock wound down that gave the Irish their last lead of the game with just over two minutes left. He was the main reason Notre Dame stayed with the unbeaten Wildcats until the final buzzer. Grant was also the guy who had the “gravity-defying” dunk of the year in a Notre Dame win over Georgia Tech earlier in the season. He almost cut his chin on the rim.

Grant is a rarity – an über-talented senior who is big enough and talented enough and experienced enough to step in and immediately improve the team that drafts him. He has a game that is reminiscent of Magic Johnson in that his best skill is driving to the basket and setting up his teammates for easy hoops. He plays with enthusiasm and vigor and confidence. He has a little Chauncey Billups in him.

Bruce Marshall, Editor of The Gold Sheet in Las Vegas, told me the morning of the Kentucky vs. ND game, “Grant will be the best pro of any of the players on the floor tonight.”

Bill Hanzlik, a proud Notre Dame alum and current Nuggets TV analyst, isn’t quite as enthusiastic about Grant as Marshall. “He’s got some ball handling skills, but isn’t really a true point guard. I can see him going in the 10-11-12 range. If that’s where the Nuggets end up, I hope they grab him.”

Personally, I hope they grab Grant sooner than that. A team whose collective maturity has been called into question numerous times this year could use a talented, experienced, high-character leader. All you had to do was watch Grant lead the Fighting Irish to an unexpected Atlantic Coast Conference title this year, including wins over Louisville, Duke (twice) and North Carolina (also twice) and you see intangibles that go along with supreme ability. These are attributes that the Nuggets need… badly.

It probably won’t happen. CBS Sports has Grant as the 17th pick. Bleacher Report has him going 16th and NBA Draft Room locks him in at 19th. These folks have Grant going well after a series of European players and have the Nuggets in the top 10, selecting a guy named Mario Hezonja from Croatia. Either he’s the next Toni Kukoc or the next Nikolaos Tskitishvili. Flip a coin and hold your breath.

Some of us would applaud the Nuggets brass for going against the conventional wisdom that has served them so well (ahem) recently and taking a talented, experienced leader who wouldn’t have to sit on the bench and learn how to play before he could contribute to what we all hope is a significant turnaround season in 2016.