The Denver Nuggets got an up-close look at Turkish wing Furkan Korkmaz on Saturday. Nuggets assistant coaches took Korkmaz, a 6-foot-7 wing who’s just 18 years old, through a series of drills inside the team’s practice facility at the Pepsi Center.
Korkmaz could be an intriguing fit with Denver because he possesses the skill the Nuggets need the most right now: shooting. This season, Korkmaz is stroking 3’s at a 42.3 percent clip with his Euroleague team, Anadolu Efes.
But there’s also another reason — one that has less to do with Korkmaz’s on-court skills than the Nuggets’ roster construction and their wealth of first-round picks — that he might fit in in the Mile-High City: Korkmaz is a prime “draft-and-stash” candidate.
In NBA lexicon, a draft-and-stash player is any international player who teams choose in the draft and then let develop overseas for an extended period of time. The San Antonio Spurs popularized this practice. Manu Ginobli is perhaps the most famous example.
The Nuggets have also dabbled in it, most recently with Serbian big man Nikola Jokic. Denver chose Jokic with the 41st pick in the 2014 draft. Jokic ended up playing a year in the Adriatic League after the Nuggets took him. The strategy seemed to work well. Jokic was a revelation as a rookie last season, and he finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Karl Anthony-Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.
It’s likely the Nuggets will be on the hunt for another draft-and-stash player in Thursday’s NBA Draft — that is if they keep all three of their first-round picks.
Right now, Denver controls the Nos. 7, 15 and 19 selections. They could use those to trade up in the draft, or leverage them to swing a deal for an established veteran. But if they end up holding on to all three first-round picks, expect them to pick a draft-and-stash guy like Korkmaz.
The main reason why is youth. The Nuggets already have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is 20, shooting guard Gary Harris and big men Jusuf Jurkic and Jokic are 21, spark plug Will Barton is 25 and Kenneth Faried is still only 26. This means that six of Denver’s top eight players (Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler round out the group) are 26 years old or younger.
The Nuggets simply cannot afford to add three more teenagers or early 20-something players to that core. There is such a thing as too much youth. The Philadelphia 76ers teams of the last few seasons have proved as much. The Nuggets need the remaining roster space for veterans.
Which brings us back to drafting and stashing.
Denver would likely want Korkmaz to play in Europe for a year or two if it chose him with one of its mid-round picks (mock drafts love this idea, by the way). If not him, maybe Croatian center Ivica Zubac or Spanish stretch forward Juan Hernangomez. It wouldn’t even be that surprising to see Denver grab two draft-and-stash guys in the first round if they don’t move up or make a deal.
Korkmaz pushed back on the idea of remaining in Europe for a season Saturday.
“I want to come right away here right after draft,” he said. “I don’t want to stay in Europe. I don’t want to say I don’t want to stay in Europe, but my opinion is if I come here right away next year it’s going to help me develop a lot. For example, if I reach my potential in three years in Europe, it’s going to take less time if I come here right away.”
But if the Nuggets select him Thursday, don’t be surprised if they convince him to play another year in the Euroleague.