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Klee blog: The selfish case for wanting former UCCS, CU star Derrick White with the Denver Nuggets

By: Paul Klee
June 19, 2017 Updated: June 20, 2017 at 8:24 am
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photo - Colorado's Derrick White drives past Eastern Washington's Bogdan Bliznyuk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 in Boulder, Colo. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera via AP)
Colorado's Derrick White drives past Eastern Washington's Bogdan Bliznyuk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 in Boulder, Colo. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera via AP) 

NBA draft week is all house money for Derrick White.

There's not a sentiment that he must go in the first round on Thursday or it's a bummer; his story is already unlike anything we've seen in Colorado basketball. There's no preference on which franchise drafts the former UCCS and CU star, either, only that gets a legitimate shot with a committed staff once he arrives.

"It's more important to go to a team that wants me," White said. 

The latest stop on White's winding, unusual road to the NBA was here in Colorado. Monday morning he joined five other draft prospects for a workout in front of Nuggets brass, including team president Josh Kroenke, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, general manager Arturas Karnisovas and coach Michael Malone. The Nuggets' impression?

"He's a really good player. Slippery with the ball, great instincts, can play both (guard) positions," Connelly said. 

"Great workout today. Bunch of shotmakers; that's always good," Karnisovas told me. "And he's an efficient guard that can shoot."

For selfish reasons I want Derrick White in Denver. Nothing so far suggests Emmanuel Mudiay is the answer at point guard, and even if Jamal Murray is the answer at point guard (I suspect he is), White will be a capable backup point guard. I feel confident saying he's going to outperform his draft position, as he outperformed expectations at UCCS and CU. Why not here?

"I went (to Nuggets games) all the time," White said. "Colorado guy, so any Colorado sports team was my team."

The issue is where the Nuggets fall in the draft: No. 13 (too high) in the first round and Nos. 49 and 51 in the second (possibly too low). White likely goes somewhere right between those picks — late in the first or early in the second. 

"He's a very trendy, hot name in league circles, because he was kind of an unknown," said Connelly, whose scouting staff attended multiple Buffs practices during the season. "A lot of guys didn't see him play until after CU's season was over."

Where else? One NBA front-office source (not with the Nuggets) said to keep an eye on White going to the Spurs at No. 29. My eyes also will be watching the Jazz at No. 30, Magic at No. 33, Pelicans at No. 40 or Rockets at No. 43. All are on the market for a versatile guard; White has worked out in Utah and New Orleans. His final workout is Tuesday in Chicago with the Bulls.

"He's going to hear his name called on Thursday night," said Connelly, who, while hanging out with his kids over the Father's Day weekend, reviewed three games from White's lone season in Boulder.

The Nuggets shook up their front office in name only. "Nothing changes," Karnisovas said, with his promotion to GM and Connelly's to president of basketball operations. Ownership simply didn't want the key personnel figures to stray now that the Nuggets are on the brink of being good again.

Maybe the NBA draft is when a trend changes for White, when he goes from the overlooked and underappreciated talent to a first-round pick.

If not? No big deal. He's going to hear his name called on Thursday night. 

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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