Gonzaga's Julian Strawther (0) reacts in the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game against UCLA in the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament on March 23, 2023, in Las Vegas. Strawther was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft. (AP Photo/David Becker)

DENVER | The parade is just a memory for the NBA-champion Denver Nuggets and the party is beginning to simmer down.

Back to the business of finding a way to remain at the NBA’s mountaintop.

The Nuggets went in search of some cost-control players in the NBA draft to build around a core that includes Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon and Finals MVP Nikola Jokic. This approach may be a way to bring back sixth man Bruce Brown, who opted out and is set to be a free agent. Or another veteran eager to help defend the title.

It took Denver 47 NBA seasons to get to the top. Staying there won’t be easy, either, with the Northwest Division adding a wealth of young talent Thursday night.

Portland paired Scoot Henderson (No. 3 pick) with Damian Lillard. Utah added Taylor Hendricks and Keyonte George to continue their youthful trend. Minnesota will run it back with Anthony Edwards & Co., and Oklahoma City added point guard Cason Wallace to go with standout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Denver picked up Gonzaga forward Julian Strawther at No. 29 and Penn State point guard Jalen Pickett at No. 32 as part of a deal with the Indiana Pacers. They also got Hunter Tyson out of Clemson with the 37th selection.

The Nuggets are hoping to strike gold again, like they did last summer when they took Christian Braun out of Kansas at No. 21. Braun turned in valuable minutes off the bench during the Nuggets’ run to their first championship.

One thing’s for sure: The new Jazz picks certainly stood out.

Their suits, anyway.

Hendricks, the No. 9 pick out of Central Florida, wore pink and George, the Big 12 freshman of the year from Baylor, donned a snazzy print suit.


Team needs: Not many. They’re the defending champions.

Who did the team draft: Strawther, who is known for his big-shot ability (he drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with 7.2 seconds left to help Gonzaga beat UCLA in the Sweet 16). Pickett could help fill the void should Brown leave.

Whose game does the draft pick most compare to: Jordan Poole for Strawther. For Pickett, perhaps an Andre Miller.


Team needs: Planning to run it back with the Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns tandem inside and ceding more responsibility to star swingman Anthony Edwards, Minnesota is set for starters. Backup center Naz Reid is an unrestricted free agent and he’d leave a big hole.

Who did the team draft: After trading two future second-round picks to San Antonio to move into the 33rd spot, the Timberwolves will receive Leonard Miller, a 6-foot-10 forward from Canada who played with the G League Ignite last season. Miller averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds in 24 games. With their own pick at No. 53 overall, the Timberwolves went with UCLA guard Jaylen Clark. He had surgery in March to repair an Achilles injury.

Whose game does the draft pick most compare to: Just 19, Miller needs development, but perhaps his game can evolve to resemble Jarred Vanderbilt. Depending on how he recovers from the Achilles surgery, perhaps Clark can develop into a Matisse Thybulle-type defender.


Team needs: Interior strength, 3-point shooting.

Who did the team draft: Wallace, Dallas’ pick at No. 10; Hunter Tyson at 37; Keyontae Johnson at 50.

Whose game does the draft pick most compare to: Wallace: Jrue Holiday because of his floater and defense; Tyson: Danilo Gallinari because of his size and ability to stretch the floor; Johnson: A smaller Zion Williamson because of his versatility and strength.


Team needs: Help for Lillard after missing out on the playoffs for the second straight season.

Who did the team draft: Henderson out of the G League Ignite with the third overall pick, forward Kris Miller out of Iowa with the No. 23 pick, and French guard Rayan Rupert with the No. 43 pick.

Whose game does the draft pick most compare to: Henderson is a tenacious point guard that some compare to Russell Westbrook.


Team needs: Shooters, switchable defenders and backcourt depth.

Who did the team draft: Hendricks, George, No. 28 Brice Sensabaugh out of Ohio State.

Whose game does the draft pick most compare to: Hendricks can shoot and defend like Bobby Portis; George is a creative shot-maker like Anfernee Simons or Bradley Beal; Sensabaugh is a pure shooter in the mold of T.J. Warren.

AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt and Anne M. Peterson along with AP freelancers Brian Hall and Matthew Coles contributed to this report.

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