Nuggets' Fournier aims for immediate roster spot
DENVER (AP) The Denver Nuggets want their top pick to get more seasoning overseas. Evan Fournier is ready to start his NBA career this fall.
Fournier, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound guard from France, was the 20th overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. The Nuggets drafted him with the idea of having the 19-year-old play one or two more years in Europe, but Fournier said he wants to stay here.
"I want to play next season," he said. "I don't want to go back to Europe."
Fournier averaged 14.1 points and 3.2 rebounds playing for Poiters of the France Pro A League.
The Nuggets selected Fournier as well as Baylor forward Quincy Miller (38th overall) and Turkish big man Izzet Turkyilmaz (50th) with an eye to the future.
The Nuggets have 12 players under contract for the 2012-13 season. They have two restricted free agents, guard Rudy Fernandez and center JaVale McGee, and unrestricted free agent guard Andre Miller also on the current 15-man roster.
Because of that, and the unexpected success the team had in 2011-12 despite an unsettled rotation during the lockout year, the team's plan is to keep the roster intact.
"It wasn't a great year to evaluate your players and you have to give them more of a chance," said Masai Ujiri, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations.
Denver got off to a strong start and finished 36-30 to grab the No. 6 seed despite trades and significant injuries to the core of the rotation. The emergence of rookie Kenneth Faried, their first-round pick in 2011, and a youthful roster focused Thursday's draft strategy on the future, not next season.
Fournier hopes to convince the Nuggets to keep him around.
"I've always been ambitious," he said. "My parents gave me that motivation."
Fournier said he played against some NBA players during the lockout, most notably fellow countryman Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers. The competition didn't faze Fournier.
"They're taller, they're stronger, it's easier for them to do hard things," he said. "I always had my confidence."
Miller was one of the top high school players in the country before tearing his left ACL as a senior. He played one season at Baylor before declaring for the draft.
"That kind of brought me down," Miller said of his injury. "But I went to Baylor, had a great season and helped us reach the Elite Eight."
All three players plan on playing for Denver in the summer league in Las Vegas next month.
Updated June 29, 2012