Nuggets first-round pick Peyton Watson: Kevin Durant has “taken me under his wing”
When Nuggets first-round pick Peyton Watson was a junior in high school, he had one very famous fan watching during one of his breakout games.
That’s how the relationship between Watson and Kevin Durant started. Durant got in touch with Watson’s uncle, and it wasn’t long before Watson was communicating, regularly, with Durant through Instagram.
Now, Watson calls Durant his “guy,” and said the two talk almost daily.
“He’s really taken me under his wing,” Watson said Sunday from Ball Arena, after the Nuggets’ second day of Summer League practice.
Of all the things Durant has told the rangy 6-foot-8 forward from UCLA, the message that most resonated with the rookie was simple.
“Just worry about being the best basketball player you can be,” Watson said. Durant told him not to dwell on the politics of what he can’t control, or the social media that can engulf NBA players. And, no, Watson wasn’t asked for Durant’s next team after the megastar requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets this past week.
“A lot of people compare me to KD,” Watson said. “But me and KD know, I’m Peyton Watson.”
Watson said he thinks Durant appreciates the confidence he has in himself, even if he concedes that he models his game after Durant.
Recently, Watson found himself at a workout with Durant and newly-acquired Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. If Watson develops like the Nuggets envision, perhaps those two could find themselves as the backbone of a drastically improved Denver defense.
Watson, who was buried on the depth chart last season for the Bruins and didn’t play much, knew the Nuggets were interested in him during the pre-draft process. Despite averaging only 3.3 points in less than 13 minutes per game, Watson conveyed a steely belief in himself. He knows his 3-point shooting needs to improve – and it’s an area of focus – but he got on Denver’s radar because of his defensive frame and versatility.
“I know myself that I’m a first-round pick,” Watson said. “I know myself that there’s not 29 guys better than me in this draft.”
It’s been barely over a week since he became an NBA player, and Watson is just beginning to wrap his head around the process. He described his routine as “beautiful,” enjoying the fact that he only needs to think about basketball and nothing else.
Summer League head coach Ryan Bowen praised his early approach, citing his length, decision-making and off-ball movement. Bowen was particularly pleased with his work ethic and the fact that he’s asking questions.
“He belongs,” Bowen said.
When Saturday’s workout finished, Watson retreated to his hotel room and laid down on the bed. Having already worked out, he didn’t know what else to do with his day.
“It’s one of those things that I can’t get enough of,” Watson said. “Hoop is like a vitamin for me. Every day I have to have it.”