The Denver Nuggets summer league team has played in two games and by the time most of you read this that number will be up to three. Even so I want to post some summer league thoughts before I get too far behind. I have been impressed with a few of the players on the team. You can see the up to date stats here.
Ty Lawson – Lawson has not posted overly impressive numbers, but I think he has played very well. He is has been the quickest player on the floor both games and has shown his ability to get into the lane at will. When he penetrates and looks to pass he always makes the right decision and has a unique ability to fit the ball wherever he needs to. So far he has taken very few jumpers so it is difficult to tell how he has adjusted to the NBA three point line, we cannot base anything off his 0-2 performance from behind the arc at this point. He does have a sense for when his team needs a basket, such as early in game one against the Spurs when they only had two points a few minutes into the game. In those situations he has attacked the lane and earned free throws. He has struggled to score and is shooting a microscopic 6.7% from the floor. His primary issue in that area is learning to get his shot off in the lane. It would not surprise me if at least half of his 14 misses have been blocked at the rim. Most importantly his on the ball defense has been very good. Against the Spurs he was matched up against second year point guard George Hill who had a nice rookie season for San Antonio and Hill could not get around him without the help of a screen.
Sonny Weems – Based on the stats it looks like Weems is playing horribly, but he has shown flashes of very goodness. He is doing a great job of rebounding, averaging eight defensive rebounds a game, and pushing the ball back up the floor. In fact, he is doing a little too good of a job as he has pushed the bounds of being out of control. The result has been 4.5 turnovers a game. His athleticism and speed is off the charts and he is absolutely capable of getting his own shot. He has the ability to create space whether it is through contact or his footwork. So far his shot has not been falling, however, it is clear that the Nuggets want to see if he can carry the scoring load. If he proves he can it will make it easier for George Karl to start J.R. Smith knowing he has Weems ability to score available off the bench. Weems really reminds me a lot of a young(er) J.R. He is the best athlete on the floor and it is clear he can make exceptional plays. He does not have the passing ability of J.R., especially on the pick and roll, but he can use his talents to get his teammates easy shots. He also reminds me of J.R. on the defensive end. When he focuses on defense he shows an ability to be disruptive he just lacks consistency.
Coby Karl – If there is a player other than Lawson or Weems who is on an NBA roster in November my money is on Karl. It is easy to look at how hard Karl plays and how intense he is and not notice how skilled he is. He is great with the ball in his hands. He takes care of it, is a very good passer and he can really shoot. It may look bad if Karl gets a shot with the Nuggets, I even made a joke about his presence on the Nuggets summer league team, but he is definitely an NBA caliber player and deserves a spot in the league. It may look bad if he earns that spot in Denver, but you cannot let a good player get away just because of appearances.
Ronald Dupree – I mentioned that Dupree was the most likely player on the roster to be the Dahntay Jones of 2009. He is certainly doing his best. He is playing hard on defense and has been determined to shoot from as close to the rim as possible on offense. He is clearly a limited offensive player, but he has the athleticism and build to be a very good defensive player. I do not think he is going to pull off the same trick Jones did last season, but he is certainly giving it his all.
C.J. Giles – The Nuggets are seemingly always in the market for a big to round out the roster. I was surprised in the past that they did not hang on to a guy like Jelani McCoy. This year it looks like Giles is the big man who will catch my eye only to drift off into the night. He plays with a lot of energy and has done a great job defending the rim. As with Dupree he is not an offensive player, however, his defense is enough to get him noticed. Plus he looks like he has good hands and I like bigs who can block shots, bring energy and catch the ball when it is coming at them.
Richard Hendrix – I really like Hendrix’s ability to score in the paint. He is crafty around the rim and despite being a little undersized he almost always gets a good shot off. I do not think he is going to be in the NBA next season, but he is a very nice player.
Bret Bearup was interviewed during the Nuggets contest with the Wizards and he did not provide much insight to any moves the Nuggets might be working on, but he did say that they want to avoid paying the luxury tax. He also acknowledged that such a feat is probably impossible this season.
Staying with financial I mentioned that it would be interesting to see which trade exception the Nuggets would use to acquire Arron Afflalo. Reader Frontrange pointed out that according to the ESPN Trade Machine the Nuggets used a portion of the Chucky Atkins trade exception on Afflalo and Walter Sharpe, which means they are preserving the exception that was originally created in the Camby trade. I find that intriguing even though it is probably unlikely that they use a big chunk of it before it expires in early November.
There has also been some coaching news over the past couple of days. Chris Tomasson, who is writing for the Rocky Mountain Independent (make sure you check out his Nuggets coverage there) reported first that Jeff Bzdelik was interviewed for the opening in Minnesota. Bzdelik is a perfect coach for a young squad like Minnesota as he will make sure they play hard, play defense and fight from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
Mac Stein is reporting the Los Angeles Clippers are trying to pry Tim Grgurich from Denver. I have a difficult time seeing him leave an organization like the Nuggets for one like the Clippers. Hopefully he will remain in Denver to continue to develop the many young players on the roster.