Is Stone a diamond in the rough?

Yesterday, the Denver Nuggets made its first free agent signing of the 2011-12 season. No, it wasn’t the front-court anchoring, 6-11 Nene, nor the soft-spoken, loyal Arron Afflalo. Instead, the Nuggets signed an undrafted rookie out of the University of Texas El Paso by the name of Julyan Stone. Now, if you’re not a big draft head like me then you’ve probably never heard of Julyan Stone in your entire life — unless of course you happened to stumble upon the list of Tom Cruise monikers that didn’t make his final cut. But considering the fact that Stone signed a contract for not one, but two years (at $1.1 million dollars), I think its fair to say Julyan Stone is name you’ll be hearing a lot over the next several seasons.

So who is Julyan Stone after all? For starters, he’s a 6-6 guard from Goleta, Calif., who spend four years playing basketball at UTEP where he set multiple school and conference records along the way. He’s not a great scorer — evident by the fact he’s never averaged more than nine points per game in his career — but instead focuses his attention on defense, rebounding and finding teammates through precision passing. In his final season at UTEP Stone shot .510 percent from the floor while averaging 7.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 8.5 points per game. But perhaps his most impressive statistic, is non other than his low assist-to-turnover ratio. During his tenure at UTEP he tied the school record for the best assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.66 percent and played 19 games without a single turnover. He is both Conference USA and UTEP’s all-time leader in assists (ahead of Tim Hardaway) by which he also set his school’s single-season assists record in the process. Stone is well-known for his defense which landed him a spot on Conference USA’s All-Defensive team twice.

From a pure scouting standpoint, Stone is vastly intriguing. When combing the Web for various breakdowns and analysis of his game you tend to discover similar observations: great size (for a point guard), high motor, outstanding vision, versatile, athletic, good decision-maker, etc. And though I love hearing all of that positive feedback, it’s hard to ignore the criticism many had of his offensive game too — specifically his shooting. There are a copious amount of concerns about how he’ll survive in the NBA with such a limited offense repertoire. Though his athleticism and above-average skill-set enabled him to be effective in Conference USA, the fact still remains: He never managed to put up no more than nine points per game in his career.

Realistically, it would be erroneous to expect Stone to morph into some sort of a revelation. Let’s keep in mind, he did go undrafted for a reason and there are still many doubts as to how effective he can be in the NBA. What Nuggets fans should be excited about however, is the potential for improvement. All signs point towards Stone being a team player who gives it his all and takes pride in his lock-down defense. Those are things that translate extremely well to the NBA. Over time, his shot will improve and that can only be looked upon as a bonus.

All in all, I’m very excited to have Stone on the Nuggets and I’m equally as thrilled to see the direction in which Masai Ujiri is leading this team. Because instead of hearing about how the Nuggets are interested in aging, injury-plagued players like Jermaine O’Neal, Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter, my Twitter feed is constantly flashing more young, defensive-minded, under-the-radar names like Stone and Mbah a Moute. These, to me, are the types of moves that good general managers make. No, they won’t catch your attention, but come March when the aforementioned Arenas and O’Neal are glued to the bench with ice running up and down their legs, Stone and Mbah a Moute will likely be heavily invested in a defensive stance, sweat pouring down their face, as they send their opponent packing with a loss.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.

Latest posts by Kalen Deremo (see all)

  • gk4prez

    He can and is good at taking the opposing guard down on the block and posting him up. The Lakers were rumored to take him in the 2nd round. But, a few guards slipped in the draft, and the Lakers went another route. I believe the Knicks had their eyes on him as a training camp invite.

    Any signing that might end the thought of another run with AC is a good signing in my book.

    Welcome to the Nuggets Mr. Stone.

  • DH

    I haven’t seen him, but he sounds a little like Andre Miller. And Miller’s career turned out OK, right?

  • chronicnugs

    @DH – to be clear, Andre was a first team all american and WAC player of the year at Utah. led his team to a final four runner up. pretty much a complete stud. not a fan of miller, but this stone kid couldnt hold dre’s jock.

    second thing, while i appreciate the earnestness of the article, i refuse to get excited about signing an undrafted kid who averaged 9 points per. thats just me. i hope it works out, but c’mon guys… is this what our team has been reduced to?

    • DH

      I wasn’t trying to compare his credentials coming out of college or even his potential. I just meant that there could be a place in the NBA for a tall point guard who plays solid defense, rebounds well, gets assists, doesn’t turn it over, but doesn’t shoot worth a crap (although, like Miller, he seems to find a way to put it in the basket at times since he had a .510 field goal percentage). As a third point guard, he’s worth a gamble at that price. That’s all.

      • chronicnugs

        agreed, 100%. I just want to keep things in perspective.

  • Omar

    mbah a moute just got an offer from nugs. story coming?

  • Ricardo

    Did the nuggets get Mbah a Moute after all? This is a good signing for them.

    • DH

      It’s just an offer right now. He’s restricted, so the Bucks could match the offer. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they have 2 or 3 days to match the offer. By the way, the offer is 4 years, $19M.

    • DH

      Reports say that the Bucks are going to match Denver’s offer. I’m not happy about it, but at least they made a quick decision so the Nuggets can move on to another target.

  • baballa31

    @chronicnugs stone differed to his teammates a lot on the offensive end that is why his points were low. he is an excellent passer and defender as he can guard multiple positions. he has the potential to be a contributor on this team with his passing and defense.

  • Michael (anotheraussienuggzfan)

    After first hearing about Stone on one of the previous posts I had a look around and wrote this:

    I didn’t know anything about Stone so I did a quick youtube search… This looks like something that may have been filmed as a “scouting” video.

    He shoots the corner 3 well and has good size. I also watched a college highlight clip in a game he was 2 rebounds away from getting a triple double.
    He seems very capable, not sure of his background story and why he wasn’t picked up in the draft (the were reports that the Lakers were looking to take him, but didn’t).

    It looks like he’s been working on his shot.

  • MinerTim

    To be honest at UTEP, Stone played every season with Randy Culpepper. (Youtube him). So our offense never asked for Stone to be a prolific scorer. But when needed he could go and get points. If his shooting improves, he’s a steal.

  • chronicnugs

    not trying to be negative nancy here guys… i guess my point is that he was passed up by every team in the league at least once in the draft. i guess there was probably a team or two that didnt have a pick. still, if the scouting dept here at nugsballsdotcom say he’s a steal then he must be, 30 scouting departments be damned (and i’m aware of the handshake agreements and stashing of players that happens in the second round, spare me).

    quick trivia question though… last undrafted american born player to make an all star team? i’m guessing ben wallace.

    • chronicnugs

      but chronic, the lakers liked him. THE LAKERS. just think of all the studs the lakers drafted. Kobe, Shaq, Pau Gasol, Lamar, ummmm… Jabbar…. Wilt… Artest? Horry?

      Hmmmmm, wait a minute!! the Lakers SUCK AT DRAFTING. THEY BUY ALL THEIR PLAYERS. they hype up their draftees and dump them. I guess they did draft Bynum. Neurotic, injured man-child Andrew Bynum. We aren’t exactly talking about the Spurs here guys…

      LA drafted Marc Gasol, who they used to acquire Pau, so they arent total idiots. Still… if the Lakers were a ESPN NFL Draft Guru they would be Kiper. Mel Effing Kiper. Read it and weep…

    • Kalen

      If you’d like to be uninspired about the Nuggets signing an undrafted free agent, that’s obviously you’re prerogative. But here and nugsballsdotcom we fully endorse any signing made by the Nuggets front office — undrafted free agent rookie or not. Just keep in mind, in addition to Wallace guys like Bruce Bowen, Jose Calderon Avery Johnson and John Starks also went undrafted. Not saying Stone will ever be that type of guy, but it is possible.

  • gk4prez

    Good Grief, is it really worth it to make a point about a signing on a guy who if he makes the team will be the 3rd pg? I like the idea of having a young player in this role over a vet (AC) because this player at least has the opportunity to become something more than a 3rd string pg, whereas the vet (AC), doesn’t.

  • chronicnugs

    kalen, im a fan of this site. im a fan of your work. but “we fully endorse any signing made by the Nuggets front office”. are you speaking for all the writers here? you fully endorse ANY signings? your words, not mine.

    care to explain? you can email me directly at

    spam on sheep.

  • chronicnugs

    to be clear, i’d like to be uninspired. jimmy king ran with us in a effing parking lot. didnt work out. so yeah, excuse me if i’m uninspired. get a grip.

  • chronicnugs

    look friend, i want you with us, not them. if you fully endorse anything they say, then you’re with them.

    you guys have the VERY BEST site on the web for nuggets fans, bar none. even I have to acknowledge that. just dont be a mouthpiece. we need places like this. WE NEED THIS. as people who give a eff about this team, we need sites like this. i beg you to keep up the good work. i want a place that i can express decades worth of frustration. this is the best place for that. you’ve created a place for people like me. dont censor me if i dont agree.

    btw i had no idea about cap holds. clueless. i mean that. thank you for that piece. it literally calmed me down, and i wouldnt have known it if is wasnt for this site. so thanks.