Earlier today the Nuggets announced the 13 players Chad Iske will coach in the Las Vegas summer league next week. Nuggets fans should be pleased to know that every one of Denver’s draft picks from the last two seasons will be in attendance, only further proving that Masai and Josh are building an organization that values long-term player development. I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas this weekend to do some up close coverage of Summer League for Roundball Mining Company, and before our in-depth analysis gets rolling here’s a little bit of background on what we know about each of the prospects right now.
Jorge Gutierrez, PG, #5
Gutierrez promises to be one of the more interesting stories of the entire summer league. The former Lincoln High grad had a distinguished four year career at Cal, winning both Pac 12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in his senior season. His calling card is defense and Gutierrez is known for shutting down high-powered scorers. Gutierrez’ performance at the NCAA level was good enough to get him drafted, but NBA teams probably decided to pass due to his unremarkable length and athleticism. Still, this guy is relentless on the floor and as Kalen told me after the draft, his defense and intangibles are amazing.
Beyond being a really interesting NBA prospect, Gutierrez has local Denver ties. He immigrated to Colorado from Chihuahua, Mexico at age 16 in search of a basketball future. He landed at Lincoln High and worked his way up to the prep circuit and eventually an NCAA scholarship with Cal. His extremely inspirational story has been the subject of some controversy as he was technically an illegal immigrant before getting a student visa to attend college. You can read more about Jorge’s fascinating background here and here.
Evan Fournier, G/F, #94
Fournier’s inclusion on the summer league roster comes as a bit of surprise since it’s not totally clear whether the Nuggets intend to sign him for next season. He still has one year remaining on his pro contract with Poiters, but it’s possible the French team allowed him to work out for the Nuggets or reached a buyout with him and his agent.
Getting an extended look at Fournier is great news for the Nuggets. After getting a little more acquainted with him following the draft, I have a new appreciation for his game and his potential to be an impact player in the NBA. There’s limited footage available of him, but it’s clear to me he’s at his best in two areas – transition and coming off screens, both of which make him a very good fit in an offense like Denver’s. I do have some doubt about whether or not he can get to the basket and finish at the NBA level as Fournier has pretty average strength, speed and athleticism. He also needs to improve his shooting numbers quite a bit.
The Nuggets roster is currently so full I doubt Fournier makes the team, but this is the one opportunity for Denver to coach him up and see what he’s made of against NBA caliber talent.
Josh Carter, SG/SF, #23
Carter is a 24 year old swingman out of Texas A&M. He went undrafted in 2009 and has since spent several years overseas, most recently with Maccabi Ashdod in Israel.
Kenneth Faried, PF, #35
Not a whole lot needs to be said about Faried. The Manimal is fresh off of averaging a double double in his first career playoff series and he’s in Vegas to stay in shape and expand his game. Faried doesn’t have a whole lot to prove relative to the rest of the fringe NBA prospects here and he’s likely going to embarrass a few of them. Faried will definitely try to add some things to his game, but avoiding too much wear and tear or injury is priority number one.
Jordan Hamilton, SG/SF, #1
We already covered Hamilton pretty extensively in the 3-on-3, so I’ll keep this short. This is a big summer for Jordan Hamilton. He’s in position to help the Nuggets a great deal next season, but he’ll first have to carve out a role. It starts with showing the coaches he isn’t a rookie anymore and is worthy of more responsibility. If Hamilton struggles or looks disinterested as he did in the D-League last year, his development could be further stalled. Hamilton should lead this team and be a primary playmaker on both ends of the court.
Demonte Harper, G, #22
Kenneth Faried’s buddy and former college teammate gets a tryout with the Denver Nuggets. Harper was the second best player on that 2011 Morehead State team and is best known for his game winning three in Morehead’s upset win over Louisville in the NCAA tournament (which took place in Denver of all places).
Derwin Kitchen, G, #20
Kitchen went undrafted out of Florida State in 2011 and played last year for Maccabi Rishon in Israel. He’s an athletic guard and much like Josh Carter, I know very little about him and haven’t seen him play before.
Quincy Miller, SF/PF, #30
The consensus on Miller is that he’s too raw to help an NBA team right now. It doesn’t make sense for so many teams to have passed him up in the draft without believing that he doesn’t quite know how to use his length and size at the next level. Personally, I think that’s a bit shortsighted as Miller showed advanced basketball skill even in a reduced role at Baylor. Miller could be the total sleeper of summer league and turn out to be the best player on this team. On the other hand, I tend to believe his development will be a longer process because he has a very weird frame and is truly without a natural position in the NBA. Look out for Miller’s ability to score and defend in the post during summer league, it could tell a lot about how he might fit into the NBA game.
Izzet Turkyilmaz, PF/C, #12
I literally can’t find any footage of Izzet playing in a real basketball game. He’s an intriguing guy at 7-foot-1, but he’s going to be severely overmatched at just 210 pounds. I’m excited to see how he does as I know nothing about Izzet, but he better have incredible skill because his 7-foot-tall body is just not fit for NBA level competition yet.
Chu Chu Maduabum, PF, #14
Nuggets fans haven’t heard much out of Chu Chu since he was selected late in the second round of the 2011 draft. This will be the first time many of us get to see Chu play as he spent only a very limited amount of time in the D-League 2 years ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. I have no idea what to expect, but he’s supposed to be a rugged defender who blocks shots and rebounds.
Julyan Stone, PG, #10
Stone shows a great feel for the game whenever he’s on the court and reminds me of a young, hungry Afflalo with the way he gets after it on defense. Not a lot of players take the D-League seriously, but Julyan showed incredible poise and leadership in his stint with the Idaho Stampede last year. He can frequently be seen communicating with his teammates and making sure they know their responsibilities. The things Stone needs to work on going forward are his shooting and consistency on offense. He’ll need to be able to shoot and score a little more in order for the Nuggets to have more confidence in him as backup PG
Gani Lawal, PF, #31
I liked Lawal a lot in the 2010 draft, where he ended up being selected 46th overall by the Phoenix Suns. He’s a 6-foot-9 bruiser in the mold of Kenneth Faried but has had an incredibly rocky start to his pro career. This guy is a freak athlete who just hasn’t been able to show he’s a real basketball player yet. There’s some serious potential here and he probably belongs on an NBA roster. I think there’s a decent chance he would have been picked up off waivers had he not went overseas after being waived by the Suns last season.
Solomon Alabi, C, #50
Alabi is Masai Ujiri’s protégé, a young man Ujiri discovered in Zaria, Nigeria and mentored in his Basketball without Borders camp, eventually bringing Solomon to the USA to compete at the high school and collegiate level. Masai Ujiri was the assistant GM for the Raptors in 2010 when Toronto drafted Alabi with the 50th pick.
“Solo” has the most experience of anyone on this summer league team, although much of his two year tenure with Toronto was spent in the D-League. Masai really believes in this guy and that’s reason enough for me to get excited about seeing him suit up in Vegas. In my opinion, Alabi should be on an NBA roster due to his size alone – he’s a monstrous 7-foot-1 at a lean 250 pounds.
Holly MacKenzie wrote a great piece on Solo as he was gearing up for his rookie season in 2010, revealing a lot about his personality and his special bond with Masai