I honestly didn’t know it was possible for a team to record just one fast break point in an entire game.
You learn something new every day. The summer league is a pretty loose interpretation of NBA basketball, but these are still real Nuggets coaches, real Nuggets players and (some) real NBA caliber talent competing in a professional setting.
The Nuggets’ performance on Sunday was offensive for all the wrong reasons. They shot 31.1% against the Mavs, recorded just 11 assists against 17 turnovers, and somehow managed the aforementioned one fast break point. Baskets are still worth two points in the summer league, but apparently the Nuggets didn’t manage to attempt a single shot on the fast break in 40 minutes of action.
Yeah, it was bad. Nevertheless there were some bright spots if you were able to stomach watching enough of the game to spot them. Evan Fournier showed good progress and was much more aggressive going to the rim, finishing with 15 points while looking like the second best player on the floor behind Dominique Jones, first round pick of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.
That’s about all I got. Onto the ugly stuff, of which there’s a lot, and some individual player analysis followed by news and notes from around the gym.
- Derwin Kitchen started at point guard again and played alright, but he continues to show why he’s not as much a real point guard as he is the least-bad option at the position. Kitchen did have 5 of the team’s 11 total assists, but also recorded four turnovers and as I mentioned before, couldn’t get the Nuggets a single shot opportunity in the open court. Kitchen isn’t a bad player by any means, but I don’t see a future for him in Denver and the lack of competent point guard play is making it nearly impossible for Denver’s offense to function.
- Jordan Hamilton was looking to get others involved and not nearly as aggressive in terms of creating for himself. I get the feeling Hamilton is being used by the coaches as more of a playmaker and trying to prove he can fill that role. Hamilton displayed some much improved passing skills but still went out of control on a few of his drives and couldn’t provide the consistent scoring threat Denver needed to keep things close. Jordan has not played well and still scored 18 points for the second straight game. If he ever really gets rolling, he’s going to explode in one of these games.
- Josh Carter got off to a hot start and showed he’s a more versatile scorer than previously thought. Carter scored in a variety of ways, showing off his silky smooth jumper while also having more success putting the ball on the floor and driving. I don’t like Carter as a primary offensive option and ballhandler but he certainly put up a strong performance showing he has the tools to possibly play in the NBA.
- Evan Fournier started at the other forward and was by far the brightest spot of the game. He is still very inconsistent with his shooting but finally got more aggressive attacking the basket and finishing at the rim in traffic. I talked to Melvin Hunt and got the sense they really like him coming off screens and looking to get to the rim. Unfortunately he’s being forced to create offense on this particular team and Denver’s haphazard play isn’t leading to many quality shot opportunities for Fournier or anyone else. I still think he needs to shoot the ball a little bit better, but Fournier already looks like perhaps the most solid pro on the team.
- Chu Chu started at Center. In his first NBA action ever, Maduabum was reacting to everything and was often a step slow on where he needed to be. Chu has really improved his body and he played under control for most of the game, displaying solid fundamentals against the bigger, stronger David Harrison in the post. I would like to see Chu rebound the ball a better and provide more of a defensive presence down low, but it’s hard to say anything bad about Chu in his first NBA experience ever. He’s still trying to learn how to fit in.
- Gani Lawal finally did a few good things and tied Jordan Hamilton with a team-high 7 rebounds. He still shot just 3-for-9 and made a couple of truly headscratching mistakes, such as failing to properly inbound the ball off a made basket. Defensively Gani finally made himself useful, taking a charge and providing much better help than he did in game one.
- Quincy Miller started off great, grabbing a couple of early offensive boards while showing he’s not afraid to mix it up in the paint. Unfortunately his offense took a step back and Quincy continues to struggle in terms of finding a role he can succeed in off the bench. I believe Miller needs the ball more often to be effective and I’m hoping Chad Iske gives him a start before the week is over with.
- Demonte Harper once again played a few first half minutes and didn’t provide much of a glimpse into his game. I loved the fact he got to the line four times in only 9 minutes, but he was only able to make one.
- Izzet Turkyilmaz was a major disappointment and didn’t really do anything after showing promising skills on both sides of the court in game one. Defensively the Nuggets were very poor with Turkyilmaz in the game and he continues to make extremely odd decision on the offensive end.
- Jorge Guttierez isn’t giving the Nuggets any reason to keep putting him in these games. He had five turnovers in 12 minutes and zero assists. His lack of size, speed, length and athleticism is a major issue as Jorge just isn’t able to get to his spots and have an impact on the floor. The turnovers completely negate any positive contribution he might be able to make on defense, which is where Jorge is best.
- Kenneth Faried wasn’t dressed and sat out the game. He’s dealing with back issues and it’s not totally clear whether the Nuggets will risk playing him the rest of the week or give him more time to heal up.
- Solomon Alabi told me he sprained his foot in the first game and wasn’t able to go through practices. When asked if he would be out for the rest of the week, Alabi said he’s going to take it day by day and see how he feels.
- JaVale McGee and Ty Lawson sat courtside and apparently joined Arron Afflalo with some of the summer league practices going on earlier in the day.
- This game really wasn’t good and showcased a lot of the flaws on Denver’s roster relative to the rest of the league. The Nuggets only brought 13 players while other teams are bringing much more and the lack of options at the Point Guard and Center positions are forcing the Nuggets to put some truly bizarre lineups on the court. I was talking to Nate Timmons on media row about how hard its been for the Nuggets to play their style and he pointed out how Denver probably didn’t record a single dunk the entire game.
- Coach Chad Iske stayed in the makeshift “locker room” longer than usual and again didn’t make himself available to the media. I don’t think the coaches are stressing too much about wins and losses in summer league but I do think Iske is less than pleased with the overall performance and lack of adjustment he’s seeing out of his guys.
I talked to Nuggets assistant coach Ryan Bowen after the game, who told me he loves being on George Karl’s staff and has spent a lot of time developing Timo and Kosta on an individual basis. Bowen is a well spoken guy who still loves to compete and goes hard against the Nuggets players in drills and practices. Here’s what he had to say:
On the development process of Mozgov and Koufos last season:
“It’s fun to go against them because they’re both so competitive. They both want to play obviously, yet they both have each other’s backs. It’s interesting competition between them on a daily basis because they want to outdo each other, but also want what’s best for the team. They’re both really quirky in their own ways but they love to get after it as well.”
On what the coaches are looking for from Mozgov next season:
“I think just grow. He was playing really well last season and then he rolled his ankle. He was doing such a great job protecting the basket, coming over and helping from the weak side. You know his offense is going to come. The way we play, we run the floor and he runs the floor as well as any big out there. He’s got amazing touch and he wants to shoot outside shots which is great because he can space the floor, and I really think you’re going to see that more and develop in his game in the upcoming years. Just his length, size and being able to bang with big guys while having a nice touch around the basket – we call him “Nash” because he thinks he’s Steve Nash out there when he’s handling the ball.”
More player-notes by Kalen
Fournier: As I stated in Charlie’s last recap, I already know I’m going to regret even questioning Ujiri for this pick. If he keeps this pace up, I’ll be punching myself in the face by the end of Summer League… Fournier has looked fantastic thus far. Remember, he’s still only 19. This is his first real introduction into a scenario with guys who have the talent to be mainstays in the NBA. Add that to the fact Summer League has some pretty bizarre rules (10 fouls? Really?) and is teeming with Carmelo Anthony wannabees and it’s easy to see how a foreigner (or a Fournier!) could have a hard time adjusting… But that’s hardly been the case. Fournier’s confidence is growing, steadily. He’s without question the most versatile player on Denver’s Summer League roster. His court vision is phenomenal. I know it sounds bold, but I’d put his passing skills right up there with Lawson and Gallinari already. He just sees the floor that way. He’s always looking to attack — usually through penetration — but once he breaks past the initial layer of defense, he shows great poise in reading the next wave of defenders and either distributing or finishing in traffic… I’m not sure who did it first, but whoever compared him to James Harden hit the head of the nail. Fournier lacks the elite outside shooting and athleticism, but otherwise, he resembles Harden in more ways than one. I cannot say enough about Fournier through two games. I’ve watched a lot of Summer League ball and outside of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb and Damian Lillard, I haven’t seen anybody who I could say looked definitively better than Fournier.
Hamilton: Again, he was looking for his shot. You can’t knock him for that. This is Summer League; it’s the one place and time coaches encourage aggressiveness, even to a fault. He made some really nice shots, which were encouraging, and did well on the boards once again. That said, it’s difficult from a spectators point of view to overlook all the ill-advised shot attempts. This might make fans cringe, but Hamilton reminds me a lot of J.R. Smith in this sense. He can really stroke it but his internal “shot limit meter” just doesn’t appear to be working properly all the time. It was especially bad when juxtaposed alongside Fournier and Miller who aren’t overshooting at all (Miller is the exact opposite). I agree with the readers who have mentioned his “demonstrative” behavior being somewhat concerning. He did this a few times in his short D-League stint and while it’s nothing to lose sleep over, it’s also nothing to raise a toast to either… Overall, I can’t complain about Hamilton. He’s averaging 18 points per game, rebounding at a high level, looking for his shot and perhaps exercising any of his demons now before the season starts. If he can score more efficiently he’ll be well on the way to having a great Summer League outing.
Miller: He’s not scoring nor shooting the ball well, but I love everything else I’m seeing from Miller. He has clearly undertaken the philosophy that he’s a rookie who isn’t going to see the floor for a while, so why not go in and do all the little things right that coaches love. He’s rebounding, hustling, looking to make the right/extra pass, being unselfish, cheering his teammates on, clapping after a good defensive play — all great signs from such a young player. Miller really is displaying his maturity across the board… However, he does need to be more aggressive. Just a few more “big plays” per half would be ideal. These don’t even have to be shots (in fact, it would be better if they weren’t), they just need to be situations where he has the ball in his hands and does something to create offense and put his team in a position to score. If Miller could do this, his Summer League could go from solid to extraordinary depending on what he does with these extra possessions.
Maduabum: Unfortunately Chu Chu was more toy than high-powered locomotive. He looked so, so raw out there. He was enthusiastic and hustled after lose balls, but more often than not he was caught looking like a deer in the headlights rather than someone who truly understood his place on the floor. It will be interesting to see how he plays in the upcoming games. He really needs to focus on defense, rebounding, setting firm picks and being in the right position to make an impact. Nobody’s asking him to Dream Shake his opponent out of his pants, but a few defensive stops would be nice.
Turky: Definitely came back down to Earth (did he ever leave?) after his first outing. He has a nice shooting stroke and really soft hands; he also seems to understand how to play the game and has fun doing it; but his wiry frame is really preventing him from making the type of impact he may be capable of. If he could add 30-40 more pounds — which is kind of hard to ever see happening to be honest — then the Nuggets might have something. Right now he’s a tweener in serious need of a hamburger and a haircut.
Others: Carter has a shooter’s stroke if I’ve ever seen one. The guy can flat out make it splash. He also showed other areas of his game which looked decent. Not a bad player at all. If the Nuggets had more roster spots available I could definitely see him getting a look… I totally agree with Charlie about Gutierrez. The guy looks way in over his head. He doesn’t have the athleticism or skill to hang with, well, the Dominique Jones of the world — which isn’t a good sign. He is playing out of position though. He shouldn’t be trying to ignite the fastest offense in the league. That’s just not what he does… Kitchen has some talent. He can do pretty much everything well, just not that well. I feel like he’s missing that last drop of elite something or other that would carve him out a 10-year career in the NBA. Scoring? Athleticism? Ball-handling skills? Not sure.