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.
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.