Summer league is an evaluation process more than anything else, and the Nuggets have used the last six days in the desert as an opportunity to see what they have with a young and talented roster. The Toronto Raptors also gave them a look at what they don’t have on Thursday afternoon, defeating the Nuggets 95-78 and knocking them out of tournament behind the strong play of MVP-favorite Jonas Valanciunas.
Valanciunas has not only been the best player at the Las Vegas summer league, he’s blossoming into one of the more physically imposing seven-footers in the league. Denver meanwhile is evaluating a roster built largely around the slashing and perimeter shooting of their young guards and wings. They simply had no answer for the brute strength and post-centric game of Jonas Valanciunas, who put up a solid line of 15 points and 12 boards without much resistance from the undersized Nuggets.
It really didn’t seem there was much the Nuggets could do about the loss. Jordan Hamilton played well and scored 25 points, but shots weren’t falling and the Nuggets got outrebounded to death. The final tally on the boards was a staggering 48-28 in favor of Toronto. While Denver’s players fought hard and battled it seemed they were just met head-on by their own limitations.
Fatigue may have been a factor as well, with the Nuggets playing their fourth game in a row on consecutive nights. After six days of action, tired legs were showing up for nearly every summer league team but rookie Erick Green denied that it was a determining factor in the loss.
“I don’t think we’re wearing down. We’re just not doing the little things. Not getting back on D, not rebounding well. We’re taking too many threes and it’s the little things we’re not doing that are keeping us from winning” said Green.
Green has been really tough on himself in the summer league, probably a little too much considering this wasn’t a loss that can be attributed to poor execution or effort. The Nuggets simply ran out of gas against a huge team with perhaps the best player in the tournament.
The Nuggets aren’t yet finished with summer league, but it’s essentially winding down and the competitive portion is pretty much in the books. Coaches told me they would use Denver’s final game in the consolation round as an opportunity to play different guys who haven’t seen much court time in the first five games.
The Nuggets final game of summer league will be played Friday at 6:30pm MST against Memphis in the Thomas & Mack Arena.