Of the sixteen players on the Nuggets’ roster at the 2013 NBA Summer League, more than half have not had a chance to play meaningful minutes. A few of those players finally got a chance in Friday’s 91-84 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver’s fifth game in five days and their finale in Las Vegas. The Nuggets finished with a 1-5 record overall.
Jordan Hamilton did not dress for the game and Evan Fournier played just eight first-quarter minutes. Luke Harangody led the Nuggets in scoring with 17 points off the bench. Nuggets’ coaches delegated a lot of minutes and responsibility to seldom-used reserves — they played 14 guys in total and 11 of them received ten minutes or more.
One reason for the lack of continuity in rotations was the summer league format itself. Many teams had spent the entirety of their previous games trying to build chemistry and cohesion within a particular group, one that would give them the best chance to win and advance in the tournament. I heard from a number of teams and coaches who felt that format was not the most conducive to the real purpose of summer league: evaluating talent and player development.
The Nuggets led by six after the first quarter and stayed close all game, but Memphis pulled away in the fourth behind energetic performances from Vander Blue, Jack Cooley and Matt Howard. Denver was a very perimeter-oriented team throughout summer league and their shooting was up and down throughout the entire event. When they did get in the paint, the Nuggets lacked creative finishers and their young guards were all still learning how to make the right play off the dribble.
All in all, the Nuggets’ summer league has to be considered a success in that it served it’s intended purpose. They were able to showcase current Nuggets Quincy Miller, Evan Fournier, and Jordan Hamilton in larger roles and all of them showed growth in one form or another. The remainder of the roster fought for scraps and many struggled when asked to adapt to a variety of roles and sporadic playing time.
Rookie center Kyle Barone described the summer league experience as “Just a different type of game. It’s quick shots, things like that. You kinda just have to get your own out there.” The mobile big man performed admirably as the lone true center who could score and defend in the post, but Barone told me he didn’t get to showcase his pick-and-pop skills or three-point range. Watching Barone struggle to play his game in a role ill-suited to his strengths was odd, but it was also a valuable experience that likely gave the rookie hopeful a great deal of knowledge about where he needs to improve in order to play at the next level.
“It was a good experience overall, playing with [new teammates] and a bunch of guys who have already been in the NBA. It was a challenging week,” Barone said.
With the 2013 NBA Summer League now in the books for the Denver Nuggets, Roundball Mining Company can move on to evaluating the performances and growth of those who participated. That will be forthcoming, but for now — after a long five days in Vegas, I need a little bit of a break.