Should the Nuggets consider Josh Akognon for backup point guard?

As reported on Sportando, the regular season of the Chinese Basketball Association has come to a close, making a small crop of new free agents available on the NBA market. There are some familiar (if not necessarily appealing) names in the bunch, including Delonte West and Hamed Haddadi.

One less well-known player, however, could merit the Nuggets’ consideration.

Former Cal State Fullerton point guard Josh Akognon has spent the majority of his five-year professional basketball career playing in China, with a fair degree of success. On the other hand, the extent of his NBA experience is getting signed then quickly waived first by the Mavericks in 2012, and then by the Grizzlies last October, following fairly impressive outings in Summer League. And as such, he is probably a borderline NBA player at best, certainly not even remotely resembling the savior of this downwardly spiraling Nuggets season.

So consider this a very, very modest proposal, with severely tempered expectations for the best possible outcome. It would essentially be a last resort.

But that may well be where the Nuggets are at now.

If Denver ends up being able to get no better than a second-rounder, salary relief and an open roster spot in exchange for Andre Miller – a distinct possibility given that their much-publicized desperation to trade him puts them at a distinct disadvantage – Akognon could be a cheap replacement for Nate Robinson, and would not further bloat the payroll going forward.

And the hard truth may be that the Nuggets will have few, if any better options available to them.

Akognon’s stats appear to have been relatively consistent through his college and professional experience. In his senior year at CSUF he led his team with 23.9 points per game, averaging 4.3 3-pointers on .372 shooting from the arc. In his most recent season playing for Qingdao E. in China, he averaged 28 points (on .565 2-point and .362 3-point shooting) and five assists per game.

True, he seems to be best known for his long-range shooting, and less so for his ability to run the point and distribute. But it’s difficult to imagine that he could be much worse in that respect than anyone currently available on the Nuggets roster not named Ty Lawson. And at the very least it would be a low-risk experiment for Denver to try him out on a 10-day contract.

The bottom line is that it is simply an untenable situation for the Nuggets to continue having no point guards in the short term, and no backup to relieve Lawson and help scale back his minutes after he returns. Even if the Nuggets choose to tank – or perhaps especially if they choose to tank – they can’t keep making Lawson grind out forty-plus minutes per game night in and night out. It’s an entirely counterproductive, and reckless use of their most valuable asset.

Realistically, unless they open up a fire sale and start putting players like Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari on the block, nearly all of the roster options that will be available for the Nuggets to act upon in the immediate future are likely to be band-aid solutions in the best cases.

Akognon is not the true solution for any of Denver’s many problems. Nor is he the only player of his ilk who the Nuggets should be evaluating. But they simply have reached a point where the serious exploration of these types of options for jerry-rigging the roster has got to be on the table for them.

And inasmuch as a band-aid can be a quick short-term fix, Akognon might just be good enough to help get Denver through to the end of the season.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @denbutsu

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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • steve

    This roster should be blown up. Joel, what do you think about making a run at Pierre Jackson from the Pelicans? I was thinking something like Mozgov and rights to Erick Green for Aminu and Rights to Pierre Jackson and have them throw in a future 2nd rd pick. Kid is a winner. Aminu also gives us a solid defender and is expiring deal if he doesn’t work out. I know mozgov has shown some ability here and there, but i truly don’t think he will ever be a consistant player to warrant be a starter. NO wants a C to play along side Unibrow, they would at least take a look at at mozzy.

    • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/ JoelRMC

      If you think Moz will never be consistent enough to start, and that Jackson is a “winner” (presumably meaning that you think he’ll be more valuable than Moz someday), what makes you think N.O. doesn’t think so, too? Why would they pull the trigger on that?

      Truthfully, part of the reason I wrote this post was to make the point that the kind of deadline action we should be expecting (or perhaps bracing ourselves) to see is Akognon-scale moves, not Thaddeus Young-scale moves. Denver is in a pretty bad Catch-22 right now, where the league knows they’re desperate to make moves to improve, but where that knowledge consequently devalues their assets because teams never will wittingly overpay when they think they’re in the stronger position.

      To me, the best case deadline scenario is accomplishing little more than dumping salary, and getting better positioned for the offseason. Sure, there’s a chance they could do better than that, but I’m not holding my breath, and I think to do so would be unrealistic.

      • Richard Pesicka

        Most if not all other NBA teams would have already signed or picked up a PG from somebody or somewhere. Because the Nuggets could not even place Dre, tells me they have some very deep rooted problems in the organization. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

        • Bryan

          Kind of like San Antonio not going out and getting a replacement for David Robinson and giving him extra time to heal from his injuries back in the day?

          Hopefully, Ty Lawson will be given lots of time to rest and they’ll just keep putting Foye and Fournier at PG, so the Nuggets can rack up the losses and increase there chances of a higher pick in the lottery.

          It could be a quick turnaround for the Nuggets next year if they can add a stud from the draft, Gallo comes back, and Ty is healthy as well.

          • Richard Pesicka

            The Nuggets could indeed get a high draft pick. And then trade or sell that pick away. As a lot of teams do.

      • steve

        Well, this would be a minor salary dump as mozgov is signed for a couple years and aminu is a FA next year. And my thoughts on Pierre Jax are that if NO hasn’t brought him up at all now with Jrue out, they may never and will use him as a trade piece. This is unless they are just letting Roberts and Rivers play so they
        can move them here soon at the deadline, and then bring PJ up.They truly want a C to put next to Davis and Steisma and Ajinca just aren’t cutting it so maybe he is expendable.

        I do think we trade miller for pennies, but i’m fine with that. He’s not worth much more at this rate.

        • hockeystick41

          Mcgee and Hickson for Gordon and the rights to Jackson works.

          • LBJ

            Even though I’m not a big fan of Gordon – dumping the contracts of these 2 bozos would be worth it. Unfortunately, I suspect NO wants no part of this deal.

  • Aaron

    With the title of this blogpost and comments. . . it’s safe to say the days of the Nuggets as a contending, playoff team are temporarily over. Thanks Josh and Tim! I can’t believe anyone would rather start over for 5 + years then continue to get into the playoffs and contend with great teams. Plus, the added incentive of having great, competitive basketball at the Pepsi Center for 6 months. Has anyone looked at the ticket market right now? You can get in on Wednesday for $3. Thanks Josh and Tim! Wow. . . tanking, getting rid of Karl, letting talented players walk, etc. . .were bad moves made by guys trying to make their mark on the organization. Well, make a mark they did. . . a skid mark.

    • LBJ

      Timmy is a little gun shy with the trades – after his attempt to donate Chris Paul to Lakers was rejected by the NBA as “too lopsided.”

    • Heisenberg

      Speaking as a Nuggets fan, outside of 2009 (and arguably last year, even though that was another first round exit), were we ever really that competitive? We consistently were trapped in that 5-8 seed range, getting bounced out in the first round. That is the worst place to be in the NBA. You don’t get a lottery pick and you can’t win a playoff series. You just don’t see underdogs win in the NBA (if a lower seed wins, they’re almost always eliminated the following round).

      I’d rather suck for 3-4 years and build a solid core than get knocked out in the first round year after year. The Thunder sucked for a few years and now have a serious shot at winning a title. Durant, Harden, and Westbrook all came via early draft picks, Ibaka was the only key player they found outside the top 5 (Ibaka was a mid to late first rounder, but that’s pretty irrelevant). I think if they kept Harden for another year (and they could have), they would have been to the Finals again last year and would have had a serious shot at beating the Heat.

      This is one of the best drafts in a long time. Hopefully Denver can get lucky in the lottery. If they do, we could see a quick turnaround. If not, they should still be able to grab a solid player if they’re in the top ten.

  • hockeystick41

    Daniel “Boobie” Gibson is also a guy the Nuggets could pick up for the rest of the season if Dre isn’t traded and bought out of his contract.

  • wij

    Did Denver applied for the disabled player exception for Gallinari or did they think at that stage he was coming back?

  • etlord1

    I think the roster needs dramatic changes. The time to do that is by the time next season starts. I know that I’m comparing two different sports, but I think this is a good example of how a team should be run. When Pete Carroll become Seattle’s coach, he kept only a dozen or so players on the roster he was handed because those were the only guys who were the right fit for the system he wanted. The Nuggets need to do the same because this roster obviously can’t play the defense required for Shaw’s system. Faried, Hickson, and Foye have to go. The 4 and 5 positions need guys who can play D. I like Larry Sanders (starting), Bismack Biyombo (bench), and Lance Stephenson (free agency). If Iman Shumpert had any kind of offensive capability, I wouldn’t mind trading Faried to the Knicks. Drafting well is going to be crucial.

  • Nugman

    Why don’t we ever hear any trade rumors about JJ? He’s a double double machine and it seems like some team would be interested. I think he’s one of our biggest problems. Is it a coincidence that Portland surged after he left? I think not. Yet Shaw keeps playing him. And despite his recent surge, Foye isn’t much better. They are both terrible on the defensive end and should be traded.

    If we would just play a little D we could at least be competitive. Every team we have played has their season high against the Nugs. I keep hearing about Shaws smash mouth D basketball, but he can’t teach it or can’t get these guys to play it. It seems that he could find 5 guys on his bench that would get after it, so maybe he can’t teach it. He says he can coach anyone, yet he doesn’t appear to coach anyone on this team.

    • LBJ

      You answered your question in your first paragraph. I don’t think we had much competition for him in the offseason free agent market – for the reasons you cited.

      • Nugman

        I understand, but I was referring to why doesn’t the Nugs FO talk about trading JJ and Foye. We hear rumors, about Faried, Chandler, JHam, Dre and even Gallo and McGee. We even read those names on this blog, but nothing about JJ and Foye. Am I the only one that wants to trade these two? I know it would be tough with their contracts, but we would be a better team with them gone. Never should have signed either.

        Nugs down big early against PHX. I’m really starting to think Shaw can’t coach anyone!!!

        • LBJ

          No one wants JJ or Foye.

          • Nugman

            I know. It’s sad, isn’t it?

  • Richard Pesicka

    7 Games from the basement and dropping like a snow flake on hot pavement.

    • LBJ

      That is good news! We need a high pick!