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.
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