Maybe not, but the intensity on display Wednesday was certainly something different from what we’ve seen in the summer league so far. The Nuggets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 87-82 in their first “playoff” game in Las Vegas, advancing to the round of 16 in the tournament with their first win in four tries.
The Denver Nuggets fell to 0-2 in summer league play Monday night, losing again by double digits while struggling to find their footing on defense.
Inconsistency is the universal given in summer league, and right now the Nuggets look like an inexperienced team facing too much of it from every direction. Progress was on display on the offensive end, where the Nuggets had more success shooting the ball and creating off the dribble, but much of that was negated by their inability to guard the pick and roll or string together more than a couple possessions of mistake-free defense.
Denver’s small army of summer league coaches was active on Tuesday night, getting a lot of one-on-one time with individual players after frequent breakdowns on both ends of the floor. I found myself lamenting how difficult it must be to stay focused while having a gang of grown men yelling at you after every possession, but ultimately that’s what summer league is all about. It’s a format where coaches are going to live with those mistakes and start the process of creating the right kind of habits.
Once again, it was another sloppy game that didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. Evan Fournier has looked like a bonafide NBA player while everyone else… hasn’t. Luke Harangody’s reckless all-out effort has been fun, but none of Denver’s bigs have looked passable on defense and outside of Evan, none of the guards have managed to stand out yet either.
I got my first chance to speak with players and coaches after the game and here’s a few storylines to keep an eye on heading into the tournament portion of summer league, which starts on Wednesday.
In the first game of the 2013 Las Vegas summer league, the Denver Nuggets fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in what ended up being a blowout shortly after halftime. While there were a few bright spots, the Nuggets ultimately sealed their fate by shooting a low percentage from the field and giving a halfhearted effort on the defensive side of the ball. But, this is summer league we’re talking about, so those things can be expected.
The Denver Nuggets will kick off summer league action on Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, marking their ninth straight year of summer competition in Las Vegas. Interestingly enough, the Nuggets are the winningest franchise in summer league history with a cumulative 24-15 record since the Las Vegas league’s inception in 2004.
Of course part of the magic of summer league is the inescapable truth that records don’t matter. The NBA may be trying to change that with the introduction of a tournament format this year (more on that later), but by and large summer league exists solely as an evaluation tool and a training ground for rookies, fringe NBA talents, and assistant coaches.
This season, the Nuggets are bringing a guard-heavy 16-man roster to the table, with important opportunities up for grabs among several young players with real chances to not only make the roster, but possibly get in line for actual minutes in the upcoming season. Denver is only bringing in five players with NBA experience, but three of those (Miller, Hamilton, and Fournier) are returning from last year’s team and essentially guaranteed roster spots next season. Add in second round pick Erick Green, who is also a virtual lock to be signed, and that means this squad will feature at least four players who will definitely be on the 2013-2014 roster.
Newly-retained assistant Melvin Hunt will coach the team, which will start out with three exhibition games before beginning seeded tournament play on Wednesday. Each team is guaranteed to play at least five games and as many as eight for the two teams that reach the championship round.
Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of everyone on the roster and what to watch for when summer league action tips on Saturday night.
For the ninth straight year the Denver Nuggets will participate in the Las Vegas summer league competition. Headlined by Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller and 2013 second-round pick, Erick Green, the Nuggets will trot out yet another highly competitive summer league squad teeming with talent. In addition to those under contract the Nuggets have also invited numerous undrafted players, most notably North Caronlina State’s Richard Howell, Kansas’ Travis Releford, Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom and Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody. Former Nuggets draftees not on the roster include 2011 second-round pick Chu Chu Maduabum, 2012 second-round pick Izzet Turkyilmaz and 2013 second-round pick Joffrey Lauvergne. There is no word as to who will be coaching the team at the moment. Competition kicks of Sat., July 13, at 8 p.m.
In the final edition of our Big Board series we’ll be taking a look at an array of prospects slated to be available in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. Because this half of the draft is so unpredictable and because I did not get a chance to watch some of these players, there will not be a designated order in which they appear. These are simply the best players, in no specific order, forecasted to land outside of the first round in the eyes of most draft aficionados.