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.
Q: Which players have the Nuggets signed for 2013-14, and what are their total combined salaries?
A: Based on the latest reported offers, the Nuggets have $60.3 million dedicated to 13 players: Lawson, A. Miller, Foye, Fournier, Hamilton, Gallinari, Chandler, Q. Miller, Faried, Hickson, Arthur, McGee, and Randolph. (Foye and Hickson cannot officially be signed until July 10.) The salary cap is $58.6 million.
Q: Can the Nuggets still sign players even though they’re over the cap?
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.
For the third year in a row Roundball Mining Company has arranged an off-season priority list for the Denver Nuggets. The following items are arranged from least to most important. They are moves which the Nuggets would greatly benefit from, yet none are mandatory. After winning 2012-13 NBA Executive of the Year, it’s safe to assume Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri will do everything in his power to improve the Nuggets once again — that is, as long as he’s still around.
The Denver Nuggets clinched the three seed after smashing the Suns by 20 points in their final home game of the year. The sun sets on a historic regular season as the Nuggets now await their first round playoff opponent, either Houston or Golden State.
UPDATE: The Nuggets will face the Golden State Warriors in a 3-6 first round matchup with home court advantage. Playoffs start Saturday, April 20, at 3:30 p.m. MST, then continue on Tuesday, April 23, at 8:30 p.m. MST; Friday, April 26, at 8:30 p.m. MST; and Sunday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. MST. All other games are TBD.
After news broke that Danilo Gallinari would be sidelined for the remained of the year (and well into the 2013-14 season) with a torn ACL, questions arose in the minds of Nuggets fans across the globe. There has been talk about who will step up in his place, whether the Nuggets are severely weakened and even speculation about how this will affect the team’s roster moves this off-season. In RMC’s latest 5-on-5 our writers aim to address these topics in hopes of shedding some light (and perhaps even a little optimism) on how the Nuggets will fare moving forward without their starting small forward. As always, please feel free to post your answers to the following five questions in the comments section below.
After falling behind by double digits early, the Nuggets turned up the energy and outworked a tired Rockets team, outscoring them by 28 points over the last three quarters to win easily.
In a hard-fought battle to the wire the Nuggets proved they’re a team that thrives off heart and passion, rather than one that folds under emotional turmoil. Iguodala had a huge drive capped by a game-winning layup at the rim to put the Nuggets ahead by one point with only a few seconds remaining, while Corey Brewer dazzled with his energy and refusal to lose throughout the contest; however, the story of the game without question is Danilo Gallinari and his ostensibly torn ACL.
This one was a loss from the start, as the Nuggets came out flat and never really recovered. Defense was nowhere to be found (especially from beyond the arc), offense was tough to come by and in the end the Hornets simply out-played the Nuggets in nearly every aspect of the game. Unfortunately for Denver, one game after losing to snap their franchise-record winning streak the Nuggets must go on the road to face one of the best teams in the league in San Antonio.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 3-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 7 TO | 12 PTS | +4
Truth be told, Gallo hasn’t been very good since the new year. He’s scored only four 20-plus point games in the last month and continues to take very questionable shots. He was pretty close to awful against the Sixers. He got to the line and made a few buckets but he took about three of the worst shots any Nugget has taken over the last month. The real Gallo is nowhere to be found right now.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 26 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | 0
Faried did nothing astonishing but his commitment to defending inside the paint was impressive and also an improvement on what he normally does. He had one great chase-down block and several other block attempts that altered his opponent’s shots.
|Kosta Koufos, C 22 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | -1
When Koufos has a bad game, nobody notices. Aside from his three blocks he didn’t play too well. He got abused in the post on more than one occasion by no-namers and seemed to be a step behind his rotations most of the night (although to be fair, so was everyone else).
|Andre Miller, PG 40 MIN | 9-14 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | -12
I hate grading Andre Miller. I just hate it. If you were to look at his stat line alone, you’d have to wonder how he could get anything other than an A. But watch the game and you’ll wonder why I’m being so generous with a C-plus. He totally screwed the Nuggets pace this game. He didn’t even try to push the ball up the court. And on defense — I can’t even begin to tell you how awful he was. In the first five minutes there were about three plays where he willingly let his opponent slide by him without even trying to stop him. He had me laughing out loud his defense was so bad. Overall, Miller is just not a good fit for this team and the way Karl likes to play. Miller is a ball-dominant, half-court guard, who prefers to play at his own 90-year-old pace instead of pushing the pace like the rest of his teammates. Had it not been for Corey Brewer this loss would have almost been solely on Miller.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 40 MIN | 5-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +8
Iguodala was aggressive for about one half, then pretty much disappeared. This is a reoccurring theme with him. For playing 40 minutes he should be a little more effective than he is. Also, Holiday had his way with him on more than one occasion.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 21 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +11
Keep in mind: This is the first game Randolph has played more than 20 minutes in a over a month. He was a bit rusty but had several key plays. His hands were active (evident by his three steals) and his defense wasn’t bad. He had a nasty crossover drive earlier in the game and ended up blocking the final shot of the game to seal the victory for the Nuggets.
|Corey Brewer, SF 33 MIN | 10-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 5 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 29 PTS | +3
If there was a way to give Brewer a better grade I would. His performance tonight was nearly ineffable. When the entire team came out flat in the first, Brewer came in to save the day. When there was no sign of defense being played anywhere on the court, Brewer stepped it up and ignited (or at least tried to ignite) the fastbreak. And in the end, when the Nuggets needed a miracle shot to win the game, he somehow drew a 3-point foul and hit ALL THREE of his free throws to win the game for the Nuggets. Brewer takes a hell of a lot of heat from Nuggets fans for being a streaky shooter but he’s been one of the most clutch players on the team all season long, especially on defense where the Nuggets patented fast-break offense gets started in the first place. Brewer was the “Anti-Miller” in this game, basically willing the Nuggets to victory off the bench. This was without question one of the top three performances from any Nugget we’ve seen this season.
|JaVale McGee, C 16 MIN | 1-3 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 6 PTS | +1
JaVale was a headache most of the night. He had a few nice plays but turned the ball over four times and committed three fouls (which were pretty bad) in only 16 minutes.
|Evan Fournier, SG 6 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +4
Fournier needs to show us something when he gets in the game. He needs to be something other than just a body with a pulse out there. He’s talented. He’s a first-round pick. So please, Evan, show us something. Thanks.
The only thing that caught my eye was why Fournier and even Randolph got in before Hamilton. Let’s assess: If your backup small forward is out and you have another really good backup small forward, why would you pass up the opportunity to use him and instead go with a rookie shooting guard and power forward? Hamilton must have done something behind closed doors, as there’s no reasonable explanation for him to be behind both Randolph and Fournier on the depth chart. Aside from that, Karl managed to figure out a way for the Nuggets to pull this one out when they never should have. He deserves credit for that even though he once again closed out the game playing small, which I promise you, will bite him in the ass one of these days.
Staking a Claim is a new column that will be taking a look at all things Nuggets through the eyes of an outsider. As those who follow me on Twitter know I am a Bucks fan, so it will give Nuggets fans an opportunity to see things through the eyes of someone who follows the team closely but isn’t necessarily a fan. Please leave any subjects that you would like to see addressed in the future in the comments below or send them to me on Twitter @Matt_Cianfrone.
In the Nuggets fan community there are a few questions that have groups of fans divided on the answer.
Who deserves more minutes, JaVale Mcgee or Kosta Koufos? Is Andre Miller worth it? And who has the highest ceiling Gallo or Ty seem to be some of the most common.
But no debate brings out more opinions, or more intense debate, than if George Karl is the right coach for the Nuggets.
The Nuggets spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver with a blowout win. ‘Melo left the game with a sore knee and spent some time in the locker room, inspiring chants of “where is Melo” from the crowd.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 4-13 FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +17
Gallinari looked really good when he went to the rim or got to the line, and really awful shooting jumpers. He played great defense on Carmelo Anthony for part of the first quarter, and later forced two turnovers by drawing offensive fouls away from the ball.
|Kenneth Faried, SF 25 MIN | 4-10 FG | 3-6 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +28
Faried started out the game taking several jump shots. He eventually settled down and started taking shots closer to the rim, but missed several tip tries. He outhustled the Knicks for several offensive rebounds, particularly after Tyson Chandler left the game.
|Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-1 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +13
It seems like every game I grade, I end up writing something like “Koufos was quietly effective”. He continues to play fundamental basketball with good positioning, and make the most of his opportunities.
|Ty Lawson, PG 26 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | +11
Ty was aggressive getting into the paint all night, but had a bit of trouble finishing over Tyson Chandler. His shot was falling from the outside and his passing was crisp. He would likely have finished with a double double if Gallinari’s shot had been falling.
|Andre Iguodala, SG 33 MIN | 5-7 FG | 2-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +32
Igoudala has emerged as a solid secondary playmaker for the Nuggets, setting up a ton of easy scores. Tonight he tried to do a little too much and forced several passes into traffic. He was hitting his own shots from everywhere except the free throw line. He had a few spectacular defensive sequences in the second half.
|Anthony Randolph, PF 3 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -1
|Jordan Hamilton, SF 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -5
On one late sequence, Hamilton missed a jumper that led to a Knicks fast break off the long rebound, and then got downcourt in time to swat James White’s layup attempt into the stands. His shot wasn’t falling, but he was making good contributions in other parts of the game.
|Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | +6
Brewer usually provides the Nuggets with great energy, but tonight the starters had all the energy they needed, and he seemed a step slow by comparison. He did a little bit of everything, but nothing particularly well.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -2
Mozgov was involved in two highlights tonight: a nice two handed dunk, and a Prigioni pass between his legs that led to a Knicks layup.
|JaVale McGee, C 12 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -5
In a game where the Nuggets were completely dominant in the paint, and the Knicks’ only center left with an injury, the athletic seven footer decided to take a 16 foot jumper that missed everything. He also had one nice block and a layup from freakishly far away from the basket. It was a very inconsistent game overall.
|Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +13
Andre Miller surprised me by playing fantastic defense for most of his first half minutes. He was also on target with his passing.
|Evan Fournier, SG 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2
Fournier looks completely lost on the defensive end of the court, and too often gets caught needing to foul. He stepped up offensively when tacos seemed to be in doubt, setting up Chandler for a three point play and scoring five of his own to push the Nuggets over the 110 point mark.
|Wilson Chandler, SG 25 MIN | 9-12 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 24 PTS | +10
Wilson Chandler spent most of the night taking advantage of the Knicks’ lack of shot blocking. On two occasions he grabbed a rebound, dribbled fullcourt, and got a lightly contested layup.
The Nuggets came out ready to play, and they didn’t let up until the game was out of reach. His small lineups worked well against the Knicks’ small lineups.