After a slow start, the Denver Nuggets eventually built a comfortable lead late in the fourth quarter and beat the Toronto Raptors on the road.
Summer league is an evaluation process more than anything else, and the Nuggets have used the last six days in the desert as an opportunity to see what they have with a young and talented roster. The Toronto Raptors also gave them a look at what they don’t have on Thursday afternoon, defeating the Nuggets 95-78 and knocking them out of tournament behind the strong play of MVP-favorite Jonas Valanciunas.
Valanciunas has not only been the best player at the Las Vegas summer league, he’s blossoming into one of the more physically imposing seven-footers in the league. Denver meanwhile is evaluating a roster built largely around the slashing and perimeter shooting of their young guards and wings. They simply had no answer for the brute strength and post-centric game of Jonas Valanciunas, who put up a solid line of 15 points and 12 boards without much resistance from the undersized Nuggets.
It really didn’t seem there was much the Nuggets could do about the loss. Jordan Hamilton played well and scored 25 points, but shots weren’t falling and the Nuggets got outrebounded to death. The final tally on the boards was a staggering 48-28 in favor of Toronto. While Denver’s players fought hard and battled it seemed they were just met head-on by their own limitations.
Fatigue may have been a factor as well, with the Nuggets playing their fourth game in a row on consecutive nights. After six days of action, tired legs were showing up for nearly every summer league team but rookie Erick Green denied that it was a determining factor in the loss.
“I don’t think we’re wearing down. We’re just not doing the little things. Not getting back on D, not rebounding well. We’re taking too many threes and it’s the little things we’re not doing that are keeping us from winning” said Green.
Green has been really tough on himself in the summer league, probably a little too much considering this wasn’t a loss that can be attributed to poor execution or effort. The Nuggets simply ran out of gas against a huge team with perhaps the best player in the tournament.
The Nuggets aren’t yet finished with summer league, but it’s essentially winding down and the competitive portion is pretty much in the books. Coaches told me they would use Denver’s final game in the consolation round as an opportunity to play different guys who haven’t seen much court time in the first five games.
The Nuggets final game of summer league will be played Friday at 6:30pm MST against Memphis in the Thomas & Mack Arena.
According to Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Denver Nuggets free agent Julyan Stone has reached an agreement with the Toronto Raptors on a two-year contract. The second year of the deal is a team option. This concludes Stone’s short tenure in Denver where he was largely viewed as defensive-minded fan favorite at point guard. Stone was one of the more polite players on the roster the last several years and certainly one of the more driven; however, injuries kept him from ever seeing the type of playing time he likely deserved. Woj is reporting he’ll compete for the backup point guard position in Toronto.
There was a sudden whirlwind of rumors and reports last Friday during the time leading up to and just after Masai Ujiri met with the Raptors to discuss the possibility of leaving the Nuggets to take the helm at Toronto’s front office. But hings quickly went silent thereafter, and few whispers have been heard on the matter since the tumultuous events of last weekend.
However, Steve Kyler, editor and publisher of Hoopsworld and an NBA writer for USA Today, was recently answering some questions on Twitter (follow him here), and if his sources are accurate, his responses could possibly shed some new light on some of the details, and perhaps even provide Nuggets fans with a ray of hope (albeit dim) in the gloom of the ongoing Ujiri saga. (more…)
What started off as a bad dream has now morphed into a nightmare. According to Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “significant momentum has gathered that likely will lead to Ujiri’s departure from the franchise that he completely remade into a Western Conference contender.” Though nothing is final, it appears that unless a drastic turn of events occurs, the current NBA Executive of the Year and Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri will be taking his talents north of the border to Toronto. If you had one set of fingers already crossed, now’s the time to double up.
As was first reported by Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Toronto Raptors are targeting Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri for their vacant GM position after having dismissed Bryan Colangelo earlier this week. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Raptors are more than willing to make Ujiri one of the top paid executives in the league at over $2 million per year. Stein also claims Denver’s front office is confident in its ability to re-sign Ujiri to a new deal. Ujiri was rumored to be the lowest paid GM in the NBA under his previous deal that expired this year.
Earlier today the Nuggets announced the 13 players Chad Iske will coach in the Las Vegas summer league next week. Nuggets fans should be pleased to know that every one of Denver’s draft picks from the last two seasons will be in attendance, only further proving that Masai and Josh are building an organization that values long-term player development. I’ll be heading out to Las Vegas this weekend to do some up close coverage of Summer League for Roundball Mining Company, and before our in-depth analysis gets rolling here’s a little bit of background on what we know about each of the prospects right now.
|Wilson Chandler, SF 33 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | -8
When is Chandler going to step up? The Nuggets re-signed him to be a impact player, not a role player. He seems to perpetually be in cruise control and rarely goes on a period of extended aggressiveness. If 13 points per game is all he’s going to provide, look for Chandler to be moved this summer. His defense was about the only “highlight” and even that was nothing to write home about.
|Kenneth Faried, F 23 MIN | 4-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +2
Faried’s minutes are erratic. It’s hard to tell when he’s going to play and when he’s going to get benched for extended stretches. He seems to play much better when he sees a heavy dose of time. Like Mick Jagger, if you start him up he’ll never stop. But Faried’s defense is pretty bad at the moment. He goes for every pump-fake thrown his direction and makes silly, unnecessary fouls on the regular. He must improve his perimeter defense and be more aggressive on the glass to help this team win.
|JaVale McGee, C 23 MIN | 3-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -6
McGee continues to be a pleasant surprise. His defensive presence in the paint is something the Nuggets have lacked since Marcus Camby departed. He had one of the best dunks of the season over Jose Calderon and showed some refinement in the post as well. He was in foul trouble, but even so, 23 minutes is just not enough time for a player as talented as McGee.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 5-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -5
Afflalo was aggressive and drove to the hole on a night when the most Nuggets refused to do so. He lost his temper once again, and received a technical foul for it, but his passion is honorable. It wasn’t his best shooting night but because he displayed emotion and at least tried to play the right way, Afflalo gets a better-than-average grade.
|Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 9-19 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 26 PTS | -13
After a slow start Lawson turned up the heat in a big way. This is his second straight game of scoring at least 25 points and in both he took a high number of shots. Ty must continue to be aggressive. When he is, the Nuggets are totally different team. Without him the Nuggets might have lost by 20.
|Al Harrington, PF 31 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | -4
Harrington blended in for the most part. He had some good drives to the basket and made a few key buckets, but was otherwise quiet.
|Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 2-5 FG | 4-5 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -5
Andre “Tunnel Vision” Miller did what Andre “Tunnel Vision” Miller usually does: get tunnel vision. This is his routine: dribble up the court at .0026 miles per hour, stall, dribble into the lane and shoot. That’s what Andre Miller basketball. He’ll make some nice passes and occasionally pass the ball off before he shoots, but it’s hard to tell what he does to help the team win on a nightly basis.
|Corey Brewer, SF 15 MIN | 0-1 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | -1
Brewer played defense, or at least he attempted to. He over-committed on a few steals — as usual — but otherwise appeared to be hustling. His offense however, is a different story.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -5
Had to do it. Just had to do it. I’ve given out one F all season, but Mozgov’s performance against the Raptors increases it to two. Where to begin… lets see… In a five-minute span he got a defensive three seconds call, goal-tending call, committed two turnovers and one personal foul. In the four closing minutes of the third quarter he was inserted into the game, upon which the Raptors out-rebounded the Nuggets 9-2 and scored 11 points in the process. During this time he got boxed out, then dunked on by DeMar DeRozan. Overall, it was a complete disaster — and I’m not over exaggerating here. We’ve seen Mozgov play bad before, but nothing like this. Needless to say, Koufos will be a welcome sight when he returns.
For those not following us on twitter, there’s been a couple more rumors swirling around the ongoing Wilson Chandler saga. The first coming out of hoopshype stating that the Toronto Raptors are actively trying to free up space for an offer sheet by trading Leandro Barbosa. The second and most compelling rumor causing much consternation amongst Nuggets fans is out of Sportando, an Italian basketball website which is reporting that Chandler’s agent Chris Luchey is “in serious talks with an Italian team to seal a deal for rest of season.”
Both rumors are sourced only to twitter and it’s fair to say they’re rooted in speculation more than anything else right now. As we’ve gone through several times with the Chandler situation, he is in a unique position and only able to negotiate in earnest with one team — the Denver Nuggets.
I would not put a lot of stock into the Leandro Barbosa rumors. He’s been on the trade block for a while and the Raptors know that desperately giving him away in a hurry is a questionable move considering there is no guarantee Denver does not just match their offer sheet. As has been reported by ESPN and Hoopsworld, the Raptors seem resigned to the fact that putting together an offer sheet at this late stage is not likely to work out well.
The rumors of Chandler’s agent negotiating with Italy only reinforces our view that Denver holds all the cards in terms of Wilson returning to the NBA. It’s clear that he wants to be in the NBA, even going so far as to negotiate an early release from his Chinese team and seek an early letter of clearance from FIBA. As we have assumed for a long time, Denver has no interest in signing Chandler short term and granting him the holy grail of unrestricted free agency in exchange for a few months of service.
Wilson must feel he is being forced over to Europe due to Denver not willing to accept a one year deal. Chandler can certainly apply pressure by threatening to head over to Europe for the remainder of the season, but Denver would still own his rights whenever he returns. Not to mention Chandler runs the risk of serious injury while he remains a free agent and there is no guarantee he will be rewarded with the richer contract he’s seeking by waiting till the summer.
The Nuggets are playing hardball with Chandler, as expected. All it means as the process will be longer and more drawn out as Chandler exercises his leverage and continues to test Denver’s resolve to give him the long-term deal he seeks. The Nuggets clearly seem more interested in protecting themselves rather than just getting him on the floor and it looks like a 50/50 proposition in terms of whether or not he’ll be back.
I highly recommend following us on twitter, as I often discuss Chandler stuff there and the situation is such that we won’t post about every future development as it occurs. You can follow me here and go ahead and give Kalen and Jeremy a follow as well.
On to the current links and Nuggets news, bullet-style this time for convenience.
As has been pointed out by several readers, Wilson Chandler is currently visiting numerous different teams who have expressed interest in the free agent small forward. On Wednesday, Chandler was in Toronto, a team that covets him and has for quite some time. According to his agent Chris Luchey, Chandler is talking to six other teams besides the Nuggets and does in fact have interest in signing with Raptors. As Marc Stein pointed out on Twitter, “Only three teams currently have the needed cap space to test Denver’s Chandler resolve: Pacers ($14 million), Kings ($9million) and Cavs ($7.1 million).” Meanwile, according to SI.com’s Sam Amick, just as we’d thought all along here at Roundball Mining Co., Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, “has made it clear he has no interest in signing him for only the rest of the season and that he wants a long-term deal.”
On Saturday the Denver Nuggets chose to waive DeMarre Carroll, according to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post. With next Tuesday’s deadline that demands all NBA contracts become guaranteed and Wilson Chandler still not re-signed, waiving Carroll was the simplest way to ensure a roster spot remains open for Chandler upon his return to the NBA sometime in the near future.
|Nene, C 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 10-14 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +25
The Raptors were extremely physical with Nene despite lacking anyone remotely capable of guarding him. Nene didn’t shoot particularly well and was fouled whenever he found himself in good position down low. He still had a solid 20 and 10 in 33 minutes behind improved free throw shooting. More importantly, he was a dominant presence on the floor and the Raptors simply had no answer.
|Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-18 FG | 5-7 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Gallo’s scoring opportunities didn’t come as easy without Ty Lawson starting alongside him. He reverted to shooting too many threes and generally looking awful when trying to create for himself. Defensively, Gallo struggled defending the post but continues to show potential as a reliable team defender. Gallo’s grade gets a bump thanks to his ability to close out the game after Toronto made a late push against the Nuggets reserves to get back in it.
|Timofey Mozgov, C 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +16
Mozgov made a welcome return to the starting lineup and continues to develop into a more physical presence down low. He had his two finest blocks of the season and rebounded well for the minutes he received. He did struggle to work himself back into an offensive rhythm and mishandled a few too many passes. Nevertheless, Mozgov was a big part of the solid defensive effort that held Toronto to 12 first quarter points.
|Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 13 PTS | +18
Miller had too many turnovers, but several of them were due to Mozgov and Birdman being slow, out of position or just not ready to receive a pass. His erratic wandering on defense can be frustrating and the Nuggets did struggle to maintain pace with him running point. This is the first time Miller has been in the starting lineup at the point guard position and he produced outstanding numbers as expected. The luxury with Miller is that he’s more than capable and perhaps better as a fill-in starter.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +11
I’m not gonna dock Afflalo too much for struggling to ease himself back into the rotation after nearly a week off. He’s still taking questionable shots and not making very many of them. The bottom line with Afflalo is that he has such a positive effect on the Nuggets defense you can live with whatever he does offensively as long as he’s not a total black hole.
|Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -3
Harrington had a bad day. He came into the game with little energy and by the fourth quarter he was exhausted to the point of parking himself at the three point line with his hands on his knees and spectating. He played entirely too many minutes and made only one of five shots in the second half while struggling to make any sort of impact on defense. Buckets also got into a childish spat with Linas Kleiza and needlessly extended the game’s conclusion.
|Chris Andersen, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Birdman’s playing harder, I’ll give him that. His energy and his effort were sincere. Andersen continues to be a disaster guarding the pick and roll as he struggled staying in front of the smaller Raptors in the first half. Birdman wasn’t putting up numbers, but I did not think his performance warranted benching him in the second half. He was engaged and active, but Birdman is just not a reliable guy for George Karl right now and he seems to be losing the coach’s trust quickly.
|Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Brewer had another confusing game. After launching 18 shot attempts against Sacramento he barely attempted anything, which I think is a good thing. He flew around the court with his usual energy creating chaos and extra possessions. Offensively, Brewer is scary and unpredictable and he’ll need to be a bit more consistent to gain more regular playing time off the bench.
|Rudy Fernandez, SG 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | +9
Thank God for Rudy. He looked great upon his return from an Achilles strain and his hot shooting singlehandedly held off the Raptors’ furious second half surge. Rudy also did a great job chasing the feisty Raptors guards all over the court. Bayless was able to shake him loose a couple of times but his offensive game was so brilliant it hardly mattered. Not only did Rudy handle the ball some as a backup point, he was fantastic off the ball – juking out Barbosa for one of the most poetic wide open threes of the season. Magnificent game from Rudy and all the more impressive considering he hasn’t played in quite some time.
|Kosta Koufos, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
The decision to pair Koufos with Harrington in the middle was a head-scratcher to say the least. Kosta didn’t receive any minutes in the first half and calling on him to stem the tide during Denver’s worst stretch of play might have been asking too much of the seldom used 22-year old. He had a rough go from the moment he stepped on the floor, immediately being hit with a questionable blocking foul and worsening Denver’s stagnant offensive attack. Defensively, the Nuggets completely fell apart with him on the floor and while you can’t put the blame solely on Koufos, Toronto seized total control of the game and it’s hard to defend the decision to bring him in.
Free Agency hasn’t started yet, but that has caused no shortage of drama in what is sure to be the craziest NBA offseason ever. By now you’ve all heard news of the Chris Paul deal that wasn’t. The league office will open for business at 12pm MST today and it will be very interesting to see how fast the frenzy will unfold one day after the infamous Veto. This post will be updated with any Nuggets developments and our thoughts on them, so check back throughout the day.
With the Denver Nuggets preparing to face the Toronto Raptors Sam Holako of the fantastic Raptors blog Raptors Republic invited me to swap some questions and answers. Below you can find out how Raptors fans feel about Linas Kleiza and what to think about Andrea Bargnani. You can see my answers to his questions on the futures of Carmelo and Chauncey and what to expect from the game tonight over at Raptors Republic.
Over the past few days I have been fortunate enough to appear on Brian Doolittle’s NBA show in St. Louis called At the Buzzer on Sports Radio 1380 to talk about Carmelo Anthony’s future in Denver and I was a guest on Rapcast, the Raptors Republic podcast, to discuss Linas Kleiza and what he will bring as he takes his talents north of the border. In a nutshell Bryan Colangelo is selling Kleiza as a gritty player that will bring stout defense to the Raptors. Talk about setting someone up to fail. Kleiza is a skilled player, but a defensive stalwart he is not.
Ryan Schwan at Hornets 247 sought out the best trade offers for Chris Paul from the members of the TrueHoop Network. My four team masterpiece did not claim the top spot, but earned a gold star. Make sure you head over and check out the best Chris Paul trade proposals from a group of savvy hoops writers.