The Denver Nuggets start their Las Vegas Summer League on July 6th against the Minnesota Timberwolves. All teams use the Summer League to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their draft picks from the past several seasons by putting them in a position where they have play and play often. These picks and undrafted prospects become exposed under the spotlight or rise to the top and become part of the everyday rotation. There are important story lines that the Nuggets management team headlined by general manager Arturas Karnisovas will be watching in Vegas. Will Malik Beasley take a step forward in his development and begin to threaten playing time next season. Can Monte Morris be the teams 2nd string point guard filling the void of Devin Harris who will not be resigned. And will the Nuggets elect to bring in a pick and pop big. Or a rim running, athletic energy big to possibly replace Kenneth Faried(off-season trade candidate) as the 3rd 5 man on the roster.
Malik Beasley is going into his 3rd year for the Nuggets and is the only player on this Summer League Roster who was a first round draft pick. The coaching staff have to be thinking that Beasley can carve out a niche and be a rotational player for the upcoming season. Beasley averaged under 10 mins a game this past season and shot under 35%. An extremely gifted athlete, Beasley hasn’t been able to transfer that athleticism at the NBA level yet. He needs to improve his game sense and playmaking ability in the pick and roll game to earn more playing time this season. In Vegas, Beasley will be one of the Nuggets go to pick and role creators and will have plenty of opportunity to impress and justify his first round selection.
Monte Morris, formerly of Iowa State, is the front-runner at the point guard position to sneak onto 12 man roster for the Nuggets. Management appears to be leaning to revamp the position for the 2018-2019 season. Emmanuel Mudiay was traded, Devin Harris is a free agent, Will Barton was signed to a long-term deal, and Beasley, as mentioned, will be counted on to show off his play making ability. For Morris, the ball will be in his hands a lot. He will have to make shots in the pick and roll game. He will have to make the correct read on the pick and roll and in transition. The Summer League is essentially organized play ground ball, 80% pick and roll and dribble hand off actions and 20% clumsy transition play. Point guards have the keys to car and have the ability to help everyone shine. Morris who has decent size for point guard and a crafty old school mid range game will have to show he can make 3’s and make good decisions.
Vlatko Cancar, Kenrich Williams, Tyler Lydon, Petr Cornelie appear to be the stretch 4’s on the roster. The Nuggets have a decent group of tweeners here. All 4 have foot speed, defensive versatility, and long-range shooting ability. Williams will have to show he can play the wing as well but could be used at the 4 in small lineup scenarios. Lydon, Cancar and Cornelie are all athletic stretch 4’s and Cornelie a 2016 2nd round pick has been stashed in Europe for the past two seasons developing his game. He could be the front-runner with a bit more upside as an athletic lob option as well as having the ability to pop.
The rim running 5’s are Kennedy Meeks, Emmanuel Terry, and Thomas Welsh will be competing for the 3rd big if Kenneth Faried gets moved. Meeks has the North Carolina pedigree and a body that is close to immovable. Emmanuel has the best athleticism in this group but is extremely undersized at 6”9. A small school YouTube substation, he plays a lot like Faried and is an a lite rim finisher. Thomas Welsh, one of the last players drafted this year, is the only 7 footer, but will be hard pressed to make the roster. The UCLA product has an up and down career in college and will have to show he can beat opposing bigs in transition, screen bodies, and be an active weak side shot changer to make the roster.