It’s been 86 days since the Minnesota Timberwolves knocked out the Denver Nuggets from the 2018 NBA playoffs. While the Nuggets offseason (so far) has mended the wounds of last season there’s no denying the intensity of this division rivalry.
The Nuggets and the Timberwolves face off again Friday night at 11 p.m. EST, 9 p.m. MST at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nev.
Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns won’t be going at it Friday night in Vegas, but there’s a chance for fans to see some of the potential role players for each franchise.
The Nuggets have a bevy of two-way contract or rotation players representing the Summer League team in Vegas. Malik Beasley, Monte Morris, and Tyler Lydon are fighting for full-time roster spots for the backup guard positions and a possible long-term stretch four. Thomas Welsh, Kenrich Williams, and DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell are the early favorites for the two-way contracts, with Welsh already being signed.
Minnesota will feature their two draft picks, scoring guard Josh Okogie from Georgia Tech and long wing Keita Bates-Diop from Ohio State.
It’s possible that Minnesota would like Okogie to play a role similar to a Jamal Crawford as a guard who can handle like a point, but with scoring instincts and a good awareness of where to locate off-ball.
Bates-Diop was Ohio States primary scorer as a junior last season, and we’ll likely see him in a similar role during Summer League. However, in the NBA Bates-Diop will probably be utilized most as a player who takes advantage of his length on both ends. Bates-Diop is only outdone in his standing reach by Kevin Knox and Michael Porter Jr. for his position, and he leads all small forwards in wingspan at 7’3″. The 6’8″ forward will certainly create mismatches across the court and it will be interesting to see how this Nuggets Summer League team counters without Porter.
Earlier this week Malik Beasley revealed that the starting lineup during this week’s scrimmage was Monte Morris, himself, Kenrich Williams, Tyler Lydon, and Thomas Welsh.
Malik Beasley with some lineup details from last night’s scrimmage. He said his team was:
Expect this to be the starting lineup in Vegas for the Summer League.
— Patrick Arsenault (@parsenault19) July 4, 2018
If that lineup holds true you can expect to see a lot of floor spacing to start the game with players that all excel at shooting. I’d watch the Williams and Bates-Diop matchup as a test of Williams defense.
At TCU Williams was an elite defender who had enough size and athleticism to guard inside and out. He’s not as active on the offensive end, but will certainly translate as a guy who can catch and shoot off drives while still possessing enough of a handle to create for himself and others if necessary.
Coach Jordi Fernandez described just why he likes Williams’ game. “I like his overall game, ” said Fernandez. “Probably not a primary ball handler, but a second side pick and roll, drive and kick guy. He can make a shot and he can guard. And that’s what I really like. He’s going to help us compete [with] his energy and his personality. I think he’ll open somebodies eyes in the Summer League.”
The Nuggets open tied with the Timberwolves with the worst odds to take home the Summer League crown, so perhaps they will be able to open some eyes of their own starting with a big win against the Timberwolves.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 4, 2018
The implications of the first Summer League game are much less than the last game of the regular season, but it’s still nice to see some Nuggets basketball again.