The Denver Nuggets put together a Las Vegas Summer League Roster that had a little bit of everything. A band of misfits, everyone closely resembling a current or former NBA player. Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas has checked every box with this unit. He’s got a floor general in Monte Morris who can calm the troops with his decision-making. The modern game needs stretch 4’s, and Tyler Lydon has that Ryan Anderson range and not just because he’s a white guy with long arms and marginal mobility. He’s an Anderson clone, equipped with toughness and length to defend and challenge. Malik Beasley was there too. Ball handling into disastrous situations but then looking like a Westbrook clone, shooting gaps that led to breakaway dunks. There’s more but let’s get started.
1.) Monte Morris is the Nuggets 3rd point guard. Behind the newest Nugget IT and young gun Jamal Murray, Morris will be ready for game action. The game is never too fast for him. He navigates the floor calmly and makes the correct decision. He has above average length and speed for the position and shooting ability has improved dramatically since his days at Iowa State. Think Keyon Dooling, minus the dunking ability, but has that rangy athleticism to cover the ball and make a enough of difference defensively to stay on the floor. Get ready for the big club Mr. Morris, well deserved.
2.) Tyler Lydon can shoot! From deep, like 27 feet deep. The first game against the Timberwolves left a lot to be desired, but he’s coming off a knee injury which is never easy. There is mental hurdle there and it showed. By the Bucks game, Lydon was Mark Jackson inspired. Hand down, man down from anywhere. And pure. The man can shoot and reminded me constantly of Ryan Anderson. Anderson is/was an exceptional talent who, in his prime, was a 25 minute a game impact player. As he gets stronger, Lydon has a chance to become a Ryan Anderson clone, who rebounds and defends enough to stay on the floor because of his shooting ability,
3.) Michael Porter Jr. was dressed like an Italian gangster from the movie Goodfellas. Think Ray Liotta in witness protection towards the end. Whether it was the valour tracksuit or the white tank top with a classic gold chain, MPJ was equipped at any moment to exit the game to hit the slots at the MGM Grand Casino. This might be because the NBA Summer League can be hard to watch and often the play-by-play guys have run out things to talk about. They begin to surf the crowd to see if they can spot Lance Stephenson in pyjamas or insert token NBA legend. Whatever the case, it was third most entertaining thing about this version of the Nuggets, seeing if the young rookie was going to show up in the classic Run DMC Adidas tracksuit.
4.) Thomas Welsh, Kennedy Meeks, and Kenrich Williams all have viable NBA skills and could one day crack a roster. Welsh, a Cody Zellar clone, came a lot cheaper at the end of the second round. Zellar was a lottery pick by the Hornets. Welsh does similar things. He’s smart, he’s 7 feet tall, and he plays hard, making him a prime candidate to play 8 years in the league. Welsh seems to have a knack for being in right spot at the right time, which makes him a good passing outlet on the pick and roll, and a decent lane filler on the break.
Kennedy Meeks is the right-handed second coming of former Georgetown Hoyas Mike Sweetney. Undersized and slow, but explosively strong and seemingly immovable in the paint, Meeks could carve out a role as tough guy rebounder. These players are becoming obsolete in the NBA game, so to stick, Meeks will have to hit some open threes, something he was not able to do this summer league. The coaching staff clearly wanted him out there. In the first game, Meeks stayed in his comfort zone, in the painted area but by the Raptors game, Meeks was sitting on the three-point line ready to fire. Like all modern 5 men, Meeks will have to either hit threes consistently or somehow grow several inches, and acquire a 40 inch veritable leap.
Kenrich Williams is a jumpshot away from roster spot. Excellent without the ball in his hands, Williams is adept at finding the open spots on the floor. He cuts when he should cut and spaces when he should space. Whats missing? Hitting open shots. The man can defend on and off the ball, a la Andre Roberson of the OKC Thunder, minus a few inches on the wingspan. Of all the Nuggets, Williams was clearly under the microscope as he was thrust into prime time situations and assigned the opposing teams best wing scorer.
5.) Malik Beasley is ready defensively for more minutes this year. His skill set is now clearly defined. The Nuggets coaching staff wanted him to be a play initiator on offence and he simply does not have the handling and the vision to be a combo guard in the NBA. Too often Beasley leaves his feet with no plan in place. The beauty of the Nuggets experiment is that they must know that Beasley is destined to playing off the ball. When he was corner shooter, Beasley looked comfortable. Because of his quick first step, he is able explode past ill-fated close outs. Where he really excels, is on and off the ball defensively. On several occasions, Beasley exploded into passing lanes for an uncontested tomahawk a la, Russell Westbrook. They appear to have the same size/speed/length combination, but that’s where it ends.
The Las Vegas Summer League at its best showcases the NBA’s young stars. The Denver Nuggets had a group that was, at times, fascinating to watch. Every piece seemed dependent on the other. They played together, and played hard. The Nuggets off-season has been exciting to say the least, and their depth and development clearly has direction and talent.