The #Nuggets are expected to sign summer league standout DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell to a two-way contract for the upcoming season. They also will add his summer league teammate Emanuel Terry to the training camp roster. With both, the Nuggets have 18 players on the roster into camp.
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) August 6, 2018
Perhaps not as notable for other teams around the league, the Nuggets converted both players that played last season on two-way deals, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris, to full-time gigs ahead of this season. Consequently, if Akoon-Purcell (or Thomas Welsh, the Nuggets’ other two-way guy) shows out, he’ll be aware of the franchise’s pedigree for allowing players on such deals to shine.
The 6’5”, 25-year-old guard/forward spent his summer with the Summer League Nuggets, racking up an average of 12 points, two rebounds, 1.5 assists and two steals in 19.3 minutes per game in Vegas. Akoon-Purcell played two seasons with Illinois State, and was named the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Newcomer of the Year in 2014-15, and Second Team All-MVC a year later.
Prior to signing with the Nuggets, the Orlando native played professionally with the Bakken Bears of the Danish Basketball League. In his first season, Akoon-Purcell led the Bears to a Basketligaen championship and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, averaging 21.4 points per game. The next season with the Bears, he reached the semi-finals of the FIBA Europe Cup and helped the Bears to the Basketligaen championship again.
At this stage, it’s difficult to predict the impact of a player who went undrafted out of college and hasn’t logged an NBA minute yet, but the Nugs clearly value certain aspects of his game.
A Torrey Craig-Type?
A lazy — but likely the easiest — comparison would be to compare Akoon-Purcell to Craig, noting their workman-like attitude and all-out hustle.
In fact, Akoon-Purcell’s frenetic pace occasionally “scares both coaches,” Nuggets Summer League coach Jordi Fernandez quipped in an interview with BSN’s Christian Clark (* subscription required). While frightening, Akoon-Purcell’s unrelenting effort ultimately netted him a two-spot on the Nuggets roster.
“I just come in and play as hard as I can,” Akoon-Purcell told Gina Mizell of the Denver Post. “And that’s what makes the minutes increase. As long as I keep doing the same thing, it should only be good things from here.”
While Akoon-Purcell and Craig both share somewhat similar frames in addition to the attributes noted above, Akoon-Purcell appears as the more natural scorer when compared to Akoon-Purcell. DAP certainly flashed a promising shooting touch during Summer League, splashing 43 percent from the field and an eye-opening 50 percent from deep.
Akoon-Purcell is an explosive athlete and a good ball-handler as well. In Denmark, he attacked the rim with ease (peep the highlights below). Of the players on Denver’s roster, I would say Akoon-Purcell actually compares most favorably with Will Barton. Both players exhibit ball-handling capabilities, the ability to slash to the rim or kick to open players and a sweet shooting stroke from distance.
Akoon-Purcell’s defense is not quite on the level of Craig’s, but it’s quite good as well. His impressive wingspan allowed him to snatch 58 steals in two years at Illinois State and 181 over his two years in Denmark before picking up eight with Denver in Las Vegas this summer.
Akoon-Purcell told Christopher Dempsey of Altitude that he came into Summer League with the mindset to be aggressive. “I mean, it starts on defense, and I feel like me playing hard on defense helps me on offense,” Akoon-Purcell said.
In Vegas, he showed great awareness and unmatched intensity on the defensive end. Given the opportunity to develop a better grasp of the team’s defensive scheme, coupled with his quick-twitch athleticism and incredible hops, Akoon-Purcell could again remind fans of Craig with a difference-making impact on defense.
Potential Role on Roster
Akoon-Purcell will be unlikely to crack the Nuggets rotation barring a couple of injuries, but crazier things have happened. How many of us were expecting Craig to push the limits of his 45 days with the team in August ahead of last season?
DAP is likely more of an insurance option on the wing than a long-term project at this point of his career, but he could certainly ball out given the opportunity and arrive as a solid role player.
He appears to be a reliable scorer and secondary ball-handler, and he flashed enough play-making prowess to stick around the league given the right opportunity. He should be capable of providing a spark off the bench on both ends of the floor.
What It Means
By locking down both of the team’s two-way contracts as well as all 15 roster slots, the Nuggets have no additional moves to make this summer. Call the 2018 offseason a wrap. The squad added the low-risk, high-reward Michael Porter Jr., incredibly intriguing Jarred Vanderbilt (see T.J. McBride of Mile High Sport’s in-depth analysis of Vanderbilt here) and Welsh in the draft as well as former MVP candidate Isaiah Thomas to a minimum deal.
Behind Serbian sensation Nikola Jokić, veteran forward Paul Millsap and young guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris, Denver is expected to push for the playoffs this season. Vegas recently pegged the Nuggets over/under at 47.5 wins, good for sixth in the West.
Time will tell if Akoon-Purcell will be able to help the Nuggets in their quest to end a five-season playoff drought, if he spends the entire season in the G-League or fills another role in between, but I’m excited to see that last name stretch across the back of the Nuggets’ beautiful new uniform next season.