The Nuggets kicked off Summer League play in Las Vegas with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s important to the Nuggets season to identify which young players already on the roster have the potential to be rotation players. The summer league is a showcase for several players that could have important input this year for Denver.
Foremost among the players being evaluated are Malik Beasley and Monte Morris. With the trade of Wilson Chandler and the signing of Will Barton, the landscape at shooting guard and small forward has changed.
Will Barton should be the starting small forward to enter the season, leaving Beasley the frontrunner to back-up Gary Harris at the two. With the likely free agent departure of Devin Harris, the Nuggets have only Morris and starter Jamal Murray on the roster at the point. It would be huge for the Nuggets if Beasley and Morris could step into those backup roles.
Last night was a good beginning for both, Beasley looked solid in the first half before fading a bit in the second. He ended the night with 10 points, five rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal in 28 minutes.
Morris, in 29 minutes of action, came through with 15 points, two rebounds and four assists for the contest.
Beasley looked stronger and was active defensively. As a guy with NBA experience, he should dominate in summer league and for the first half, he did. He shot right at 30% for the game, missing on his only 3-point attempt. This is an important time for Malik and he has responded with energy and fire. At least we know he’s invested and willing to put forth the effort. It should serve him well.
Morris looked smooth at the rim and proficient at getting to the lane. He shot 60% from two-point range but managed only one of his five three-point attempts. Monte looked confident and was solid with the ball, only committing one turnover. While it was just the first of the summer league games, it was encouraging to see Morris easily handle his position.
Beyond the two returning players, draft-and-stash second-rounder Vlatko Cancar dropped 11 points in his 21 minutes. Tyler Lydon had a very efficient seven points, seven rebounds and led the plus/minus for Denver with a plus-16.
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The surprise of the night may have been Denver starting power forward Emanuel Terry. Owner of six points and six rebounds with highlight plays on both ends of the floor, Terry evoked memories of last year’s summer league darling Torrey Craig.
The game got close late but when the Nuggets were serious, they dominated the Wolves. On the scoreboard and in intensity. The Nuggets had the fire of a team that knows there’s no more room to miss the playoffs. The West is stacked. It’s going to take every advantage Denver can secure.