The 2014 NBA Summer League went just as fast as it came, and now the dog days of summer are here my friends – three MONTHS until we get to see the Denver Nuggets play any kind of basketball again. Now that there is no NBA basketball to enjoy, we have the time to look back at what those five games in Las Vegas will mean for the Nuggets going into the 2014-2015 season.
The Nuggets as a team didn’t fair so well in Las Vegas. They only managed to win one of their five summer league games, and they lost by an average of 15.8 points per game in the process. Losing Quincy Miller to an injury at the start of the fourth game didn’t help, but a 27-point loss to the Chicago Bulls and an 18-point loss to the Utah Jazz were just ugly.
However, the young Nuggets had some exciting plays and despite the losing, Denver has a lot to look forward to. The Summer League is mostly about the players after all, and it’s more important to be evaluating the talent of the newest NBA-ers when watching the summer league. So, the three biggest takeaways from the Nuggets’ summer league games relate to their three biggest players, Gary Harris, Quincy Miller and Erick Green. The play of those prospects gives us the best overview of what those five games in Vegas mean going forward.
1) Gary Harris can HOOP
Gary Harris was the highlight of the Nuggets Summer League. The 19th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft looked like he’s already on a mission to prove those who passed up on him wrong. In Las Vegas, during Harris’ NBA debut, the shooting guard put up 18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game. He consistently looked like the best Nuggets player on the court and he showed real talent on both sides of the ball.
On offense, Harris’ 18.6 points made him the ninth highest scorer in this year’s summer league. He only made 32 percent of his field goals and 32 percent of his three point attempts, which needs to improve, but it’s still impressive that a player who was drafted for defense was able to finish the summer top 10 in points per game.
Harris tied for fourth best in the summer league at stealing the ball, and his 2.6 steals a game means the whole defensive thing went pretty well too. Harris played great defense in all five games, and his positioning (a hard aspect of the game to measure with numbers) was the best the Nuggets had. Harris’ also turned many of those steals into layups, which is a great sign for a rookie joining a “fast-break” team.
2) Quincy Miller’s defense still needs work.
Quincy Miller came into the summer league as the only player on the Nuggets’ roster who has played in a real life NBA game. He was the most talented player on the team and before he sprained his ankle nine minutes into the loss to the D-League Select team, he posted a solid stat line of 18.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.
But Miller’s three games were a bit of a disappointment in that he didn’t show a true leap into an NBA contributing player. The Summer League is a step slower than regular season basketball, so Miller should have been able to come in and dominate the inferior talent. However, he only managed to shoot 38.5 percent from the field, and only grabbed two steals TOTAL. Quincy showed the ability to score, but we knew he had that before summer league. In order to play in October, Miller needs to show he could guard NBA talent, so getting more than two steals against prospects would have helped.
3) The Nuggets should consider giving Erick Green the final roster spot
The Nuggets’ sole 2013 NBA Draft pick had his second chance to shine after playing well in Vegas last year, and point guard Erick Green looked like a player with NBA ability. Green’s 16.6 points a game made him the Nuggets’ second highest scorer, and he managed to put 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game on top of the scoring. The Nuggets have an empty spot on the final roster and Green deserves it after his play this summer.
Green’s role as a point guard forces us to look at a couple different stats to judge his NBA readiness. He managed to do something the previous two players could not by shooting efficiently: he shot 50 percent from the floor. He also only turned the ball over 1.8 times a game, which is solid ball management skills considering he was passing to a bunch of guys he’s never played with before.
What were your highs and lows for the summer Denver Nuggets? Should Green get the final roster spot, or should the Nuggets leave him to develop in Europe? We got a lot of time to discuss, so leave comments and let’s make this a fun three months of no basketball.