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Denver Nuggets player reviews: Kosta Koufos

Athletic young center contributed while sharing time with McGee, Mozgov

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

With the 2011-12 season in the books and 2012-13 approaching, Nuggets.com is taking a closer at the team’s primary rotation players and how they fared during a challenging 66-game schedule. Denver assistant coach Melvin Hunt was kind enough to provide candid assessments, which reflect the views of the Nuggets coaching staff as a whole.

Today’s featured player is Kosta Koufos, a young center who made an impact for the Nuggets while sharing time with fellow 7-footers JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov last season.

Koufos, 23, averaged career highs in points (5.5) and rebounds (5.4) in 48 games. He was slowed in by a strained left knee in March but started the final 12 games of the season as Denver made its final playoff push.

“I just tried to play hard with any time I got,” he said. “I just had the mindset that I was going to play, whether it was 1 minute or 30 minutes, and I was going to play to the best of my ability in that time.”

In addition to his strong work ethic and great attitude, Koufos is an excellent rebounder who runs the floor like a small forward. Recognizing his potential, the Nuggets signed him to a multi-year contract extension on Jan. 25.

As he did in 2011-12, Koufos will battle McGee and Mozgov for minutes again this season. He likely will start the season coming off the bench but remains an excellent option for coach George Karl when his other big men run into foul trouble or injuries.

Melvin Hunt’s 2011-12 Evaluation
“We love his commitment to running. He runs from rim to rim and does an incredible job putting pressure on the defense. He was probably our best low post defender for a big man. He was really committed to it and takes pride in defending guys. He does not like it when people score on him. He also became a problem for teams with his offensive rebounding. We didn’t have to tell him to do that. He did that naturally.”

Summer Improvements
“We want him to get more comfortable playing below the defense and figure out ways to make plays in the pick-and-roll. Young big men often catch the basketball and don’t know where the reads are. We talked to him about where the next play is and how to anticipate where the defensive rotation is coming from. He’ll either score or find a teammate in the deep corner.”

One word that describes Koufos
“Relentless.”

Game to Remember
Though Koufos recorded the first two double-doubles of his career (10 points, 11 rebounds on Jan. 4, and 16 points and 12 rebounds on Feb. 4), his best performance came against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 18. With the Nuggets battling for playoff seeding, Koufos scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked two shots in a 104-98 win at Pepsi Center.

Stat That Bears Re-Tweeting
8.8 – Scoring average in the 18 games that Koufos played at least 19 minutes. Koufos shot .667 (70-for-105) in those games and averaged 7.8 rebounds.