Denver Nuggets A to Z: Nick Van Exel
Point guard provided scoring, playmaking for four seasons
Nick Van Exel was ahead of his time.
With a quick release and a calm demeanor in crunch time, Van Exel brought scoring to the point guard position before the scoring point guard became en vogue across the NBA.
As part of a month-long tribute to the most memorable and notable players in franchise history, we are taking a look at the Denver Nuggets from A to Z.
X is for Van Exel (for our purposes).
After finishing 25th in the league in 3-pointer shooting (.323) in 1997-98, the Nuggets were in need of an outside threat and a veteran who could run the offense. They got both by acquiring Van Exel from the Los Angeles Lakers in a draft-night trade on June 24, 1998.
Van Exel, nicknamed Nick the Quick, averaged 16.2 points and 7.4 assists in 1998-99. Though he was considered a shoot-first point guard, he finished among the NBA's top 10 assist leaders in each of his three full seasons in Denver.
The Nuggets sent Van Exel to the Dallas Mavericks in a trade-deadline deal on Feb. 21, 2002. He left Denver after averaging 17.7 points and 8.4 assists in 245 games. His 2,047 assists still rank fifth in franchise history, as do his 425 3-pointers.
“The city was great and the fans were great,” Van Exel said in an interview with Nuggets.com in 2012. “I tell people to this day that Denver has some of the best weather in the United States. Everybody thinks it’s cold and snowy but it’s beautiful.”
Van Exel also played for Golden State, Portland and San Antonio before retiring in 2006 after 13 NBA seasons. He later went into coaching as an assistant at Texas Southern University. Van Exel then spent two seasons as a player development coach with the Atlanta Hawks and one as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Game to remember, March 10, 2001
After missing two games with a back injury, Van Exel scored 41 points to help the Nuggets rally for a 103-96 road win against the Charlotte Hornets. Van Exel hit seven 3-pointers and added 10 assists as Denver erased a 21-point first-half deficit. It was his 20th double-double of the season.