Preview: Denver Nuggets open Summer League against Heat

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

The #SummerNuggets are back.

For the first time in two years, the Denver Nuggets will participate in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, which kicks off Sunday and runs through Aug 17.

Denver opens its Summer League slate against the Miami Heat, who participated in the California Classic last week before arriving in Las Vegas.

For the Nuggets, this 2021 Summer League will present their young players with an opportunity to showcase the improvements they’ve made in their game during the offseason, while it also allows for players from all over the world to work towards earning an NBA contract.

Here’s what to watch for in Sunday’s game (8 p.m. MDT, NBATV).

Bol’s opportunity to shine

The Nuggets have several players from their main squad here in Las Vegas. Zeke Nnaji, Bones Hyland, and Bol Bol are all expected to play throughout the tournament, presenting each player with a setting to showcase their skill sets and improvements.

For Bol, Summer League can be the ideal setting for the 21-year-old to show off his unique skill set from the big man positions. Given Bol’s shooting, ball-handling, and shot-blocking capabilities, Denver can deploy him in various roles on both ends of the floor.

Following Friday’s practice, Denver’s Summer League head coach Charles Klask noted that Bol will likely be a focus on the offensive end, saying that Bol is “going to be our Summer League version of Nikola. We're going to play through him a lot."

Who will stand out among Summer League invites?

However, Summer League isn’t just about which NBA rotation players stand out. Up and down the league players with varying backgrounds and levels of experience are in Las Vegas to prove they deserve an NBA contract.

For Denver, such players include Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Tarik Black, and Zylan Cheatham, just to name a few. Bezhanishvili enters Summer League following three years at the University of Illinois. At 6-foot-9, the 22-year-old has an interesting skill set on the offensive end.

Black returns to Summer League following several years playing overseas. The veteran of this Nuggets Summer League squad, Black has appeared in 220 NBA games as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets.

After going undrafted in 2019, Cheatham quickly used Summer League to earn a two-way contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite bouncing around the league in recent years, Cheatham can provide some athleticism to Denver’s squad, something that will excite the fans in Las Vegas.

New faces on Denver’s coaching staff

As mentioned before, Charles Klask will serve as Denver’s head coach during Summer League.

There are plenty of interesting pieces on Denver’s roster, which shift the focus to how Klask will deploy each player to maximize their skill sets.

"With the Summer League, you get the opportunity to expand and do more," Klask recently told Nuggets.com. "Everyone has ideas of how they'd like to run drills and instead of thinking about it, I get to try those [ideas] and apply it to the game."

Not only will Klask receive this unique opportunity, but Denver’s Summer League roster will benefit from the presence of Kenyon Martin Sr., who joined the coaching staff as an assistant coach for this upcoming Summer League.

Martin Sr. played in 371 games across seven seasons for the Nuggets as a player, making him well equipped to shed some light on the grind of making it in the NBA to this young roster.

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