Denver Nuggets' Summer League minicamp: Three takeaways
The Denver Nuggets’ Summer League minicamp concluded Thursday and there were plenty of storylines to emerge out of the pre-tournament workout sessions.
Here are the three biggest takeaways:
Chemistry proving critical
One of the challenges of Summer League is developing a style of play in a limited amount of time with a largely new group of players. The task is especially daunting considering many of the players on the team are fighting for their NBA futures. If there’s one advantage the Nuggets have on their side, it’s familiarity.
Up until the end of minicamp, the team had four players who spent at least part of last season in the Nuggets’ locker room in Brandon Goodwin, Michael Porter Jr., Thomas Welsh and Jarred Vanderbilt. While Porter Jr. has been ruled out of Summer League (more on that below), the remaining trio should provide invaluable knowledge and leadership throughout the tournament in Las Vegas.
“We’re in a good place, because this is a group that has good chemistry,” Summer League head coach Jordi Fernandez said. “These kids care about each other and they want to play hard together as a team.”
Goodwin echoed his coach’s perspective.
“We're just competing with each other and making each other better while building chemistry with our teammates.” Goodwin told Nuggets.com Tuesday. “I think we'll be really good going into Summer League—I don't think everyone knows how good we're going to be.”
He added, “We're all coming together for a common goal—that's to keep moving up the ladder, win a [Summer League] championship together and ultimately make a team.”
Thomas Welsh believes the workman-like mentality of the group has accelerated the team’s cohesion.
“I think we have a lot of like-minded guys out here. Guys who want to play hard, wanting to play the right way and I think that’s helped us mesh that much quicker,” Welsh said. “I’m excited by what I’ve seen so far.”
All eyes on Vando
Jarred Vanderbilt has been showcasing his skills at minicamp and there’s one thing his teammates want to make clear—He’s much more than just a rebounder.
“I tell him sometimes to bring it up,” Goodwin told Nuggets.com. “He's a good ball handler, he can push it and can actually go coast to coast. He has moves and he's really quick for his size.”
In an interview with Altitude’s Chris Dempsey, Porter Jr. raved about Vanderbilt’s versatility.
“I think he has a chance to be a really, really good player in this league,” Porter Jr. explained. “He's one of those players who can make the game a lot easier for everybody else…I kind of view him as a point forward. Kind of like a Ben Simmons-type, who can get everyone involved but also score himself at the rim.”
Vanderbilt is a prolific rebounder, as he grabbed a nation-leading 25 percent of available boards in his sole campaign at Kentucky in 2017-18. Summer League will provide him an opportunity to showcase his potential on offense. This will be his first turn at the tournament, having missed last year’s Summer League while recovering from injury. He could turn quite a few heads in Las Vegas.
“[I hope to] show a little bit of everything [at Summer League],” Vanderbilt said on Monday. “[The coaches] have a couple of plays for me that have me initiate the offense off rebounds. They feel like anytime I get the ball, I become the point guard.”
Vanderbilt also appreciates the opportunity to have consistent playing time after playing sparingly this season.
“I haven’t been able to play consistently for a while, so I just want to have fun with it,” Vanderbilt said. “[I] just want to play hard and compete. The rest will take care of itself.”
Michael Porter Jr. ruled out of Summer League:
There was a lot of anticipation over Porter Jr.’s expected debut this Friday, but unfortunately due to a injury, the No. 14 pick of 2018 draft won’t take part of the tournament.
“The best thing is it’s not serious and he’ll be back on the floor,” Fernandez said on Thursday. “The most important thing is what we’ve seen so far from him – how excited we are. We’re not worried at all about it. He’s been a part of this training camp and he’s played and competed, so we know the type of player he’ll be. He’s gotten better.”
Fernandez added, “It’s unfortunate, but as I said, he’ll be back soon.”