Denver Nuggets Training Camp: Takeaways from Day 2
The Nuggets have seven new faces on their roster, which makes this training camp one of the more crucial ones in recent memory.
After two seasons of largely keeping the same rotation, free agency and the draft have dramatically altered the Nuggets roster. While the foundation of Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray remains intact, Michael Malone alluded to the fact that as many as three starting positions might be open heading into the season.
Despite some key departures, Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal Green, Isaiah Hartenstein, Greg Whittington, Zeke Nnaji, R.J. Hampton and Markus Howard add to a group that was largely considered to be one of the deepest in the Western Conference.
Nuggets President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly and recent free-agent signing Hartenstein shared their thoughts on this year’s group and the upcoming season in Wednesday’s media session.
Here are three takeaways:
Replacing Jerami Grant
Let’s cut to the chase. It won’t be easy to replicate what Grant brought to the Nuggets during his season in the Mile High City.
“We thank Jerami for all he did [in the] year here. He helped us get to the Western Conference Finals,” Connelly said. “These things can happen in free agency. It wasn’t what any of us expected or hoped for, but we’ll be rooting for Jerami. Detroit got a really good guy and good player.”
Grant’s stats might not jump off the page as he averaged 12 points, 3.5 boards and .8 blocks on 47.8 percent shooting. Yet, it was his intangibles and versatility that made him invaluable. For example, against the Lakers he switched from defending LeBron James on one possession to taking on Anthony Davis the next. Still, roster turnover is a reality in sports and with Grant now in Detroit, the Nuggets hope their additions can help fill some of those gaps and also add new wrinkles.
“There is some excitement. There are some new faces that are really fired up to be in Denver and play for the Nuggets,” Connelly said. “They know they have some big shoes to fill.”
If one turns to the Nuggets social channels, shameless plug we know, there has been palpable excitement over the arrival of Argentine point guard Facundo “FACU” Campazzo. And with good reason.
Connelly called the 29-year-old one of the top two point guards in Europe over the past few years and his list of achievements showcase that. He’s a two-time Euroleague champion, the second-best league in the world, and a three-time gold medalist with Argentina. On the court, Campazzo is an exceptional passer with amazing court vision. Similar to Jokić, he isn’t afraid to make risky passes in an effort to create seemingly unexpected offensive opportunities. It was that gutsiness and basketball IQ that enticed the Nuggets to add Campazzo to an already stacked point guard room.
“He’s long been on our radar,” Connelly explained. “You won’t find a tougher guy…We think the more good players, the better. The more depth the better. We’ve long valued his intensity and ability to make players better.”
Hartenstein hoping to prove himself in Denver
Isaiah Hartenstein might not be a well-known name in Denver yet, but he hopes his unique set of skills endears him to the Mile High Basketball faithful.
“Being a versatile big, I bring a lot to the table,” the center said. “For me, the biggest thing was finding an opportunity where I can play right away. This was an opportunity where I can play right away on a winning team.”
Another aspect that appealed to the 22-year-old was the Nuggets’ ability to get the most out of undervalued prospects. Isaiah Hartenstein, a 2017 second round pick by the Rockets, pointed to Jokić, a 2014 second rounder, as an example. The team has consistently been able to find key roles for late round picks and undrafted players. Hartenstein is hoping for similar success.
“I think I’m one of those players that was in a situation where I learned a lot [in Houston] but wasn’t in a [place] where they played a lot of young guys,” he said. “Especially at the end of the season where I was playing good and finally in the rotation, they just went mircoball. It was kind of hard to get into the rotation after that.”
He added jokingly, “I doubt we’re going to play microball with Jokić…there’s a slim chance of that.”