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Summer League recap: Atlanta Hawks 82, Denver Nuggets 73

Kalen Deremo Avatar
July 17, 2015


After a three-game winning streak preceding tournament play the Nuggets lost when it mattered most against the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night. Outside of Erick Green nearly every Nugget had an underwhelming performance. Below are some further thoughts on Thursday’s contest…

(Box score)

— As I mentioned above, Erick Green was just about the only player on the Nuggets’ roster to show up against the Hawks. He had 17 points on 50 percent shooting from the field to go with three assists and three steals. This is just another notch on the belt for Green who’s scored more than 10 points in each of the Nuggets’ four Summer League games despite coming off the bench and seeing no more than 26 minutes of action in any outing.

When taking the Nuggets’ entire four-game stretch into account in Las Vegas I think you have label Green the most consistent, in control player on the roster. He’s taken hardly any bad shots and has played within himself the entire tournament. More than anything Green’s shot has been superb. Almost all of his baskets have been nothing but net and have come in crucial moments when the Nuggets were lagging behind. I’m not sure Green will have a role in the Nuggets’ rotation this upcoming year but after his performance in Vegas I’m excited to see if he can at least challenge for some valuable playing time throughout the year.

— If there’s been one constant in Joffrey Lauvergne’s game not only in Vegas but in the latter half of the 2014-15 regular season, it’s his passion. Lauvergne began the first half in complete frustration, demonstrably funneling his emotions into a technical foul at one point while yelling at himself and his teammates throughout the game. Despite his exasperation Lauvergne finally managed to translate his extreme intensity into on-court production in the second half and finished with a respectable 12 points, 11 rebounds and two assists in a little over 20 minutes of action.

Even though it’s Summer League you have to love seeing this from anybody on the Nuggets roster. Lauvergne truly looked like he was on the verge of going postal a few times yet by the end of the game he’d turned his ferocity into rebounds, dunks and even an incredible outlet bounce pass to a streaming teammate in the open floor. As a fan you simply cannot ask for anything more. Lauvergne cares, he takes the game personally and gives it his all every time he takes the court. If every Nugget has the same heart and determination Lauvergne does, this upcoming season will be quite fun no matter the team’s final record.

— Ever since his first game Nikola Jokic’s play has declined. Gone are the telegraphed passes we saw in Game 1. Instead, Jokic is spending nearly all his floor time arriving far too late in rotations and doing nothing but setting picks on offense. Jokic is really young and it’s important fans realize he’s still learning the game of basketball on a nightly basis. The NBA will serve as quite the adjustment and judging by his Summer League performances he’ll struggle to adapt early on.

If there’s one aspect of his game he needs to improve most it’s his aggression. Jokic has to realize the NBA is an entire league brimming with exuberance on a nightly basis. Every single player specializes in something and when the first whistle blows they do whatever it is they do to the very best of their abilities. Jokic can’t just wander around the key like a ghost. He has to put forth a concerted effort to make a stamp on the game for the benefit of his team. But again, he’s still just a baby and it’s important to analyze these types of performances in context. He’ll figure it out in time.

— Emmanuel Mudiay is too good for Summer League. It’s crazy, really. I counted about four ridiculously crafty passes that his teammates either fumbled or missed entirely because they were so unexpected. Had these been to guys like Jusuf Nurkic, Kenneth Faried or Danilo Gallinari they likely would have resulted in monster dunks or open jumpers.

Though Mudiay was a bit loose with his handle and didn’t have a great game overall, it was difficult to dismiss the lack of help he received from his teammates. Mudiay is already too fast and too smart for Summer League basketball. His game is dependent on spacing, breaking his defender down off the dribble and finding the open man. The Hawks knew this and besieged him for most of the night. In the NBA where spacing is abundant, I have a feeling Mudiay is gonna find his niche in no time.

— This game was a bummer from the start. The Hawks came ready to play, the Nuggets did not. Denver couldn’t hit anything the entire game; meanwhile the Hawks knocked down 10 threes on 46 percent shooting from downtown. This was really the story of the game from tip-off until the final buzzer sounded. It was a somewhat disappointing end to an otherwise impressive run from the Nuggets in Vegas, however it’s worth noting the Nuggets hadn’t played all that great in their last eight quarters of basketball and didn’t’ really deserve to advance anyway.

The Nuggets next game is on Friday against the Washington Wizards.

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