Preview: Nuggets open summer league play against Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Nuggets basketball is officially back!

Today is the day as the Denver Nuggets are back in action as they open summer league play in a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It should be an exciting summer league for the Nuggets as their roster features three rookies who all have potential to be vital pieces to Denver’s success not just next year, but long term.

This will be the first of four summer league pool play games that Denver will play before everyone gets seeded into bracket play. The Nuggets have bowed out of summer league fairly quickly the last few years, but this years roster seems to have the potential to make a run. With assistant coach Ryan Bowen leading the charge, the Nuggets will look to make some noise starting tonight.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, Nevada

How to Watch/Listen: NBA TV or ESPN3 (through the ESPN app)

Rival Blog: Canis Hoopus

Projected Starting Lineups:

Timberwolves — Leandro Bolmaro, Wendell Moore Jr., Josh Minott, Deonte Burton, David McCormack

Nuggets — Collin Gillespie, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Matt Mitchell, Ismael Kamagate


Three Things to Watch

How do the Nuggets three draft picks from this year look?

There is no doubt this summer league is focused on the play of the Nuggets three rookies Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Ismael Kamagate. Braun is the player to watch extra closely as he has a chance to be in the Nuggets rotation at some point next season.

The attitude and energy Braun plays with on both ends of the floor is something Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is going to fall in love with and it’s something he will almost undoubtedly put on display at summer league. I expect Braun to guard the opposing teams best player and to get at least 10 shots a night, which should give us a pretty solid indication of where his game is and whether he can contribute as early as next season.

Denver Nuggets Draft Press Conference
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Watson and Kamagate certainly feel like bigger projects than Braun and their contributions on the Nuggets may come further down the road. Still, this is a great opportunity for those two to showcase their skills and you never know, maybe one or both of them balls out and earns a spot in the Nuggets rotation sooner rather than later.

The thing I’ll be watching real closely with Watson is how he plays offensively. Watson has the ability to be a lock down defender at the next level and that part of his game I’m not as worried about, but the offense is where you would like to see some improvement. With such a limited sample size during his one year at UCLA, hopefully Watson has a better chance to shine on the offensive end of the floor with the Nuggets summer league team.

Who steps up and tries to earn the Nuggets final two-way spot?

I touched on this a bunch more in my Nuggets summer league primer, but it will be fascinating to watch who rises to the occasion and tries to take that final two-way spot. The prime candidates to fill that seem to be Matt Mitchell, Adonis Arms, Jack White, or even Jontay Porter, you just never really know who is going to step up till the games are played.

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets
Photo by C. Morgan Engel/Getty Images

It was just a few years ago when the Nuggets had Terence Davis on their summer league roster and he was singed to an NBA contract after one game by the Toronto Raptors. Sometimes these things happen fast and if someone performs exceptionally well in game one tomorrow, the Nuggets may be wise to lock them up for their final two-way contract.

How well does the Nuggets starting five play together?

It’s a guessing game as to who will get the Nuggets final spot in the starting lineup — Mitchell seems like a pretty good bet — but it will be interesting to watch how he along with Gillespie, Braun, Watson, and Kamagate all mesh on the floor with one another. On paper, the Nuggets have one of the best starting fives in Vegas, but whether they play like it is the real question.

Gillespie will certainly do a lot of the ball handling for the Nuggets, while Kamagate and Mitchell take care of things down low. That would leave Braun and Watson out on the wing to shoot threes or drive to the basket and score off the dribble. It should be a fun starting lineup to watch and hopefully they can get summer league started off right with a big performance tonight against the Timberwolves.

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