As Las Vegas Summer League continues to unfold, very few of the Nuggets two-way contract candidates have separated themselves from the pack.
The Denver Nuggets roster is essentially complete.
Denver has all 15 full-time roster spots filled and Collin Gillespie has been signed to one of Denver’s two-way contract slots.
Signing Gillespie — the five-year Villanova point guard who many have likened to former Nuggets point guard Monte Morris — to a two-way contract was something the Nuggets front office was hoping would happen. They had pegged Gillespie as the perfect ‘break in case of emergency’ type point guard. As the second round of the NBA Draft continued to conclude, Denver’s hopes of signing Gillespie grew. After the draft, Gillespie was left without a team, but it took almost no time at all for the Nuggets and Gillespie to agree to a two-way contract.
Even with the inclusion of Gillespie on a two-way contract, there is one more order of business for general manager Calvin Booth and his team to take care of; that is if they choose to do so: filling the final two-way roster spot.
The Nuggets plan was to go into Las Vegas Summer League with a handful of players competing for the position. Now, with three Summer League games in the books, it is a good time to take a look at where the race stands.
Heading into Summer League, the general consensus was that Matt Mitchell and Adonis Arms were beginning the race in the first two positions while Kellan Grady and Jack White rounded out the list.
Not much has changed from that initial thought process for the Nuggets so let’s take a closer look at each candidate.
Mitchell — the six-foot-six and 235 pound forward out of San Diego State — has done as well as any of the Nuggets two-way contract candidates in Las Vegas. His most notable performance was his last time on the court when he helped the Nuggets to a win over the Clippers by posting 17 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 26 minutes of action on 5-10 shooting from three-point range.
Mitchell has defended well against multiple positions, scored effectively around the rim at beyond the three-point arc, and has started every game for the Nuggets Summer League team as a combo-forward alongside Peyton Watson. His resume has only gotten stronger during the first three games of Summer League and it will earn him significant playing time in Denver’s fourth game as well as any further games the Nuggets qualify for.
There are still concerns about his burst and athleticism as a combo-forward and his ball handling is still rudimentary, but seeing him shoot well is encouraging and his defensive versatility has been on full display. It would be a stretch to say it is his two-way contract to lose, but Mitchell seems to be in the lead based on what has happened in Vegas; so long as the Nuggets choose to sign someone into that last two-way spot, of course.
Adonis Arms leads Summer League is best name as well as most energy exerted.
No one can knock his hustle on the court. Arms is sprinting at all times and selling out wherever needed, whenever needed. The only problem is that his energy is his biggest weapon and weakness right now.
Arms can jump out of the gym and moves incredibly well. Paring that with a great motor and his six-foot-five frame gives him sizable upside as a defender. Wings with his size who can defend multiple positions are exactly the type of players Denver could use as their final two-way contract player. Davon Reed, who just got a two-year full-time NBA contract from the Nuggets, was in that role last season. Still, that energy can manifest in bad turnovers or poor shot selection or just generally careless mistakes.
Can Arms cut down on the issues from playing too recklessly and harness his energy in the last couple of games to show off his passing and defensive impact? If so, he could see his chances of landing Denver’s final two-way contract spot rise quickly.
No one on the Nuggets’ summer league roster has seen their stock rise as much as Jack White, who grabbed 15 rebounds against the Cavaliers in the second Summer League game, has eight steals+blocks so far in Vegas, and has shot 11-16 from the field in three games.
White is six-foot-seven and strong while possessing a good-looking jump shot, a strong nose for rebounds and advanced basketball IQ. It is hard not seeing him stick in the NBA as a connector off the bench who can play as a guard, wing or big. He has many similarities to Vlatko Cancar, who is already on the Nuggets roster.
It feels like White has not made a mistake all Summer League and he has fit into whatever role was asked of him. If the Nuggets chose to give the last two-way contract to White, he would have earned the role. Still, his upside is not very high and his skillset is somewhat redundant on the roster. Adding the athleticism of Arms or versatility of Mitchell seems to make more sense, but White’s name belongs on the list of real candidates for the final two-way spot based on his play. If he does not stick with Denver, I would not be surprised if another team attempted to lock him into one of their available two-way contracts if his strong play continues. There is no denying that White has skills NBA teams like having at the end of their bench.
Kellan Grady was quietly liked in the Nuggets front office entering Summer League, but he has not been able to show off his skills as a six-foot-three guard who can thrive on offense and defense.
His three-point shot has not been effective in Las Vegas — which has been the case for most of his teammates, to be fair —and he has not had a chance to play with the ball in his hands very often. He has been in Nuggets Summer League Head Coach Ryan Bowen’s rotation every game, but simply has not made his presence felt.
Defensively, he has pulled his weight and then some. Denver’s reserves have been smothering on defense and Grady certainly deserves credit for contributing to that outcome..
Grady is likely still on the list of candidates for the final two-way contract and, if he falls short of that chance, maybe the Nuggets’ interest in him lands him on the Grand Rapids Gold roster or on the Nuggets training camp roster. Either way, he has not stood out and that only hurts his odds. He needs to have a good finish in Vegas to propel himself up alongside Mitchell, Arms and White.
It appears that Matt Mitchell has the best odds of grabbing that final two-way contract while Adonis Arms and Jack White sit right behind him with Kellan Grady rounding out the four possibilities.
Even with that being said, there is a chance the Nuggets look elsewhere to fill their final two-way contract or leave it vacant for the time being if they do not feel any of the options available are worth committing to.
The Nuggets will have at one more Summer League game on Friday at 4pm against the Philadelphia before the playoffs begin. It will be up to these four candidates to make their mark if they hope to earn the final two-way contract.