The Denver Nuggets head to Las Vegas later this week for the NBA Summer League with a roster full of intrigue and expectations. Here’s who the Nuggets are bringing to the showcase.
Denver’s first Summer League practice is Monday morning.
Expected start 5
Guard: Collin Gillespie (6-foot-3, 190 lbs, last team: Denver Nuggets)
Gillespie signed a two-way contract with the Nuggets last summer after a stellar career at Villanova, but missed all of last year after breaking his leg during an offseason workout. He was around the team all season, in practice, on road trips and in the locker room, and now gets the chance to show that he has recovered from the injury and has improved as a player. Last summer league, Gillespie was exciting. He averaged 11.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists in four games.
Guard: Jalen Pickett (6-foot-4, 202 lbs, last team: Penn State)
Picketts one of three Nuggets 2023 draft picks who will suit up in Vegas. The 23-year-old (he turns 24 in October) is older than Zeke Nnaji and Christian Braun and comes to Denver with a mature and refined game. With Bruce Brown leaving in free agency, Pickett may ultimately be tasked with soaking up some of the minutes now available that don’t go to backup point guard Reggie Jackson. A strong summer league would be the first step to making that happen.
Guard: Julian Strawther (6-foot-7, 205 lbs, last team: Gonzaga)
The Nuggets’ top draft pick should slot into Denver’s Summer League starting lineup and will be ready to let it fly from the 3. Strawther was one of the better 3-point shooters in last year’s draft class and will have the green light in Vegas.
Forward: Peyton Watson (6-foot-8, 200 lbs, last team: Denver Nuggets)
Watson is the top story of the Summer League from a Nuggets perspective. He impressed in spot minutes late last season and enters the offseason with the ability to lock down a rotation spot for next year, especially with Jeff Green leaving Denver in free agency. Watson should dominate in Las Vegas. If he does, it would take away a lot of the anxiety surrounding the Nuggets’ bench.
Center: Ismael Kamagate (6-foot-11, 220 lbs, last team: Paris Basketball)
Kamagate, the Nuggets’ second-round pick in 2022, just signed a new contract in Europe and likely won’t play for Denver next season. I guess that could change if he looks like Shaq in Summer League, but I think the Nuggets will develop him right and eventually bring him over when he’s ready for actual rotation minutes. At least that’s what I’ve been told. He had some bright moments in Summer League last year.
From the bench
Hunter Tyson (6-foot-8, 215 lbs, last team: Clemson)
Tyson, as the third of the Nuggets’ three 2023 draft picks, should excel in Vegas. He has a motor that never stops driving and shoots the 3. It’s a perfect Summer League formula.
Grant Golden (6-foot-10, 255 lbs, last team: Grand Rapids Gold)
Golden played off the bench for the Nuggets’ Summer League team in 2022, then suited up for Denver’s G League affiliate last season, and is back for another cycle this year. Golden can do a little bit of everything as a center: Score inside, rebound and pass. He had four double-digit assist games for the gold last year and a triple-double.
Armaan Franklin (6-foot-4, 195 lbs, last team: Virginia)
Franklin comes to Denver after a four-year college career (two years at Indiana and two years at Virginia). A former four-star recruit out of Indianapolis, he averaged 12.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists in the ACC last season. Franklin has a long wingspan, a decent all-around offensive game and is an active and willing defender.
Andrew Funk (6-foot-5, 188 lbs, last team: Penn State)
Funk sank 112 3-pointers last season at Penn State. Many of those came off assists from his college teammate, Jalen Pickett. Primarily a shooter, Funk started 113 games over his five-year college career.
Cassius Stanley (6-foot-5, 190 lbs, last team: Rio Grande Valley Vipers)
The Indiana Pacers’ former 2020 second-round pick is making another appearance with the Nuggets’ Summer League team as he looks to break back into the NBA after spending last season in the G League. Stanley, a former four-star recruit out of Los Angeles, attended Duke for one season and then declared for the draft. With the Pacers, Stanley competed in the 2021 Dunk Contest, but was eliminated after the first round.
Aamir Sims (6-foot-8, 245 lbs, last team: Paris Basketball)
Sims played for Paris Basketball last season and was teammates with Ismael Kamagate. Before that, he spent four seasons at Clemson, sharing a locker room with Hunter Tyson. Last season, he averaged 13.1 points on solid shooting splits (52.1 FG%, 43.6 3P%), 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He has a nice 3-point shot.
Mark Smith (6-foot-5, 220 lbs, last team: BG Gottingen)
Smith was once considered a high school baseball pitching prospect with a fastball that went into the 90s, but switched his focus full-time to basketball in college. He played at Illinois, Missouri and Kansas State before taking his talents overseas to BG Gottingen in Germany last year. Smith is a big, perimeter guard who averaged 16.2 points (36.4 3P%), 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. He has a quick trigger from 3.
Taz Sherman (6-foot-4, 190 lbs, Last Team: Budapest Honved )
Sherman played last season in Hungary, where he averaged 15.8 points and shot 41.6% from 3. He is a lead guard who can play out of the pick-and-roll and excels at attacking the basket.