So who - besides Ty Lawson and Sonny Weems (both of whom will likely be on the opening day roster) - gets the golden ticket?
My vote is for Coby Karl, and not because his dad was surprisingly nice to me when we met on Wednesday night.
The younger Karl performed well in all five games, averaging 15 ppg on a remarkable 61.5% shooting. I say remarkable because most of Karl's field goal attempts were outside jump shots. And in the Nuggets three-overtime win over the Hornets on Sunday night, Karl hit four of his seven three-point attempts, grabbed a key rebound down the stretch and sank the final two free throws of the third overtime to seal the victory for Denver. Moreover, Karl showed his court smarts by timing rebound put backs numerous times against taller opposition throughout his Vegas tenure.
Richard Hendrix, my initial prediction to make the training camp roster with Karl my second choice, didn't put up the type of numbers I was hoping for and was DNP-CD'd in the last game. But as stated before, in the few games I watched Hendrix play (both in person and online) I liked his rebounding technique going up against other bigs.
The big mystery seems to be Kareem Rush. The most experienced veteran on the Nuggets Summer League roster, Rush appeared in the first two games only. Maybe he's guaranteed a training camp invite because of his experience and having been a former teammate of Nuggets executive (and owner Stan Kroenke's son) Josh Kroenke at Missouri, but he didn't show much in Las Vegas to get Nuggets fans excited.
And after four tough outings, Weems showed some of his promise in the final game with a 28-point, nine-rebound effort. Of continued concern to me is why Weems is insistent on shooting three-pointers, or long jump shots for that matter, when it's clearly not in his wheel house. Of his 10 makes against the Hornets, eight were either dunks or layups. Weems should stick to slashing to the basket rather than chucking jumpers.
In conclusion, we can take a few things away from Summer League. First, Ty Lawson is a quick learner. Even though he routinely had his own shots blocked, Lawson got better and better with each game and found a way to score at the rim with more consistency. Second, Coby Karl deserves a training camp invite. In spite of the pressure of having his dad watching every play closely, Karl delivered. Not only didn't he embarrass himself, but he proved to be the best outside shooter and - along with Lawson - one of the two smartest players on the team. Third, Sonny Weems regrettably remains a major work in progress and until he develops a reasonably decent outside jump shot, his NBA career will be a short one.
Unfortunately, the Summer League results didn't address the one area of great concern to the Nuggets: a backup big man or power forward as "Nene/K-Mart Insurance." I just don't think Hendrix, C.J. Giles or Cedric Simmons are going to cut it. Let's hope the front office has something up their sleeves to resolve this gap as the summer goes on.