Gotta keep my eyes from the circling sky
tongue-tied and twisted
Just an earthbound misfit eye
Learning to Fly - Pink Floyd
Hard to look for glimmers in an otherwise bleak year. The latest injury and surgery (ACL) on guard Nate Robinson is looking like the final nail in the coffin in a year of calamity that began with the ACL injury of Danilo Gallinari on April 4th of 2013. Sometimes things aren't meant to be, and it seems that for new head Coach Brian Shaw and new General Manager started off on a misstep. It's not fatal, but it is a bit on the depressing side if you are a fan.
Stashed away in Europe on the team Partizan Belgrade is Nuggets 2013 NBA Draft second round pick (King) Joffrey Lauvergne. A native of France like his fellow Nuggets draftee Evan Fournier, the 6'-9" power forward has been quietly impressing Nuggets scouts since his acquisition in June of last year. Seems to have a knack for rebounding and field goal efficiency. May be perfect for a more half court centric offense.
Here are some stats for your enjoyment.
Additionally here are some video highlights of Lauvergne so far (with some nice English narration)
Seems to have some great interior post moves. It's good to see a Nuggets draft pick (rights held) doing well in that crazy atmosphere in Serbia (which, based on everything I've heard is comparable to Oracle in Oakland). I have to admit this is eye opening for me. I have paid very little attention to the Nuggets picks that went overseas (or were there anyway) so to see highlights like this is very, very impressive.
Also, Nuggets other second round draft pick Erick Green is currently playing for Montepaschi Siena in Italy. His numbers are doing well, and you can tell that the development he is receiving will help him should he make the jump to the NBA soon. If he doesn't re-sign in the Euroleague then I anticipate he will try his hand at Nuggets camp next season.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe the way of the future for the Nuggets is solid European scouting. Nate Timmons and I had the pleasure of talking extensively with Nuggets European scout Rafal Juc at camp this year, and he has a fascinating story. His ability to scout players is very impressive and he KNOWS Europe.
Tim Connelly talked about his background in European scouting in December on Colorado Sports Guys. You can listen to his conversation with Nate Timmons and myself right here. CSG 153: Talking hoops with Tim Connelly.
It seems that the Nuggets "wave of the future" may be with a greatly advanced scouting system in Europe. Long gone are the days when the likes of Bernie Bickerstaff could draft a guy like Efthimios Rentzias without ever laying eyes on him. Also, gone are the days when Kiki Vandeweghe could draft guys like Nicoloz Tskitishvili and fall in love with Darko Milicic with the benefit of only one workout pre-draft. Many NBA teams have advanced scouting networks throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Things aren't nearly as hit and miss. A player like Dante Exum can get hype in the NBA draft now without most of the common fan seeing him at all. Scouts just know.
There is a big change in thought, specifically from Americans, that is slowly dawning on many American sports fans. The NBA is very much a global game, and advancing to places like Europe, South America, Russia and Asia has helped expand it's reach. There are many, many gifted players who are sprinkled throughout the world and if a team like the Nuggets can exploit that for their benefit, then all the better. I think the rather provincial mindset of many Americans will crumble once they realize how good these players are.
Am I grasping at positive straws in a bleak year? Maybe. I think the Nuggets know after their bad experiences with Carmelo Anthony and Andre Iguodala that they need to recruit the "type" of player to Denver who would be inclined to make this city his home. That is very hard to find, and it's even harder to find a superstar with that mentality. Maybe, by expanding their eye and looking for amazing diamonds in the rough they can increase their chances of landing both a great player ... and one that would make Denver his own.
That's all anyone can hope for.