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A weak analysis of the Nuggets Summer League Roster...

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I was going to wait until the NBA Las Vegas Summer League kicked off this weekend to write about the Nuggets roster. But Denver Stiffs reader "micb" beat me to the punch and brought it up as a comment on our last post, so I thought I'd get this out tonight in hopes that the Summer League roster discussion will take place here.

First off, here's a glance at the Nuggets 2008 Summer League Roster, courtesy of Nuggets.com:

(No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. School Exp.)
6 Elton Brown F 6-9 255 Virginia R
7 Jamon Gordon G 6-3 212 Virginia Tech R
0 Taurean Green G 6-0 177 Florida 1
8 Mike Hall F 6-8 230 George Washington 1
11 Bobby Jones F 6-7 215 Washington 2
1 Dahntay Jones G/F 6-6 210 Duke 5
2 Keith Langford G 6-4 215 Kansas 1
3 Chris Lofton G 6-2 200 Tennessee R
5 Jelani McCoy F/C 6-10 245 UCLA 8
9 Curtis Sumpter F 6-7 225 Villanova R
13 Sonny Weems G/F 6-6 203 Arkansas R
10 Jeff Varem G/F 6-6 245 Washington State R

As stated in my NBA Draft Preview, I don't follow enough college basketball to even attempt to showcase any expertise on the Summer League participants. But like all things NBA, there are certain trends associated with Summer League rosters that allow you to make some assumptions. For example, like actresses who take their clothes off in movies, most Summer League players are either new to the scene (like Sonny Weems and Chris Lofton) or have been around a while and are desperate to get one last high paying job (like Lamond Murray last year and Jelani McCoy and Dahntay Jones this year).

If you don't buy into my actress analogy, I gladly refer you to Heather Graham's career.

By my accounting, the real Nuggets roster already has 10 of 15 slots filled (assuming the re-signing of J.R. Smith and Anthony Carter, but not Eduardo Najera yet). And you have to figure the Nuggets will sign at least one low-priced free agent soon. Therefore, it's possible that four roster spots could be up for grabs between the Summer League and training camp rosters. But how many of these Summer League guys have a viable shot at being on the Nuggets roster beyond training camp?

I've looked at the Nuggets Summer League rosters dating back to 2005 - the commencement of what I'll start naming The Era of Karl and the Kroenke Cronies (referring to head coach George Karl and the Nuggets GM troika of Mark Warkentien, Bret Bearup and Rex Chapman). In 2005, two summer league participants - Julius Hodge and Linas Kleiza - ended up on the training camp and regular season roster. But as first round draft choices, they were assured of making the team. In 2006, only Yakhouba Diawara - who was undrafted - found his way into training camp and onto the Nuggets roster. And last year, Von Wafer was the sole survivor from Summer League (on a roster that also featured - gulp - Nikoloz Tskitishvili in what will most assuredly be his final NBA "gig") who scored a spot on the Nuggets opening day roster, while McCoy joined the team later on as a seat filler for injured players. Therefore, it's not worth spending a lot of time fussing over the Summer League roster, as most of these guys will never be heard from again in the NBA.

But in looking at the 2008 roster and taking history into consideration, it looks like Weems has the best shot of being a full-time Nugget in 2008-09 (they did trade for the guy, after all) with Green and Bobby Jones also having a chance due to the organization's familiarity with them.

If you're looking for a dark horse candidate to show up at training camp, consider Virginia alum Elton Brown, whom my colleague Mike Moreau of HoopsWorld.com emailed me saying "[Brown] knows his way around the basket" and is a "good player." Since Mike knows a hell of a lot more about these guys than I do (his organization trains them for Summer League), I did a little digging on Brown and he seems like an intriguing prospect. In addition to being 6'9" and over 250 pounds, Brown averaged almost 20 ppg and 10 rpg in 2006-07 for the Nuggets NBDL affiliate, the Colorado 14ers...all while playing for ex-Nugget Joe Wolf (now that's an accomplishment!). Also, Brown upped his production to 25 ppg and 12 rpg in the NBDL playoffs that year.

Since the Nuggets didn't take my advice and draft a big man like D.J. White when they had the chance, it may not be a bad idea to have an extra 6'9" power forward around for training camp. It's clear that the Nuggets collection of reserve "swingmen" over the years hasn't been productive (take your pick: Diawara, Hodge, Wafer, Jones, DerMarr Johnson and so on). Besides, you can never have enough size in the Western Conference.

Again, I haven't seen a lot of these guys play, so I welcome your thoughts and insights on the Summer League roster. In the meantime, I'll try to get more scoop on Brown from my University of Virginia contingency.