Sure, Denver's overall Summer League record, once again, stunk, but the key players had some nice games and a surprise player (from the past three games) had his biggest night against the Los Angeles Lakers. Denver dropped their final game in Vegas to the Lakers, 83-77, but it also turned out to be the most competitive contest of the five for Patrick Mutombo's team.
We actually had a tied game heading into the locker rooms at the half, 43-43. Behind Julius Randle's 12 points in the fourth quarter, the Lakers put the game away late. Keeping Denver in the game, Erick Green led the way with 20 points, Gary Harris added 18, and Jerrelle Benimon had his finest game with 17 points and 15 rebounds (6 offensive). That trio also combined for 10 assists, led by Benimon's 4 dimes. Benimon may not make an NBA roster this season, but his play in Vegas could earn him a training camp invite from somebody and it'd be well-deserved. Benimon has been the guy, outside the three Nuggets prospects, who really stepped up.
Before the game, we heard that Harris would be running some point guard on the night. He didn't play much without Erick Green on the floor, but Green did play off-ball for long stretches. Harris size makes him a great candidate for a combo guard, but the knock has been his handle. I have to admit, I don't see much of a flaw with his dribbling. He handled things well with just one turnover in 32 minutes. Harris did rush some passes, that the Lakers got hands on, but for his first duties with the ball in his hands more (as a playmaker), he did a fine job.
Harris' shooting started off a bit better than it had in recent games, but that trend didn't last. He shot 5-17 on the night and 4-10 from deep and looked good stroking the long-ball early. During Brian Shaw's first quarter interview, he even joked about Harris' poor shooting by saying he needed to add to his college muscle to shoot from the deeper NBA three-point line. Shaw also talked about Arron Afflalo hopefully taking Harris under his wing, and that would be a blessing.
One thing I noticed in this one, Harris let his man drive past him a few times early in the contest. He stuck with his guy, but in the NBA all you need is a quarter of a step and you're gone. Harris recovers well and has timely leaping to block shots, but that's a dangerous game in the league. Steve Smith and David Aldridge were calling the game and had plenty of good things to say about Harris, especially Smith.
His 20 points on 7-14 shooting, 3-5 from deep, continued the nice offensive showing from Green in the desert. The Nuggets have been wanting to take a long look at Green as the team is in a bit of a search for a third point guard. Denver may not sign a third point, especially if they feel Afflalo, Harris, and Randy Foye can play spot duties there, but Green is a serious option for the team. Whether or not he helped himself in Vegas is up for debate. Green added 3 assists tonight and an uncharacteristically high 3 turnovers (yes, three is a high number of TOs for Green, who is excellent protecting the rock), his scoring ability helps his case, but playmaking and defending are highly important for the type of role Green could play. Maybe just being a bench scoring option, like a C.J. Watson or Patty Mills, could be his role.
It was good to see Erick get some dunks against the Lakers. His athleticism, or lack thereof, has been discussed here on Stiffs, and while he's not a leaper he did show a little different side to his game tonight.
We say all the time that people are "nice guys," it has almost become a cliche for bloggers/reporters. In Green's case, it's true. I've enjoyed getting to chat with him and hear about his time in Italy. It's easy to root for him and it'd be nice to see him get a training camp invite from the Nuggets, we'll see if that happens.
Box score on NBA.com