Joffrey Lauvergne's arrival to the Denver Nuggets was much anticipated by Nuggets Nation. We got our first look at the talented Frenchmen and he show some promise in his first NBA action. I think it might be safe to say that NBA talent evaluators are getting much better at their jobs, but more-so that overseas talent is continuing to shrink the gap that there once was between U.S. player vs the World. And that's a great thing.
Below, sorry about the video quality - I blame YouTube, we can see a few moves from Joffrey that show he's more NBA ready that we may have thought.
Play 1: Joffrey gets the ball on the baseline and completely fakes out fellow rookie Mitch McGary. It's rookie on rookie crime and Lauvergne takes advantage with a nice spin move and dunk.
Play 2: You can see Joffrey calling for the ball from Gary Harris in the paint. Harris doesn't see Joffrey and resets the play, Joffrey shows patience with the ball, finds his guard, sets a screen, and heads for the paint. He again finishes nicely at the rim.
Play 3: Joffrey and Jusuf Nurkic play a little inside game and Nurk finds Joffrey over the top and again, Lauvergne is able to finish at the rim.
After the game, Brian Shaw was complimentary of his newest big and what he brings to the table.
"The energy and effort ... he put himself around the ball," said Shaw. "A lot of times, just being in the right position, he was able to be there when the ball came off to get rebounds. Offensively, he was ducking in when he was on the weak side, guys were hitting him with timely passes, and he was going up and dunking the ball strong."
Having just signed his contract on NBA trade deadline day, Joffrey has had very limited time to get to know his teammates and the team's plays. It's nice that he has some awareness already and his teammates are already recognizing some of his finer points.
"I liked the way he played tonight, he played hard," said fellow Nuggets power forward Darrell Arthur. "He really didn't know the offense yet, but he's only been here a couple days. So, that's to be expected. But he came in and played hard, finished at the rim when he had opportunities, got to the free throw line. I forget who he was guarding one possession, but he stayed in front of him - I think it was one of the guards - he had good feet, stayed in front of him, got a couple of blocks, and I just liked his energy."
High praise from one of Denver's smartest players. Arthur knows what to look for in an NBA player. When you get Arthur talking defense, he will talk your ear off about how they got things done in Memphis. He's also been around some of the NBA's best bigs in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (he even attended Gasol's wedding a couple summers ago). Having been around Gasol when he entered the NBA, Arthur has experience on how "Euros" match up physically when they come over.
"I thought he matched up great," said Arthur. "He's surprisingly athletic and long for his build. He's almost taller than Nurk, almost. He's probably going to be in that power position for us. During shoot around, he can stretch out and shoot the ball a lot, he didn't really show it tonight, but he can definitely shoot the ball. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does the rest of the season."
Seeing Joffrey in the locker room after the game, he has a lot of muscle in his upper body. Some overseas guys are not known for being big weight room guys, but Joffrey doesn't appear to be one of them. That strength will come in handy, along with the athleticism, and knowing tendencies of his opponents.
Lauvergne has experience playing against Serge Ibaka, but Joffrey got swatted by Ibaka (one of his 8 blocks against Denver) on a reverse layup attempt that saw Joffrey well under the rim and stretching out too far on the attempt.
"He's a great blocker," said Lauvergne before making a little joke. "Anyway ... we beat Spain every year with French National team. Nah, he's a great player."
There are going to be growing pains, but as the Nuggets coaches like to say: As long as you're making new mistakes, you can live with mistakes. Joffrey may have learned that you can't go up soft in the league, as he had a few dunks after getting his shot blocked. Joffrey also has to learn all the details of the NBA game.
"I tried to give my best," said Joffrey. "I have to feel more comfortable about NBA rules."
Joffrey referenced having to get out of the paint - to avoid the defensive three seconds - and just learning the difference between European rules and NBA rules. It was nice to see Joffrey have a positive debut, even if it was in a losing effort. He showed some promise and will have Nuggets Nation ready for more.
The Nuggets play the Nets Feb. 23rd in Denver, the second of a back to back that should make for Joffrey's Pepsi Center debut.
Joffrey on teammate Jusuf Nurkic:
"He's already very good, but he will be great, I think, in this league," said Joffrey. "He was probably my favorite center in the league last season, he and one guy from my team. So, I really enjoy to play [alongside Nurkic], I'm very happy, and we're going to play years together, I think we'll have fun."