Las Vegas - The Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings square off tonight at 6:00 pm MST, you can watch the game in Denver on Altitude, or online with the Summer League Pass from NBA.com. This game has some great match-ups, and we'll be seeing the sixth pick in the draft, Willie Cauley-Stein, and the seventh pick in the draft in Emmanuel Mudiay's second summer contest.
Like the Nuggets, the Kings made their Vegas debut on Friday, July 10th. Unlike the Nuggets, the Kings got trounced by the Toronto Raptors, 90-68. Despite the debacle on the floor, Cauley-Stein and guard/forward James Anderson stood out for the Kings. Stein scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting from the field (3-6 from the foul line), to go along with 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 blocks, and 1 steal in just over 19 minutes of action.
During a TV segment of the Nuggets War room with CBS Sports' Vic Lombardi, Denver's analytics guru Tommy Balcetis described Stein's running to be like that of a panther. The room had a good laugh at Balcetis' comparison, but his chase-down block from that Raptors game, shows why his defensive versatility was so sought after.
I really want to see how the following guys do against Cauley-Stein's shot blocking presence:
Emmanuel Mudiay: He showed a lot of creativity attacking the rim against the Hawks in Game 1, and this will be a true test for him. I want to see how Mudiay operates with Stein in the paint on defense. Watch for how Mudiay attacks the rim, and how he may use Stein's shot blocking aggression against him with drop-passes to his big men.
Gary Harris: He attacked like crazy in Game 1 against the Hawks, and the Hawks on a huge shot blocker in the game in Walter Tavares (7'3" and 265 pounds). When Harris gets the ball, you can see him immediately think: score. That's a good sign and an even better one is that he wasn't hesitating in decision making or aggression. As pointed out in the recap vs. Atlanta, of Harris' 11 shots, only one was a three-pointer. I also want to see Harris' three-point shot today. But a diverse game is well-suited for That's G.
Nikola Jokic: While Tavares was able to push Jokic under the rim a bit, Stein presents a different problem for Denver's rookie: athleticism. Jokic doesn't play with much lift, so he must be aware of Stein's ability to out-jump him for boards, this is where boxing out will be on display. And as Micah Nori pointed out post-game, the Nuggets want to post up Jokic more, so it'll be fun watching how he navigates post touches today vs. Stein.
Erick Green: With his third SL now under his belt, Green has made a jump mentally. He seems much more comfortable running the offense and communicating with teammates. His mid-range game is his biggest weapon and he uses it well. Green pointed out to me last season that he is still learning the pick-and-roll game and that Ty Lawson taught him a lot, with instruction and just watching him. I want to see Green in the P&R more, and I also need to pay attention to how he defends today, both on man and in transition defense.
Joffrey Lauvergne: King Joff had a killer gel job going with his hair in Game 1, expect more of the same from the stylish Frenchmen. In his near 19 minutes of action against the Hawks, he looked pretty good. While Joffrey isn't going to come out and score 35 points, his 8 points were very useful. He can hit the jumper, but wasn't credited for a made three last game (I didn't see replay, but thought he nailed one off the Mudiay swing pass), and took a few threes in Game 1. Nori seemed comfortable letting both Joffrey and Jokic let it fly from downtown, and I like that.
Gilvydas Biruta: Very nice surprise with his play. Skilled, was 4-4 from the field, but needed to help out on the glass a bit more. There were a few times when the big paired with him had to cover a little too much ground on defense.
Ian Clark: He didn't do much to impress in his first 17 minutes of action. Clark was 2-6 from the field and 0-2 from deep and didn't look comfortable shooting the ball. Known for being a decent defender, Clark will need to show more offensive firepower if he's to be seriously considered for the roster.
Jamaal Franklin: In his 18 minutes, he was aggressive on offense, and was actively looking for his shot. He drew some fouls and was 6-7 from the charity stripe. He also was aggressive on defense and came away with 3 steals. I've long been intrigued with Franklin, got to see what he does with these next few games.
Ryan Broekhoff: He was pretty exciting against the Hawks in 18 minutes. Here he showed a nice ability on the break, and he can also shoot the ball pretty well from deep (1-3 in game one from distance). Pretty intriguing player, but Denver is a bit log-jammed at the wing and guard spots at the moment. Excited to see if he can continue to make plays like this (nice feed from Green, too).
As a cool feature today, be sure to watch the Altitude pregame show, I'll be on the phone live with them at 5:30 pm MST to preview the day's game and perhaps more.