The loaded Denver Nuggets summer league roster hasn't disappointed so far in Vegas. After a 2-1 record in...group play?...the Nuggets advanced to the tournament where they easily dispatched of the Utah Jazz team. They face a much stiffer test in the quarterfinals. The Phoenix Suns summer league team is similar to Denver's, highlighted by an up and coming sophomore (Devin Booker) who is now taking in the game from the sidelines, a smattering of rookie prospects make up the most exciting portion of the roster, and oh is it an exciting one indeed. Rookies Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and Tyler Ulis are the "big three" of the Suns summer league tournament team and behind Ulis they pulled out a narrow victory against the Miami Heat to advance.
The Nuggets didn't have nearly the same trouble when they blew out the Jazz by twenty points in the preliminary round. They too were lead by their rookie point guard as Jamal Murray had a very efficient night shooting the ball on his way to twenty points. Denver also has to be pleased with the play of rookie Juan Hernangomez who has made a strong case for being brought over to the NBA this season.
Who: Denver Nuggets (3-1) vs the Phoenix Suns (3-1)
When: 4PM MDT
Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas NV
How to watch: ESPN2
Rival blog: Bright Side of the Sun
|Phoenix Suns||Denver Nuggets
|PG||Tyler Ulis||Jamal Murray||Nuggets|
|SG||Michael Bryson||Jimmer Fredette||Nuggets|
|SF||Alan Williams||Axel Toupane||Nuggets|
|PF||Dragan Bender||Juancho Hernangomez||Even|
|C||Marquese Chriss||Petr Cornelie||Jazz|
Askia Booker, Alec Brown, Derek Cooke Jr, Kyle Kuric, Shannon Scott, Richard Solomon, Troy Williams
|Josh Adams, Ondrej Balvin, Antonio Barton, Darius Carter, Jakarr Sampson, Mateusz Ponitka, Antwan Scott, Josh Scott||
Key match up: Tyler Ulis vs Jamal Murray
Is there any question about this one? These two guys were just teammates about four months ago and now they'll face one another as opponents for the first time. Each player has been leading their team to victory through their scoring. Ulis utilizes his quickness and step back to gain separation from his defender which could be problematic for Murray who doesn't have great quickness on defense. However, Murray has a significant size advantage and should be able to maximize his deadly three point range by shooting over Ulis. Whomever wins this match up has a good chance of also being on the team that advances to the semi-finals.
Key thing to watch for: Will Marquese Chriss play?
Chriss sat out with illness in the preliminary roudn and it's not clear if he was actually ill or if the Suns are just calling it a wrap on his summer league. If he does go then he should be able to use his athleticism to do some work against Petr Cornelie who is also raw but doesn't have nearly the physical tools of Chriss. If Chriss is a no go then shift your attention to the tantalizing Euro duel that will happen at the power forward position. Dragan Bender was the most highly touted European prospect in this year's draft but Hernangomez wasn't far behind him. Both players have similar skill sets with the capability to score, distribute and rebound at a high rate.
Opening thought: Training camp invites are on the line
Murray is assured a place at camp, as most likely are Jakarr Sampson and Axel Toupane, but for guys like Hernangomez and Jimmer Fredette, this game may be the last live action they get in front of the coaches before the Nuggets, or any other team some of these non guaranteed guys might hope to catch on with, have to start making decisions about who gets to come to training camp and who doesn't. Winning the championship sure would be fun, but getting to keep the dream alive is a lot more fun so look out for the fringe guys to try and put up big numbers in hopes of hanging on in the association for at least a few more weeks.