Basketball is back in the city of Denver….only it’s in Las Vegas. The Denver Nuggets open Las Vegas Summer League play against the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight and where they may have a roster that struggles to win games in the regular season, the roster they bring to summer league should be dominant. It features two every day starters in Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris and three other players who have played significant minutes in the NBA. The lineup also features the seventh and fifteenth overall picks in the 2016 draft in Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez respectively. Malik Beasley will also be in attendace though he is still recovering from surgery and is not expected to play.

The Timberwolves meanwhile field a more typical summer league roster, rookies, fringe players and relative no names. The meaningful NBA experience is limited to Tyus Jones and Adreian Payne and outside of those two guys there isn’t really anyone who projects to make a roster this fall. Anyone other than the fifth overall pick in the draft Kris Dunn of course. Dunn is an exciting young player who was the clear top talent at the point guard position coming out of college. His superior size and ability make him one of the rookies to watch not just in summer league but during the regular season as well. Just recently on our Pickaxe Podcast, Altitude’s own Mark Colomb said he thought Dunn would be the best player to come out of this year’s draft

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves

When: 6:30 P.M. MDT

Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas NV

How to watch: NATIONAL TV BABY!!!! The game will be shown on ESPN

Rival blog: Canis Hoopus

Minnesota Timberwolves Denver Nuggets
PG Tyus Jones Emmanuel Mudiay Nuggets
SG Kris Dunn Jamal Murray Even
SF Kris Joseph Gary Harris Nuggets
PF Adreian Payne Jakarr Sampson Even
C Keith Benson Juancho Hernangomez Nuggets

Coty Clarke, Majok Deng, Jarrid Famous, Toure Murry, Kevin Punter, Xavier Silas, Scott Suggs, Devin Thomas

Axel Toupane, Jimmer Fredette, Josh Adams, Ondrej Balvin, Antonio Barton, Darius Carter, Petr Cornelie, Mateusz Ponitka, Antwan Scott, Josh Scott Nuggets

Full disclosure…I have no idea who is starting in this game, shooting in the dark here.

Key matchup: Emmanuel Mudiay vs Kris Dunn

I'm guessing we are going to see a lot of Mudiay/Murray vs Dunn/Jones and regardless of which player runs the offense for either team, I imagine Mudiay and Dunn will spend the majority of their time matched up against one another. In many ways the two are very similar players. Each are big, strong point guards with decent athleticism and an ability to both score and distribute. Kid Congo has the leg up because he's already got a year as a full time starter in the pros under his belt but this match up is not only a good barometer on both how much Mudiay has grown after one season as well as how high the ceiling is for Dunn, but also could be the beginning of a long rivalry between the two divisional foes.

Key thing to watch for: How much does Jamal Murray play the point?

Murray hasn’t shyed away from the fact that he wants to play point guard and he’s been saying it since the night he got drafted. The Nuggets of course already have a point guard in Mudiay but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Murray to also get plenty of action on-ball. Oftentimes last season Mudiay would play off ball with either D.J. Augustin or Jameer Nelson so it will be interesting to see how much coach Micah Nori uses Murray in the ball handler role and how much he uses Mudiay off ball. Murray struggled as the point guard for Kentucky at the start of the season last year, will he be able to have success against stiffer competition in the summer league?

Opening thought: It's summer league kids…keep your shirts on

Every year the starved basketball junkies who watch summer league (let’s be honest is anyone who’s NOT a starved basketball junkie watching summer league?..No) are all worked up into a frenzy by the time the first game rolls around that they all start clamoring about how Johnny No-Name is the next big thing in the NBA. Anthony Randolph ring a bell? Exactly. So if Josh Scott gets 20 and 10 or Antwan Scott dishes out 12 assists it doesn’t mean the Nuggets are going to cut Joffrey Lauvergne to make room for either player. Each guy on the roster who doesn’t have a guaranteed contract is playing for a spot in training camp but really Hernangomez, Axel Toupane and JaKarr Sampson are the only three playing for a spot on the actual 2016-2017 Nuggets roster. The rest are just hoping to catch on with someone somewhere and the reality is the vast majority of them will not for the simple fact that they’re just not that good.

Prediction: Nuggets win 87-84 because why not, I last five minutes of game time before bemoaning the terrible sloppiness of summer league ball and it takes me until three minutes left in the third quarter to learn how to pronounce Mateusz Pontika.