George Karl Hopes Young Nuggets Grow Up
Last season the Denver Nuggets finished the year with a starting lineup of Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Timofey Mozgov, Kenneth Faried , and Danilo Gallinari, all of whom are 26-years-old or younger. That lineup helped the Nuggets earn the seventh seed in last year’s playoffs. At this year’s draft the Nuggets choose two 19-year-old projects, Evan Fournier of France and Quincy Miller of Baylor University.
With so many young players on the Nuggets, the Las Vegas Summer League is an opportunity for the players to show their stuff in front of head coach George Karl. Unfortunately for the rookies, Karl is more interested in his second-year player’s and the upcoming season, than building for the future.
“My hope is to watch Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton more than our young guys,” Karl told HOOPSWORLD at the Las Vegas Summer League. “Fornier and Quincy are two guys that we got in the draft. We think our team is really, really young and we’re hoping that they can make an impact on us this year to see how much we will get them into the rotation.”
Karl doesn’t seem to think either player will find many minutes this season, but Hamilton has a chance to crack the rotation. Karl even views him as a rookie, even though he is entering his second year in the NBA.
“My gut says that Jordan Hamilton is probably our first round draft pick as much as Fournier,” Karl explained. “Jordan had a very good season for us as a guy that didn’t play. He worked hard and towards the end of the season a lot of the veterans on the team thought that we should try to get him into the rotation.”
Karl believes Hamilton is only going to be hungrier coming into this year’s training camp and he’s interested to see if his size and strength can help the Nuggets on the court.
“I think he’s going to come into training camp fighting for some minutes. He’s going to fight to be that second guard off the bench,” Karl discussed. “He’s a big guy and does some things that we need. He’s probably our best rebounding guard and there are some nights that can be an asset. I would say he’s probably the most interesting guy here for me.”
Adding some young draft picks weren’t the only moves the Nuggets made this offseason. They re-signed veteran point guard Andre Miller, who was an unrestricted free agent, and are in contract extension talks with Ty Lawson.
Last season Miller and Lawson shared minutes in the backcourt and often played together. Lawson’s blazing speed and Miller’s size ended up being a perfect compliment to each other and coach Karl is glad to see they will be returning for another season.
“I just think the way Ty and Andre played all year long was such an energizing part of our offensive personality and I just didn’t think that it was time to break it up.” Karl went on to say, “I’m happy that Andre feels the same way, I think Masai (Ujiri) and Josh (Kroenke) feel the same way.”
The last piece of the Nuggets puzzle this offseason is unrestricted free agent JaVale McGee. The Nuggets are rumored to have already put a five-year offer on the table for McGee and it’s quite possible the Nuggets return almost the exact same team that made the playoffs last year.
McGee’s numbers with the Nuggets weren’t exactly eye-popping; he only averaged 10 points a game and almost six rebounds. However, McGee was a force on defense, averaging 1.6 blocks per game in only 20 minutes a night. While it’s uncertain if McGee will eventually return to the Nuggets, coach Karl has made his thoughts on the subject perfectly clear.
“I think any time you have that type of talent, as a coach I’d like to keep it on a shorter contract than a longer contract, but I don’t get involved in contracts,” Karl explained. “I know JaVale would be fun working with; it would be fun seeing his development. I thought he came into our situation with a more serious attitude and he had some really positive games and I’d like him to have an 82-game positive season.”
If the Nuggets manage to re-sign McGee, every player that played in game seven against the Los Angeles Lakers in last year’s playoffs will return to Denver next season.
“We’re going to try and get JaVale into the pool and basically go to battle with the team we had last year and hopefully we grow up a little bit,” Karl said.
If the young veteran team does grow up during this offseason, there is no reason to think the Nuggets can’t take another step up the playoff ladder.