With both former Hokies who participated in the Vegas circuit of the NBA Summer League now eliminated, it's time to look back at what they accomplished at the venue and what that means going forward for them. Since his team was eliminated from the competition first, we'll begin with the latest former Hokie to try to stick in the NBA, Erick Green.
Erick was drafted by the Utah Jazz, but the Nuggets were the ones making the pick, as they had already made a trade for the spot where Erick was picked at No. 46. They targeted Green, and hoped that he would still be available to them at that spot, as he was projected within the range of their first pick at No. 27. Their gamble paid off however, as they were able to get both cash considerations from trading their first pick, Rudy Gobert, and netting Green in the process.
On draft night, I wrote a piece detailing why Denver was a good fit for Green, but also what obstacles stood in his way to make the team. The first is the Nuggets veteran backup Andre Miller, whose skills are declining and salary is high. But I don't see him not making the team this year unless he is traded. I also mentioned young guard Julyan Stone, who I thought at the time would be extended a qualifying offer by the Nuggets. He was not, and Toronto has since picked him up. That bodes well for Green. Also, the departure of Andre Iguodala freed up a spot for Green. But, the flurry of moves by the Denver front office has complicated things considerably. The signings of guard Randy Foye and J.J. Hickson has essentially nullified those outgoing moves, and with the way Quincy Miller (the Nuggets only player with a team option) played in the Summer League, I would imagine that keeping him would be a priority. That would give them 14 players on their roster before signing Green, and the NBA maximum is 15, which fewer and fewer teams are beginning to carry. All it means is that the Nuggets had better be impressed with Green to hang onto him. So let's see what he did at the Summer League to force their hand.
Summer League Review
Green started the first three games, but after his shooting struggles, Denver tried him out coming off the bench, a role he is likely to reprise if he does in fact make Denver's roster. Surprisingly, for a player who hadn't come off the bench in an organized game since Dec. 7, 2011 against Rhode Island in his junior year, Erick thrived in that role, putting together his two-best complete games and registering his two-highest minutes played totals as well. Here were his averages for the circuit:
In my opinion, Erick showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can play point. He involved his teammates, though they missed a lot of good looks he gave them, and despite again having low assist numbers, he still managed to keep his turnovers low. But low assist numbers don't tell the story of his ability to run a team, as anyone who watched him in Vegas for any length of time is well aware. There was also a tendency to not make the extra pass on the Denver Summer League squad, at least early on. The ball would swing to one side of the floor and stay there, which led to a lot of isolation and 1-on-4 driving the lane type of plays where a shot was forced up. Erick got his teammates their shots; good shots that were open, and hitting them with the ball in their shooting pocket. As far as his low assist totals go, I also think that the official scorers shorted Green of an assist on several occasions.
Erick confirmed basically ever draft pundit's fear that he might struggle defensively on an NBA floor. I saw him struggle on that end like I have never seen him before, specifically in pick and roll defense and getting through screens, something teams picked up on and used often against him. The physicality bothers him. But he also suffered several mental lapses that were disturbing. Losing his man at times or just acting like a prop defensively, Erick was nowhere near as active as he needs to be on that end. Although, as I have mentioned on many occasions, Erick was at least an average defensive player in his first three years at Virginia Tech, this past season and now this Summer League experience is starting to make me feel that either he was just playing harder on that end and is now too gassed because of what he's having to do on the other end (which is not an excuse based on what he did in the Summer League) or that he's just simply regressed.
Another concern for Erick was his shooting struggles. Green only shot 37% from the field and 67% from the line. What's more is that he missed a lot of wide open shots and layups that he never misses. It seemed like he was plagued by nerves early on, something that definitely won't help his case. Likewise, he went 0-2 from the free throw line early in the competition, and although he made every one from there on out, he didn't go back to the line enough to get it up to his career averages, around 80%.
Lastly, there were long periods of time where Ercik was seemingly invisible or disappeared. The Nuggets did have some more experienced players on their Summer League team (meaning guys who were in the NBA last year), like Luke Harangody, Ben Uzoh, Evan Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Quincy Miller and Darius Johnson-Odom, and while as a rookie it might be wise not to rock the boat and defer to them, he did so a little too much early on. After all, he is a point guard, and even if he wants to become a good second unit point guard, probably his eventual role on this team, he has to be able to take control of the team and not shy away like it looked like he was doing some in this event. Of course it doesn't help when he makes a pass and the ball moves to and stays on the other side of the floor for the whole possession, something that happened often early on, but that didn't happen on EVERY possession, yet sometimes on offense you just saw Green standing there. Again, it is Summer League, and sometimes those offenses are very raw because they haven't had long to install them, but naturally, just out of basketball IQ, I would've expected Erick to move more off the ball.
Final Verdict: While Green didn't do a lot to play his way onto this team, he also didn't do a lot to play himself off of it. The bigger reason he might find himself out in the cold when the Nuggets break camp this fall is the signings they have made. And unfortunately, as a result, I think that means Erick ends up in the D-League this year if the Nuggets hold onto him. That may have been where he was headed even before those moves, but when you have so many players you're already committed to financially, what's the benefit of letting a talented young player who could probably use the experience waste away at the end of the bench in games he's not even eligible to play in (assuming they keep a full roster). But as long as he is signed by the Nuggets, that's something that could pay big dividends for Green and could benefit both parties in the future.
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