LAS VEGAS — Barely a minute into the Nuggets’ Summer League start, Christian Braun made it clear why Denver deems him worthy of their original first-round pick.
The Nuggets clawed back a defensive rebound, and as two-way guard Collin Gillespie accelerated off the ground, Braun took off running into space. Gillespie threw a pass to a Minnesota defender well beyond the 3-point line, and Braun got up, caught the pass at his peak and hammered a two-handed alley-oop for his first basket in as a pro.
“He’s a really easy guy to play with,” Gillespie said.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 9, 2022
In a promising streak, Braun showed his willingness to run away, emphasized his transitioning ability and flexed his athleticism. All three were his college highlights that caught Denver’s eye. There are worse ways to start an NBA career or make a good impression on Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who sat courtside at the Cox Pavilion while assistant coach Ryan Bowen handled coaching duties. head coach.
Minnesota won 85-78 in the exhibition deal.
Malone sat down with a handful of current players including Bones Hyland and newly signed winger Bruce Brown and joked around with Jamal Murray during time out.
Michael Malone studying the Summer League box score? Impossible. pic.twitter.com/UJtvmUiMSR
—Mike Singer (@msinger) July 9, 2022
Brown was in town to sign his new 2-year contract with Denver, while Hyland and Murray were there to support the Summer League team. Shortly after the whistleblower, Michael Porter Jr. also came forward for his brother, Jontay, who was making his debut for the Nuggets’ Summer League roster. MPJ was seated next to Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young, his good friend from the AAU days.
“I love seeing (Jontay) here,” Porter told the Post. “To see him go up and down, to see him be able to play and do good things there. He’s a very, very good player when he’s healthy.
Jontay knocked down two 3-pointers in 14 quality minutes.
As the game progressed, Braun’s impact rippled through even more aspects of the Nuggets’ kit. He called defensive coverage on one side, then fired the ball confidently on the other. It’s easy to see why Malone said he could imagine him contributing next season. While none of his skills make it off the charts, none of them are obvious weaknesses either.
“I’m not a guy who needs a game called for me, I’m not a guy who needs somebody to do something to boost my confidence, to boost my energy,” Braun said.
Braun finished with a team-high 18 points on 8-of-17 shooting.
Watson Learning Curve: Fellow first-rounder Peyton Watson looks all the offensive draft he was at UCLA. He forced the ball into space over several stretches and looked uncomfortable when throwing 3. That said, his strengths were obvious. He kept as advertised, holding on to the Timberwolves guards and crushing a key layup late in the fourth. He also showed some ability to manage, like when he found compatriot Ismael Kamagate on a short lob late in the second quarter.
Malone said Watson would need time to develop in the G League, but Denver front office officials are extremely high on his defensive potential. If the offense occurs, he could be a find.
Kamagate: Denver traded a future second-round pick to Portland for the right to draft Kamagate. Although raw, the 6ft 11in French center made an impact around the glass. Imposing and athletic, Kamagate was a threat on the attacking glass and modified several shots as Wolves went deep.
As badly as the Nuggets defended the rim last season, Kamagate could fix it in the future. For now, the plan is for him to play this season abroad. Outside of DeAndre Jordan, the Nuggets don’t have a ton of depth at center backup.