As minicamp draws to a close with Thursday’s practice, the Denver Nuggets are preparing to make a statement at the Las Vegas Summer League.

Mika Malone and his staff have been working hard with the organization’s young players, emphasizing defense, rebounding, and conditioning.

“Our goal everyday is to try to find a way to get better.” Malone said to the media following practice Monday. “Instilling our identity, what we want the Denver Nuggets to be. A team that defends, a team that gang rebounds, and a team that runs, and on top of that obviously, value and share the basketball.”

The Nuggets’ Summer League roster is full of guys who, though they may lack the pedigree of their NBA peers, are willing to make the sacrifices Malone wants from his players.

Shooting guard Gary Harris, coming off a disappointing rookie season, understands the importance of the summer league for young players. 

“It’s huge,” Harris told the Denver Post. “Just getting familiar with the new coaching staff, the new system we’re about to run and trying to make a good impression going into the regular season.”

Harris played sporadically last season, averaging 13.1 minutes per game and shooting the basketball at a startlingly low 30.4 percent rate.

Head coach Mike Malone has expressed confidence in the 6-foot-4 guard out of Michigan State. Malone, who prides himself on coaching defense, told the Post that he is excited to work with the defensive-minded Harris.

“This year, this summer I want him to go out there and just relax and play and be confident. If you make a mistake or miss a shot, don’t let it get you down, just keep on playing hard and keep on giving me effort on the defensive end, which I know he will. So, I’m looking forward to a much better second season for Gary Harris.”

Alexis Perry, of Courtside Countdown for the Denver Nuggets, talked to the players about minicamp, Summer League, and what they’ve been working on.

“I’ve never got a chance to be coached by NBA coaches, so I’m just trying to listen to everything that’s being said,” said rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, “and everything they’re saying is true.”

Mudiay is the exciting selling point of a young team, and Nuggets fans are eager to catch their first glimpse of the seventh overall pick in action.

During minicamp, Coach Malone spoke to the media about the rookie’s potential.

“The one thing that excites me more than anything is his playmaking. He’s very strong, and I think that’s going to allow him to come into the league right away and play,” said Malone, “his playmaking, his vision, his feel for the pick and roll game, I think he has a leg up on the competition with that.”

In addition to Gary Harris and Emmanuel Mudiay, Nuggets fans should keep an eye on Nikola Jokic, and Joffrey Lauvergne, as all four have a chance to make an impact next season.

Jokic, the Nuggets’ 2014 second round pick, spent last year in the Adriatic league, where the 6-foot-11, 253 pound Serbian was named the MVP, as well as the league’s Top Prospect. The 20-year-old big man has a soft touch, a high basketball IQ, and an astute understanding of where to be at all times.

Lauvergne, the 6-foot-11, 220 pound Frenchman, is an athletic forward who can spread the floor with a nice shooting touch.

Nuggets fans eager for basketball can tune in to Altitude on Friday at 6 p.m. to watch the Nuggets take on the Atlanta Hawks.

Denver’s first game is Friday, July 10 against Atlanta, followed by games against the Sacramento Kings and Miami Heat before beginning a single-elimination tournament, all in Las Vegas. All of the Nuggets Summer League games will be televised on Altitude Sports and Entertainment.

Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report.