On Thursday, the Denver Nuggets flew to Las Vegas in advance of summer league. The Nuggets had practice in the morning, making their final preparations before playing their first game against the Milwaukee Bucks today. Summer league head coach John Beckett spoke to local media and shared that the Nuggets did some cleanup before hopping on their flight.

“We just cleaned up some stuff. We had some fun,” Beckett shared. “I quizzed the guys on a lot of our terminology and our offensive and defensive schemes. They enjoyed that.”

“For the warmup, we played a little bit of football.”

The Nuggets are certainly excited for this moment, and it’s a bit surprising how important this moment is for the organization. The Nuggets are sending five players to Las Vegas directly from their roster, plus a sixth in Ismael Kamagate, who the Nuggets possess draft rights. There are also two open two-way roster spots to potentially be claimed by one of the other members of the roster.

The Nuggets will play at least five games while in Las Vegas, beginning with the Bucks later today. Here is the full schedule:

The Nuggets will also play a game on the 15th or the 16th that is otherwise unscheduled.

Let’s share some superlatives about the players the Nuggets are bringing to summer league and what fans can expect from the team: 

Most Likely to contribute to the Nuggets next season: Peyton Watson

It’s pretty clear based on John Beckett’s comments that Peyton Watson is expected to be an important piece of the Nuggets going forward. Watson has all of the talent in the world as a former five star recruit, and he has worked hard to put himself into a position where he can take advantage of that talent. The Nuggets are doing everything they can to instill great habits in the athletic, 6’8” wing. It’s on Watson to prove to the team that he deserves to play next year and can make a legitimate impact on both ends of the floor. Summer league is the first opportunity to prove that.

Most likely to annoy opponents with how good he is: Jalen Pickett

The word on Jalen Pickett is that he’s been great in Nuggets practices. He does a fantastic job of setting the table for his teammates, making smart plays, and playing bully ball against the opposing defense. That’s the name of Pickett’s game, and if he can translate that game to the next level, then there’s a great chance that he will make a real impact for the Nuggets as soon as next season. Opponents are going to hate him when he outsmarts them, out-leverages them, passes around them, and when all else fails, outsmarts them again.

Most likely to take and make some insane threes: Julian Strawther

It was a close call between Strawther and Andrew Funk (more on him later) but the right choice is Strawther. As the Nuggets first round pick during the 2023 NBA Draft, there’s a certain confidence paired with opportunity for Strawther to take some ludicrous threes. He has the talent to make them though, and that’s what being a great shooter is all about: pushing the boundaries of what’s wise or possible. Strawther’s in the NBA because of his shooting, but it will be interesting to see what else he can do at the NBA level (or close to it).

Most interesting subplot: Ismael Kamagate

Denver’s international man of mystery, Ismael Kamagate is back in the United States after playing for a year in France. Kamagate had a strong season and is probably going to play in Euroleague next year instead of playing for the Denver Nuggets, but that doesn’t mean the Nuggets don’t believe in him. On the contrary, they do believe in him, and think his best chance for developing rapidly will happen in Europe under legendary coach Ettore Messina. If Kamagate continues to develop his offensive game, he has a great chance to be Denver’s backup center in the 2024-25 season.

Best comeback story: Collin Gillespie

After breaking his leg last off-season, Collin Gillespie is ready to go and ready to prove himself in these next two weeks. It’s been a while since Nuggets fans saw Gillespie, but he’s still a great shooter, great decision-maker, and smart defender. He will probably start and handle the ball, a significant amount, and the Nuggets are hoping he picks up right where he left off at last summer league. Expect him to find a connection with Peyton Watson early on.

Biggest surprise contributor: Hunter Tyson

Hunter Tyson was the biggest surprise for the Nuggets during the NBA draft. Speaking to Nuggets team personnel, though, they feel like they have a steal. Tyson’s motor is what really put the nuggets over the top, so don’t be surprised if you racks up some major rebounding numbers at summer league, the real question will be if he can hang on the defensive end, but I expect him to find some ways to be a positive contributor.

Best Dunker: Cassius Stanley

Cassius Stanley is the only player outside of the Peyton Watson to have experience at the NBA level. He even took part in the 2021 NBA dunk contest and has incredible hops. The rest of his game hast to continue developing, but there’s more to him than just jumping. He’s a pretty good three-point shooter, and can do some stuff with the ball in his hands. The Nuggets are hoping he can put on a show in fast break situations though.

Non-Roster guy most likely to earn a contract: Andrew Funk

Every team needs a shooter, and there might be no better shooter on the roster than Andrew Funk. Funk was seventh in the NCAA last year with 112 made three pointers, and he did so playing next to Jalen Pickett at Penn State. It was a really impressive scoring campaign from him, and some of the threes that he made were incredible. At 6’5”, Funk might be big enough to hang at the NBA level. He may not have the athleticism quite yet, but it’s possible that he could develop more burst in an NBA strength and conditioning program. Look for him to catch fire at summer league playing next to Pickett, his college point guard.