In talking to Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl at today’s NBA Summer League action, Karl stated to me that Smith will be coming off the bench for the Nuggets next season. Karl cited a lack of improvement maturity wise on the part of Smith as the reason for him coming off the pine. Though, Coach Karl also stated that starting didn’t mean anything to him, but it is more of a mental thing for a player if they were given the starter label.
If Smith is to come off the bench, that means that Denver will either be starting newly acquired Aaron Afflalo or Summer Leaguer Sonny Weems at shooting guard ahead of Smith since Dahntay Jones left for Indiana. Unless, they choose to run a two point guard set with Ty Lawson at point and Chauncey Billups at a combo spot.
I also asked Coach Karl who he would be using to start Chris Paul now that Jones is gone. George mentioned Billups as the prime candidate for his size and also gave credit to Afflalo for his defense. Coach Karl said that double teams will be the main weapon he will use to try to slow down Chris Paul. Of course, Coach Karl admitted no one can stop Kobe when I asked him who would draw that defensive assignment, but he did say he had players willing to work to slow him down.
Also, after acknlowledging his dislike of predicting the standings for next season, Coach Karl named the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs as their top competitors in the Western Conference and the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers as the top teams in the East.
While discussing players in the game, Coach Karl noted that Sonny Weems plays like a scorer in the D-League and in Summer League, but in the NBA, he will not be a player that puts a ton of points on the board. Karl said he was impressed by Ty Lawson and his play in Summer League, making it easy for him to get over his lack of height. George and his family was attending the game to watch his son play in his final Summer League game. Coby Karl scored 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting, making four of his seven three’s in 38 minutes of play. The Nuggets ended Summer League play with a 4-1 record.