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Jarnell Stokes Faces Uphill Battle In Denver

Reigning D-League MVP appears to have a training camp deal in place with the Nuggets, but can he make the final roster?

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After successfully leading the Sioux Falls Skyforce to a championship and ending the season D-League MVP, Jarnell Stokes is one step closer to possibly finding a permanent home in the NBA. As first reported by Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, the Denver Nuggets are nearing a training camp deal with the talented forward.

The Nuggets are arguably one of the more exciting up-and-coming teams in the NBA. Following an excellent draft, where they addressed their primary need of shooting, the Nuggets now look to fill out the roster with other qualities like rebounding and defense. In addition to Stokes, DJ Kennedy, JaKarr Sampson, Axel Toupane, and Robbie Hummel are all in competition for the fifteenth and final spot on the regular season roster.

While Stokes is an incredible talent that lit up the D-League to the tune of 20.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game, he faces some stiff competition for that last spot. Sampson and Toupane both finished the season on the roster, while Kennedy and Hummel were signed this off season.

You might recognize DJ Kennedy’s name from this summer’s The Basketball Tournament, where he was the leader of the winning Overseas Elite team. The Nuggets signed him following his incredible run with the team and overall body of work put in over the years in Europe and the D-League. He is known for being a good all-round player that draws fouls, passes well, and can force some turnovers on the wing. He is considered a long shot for the last roster spot.

Much like Kennedy, Robbie Hummel is also a long shot for the final spot. The former Purdue Boilermaker was last seen with the Minnesota Timberwolves and has unfortunately not stuck with any one team. He does bring two very valuable things to teams: length on the wing and shooting from beyond the arc. At the age of 27, this is probably one of his last chances to find a long-term home in the NBA.

JaKarr Sampson was signed in February of last season after spending a season and a half with the Philadelphia 76ers. The former Big East Rookie of the Year was cut by the Sixers to make room for Joel Anthony and was soon picked up by Denver. He played a key role coming off the bench, including scoring 14 points in a quarter against the San Antonio Spurs. Averaging 5.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in just under 16 minutes per game last season, the coaching staff is a fan of his game and potential as a role player.

Stokes’ biggest competition for the fifteenth and final roster spot is Frenchman Axel Toupane. As a member of the Raptors 905, Toupane looked great. He averaged 14.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.6 assists before getting called up to the Nuggets in March. He is a high-flying and lanky wing with a decent jump shot who contributes in ways that don't always show on the stat sheet.

With hard work, Stokes can make the final roster. Unlike the rest of these players, Stokes has an extremely reliable body of work and is exactly what the Nuggets should be looking to add.

With shooters like Malik Beasley, Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris, Mike Miller, and Jamal Murray on the roster, adding tenacious rebounding from Stokes would be a great complement. He is a smart player who plays within his own skill set. You won't have to worry about him taking crazy pull up jumpers or making wild passes. He knows he is most effective when he rebounds, defends, and scores inside.

If he makes the final roster, playing time would be hard to come by. With Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and possibly Nikola Jokic, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler (depending on the lineup) all possibly getting minutes at power forward, Stokes will have to make the most of whatever time he gets.

There isn't a more deserving player than Jarnell Stokes. After proving himself in both the D-League and Summer League with the San Antonio Spurs, there is no question he belongs in the NBA. If the Nuggets sign him, they will be adding one of the most reliable players available to bolster their already impressive, young core of players.