Denver Nuggets Rumors

Western Notes: Injuries, Jerrett, Johnson

November 30 at 10:50am CST By Chris Crouse

The Pelicans have sustained their share of injuries this season and head coach Monty Williams is adjusting to how players are managing themselves, writes Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune.  “Times have changed,” Williams says. “The way that people view the game now is totally different than the way the game was viewed back in the day. Most injuries, when I came into the league, you didn’t talk about them. It was a sign of weakness to be in the training room.” With players taking a more cautious approach with regards to their injuries, teams could shift their strategies and start valuing depth as a more precious commodity, although that is just my speculation.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Grant Jerrett has finally made his debut for the Thunder and his teammates are ecstatic to see the second-year player getting a chance to take the court, writes Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman. “I told him yesterday after the game: ‘Man, you can’t even stop smiling, boy you so happy you hit your first NBA bucket,’” Kendrick Perkins said. “But I’m happy for Grant. He’s been working hard. You always like to see a guy like Grant get a feel for the game and play a bit.” The Thunder drafted Jerrett in the second round of the 2013 draft and signed him last April for the rest of the 2013/14 season. Oklahoma City re-signed Jerrett to a four-year, minimum salary contract this offseason.
  • Injuries have forced rookie Nick Johnson onto the court for the Rockets and the team expects him to be a contributor, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley is healing from a strained hamstring and reserve point guard Isaiah Canaan left Friday’s game with a sprained ankle. “You just have to go out and play your game,” coach Kevin McHale said. “Nick Johnson cannot become someone he is not overnight because an opportunity is there. He has to be a good Nick Johnson. He has to be able to attack the basket, make plays for others and try to get to the line.”
  • With new additions and several key players returning from injuries, it was wise not to panic when the Nuggets struggled early in the season, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “Early on in the season, I thought we were a little bit too cool, a little too laid-back coming out,” said head coach Brian Shaw. “We started out 1-6. To have an 8-8 record in November, going into December after the way we started, it just goes to show if we defend and we play this way, now our slate is clean. We have something to build on.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Durant, Thunder

November 29 at 5:08pm CST By Eddie Scarito

With the Nuggets seemingly on the upswing, the Wolves have become the team most likely to shake things up through multiple trades this season, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes. If Wolves president Flip Saunders acknowledges his preseason hope of competing for a playoff spot is no longer realistic, Minnesota could look to trade Thaddeus Young, Corey Brewer, or Kevin Martin, once he returns from his wrist injury, Pelton opines.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Many teams around the league are rooting for the Thunder to miss out on the playoffs this season, Sam Amick of USA Today writes. Similar to how many believed that the odds of LeBron James leaving the Heat as a free agent last summer would increase if Miami fell to the Spurs in the NBA Finals, the widely-held belief around the league now is that the odds of Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City will spike if he doesn’t win a title [or two] in the next two seasons, notes Amick.
  • Knicks head coach Derek Fisher credits Scott Brooks and the Thunder‘s coaching staff for preparing him for the jump from player to coach, Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman writes. “They were just very open to relationships with the players, being in close contact and engaged with their players,” Fisher said. “It really opened my eyes as to how impactful coaches can be in this league. For a long time, coaching wasn’t really something that people thought professional players really needed.”
  • Jabari Davis of Basketball Insiders runs down a number of potential trade candidates in the Western Conference, including Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, and Danilo Gallinari of the Nuggets, the Clippers’ Reggie Bullock and Matt Barnes, and Jordan Hill and Steve Nash of the Lakers.

Northwest Notes: Lopez, Exum, Shaw

November 26 at 4:26pm CST By Chuck Myron

If it weren’t for the 11-3 Blazers, who’ve won eight in a row, the Northwest Division would resemble one of the groupings from the Eastern Conference. Portland is the only Northwest team above .500, thanks in part to the offseason acquisition of backup center Chris Kaman, who’s averaging 10.9 points in 19.1 minutes to boost a bench that was a clear weakness last season. There’s more on another Blazers center who’s made a difference amid the latest from the Northwest:

  • Robin Lopez has enjoyed his season and change with the Blazers and isn’t thinking about moving on when he hits free agency in the summer, as he tells The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman. That’s just what his teammates want to hear, as many of them let Freeman know of their affection for Lopez, whose arrival last year coincided with the team’s ascent in the standings. “I really love it here,” Lopez said. “I feel like I’ve really found a niche. Nothing is set in stone, but I’m comfortable here, I’m happy here.”
  • Dante Exum, this year’s No. 5 overall pick, is off to a modest start, averaging just 4.9 points and 2.6 assists in 18.4 minutes per game, but the Jazz and coach Quin Snyder want to bring the 19-year-old phenom along slowly, as Aaron Falk of The Salk Lake Tribune details. Exum is “doing everything that we expected of him” so far, Snyder said.
  • Nuggets coach Brian Shaw acknowledged the pressure on him earlier this season, but he’s been in too many winning NBA locker rooms to panic, and Denver’s five-game winning streak makes it clear he never lost control of the team, opines Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

Western Notes: Lakers, Parsons, Thunder, Ibaka

November 22 at 10:37pm CST By Chris Crouse

The Lakers are not making any immediate roster moves after holding free agent workouts this week, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com (Twitter link). Los Angeles brought in Roscoe Smith for a tryout yesterday. Smith joined Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller and Tyrus Thomas as players who are candidates for a roster spot on the team. The 3-10 Lakers will host the Nuggets on Sunday after giving up 140 points to the Mavs on Friday night.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • The Mavs and Rockets squared off in Houston tonight and Chandler Parsons reflects on his relationship with his old team, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.  “This was home for me for three years so I have no hard feelings toward them,” Parsons said. “It obviously got a little ugly during free agency but (Rockets general manager) Daryl (Morey) told me it was gonna, so it didn’t surprise anyone. That’s just how it goes and it’s business and at the end of the day, my friendship with these guys will stay the same.”  The stellar play of Parsons has been key to the Mavs offense, which is scoring a league-best 111.3 points per game this season.
  • The injuries to the Thunder this season could help the team in the long run, opines Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times. Hoffman looks at the 1996/97 season, when the Spurs lost David Robinson to an injury and ended up with the top pick in the 1997 draft, as a potential blueprint for what Oklahoma City could strive for this year. Entering Saturday, the Thunder own a record of 3-11, which is second worst in the league. While this strategy might be tempting, Hoffman notes that more likely than not, the next top pick isn’t another player of Tim Duncan‘s caliber.
  • The rash of injuries to the Thunder have allowed Serge Ibaka to include the three-point shot in his game more frequently, and this new wrinkle isn’t going anywhere once the team’s stars return, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. “I think it continues,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “He doesn’t necessarily have to live out there and shoot 10 a game. But three or four a game is a good number for him.” Ibaka is shooting 38.3% on 60 attempts from behind the arc in 14 games this year, which already ties his career high.
  • The Lakers have assigned Jordan Clarkson and Xavier Henry to the D-League, the team announced. The pair went to the D-League for a one-day assignment a week ago.

Western Notes: Parsons, Davis, Jerrett

November 20 at 10:20pm CST By Eddie Scarito

By making Chandler Parsons a restricted free agent last summer the Rockets allowed him to hit the jackpot financially a year ahead of schedule, Dwain Price of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. “I won’t send them [Houston] a Christmas present, but I’m very thankful for them letting me out a year early,” said Parsons. “I understood the whole logic behind it, and Dallas did a great job of making it difficult for them to match it [their offer sheet] for their future plans, so I totally get it. It’s a business and I’m very thankful and humble and glad that the Rockets gave me the opportunity initially with the draft. I had a great three years there, and I’m just excited to be here [Dallas] now.”

Here’s more from the west:

  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu has signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, the team announced (translation via David Pick of Eurobasket.com, on Twitter). The four-year NBA veteran was briefly in training camp with the Nuggets this fall.
  • The PelicansAnthony Davis is a basketball talent that almost never happened, with the big man almost quitting the game for good during his late-blooming development, Christopher Reina of RealGM writes. Davis has since become the league’s most incredible prodigy and New Orleans is quickly building a contending team around its young star, Reina adds.
  • The Thunder have recalled Grant Jerrett from the Oklahoma City Blue of the NBA D-League, the team announced in a press release. This two-day stint was Jerrett’s second D-League assignment of the season, though his first trip lasted a mere three hours.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Western Notes: Nash, Len, Gay, Shaw

November 19 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Steve Nash has finally touched base with Lakers coach Byron Scott, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. Last week it was reported that Nash wasn’t returning his coach’s phone calls while he was away from the team nursing his injured back. Nash is expected to have a presence around the team and hopefully serve as a mentor for some of the franchise’s younger players, notes Medina.

Nash didn’t speak with Scott, but instead left a voicemail, Medina adds. “He [Nash] did say on his message that he’s definitely going to come back and see everybody,” Scott said. “He just needed some time, which we all understood. But he didn’t give me a set time. It was a very simple message: ‘I heard that you called me. I don’t check my voicemail, but I’m calling you back. Hope everything is well. Hang in there. See you guys soon.’ 

Here’s more from the west:

  • With the Nuggets off to a 3-7 start to begin the season there has been some speculation about head coach Brian Shaws job being in jeopardy. In his weekly mailbag Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post asserted that Shaw is unlikely to be fired during the season, though he also believes that Shaw needs to settle on a regular rotation as soon as possible.
  • Rudy Gay‘s contract extension with the Kings will pay him $12,403,101 for the 2015/16 season, $13,333,333 for 2016/17, and it includes a player option for 2017/18 worth $14,263,566, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link).
  • Alex Len‘s improved play this season could serve as redemption for Suns GM Ryan McDonough‘s decision to draft Len over Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore in 2013, Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic writes. “I really felt bad for Alex a year ago,” McDonough said. “As people tend to do in our society, there was a rush to judgment way too quickly on who he was as a player and what he could become. He’s very mobile for his size, and now that he’s healthy, he has his agility back. And he’s gotten a lot stronger.”
  • Nuggets GM Tim Connelly is shouldering a healthy share of the blame for the team’s woes, but it is former GM Masai Ujiri who is actually responsible for most of Denver’s problematic contracts, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Ziller cites the deals given to JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler, and Danilo Gallinari as examples of burdensome holdovers from Ujiri’s tenure.

Offseason In Review: Denver Nuggets

November 18 at 11:36am CST By Chuck Myron

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

Trades

  • Acquired 2014 pick No. 16, 2014 pick No. 19, and the less favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2015 second-round picks from the Bulls in exchange for 2014 pick No. 11 and Anthony Randolph.
  • Acquired Arron Afflalo from the Magic in exchange for Evan Fournier and 2014 pick No. 56.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Jusuf Nurkic (Round 1, 16th overall). Signed via rookie scale exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Gary Harris (Round 1, 19th overall). Signed via rookie scale exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Nikola Jokic (Round 2, 41st overall). Playing overseas.
  • Erick Green (2013, Round 2, 46th overall): Signed via mid-level exception for three years, $2.333MM. First year is partially guaranteed for $50K. Second and third years are non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

  • None

Perhaps the greatest additions the Nuggets made to their lineup this offseason were simply the healthy returns of several players who missed significant time with injuries last season. Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee, two would-be starters who accounted for nearly $20.9MM in payroll, appeared in a total of five games put together during 2013/14. J.J. Hickson and Nate Robinson, two key acquisitions from the summer of 2013, suffered torn ACLs. A roster that was largely unchanged from a 57-win squad in 2012/13 sunk to just 36 wins, 13 games out of the playoffs.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Denver NuggetsThe Nuggets entered the summer without the capacity to create cap room short of a trade and seemingly little motivation to make a substantive change, short of the availability of a superstar. They were reportedly involved in trade talk for Kevin Love, and at one point they were apparently Minnesota’s most favored trading partner outside of the Cavs and Warriors, but it never looked as though a deal was close. Denver had already acquired another team’s leading scorer by the time July began, bringing back Arron Afflalo from his two-year sojourn in Orlando, where he’d taken on much of the offensive load for a still-developing team. GM Tim Connelly used the sizable trade exception left over from the sign-and-trade deal that sent Andre Iguodala to Golden State the year before, and since it was Iguodala whom the Nuggets acquired to replace Afflalo back in 2012, this summer’s deal completed a circle.

The now 29-year-old Afflalo returns to Denver a more accomplished player than when he left, and one who showed a greater knack for making it to the free throw line even as he took a career-high 4.1 three-point attempts per game last year. Afflalo is also closer to the end of his contract, which pays him $7.5MM this year and would do the same in 2015/16, though he appears poised to opt out this summer. The cost to the Nuggets seemed low at the time of the trade, as Evan Fournier had yet to show why former GM Masai Ujiri spent the 20th overall pick of 2012 on him, but the Magic reportedly chose the shooting guard over other Afflalo trade packages that would have given them a future first-rounder. The wisdom of Ujiri and Magic GM Rob Hennigan is more readily apparent as Fournier has averaged 17.3 points per game to start the season in Orlando, nearly as many as Afflalo put up last season, though Fournier’s 50.9% three-point shooting suggests a regression is in order.

In any case, with a veteran to slot in at shooting guard, where Denver had been weak after the departure of Iguodala, Connelly and his staff decided two mid first-round rookies were better than one, trading the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s draft for Nos. 16 and 19. The presence of Afflalo, Randy Foye and a healthy Robinson will keep 19th pick Gary Harris from having a significant effect for a while, but 16th pick Jusuf Nurkic is already nudging his way into the rotation at center. Coach Brian Shaw has at times given Nurkic, McGee and Timofey Mozgov all meaningful minutes during games, a three-headed center rotation that worked for Shaw’s mentor, Phil Jackson, with the Bulls in the 1990s but is far from ideal. The Cavs showed consistent trade interest in Mozgov this past offseason, and while the Nuggets seemed just as consistent in turning them away, Nurkic’s development adds an intriguing subplot to Mozgov’s situation.

The Nuggets can also go three deep at power forward with Kenneth Faried, Hickson and Darrell Arthur, but that didn’t stop the team from investing heavily in Faried. The dreadlocked former 22nd overall pick made noticeable strides in his game last season and over the summer with Team USA. Connelly and company reportedly gauged the trade market for Faried about a year ago, but nothing came of early season rumors connecting him to the Knicks and Iman Shumpert, and the Nuggets reaped the benefits of Faried’s improvement.

Still, a report this week suggested that Denver isn’t as thrilled with his on-court performance as his four-year, $50MM extension would indicate, further asserting that the PR benefits of the deal played into the team’s thinking. Failing to extend Faried would have left some unanswered questions about the franchise’s future, but it also would have given the team a greater degree of flexibility. As it is, the Nuggets have about $58.2MM in commitments against a 2015/16 salary cap that’s likely to check in around $66-68MM. Some combination of Afflalo’s player option and non-guaranteed salary for Wilson Chandler and Foye could eat up whatever modest cap room Denver would otherwise be able to clear.

Perhaps leaving some questions unanswered and taking Faried to restricted free agency might have been the wisest move, particularly if Denver’s front office still has doubts about his game. The Nuggets have in the post-Carmelo Anthony era treaded the perilous waters of mediocrity, in true contention neither for the title nor the No. 1 overall pick. The team’s early season struggles have it lower in the standings than usual, but that’ll probably change once Denver’s coterie of players returning from injury get their legs back. It’s difficult to see just what the Nuggets are planning for the future even though they’ve invested in Faried as a major part of it.

Connelly’s ultimate aim appears to be packaging the team’s multitude of steady contributors in a trade for a star, as this summer’s talks involving Love suggest. Doing the Carmelo trade in reverse seemed to have been Ujiri’s end game, too, but as difficult as it can be to trade a superstar, it’s much harder to obtain one. For now, it’s a waiting game, and for Denver, it’s possible that over time Faried, Nurkic and maybe others will continue their development and become stars in their own right. It’s probably more likely that they fall short of that level, as most do. All of it leaves Denver in a position that’s not particularly appealing, one with which the Nuggets have become all too familiar.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Nuggets Rumors: Connelly, Faried, Trades

November 17 at 3:20pm CST By Chuck Myron

Nuggets GM Tim Connelly isn’t overreacting to his team’s slow start, as we passed along earlier, but he nonetheless acknowledges that no player’s job is entirely secure, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com.

“Every player on our roster is a movable asset,” Connelly said. “Certainly you don’t want to view players as assets, but there’s a part of you in the front office that has to be brutally honest with how these guys are viewed leaguewide. We don’t have a guy on the roster we’d have to heavily incentivize to move.”

Arnovitz paints a bleak picture surrounding the 2-7 Nuggets in his piece, and it’s worth a full read, particularly for Denver fans. We’ll pass along the highlights here:

  • Multiple sources tell Arnovitz that Denver still isn’t sold on Kenneth Faried but signed him to his four-year, $50MM extension last month in part as a PR move, given the power forward’s popularity among fans and his Team USA performance. Some within the Nuggets “take exception” to the deal, Arnovitz hears.
  • The Nuggets leaked the initial terms of the deal, which were five years at $60MM, because they weren’t aware that the Designated Player rule, which any five-year rookie scale extension would trigger, required that the first-year salary be for the maximum amount, according to Arnovitz. The team’s lack of collective bargaining agreement knowledge wasn’t isolated to Faried’s contract, as the Nuggets called another team to propose a trade that wouldn’t have worked under the league’s rules, as a rival executive tells Arnovitz.
  • The ESPN scribe hears from a source who suggests that when owner and team president Josh Kroenke was looking for a new GM in 2013, what appealed most about Connelly was his relative inexperience and willingness to defer to Kroenke.

Western Notes: Kerr, Nuggets, Kings, Pondexter

November 17 at 12:55pm CST By Chuck Myron

Stephen Curry was one of the most vocal supporters of former Warriors coach Mark Jackson, but new coach Steve Kerr impressed the All-Star guard with the way he made a special effort to win the team’s trust. Curry shared his thoughts with TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes in his NBA.com Morning Tip.

“It’s always that kind of uncertainty, what it’s going to be like,” Curry said. “He did a great job over the summer of reaching out to every single player, getting to know us, talking about what his expectations were, which made us a little more comfortable, for sure. But we’re all grownups. We all can kind of compartmentalize your relationships, knowing that in situations Coach Kerr’s coming in prepared for the job and trying to take us to the next level, and our job is to go out and play. He did a great job during training camp of keeping it light, keeping it fun, doing some things that are different.” 

Jackson won plenty in Golden State, but Kerr is keeping it up, with the Warriors at 8-2 to start the season. Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets are off to a sluggish 2-7 start, but GM Tim Connelly isn’t about to resort to drastic measures, observes Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post. “Certainly we’ve struggled,” Connelly said. “But it’s early.” Nonetheless, ex-Nuggets coach George Karl has an interest in returning to coaching and has been keeping an eye on the team, as one of his former assistants tells Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
  • The Kings have recalled Eric Moreland from the D-League, the team announced. The power forward averaged 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds over a pair of weekend games.
  • The four-year extension that Quincy Pondexter signed last year with the Grizzlies just kicked in for this season, and he’s fallen out of the rotation, as Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal notes in his subscription-only Pick-and-Pop column. The length of his deal dictates that Memphis look to trade him if he can’t find his way back onto the floor, Herrington opines.

Northwest Notes: Barea, Wolves, Shaw, Leonard

November 16 at 1:01pm CST By Arthur Hill

J.J. Barea confirmed to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he gave up some guaranteed money to get out of his contract with the Timberwolves. Barea said he was paid a portion of the $4.5MM the Wolves owed him, and then signed with the Mavericks for the veterans minimum. “I think we finished on good terms,” he said. “We communicated pretty good. They wanted to go another direction. We talked about it and came up with the decision and went from there.” Barea played five seasons in Dallas before signing a free agent deal with Minnesota in 2011.

More from the Northwest Division:

  • As the Wolves adjust to life without Kevin Love, their former general manager can empathize, reports Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Kevin McHale said the circumstances that led to Love being dealt to Cleveland were very similar seven years ago when he was forced to trade Kevin Garnett“It’s the lesser of two evils,” said McHale, now the coach of the Rockets. “Like, are we going to let a guy walk for nothing, or are we going to try to get the greatest amount of assets we can and see if we can build from here? But, yeah, I felt bad for [Minnesota head coach and president of basketball operations] Flip [Saunders], because it’s just a tough position to be in.”
  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post opines that the Nuggets need to cut ties with coach Brian Shaw as a way to save their season. Paige called this year’s version of the Nuggets “the least entertaining, exciting and enthralling” in more than a decade, and said Shaw made a huge mistake by implementing a slowdown approach that wastes Denver’s natural advantage over visiting teams because of the city’s altitude.
  • The Trail Blazers‘ Meyers Leonard believes he was miscast during his first two NBA seasons, writes Jason Quick of The Oregonian. The 7-footer has cracked Portland’s rotation as a stretch four after struggling to contribute as a center. He grabbed 12 rebounds Saturday while filling in as a starter for an ailing LaMarcus Aldridge in a win over the Nets. “Once coach started to see me shoot more threes after practice, and shoot them during camps, and in games and summer run … that’s when coach realized ‘He can really help us,”’ Leonard said.