- There are four difficult issues to resolve before the Nuggets can get the “championship results” that coach Michael Malone desires, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. He identifies them as the future of Danilo Gallinari and Jusuf Nurkic, whether to offer a max contract to anyone in free agency and whether to keep three first-rounders and two second-rounders in June’s draft.
- The Nuggets announced a number of title changes for their front office personnel on Friday. Denver named Jared Jeffries as the team’s Director of Pro Personnel, Tommy Balcetis was named Director of Analytics, Scott Howard was named Director of College Scouting and Steve Hess will now hold the title of Director of Performance/Assistant Coach and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach.
- Nuggets GM Tim Connelly said his team lacks a true star and if the opportunity to land an impact player presents itself, Denver would have to strongly consider making a move, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “At this point, you can’t say we have anyone on the team that is a star. We have guys who are trending that way,” Connelly said. “I think Danilo Gallinari, with more team success, would have been an All-Star this year. I’m so proud of how he bounced back from a major injury. He’s fully back, back better than ever. You’d be hard-pressed to find 10 tougher offensive matchups in the NBA. So I think internal improvement is always the first and most preferable course of action. Certainly we’re always looking for ways to better our roster. If during the course of conversations we can get a guy we deem a superstar, a top 15-20 player, we’ll be aggressive in doing so.”
- Darrell Arthur wants to remain with the Nuggets, and he would like to do so with a new three or four-year deal, as he tells Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Still, the 28-year-old power forward is undecided about whether to turn down a player option worth more than $2.94MM for next season, as he also said to Dempsey. He’d have to opt out to get that long-term deal he wants, since he’s ineligible to sign an extension on the two-year deal he signed with the team last summer. In any case, he fielded strong interest from other teams at the trade deadline, according to Dempsey.
Kay Felder has decided to hire Mike Silverman and Brandon Grier of the Athlete Management Group and remain in the draft, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical. The junior out of Oakland is the 47th best prospect, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express ranks him as the 70th best prospect.
Here’s more from around the league:
- Hornets coach Steve Clifford believes Tom Thibodeau will return to the league next season, Ian Begley of ESPN.com tweets. “I know he misses [it],” Clifford said.
- Gary Neal is on track to start resuming basketball activities in June after undergoing surgery this week to repair a torn hip labrum suffered in December while he was a member of the Wizards, Marc Stein of ESPN.com relays (ESPN Now link). Neal, 31, was waived by Washington in March in order to clear a roster spot for the signing of Marcus Thornton. The point guard played well for the Wizards prior to his injury, knocking down 41.0% of his 3-point attempts as he averaged 9.8 points in 20.2 minutes per game across 40 appearances.
- JaKarr Sampson has played well since signing with the Nuggets and he is focusing on improving in different areas of his game, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “My first year in the league I was just focused on defense,” Sampson said. “Now, my offensive side is coming out and I’m making progress. It’s showing.”
Eddie Scarito contributed to this post.
Kevin Durant is pleased that friend and former teammate D.J. Augustin has seemingly found a home with the Nuggets, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. “I’m just happy he got his opportunity to play, that’s all he wanted,” said Durant. “I talk to him all the time. He said he loves it [in Denver], the coach is trusting him. I remember coach [Michael] Malone calling him a security blanket or something like that, and in free agency a lot of people read things. You need that rap to get you the deal you want, I guess.” Augustin, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has appeared in 26 games for Denver this season and is averaging 12.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 24.1 minutes per outing.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone gushed about Mike Miller this week, and the team would like to re-sign him when he again becomes a free agent this summer, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Malone is willing to have him back even as an assistant coach, but Miller believes he can continue to play. The 36-year-old who’s in his 16th NBA season isn’t sure whether he’ll re-sign with Denver and said he’d like to play more minutes than the career-low 7.8 he’s seen this season, an unlikely proposition if he returns to the Nuggets, according to Dempsey. Still, Miller said he’s in a “good situation” in Denver and added that he’s learned a lot from Malone. “I just can’t speak enough about his work ethic, his example that he sets every day,” Malone said. “Even [Thursday]. This was practice No. 118. Even [Thursday], three games to go, Mike Miller is in here, working hard, setting the example. I don’t think you can have enough guys like that. The fact that he has two world championships, sixth man of the year, rookie of the year. … I’d love to have Mike back. I think he’s been a tremendous help for me, the staff and all of our players. I hope he’s a Nugget for a while.”
- The Nuggets will likely look this summer for a stretch four or sizable wing player who can play both forward positions with strong 3-point shooting and defense, but a healthy Wilson Chandler is liable to fit that bill, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Bontemps nonetheless suggests that Chandler also makes for an intriguing trade chip. Chandler is under contract for at least the next two years but missed all of this season because of hip surgery.
- The Nuggets will miss the postseason for the third straight year, and Danilo Gallinari expressed frustration to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post about the lack of progress. Gallinari has fond memories of the years when George Karl coached in Denver and the Nuggets were regular contenders. “Honestly, we didn’t make the playoffs this year,” Gallinari said. “I’m asking you; do you think that the same thing that didn’t make the playoffs this year is a championship team next year? I don’t think so.”
If the Cavaliers decide to break up their team this summer, Denver could be a good landing spot for Kevin Love, according to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. Dealing the 6’10” power forward, who is owed $93MM over the next four seasons, would ease the salary and luxury tax burdens that Cleveland has accepted in search of a title. Dempsey believes the Nuggets have the right combination of draft picks and young players to make a deal possible, citing rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and rookie center Nikola Jokic as the only untouchable players on the roster. The writer notes that Love would be the star player Denver is searching for, while the Cavs could pick up some young pieces who fit better into coach Tyronn Lue’s up-tempo style.
- Nuggets combo forward Danilo Gallinari is happy with the progress on his injured right ankle, but he tells Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post that he doesn’t plan to play again this season. With Denver far out of the playoff race, there’s little reason for Gallinari to take risks with the injury. “We’re not fighting for anything right now,” he explained. “As a player, it’s one of the worst feelings ever because if you’re not fighting for anything, it’s even tougher to find the motivation to play a game.” Gallinari hasn’t played since February 26th after tearing two lateral ligaments in the ankle and spraining another.