Here are a few more miscellaneous notes to pass along tonight:
Timofey Mozgov's name surfaced in a handful of trade rumors prior to this year's deadline, as the big man reportedly drew interest from the Timberwolves, Knicks, Heat, and Bobcats, among others. Ultimately, the Nuggets held on to Russian, and it sounds like the team will do its best to retain him beyond this season. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Denver will tender a qualifying offer to Mozgov prior to this June's deadline.
The qualifying offer, which would be worth $3,925,536 for one year, makes Mozgov a restricted free agent. He'd have the option of accepting the Nuggets' one-year offer, negotiating a longer-term deal with Denver, or signing an offer sheet with another club. If he were to sign an offer sheet, the Nuggets would have three days to match it, which Haynes suggests is likely. "Mozgov is a priority and it will take a lot [for the Nuggets] not to match," according to Haynes' source.
Mozgov, 26, has averaged less than nine minutes per game in 40 contests for the Nuggets this season as the third-string center behind Kosta Koufos and JaVale McGee. Despite his lack of playing time, the big man figures to draw plenty of interest on the free agent market due to the potential he has displayed in limited minutes. While I don't expect him to land the sort of salary Omer Asik received the Rockets last summer, Mozgov's free agent case could be similar, with a team gambling on his upside rather than his overall production to date.
If the Nuggets hope to retain Mozgov and stay below the tax line, it may require some additional roster maneuvering. Assuming Andre Iguodala opts in to the final year of his deal, Denver already has close to $68MM committed to 11 players for 2013/14. That total doesn't include salaries for Mozgov or Corey Brewer, who will also be a free agent.
With just a handful of games remaining in the 2012/13 regular season, most traded 2013 draft picks that included some sort of protection have been locked in, with teams' records ensuring those picks will either change hands or stay put. The Bulls, for instance, obviously aren't getting the Bobcats' top-12-protected pick, while the Jazz know definitively that they will receive Golden State's top-six-protected first-rounder.
There are still a handful of picks whose fate remains up in the air, however. For instance, the Suns and Cavaliers are watching the Lakers' place in the standings anxiously, since Phoenix will get L.A.'s pick if the Lakers miss the playoffs, while the Cavs will grab it if the Lakers earn a postseason berth. With the help of our projected draft order, here are the details on that pick and the rest of the selections that still may or may not change hands:
Team: Raptors (30-48)
Protection details: First-round pick sent to Thunder if not between 1-3 or 15-30.
Projected landing spot: 10th
Current outlook: The Raptors have a chance to jump into the top three in the draft lottery to keep their pick, but it's a real long shot. Assuming they finish with the league's 10th-worst record, the Raps' odds of landing a top-three pick will be about 4%.
Team: Trail Blazers (33-45)
Protection details: First-round pick sent to Bobcats if not in top 12.
Projected landing spot: 12th
Current outlook: With Dallas five games ahead of them in the standings, the Trail Blazers will finish with no better than the league's 12th-worst record. That bodes well for their chances of keeping their first-rounder, since the odds of the 13th and/or 14th teams leapfrogging the Blazers in the lottery (pushing them out of the top 12) are only about 4%.
Team: Lakers (42-37)
Protection details: First-round pick sent to Suns if in top 14. If not in top 14, Cavaliers can swap Heat first-round pick with Lakers first-rounder; Lakers then send Heat pick to Suns.
Projected landing spot: 15th
Current outlook: A game up on the Jazz, the Lakers are in the driver's seat in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot, but they'll host the Warriors, Spurs, and Rockets in their last three games, so it won't be a cakewalk. The Jazz hold the playoff tiebreaker and finish with games against the Timberwolves (twice) and Grizzlies. John Hollinger's playoffs odds give the Lakers 73.5% odds to earn the 8th seed, but this could still go either way.
Team: Trail Blazers (33-45)
Protection details: Second-round pick sent to Nuggets if not in top 40.
Projected landing spot: 42nd
Current outlook: Unlike the team's first-rounder, Portland isn't likely to keep this pick. Even if the Blazers' losing streak continues and they don't win another game this season, two of the Raptors, Sixers, and Timberwolves would have to finish the year with a handful of wins to push Portland's pick into the top 40. That means the Nuggets will probably receive it.
Team: Clippers (52-26)
Protection details: Second-round pick sent to Pistons if not in top 55.
Projected landing spot: 55th
Current outlook: The Clippers are a half-game up on the Knicks in the NBA standings and are within a game of the Grizzlies and two games of the Nuggets, so this pick remains unsettled. If the Pistons land it, it'd be one more very small asset in an offseason where the team is expected to have a lottery pick and a ton of cap space.
Team: Grizzlies (53-25)
Protection details: Second-round pick sent to Lakers if not in top 55.
Projected landing spot: 56th
Current outlook: A late-season loss or two for the Grizz could mean this pick ends up in the top 55 and remains in their control, but I don't think either team is losing much sleep over it.
There's a lot of concern over Danilo Gallinari's season-ending injury, but Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post doesn't think it puts much of a dent in the Nuggets' playoff chances. Most Hoops Rumors readers believe the Nuggets had no chance of a title anyway, though our readers picked Denver as the most likely "Cinderella" team to make the NBA Finals this year. Here's more from around the Association..
The Nuggets received some crushing news today when an MRI revealed that, as feared, Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during last night's win against the Mavs, knocking him out for the season. The team's press release on its website doesn't indicate whether Gallinari will be ready for training camp in the fall, but the Nuggets probably aren't too concerned with next season just yet, with this year's playoffs set to start in two weeks.
Gallinari, who's on Denver's books for more than $32.5MM through 2016, is the team's second leading scorer this season, averaging 16.2 points per game, just slightly less than the 16.7 PPG Ty Lawson produces. There's no denying the 24-year-old Gallinari is a key cog for a Nuggets team currently in third place in the Western Conference. Still, there's reason to believe Denver, with all its depth, will do just fine without him.
Soon-to-be free agent Corey Brewer seems the most logical candidate to inherit Gallinari's minutes. A couple weeks ago, Nuggets coach George Karl told Sam Amick of USA Today that he wanted to give Brewer more time at the end of games, but was hesitant to do so because of the money the team owes to Gallinari and Andre Iguodala.
"I have no problem finishing any way I think I can win," Karl said. "Sometimes that ruffles the feathers a little bit of my players. But Corey Brewer is the guy who I think has played well enough to finish a lot of games. I don't do it all the time, and when I don't do it I think it's unfair to Corey, because even though Iguodala and Gallo are the high-paid dudes, sometimes Corey is the better basketball player. It's not right that we always give it to the guy who gets paid the most money. There should not be an entitlement that because you get paid the most money, that you should finish every game. But if you don't do it, then the agents are going to call and the players are going to mope and so you negotiate that. It's a compromise as a coach."
While the Heat were running off their 27-game winning streak, the Nuggets had a lengthy winning streak of their own that lasted 15 games. Gallinari played in 13 of them, but his performance was subpar. He averaged just 12.7 PPG, and his field-goal shooting (37.8%) was well below his season mark of 41.8%. Gallinari is renowned as a three-point sharpshooter, but his 37.3% accuracy from behind the arc this year is less than the 40.2% displayed by Wilson Chandler, another candidate to see increased minutes with Gallinari out.
There were questions about whether Denver's up-tempo attack would hold up in the playoffs even before the Gallinari injury, and the doubts are no less apparent today. Still, it's worth wondering if the Nuggets' chances of winning the title are really any worse off than they were yesterday. Let us know your thoughts with either a vote, a comment, or both.
The Nuggets escaped last night's game against the Mavericks with a 95-94 win, maintaining their hold on the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, but the bad news outweighed the good. Danilo Gallinari left the game with a knee injury that both Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post hear is likely an ACL tear. As the Nuggets wait for more information on an injury that could be a huge blow to the team's title chances, let's check in on a few other notes out of the Northwest....
According to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida, Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala will likely opt out of his contract this summer. He is currently averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.1 APG, and 5.1 RPG while shooting 44.5% from the field in 34.4 MPG.
Though Iguodala is eligible $16.1MM player option next year, Tomasson writes that the ninth-year veteran would rather sign a multi-year deal that pays him less next season but brings a long-term commitment:
“Yeah, definitely...You got to weigh options. Security-wise, a player would opt, especially with the type of season we’ve had as a team. Teams know what I can bring to them, and I know (the Nuggets) know what I can bring to a team here...Players get like $50, $60 or $70 or $80 (million over multiple years), whatever the number was, they gave up a big number (in an option season by opting out). But in the grand scheme of things, pretty much get it back. You got security.’’
The University of Arizona product offered no guarantees that he would stay in Denver beyond this season if he opts out, but added that he likes the direction that the team is headed:
“Obviously, it’s a business, so you’re going to look at your options. Here we have some good (prospects). But I’m not making any promises. But I’ve liked the last month and a half, two months, three months or however long (that Denver has been on a roll). It’s important for the future, so I’m just trying to win.’’
The Mavericks are one of only two NBA teams sitting the night out, but the Grizzlies appear to be especially busy, juxtaposing a tough road game against the Knicks tonight with reports that they're apparently seeking a point guard. There's more on that and other news from Southwest Division teams, as we round up here:
Heading into tonight's action, the Spurs and Thunder look fairly safe as the top two seeds in the Western Conference. The Spurs have a five and a half game lead on the third-place Grizzlies, while the Thunder remain three games up on the Grizz, even after last night's loss in Memphis.
However, the last several weeks of the season figure to provide a very entertaining race for the No. 3 seed in the West. While the Grizzlies (46-21) currently hold the spot, it's only by percentage points over the Clippers (47-22) and Nuggets (47-22). All three teams are nine and a half games ahead of the sixth-place Warriors.
While the race for the third seed hasn't received as much coverage as the battle for the eighth seed, it figures to be crucial for a team's chances of getting out of the first round. For instance, if the Grizzlies hold onto the third spot, they would host a playoff series against an opponent like the Warriors and Rockets, rather than having to go up against the Clippers and Nuggets right away.
With five Western teams seemingly head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, at least two of those elite clubs will have to play one another in the first round. The Thunder and Spurs almost certainly won't be involved, so which of the other three potential matchups would intrigue you most? A rematch of last year's first-round series between the Grizzlies and Clippers? Or a series involving an entertaining Nuggets team that has won its last 13 games? Weigh in below!
Typically, a winning streak like the Nuggets' current 13-game run would be one of the NBA's biggest ongoing stories, but Denver's current stretch has been overshadowed by Miami's streak, which is up to 24 consecutive wins. That's probably fine with head coach George Karl, who is focused on getting his team a top-four seed and home court advantage for the first round of the postseason. Karl spoke to Sam Amick of USA Today about a number of topics, including his contract situation and how the team has evolved since the Carmelo Anthony trade. Here are a few highlights from Karl:
On turning into a contender so soon after moving Carmelo:
"I definitely think that the speed that we've built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games.
"And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that 'we're going to go with young players.' During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mozgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It's worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they're good enough, that's what we're doing this year."
On managing a deep roster and deciding on crunch-time lineups:
"I have no problem finishing any way I think I can win. Sometimes that ruffles the feathers a little bit of my players. But Corey Brewer is the guy who I think has played well enough to finish a lot of games. I don't do it all the time, and when I don't do it I think it's unfair to Corey, because even though (Andre) Iguodala and Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) are the high-paid dudes, sometimes Corey is the better basketball player. It's not right that we always give it to the guy who gets paid the most money. There should not be an entitlement that because you get paid the most money, that you should finish every game. But if you don't do it, then the agents are going to call and the players are going to mope and so you negotiate that. It's a compromise as a coach."
On whether his track record gives him more leeway with coaching decisions:
"I don't think there's any question that I don't think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we're doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you're not playing -- in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they're not playing, but we don't want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room."
On whether he's considering retirement:
"Well, I've got one year left on my deal here (after this season), with a three-year option. I don't think I think about retirement, but I don't think about the rat race of what's my next job going to be. It's not in the back of my mind, other than I'm going to probably finish my career -- hopefully I finish my career here in Denver. That gives me, again, more balance and probably a more secure perspective on coaching than most coaches have in this business because I think all coaches are always worried about their job a little bit."