Nuggets GM Tim Connelly shares the belief of former GM Masai Ujiri that, while having a marquee player is ideal, it’s possible to construct a team that goes deep into the playoffs without one, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe details.
“Watching the playoffs, I do think there is an increasing sense of parity,” Connelly said to Lowe this morning. “We lack that superstar, but we also think a couple of our younger players could really step their game up. I like our roster as I wake up today. It’s a roster that should restore a playoff spot. But we also want to maintain flexibility so that we can make moves. All of our assets are movable.”
There’s more on the Nuggets from Lowe’s piece among the latest from the Western Conference:
- The Nuggets have been planning to discuss an extension with Thad Foucher client Kenneth Faried, and it appears they’ll waste no time in doing so. Connelly tells Lowe that he’ll meet with Faried’s representatives next week, just as Faried’s extension eligibility window opens (Twitter link).
- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak downplayed the idea that he’ll allow the team’s free agent signings to influence whom the club hires as coach, as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com notes amid his piece on the team’s hopes for a splashy acquisition.
- The Grizzlies were never that keen on rumored talks with the Raptors involving Tayshaun Prince and John Salmons, as Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes in a subscription-only piece.
- Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders isn’t anxious to use the $5.305MM mid-level exception likely to be available to the team this summer, observes Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We will wait,” Saunders said. “Right now, there are not a lot of guys that are out there … that I think are better than players we have on the team. We aren’t just going to spend it just because we have it. If someone pops down and we think it’s worth it, we’ll do it.”
- Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro and coach Michael Malone insisted Thursday night that the team’s decision to draft Nik Stauskas at No. 8 isn’t an indication that they’ve lost faith in fellow shooting guard Ben McLemore, tweets Jon Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom.
The Nuggets have a 1.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick heading into the May 20th draft lottery, and GM Tim Connelly signaled his belief in building through the draft in an interview with Aaron J. Lopez of NBA.com. He also touched on his plans to talk about an extension with Thad Foucher client Kenneth Faried later in the offseason, and he had plenty more to say about the team after an injury-racked 2013/14. We’ll hit the highlights here:
On Brian Shaw‘s first year as an NBA head coach:
“He was the best. At times, it was difficult on our end [in the front office]. I can’t imagine what Brian was going through as a rookie head coach. He faced 10 years of issues in one year. At every turn, he handled the situation correctly. He’s been great and we’re fortunate to have him.”
“I tell guys all the time, ‘We want to pay you. Give us a reason to pay you.’ Certainly Kenneth’s energy and toughness is something our team feeds off of. It embodies who we’re trying to be. We’re in a great spot. He has another year on his rookie scale contract. We’ll try to come to some agreement this offseason. Hopefully we do. If not, he’s still on our team and we have restricted [free agency] rights the following year. It’s certainly a good spot to be in. We have to be an organization — and we have been — that will reward good play. And Kenneth’s played well — really well.”
On whether he would view missing the playoffs next year as a failure:
“That’s 100% accurate, especially considering where this organization has been for the last decade. [Team president] Josh [Kroenke] didn’t instill faith in myself and Brian to rebuild this team. This team’s ready to win. We have to ensure that’s going to happen next year. The health’s already on its way. Now we have to be creative and add a little more to the mix.”
The Nuggets plan to make Kenneth Faried a part of their long-term plans by opening contract extension talks with the power forward and his agent, Thad Foucher, this summer, reports Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Nuggets GM Tim Connelly said, “We’ll talk to his representation. I think Kenneth is happy here. I think he’s really embraced what (Coach) Brian (Shaw) is trying to instill. Those are the type of guys that deserve to get paid.”
Connelly also said, “Kenneth was great this year. I think there was an adjustment period with Kenneth and Brian. And for the last couple of months he was playing at as high a level as anybody. He’s the heart and soul of our team. His consistent energy and toughness, I was really happy to see. I think he grew this year. I think he really improved on both ends, not just the offensive end. He’s a guy that’s going to play a huge role in our success moving forward.”
Faried is coming off his best season as a pro, during which he averaged a career-high 13.7 PPG and 8.6 RPG while shooting 54.5 percent from the field, which was eighth best in the NBA. Dempsey opines that it was Faried’s post-All Star break performance that helped solidify him as a key cog in the team’s future. After the All-Star game he averaged a team-high 18.8 PPG and 10.1 RPG. The Nuggets were 17-10 in games in which he recorded a double-double, notes Dempsey.
Coach Brian Shaw was adamant after the season that he wanted Faried back on the team, reports Dempsey. “I definitely want to have him back and expect to have him back,” Shaw said. Faried was the subject of a number of trade rumors during the course of the season.
Faried is entering the final year of his rookie-scale contract, which will pay him $2.2MM during the 2014/15 season. The extension cannot be signed until the July moratorium ends, and would have to be completed by October 31st. Dempsey believes that Faried will seek a deal in at least the $10MM-$11MM per season range.
It is certainly no surprise that, after we rounded up the Lakers’ exit interviews earlier tonight, there is already more buzz coming out of Los Angeles. This is the Lakers, after all. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Pau Gasol would consider reuniting with former coach Phil Jackson, now running things with the Knicks. Citing a source, Spears hears that the interest is mutual.
Meanwhile, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report mentions both Van Gundys, Stan and Jeff, as names that stand out to him should the Lakers part ways with Mike D’Antoni. Within the same story, Ding breaks down the team’s draft lottery odds as well as maps out the complicated status of their draft picks beyond this season. Here is what else is going on in the Western Conference:
- Earlier this month it was Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly that had some kind words to say about Kenneth Faried. On Thursday, it was Brian Shaw’s turn. As Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post writes, the head coach wants and expects to have Faried in a Nuggets uniform next season. Faried was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this season.
- The fate of Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin will hang in the balance just a little longer, according to Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, who writes that the team will take a “decompression period” before making a decision on whether or not to bring the coach back. Luhm reports that a decision could come down as soon as this weekend.
- With Rick Adelman’s departure imminent, the Wolves head coaching wish list includes Tom Izzo, Fred Hoiberg and Stan Van Gundy, reports Spears in his final power rankings column.
- It’s a small silver lining in an otherwise ugly season in Minnesota, but ESPN’s Marc Stein tweets that the Wolves can take solace in the fact that they refused to deal rookie Gorgui Dieng at the trade deadline before they knew what they had (Twitter links). The Louisville product was a bright spot in Minnesota down the stretch and figures to be a key contributor in his second season.
The Nuggets asked a handful of teams six months ago whether they’d be interested in acquiring Kenneth Faried in exchange for a 2014 first-rounder or an attractive wing player on a rookie contract, sources tell Grantland’s Zach Lowe. Faried has improved measurably this season, as Lowe details, and while the power forward tells Lowe that he and the Nuggets haven’t talked about an extension, which he’d be eligible to sign this summer, Faried adds that he’d like to stay in Denver.
Lowe’s report adds credence to early-season rumors about a trade involving Faried and Iman Shumpert of the Knicks. Part of the reason the Nuggets made those calls was out of fear that Faried and agent Thad Foucher would seek and find an offer with eight-figure salaries when the former 22nd overall pick hits restricted free agency in 2015, Lowe writes. It’s unclear how much the Nuggets value Faried now, but Nuggets GM Tim Connelly spoke highly of Faried recently, and coach Brian Shaw referred to Faried and Ty Lawson as the team’s cornerstones. Lawson is in the midst of a four-year, $48MM extension he signed when Masai Ujiri was still Denver’s GM.
Faried’s name was in rumors off and on before the deadline, and he said after the deadline passed that the chatter gave him confidence that other NBA teams think of him as a commodity. Executives around the league view him differently than they did before the season, according to Lowe, but his defense continues to be a weak spot. Still, the 24-year-old has become an efficient post-up player and remains a threat on the offensive glass, so the negotiations that he and Foucher have with the Nuggets figure to be among the most intriguing of the offseason.
Kenneth Faried is headed toward the final year of his rookie-scale contract and will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. Re-signing him to an extension this summer will certainly cost the Nuggets, but figuring out what he’s worth is the harder question, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. The article analyzes what the top power forwards are paid, and Faried’s financial place amongst them. In 74 games this season, Faried has averaged 13.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 1.2 APG in 26.6 minutes per contest.
More from around the league:
- Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv runs down the NBA Draft prospects who will be playing in Monday night’s NCAA Championship game.
- Former NBA player Danny Schayes of Sheridan Hoops gives his thoughts on why raising the minimum draft age is a bad idea for both the NCAA and the NBA.
- Despite being able to opt out of his current deal this summer, Rudy Gay feels that there is a good chance he could be back with the Kings next season, writes Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders. Gay said that, “Everything is a possibility. For right now I just owe it to my teammates to finish out the season to the best of my ability, and not to comment too much. Obviously this team has the talent and the coach to put it all together.“
- Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) believes it’s a good move for Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky to return to school for another season. Mannix thinks another year could improve their draft stocks, as he had them both slotted as second-rounders this year.
The Nuggets won 57 games last season, but Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies ensures they’ll have a losing record in 2013/14. The focus in Denver is on boomeranging back up the standings next year, and we’ll run down the latest:
- Kenneth Faried‘s name was in plenty of trade rumors earlier this season, and he’s up for a rookie scale extension this summer, but Nuggets GM Tim Connelly tells Terry Frei of The Denver Post that he values the energetic power forward highly. “In the last six weeks of the season, there are only a handful of players in the league who have been better than Kenneth Faried,” Connelly said. “He rebounds like he’s 7-feet tall. His intensity and toughness overcomes his lack of size. His shooting percentage is high. And, of course, his energy level in contagious. In a lot of ways, Faried determines how we play.”
- Coach Brian Shaw considers Faried and Ty Lawson the team’s “cornerstones,” as fellow Post scribe Chris Dempsey observes.
- Sean Deveney of The Sporting News profiles several potential head coaching candidates with a slideshow and suggests former Nuggets coach George Karl‘s willingness to take a discount will determine whether he returns to an NBA bench next season.
After Kobe Bryant‘s news conference on Wednesday, the Lakers may have to abandon any strategy not aimed at an immediate turnaround, writes Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. Pincus has an intricate plan in mind for the purple-and-gold that entails trading their 2014 first rounder for Kevin Love, waiving Steve Nash, re-signing Pau Gasol and much more, all designed at arming the aging Bryant with running mates capable of staging one last run at a title.
Let’s take a look at what is going on elsewhere in the Western Conference:
- Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried is happy that the trade speculation is behind him, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Faried is having an impressive March, scoring 21.1 points per game and grabbing 10.1 rebounds on 64.5% shooting from the field. Teammate Ty Lawson also believes that the trade talk was hurting his play somewhat, noting that he has been more aggressive since the trade deadline came and went.
- Thunder trainer Joe Sharpe had a lot to do with Caron Butler‘s decision to sign with Oklahoma City this season, Jeff Caplan of NBA.com writes. Sharpe held a similar position at UConn when Butler was there.
- While we pointed out a pair of D-League success stories earlier tonight, Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opines (via Twitter) that Ricky Ledo may have become a high lottery pick with the proper collegiate seasoning. Ledo, who has bounced between the Mavericks and the Texas Legends in his rookie season, attended Providence College though he never played for the Friars. He was selected 43rd overall by the Bucks last June.
Kobe Bryant didn’t hold back during the press conference that followed today’s official announcement that he’s done for the year. He said he has “not one lick” of patience for suffering through another losing season in 2014/15. With Phil Jackson agreeing to take a front office job with the Knicks, Bryant finds it difficult to understand why the Lakers haven’t hired him back, and he called upon co-owners Jim and Jeanie Buss to resolve their differences. He also wants to be in the loop on the team’s moves and expressed his frustration with the trade of Steve Blake. “I just want to get a phone call when somebody gets traded,” Bryant said (Twitter links via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, Beto Duran of ESPN radio Los Angeles, and Bill Oram of the Orange County Register).
There’s more Lakers-related news as we examine the latest from the Western Conference:
- Soon-to-be restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas admits to SB Nation’s James Herbert that he grew up a fan of the Lakers and still likes the team. The Kings point guard calls Bryant his favorite player.
- Gordon Hayward largely stayed out of negotiations between agent Mark Bartelstein and the Jazz on a possible extension this past fall, and he plans to be similarly scarce as Bartelstein talks with clubs this summer, when Hayward will be a restricted free agent. Grantland’s Zach Lowe has more from his interview with the former Butler star, who expresses his fondness for the small-town feel of Salt Lake City.
- A report last month suggested the Nuggets don’t plan to give Kenneth Faried a major payday when he’s up for an extension in the offseason, but the power forward’s improved play will make the team think twice, writes Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post.
Danny Granger was the biggest name involved in a deadline deal and Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee explains why that might have been the case. “We’ve seen a trend toward teams being much more cautious and careful about how aggressive they are about trading for longer-term contracts, and that’s because of the luxury tax,” Tom Penn, an ESPN analyst and former Blazers vice president of basketball operations told Jones. “The other major change in the new deal is draft picks have become more coveted, and that’s because teams can no longer throw cash into trades as aggressively.” The old CBA allowed clubs to include as much as $3MM in a trade. The current CBA says that teams can only trade up to $3.2MM on the year. More from around the league..
- The Cavs announced that they have recalled Arinze Onuaku from the Canton Charge of the D-League. Onuaku has appeared in 27 games for the Charge this season with averages of 14.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG and 1.0 BPG in 24.2 MPG.
- Even with the Nets‘ signing of Jason Collins and the Clippers’ agreement with Glen Davis, those teams are still possible destinations for Ivan Johnson, tweets Shams Charania of RealGM.com.
- Charania spoke with Kenneth Faried about all the trade talk surrounding him leading up to the trade deadline on Thursday. “I’m not surprised at all that my name was in trade situations, because I am a good player and people do want me,” the Nuggets forward said. “It just makes me that much more aware of how many other teams want me and like me.”
- Sometimes, the best moves are the ones that you don’t make. Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders argues that the Rockets didn’t need a blockbuster deal at the deadline.
- Keith Schlosser of Knicks Journal wonders if the Knicks would have signed Collins.