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Nuggets Sign Monte Morris To Three-Year Deal

JULY 25: The Nuggets have officially signed Morris, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 19: The Nuggets have reached an agreement with Monte Morris on a three-year contract worth $4.8MM, with the first two seasons guaranteed, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Morris had been on a two-way contract with Denver, but his new deal will be a standard contract that moves him to the team’s 15-man roster.

Morris, the 51st overall pick in the 2017 draft, only appeared in three NBA games during his rookie season. However, he had a strong season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G League, averaging 17.8 PPG, 6.5 APG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.8 SPG in 37 contests.

The 6’2″ guard also played well for the Nuggets in Summer League action this month, posting a team-high 17.5 PPG on 50% shooting in four games in Las Vegas. He also chipped in 6.3 APG and 3.3 RPG.

Morris will fill out the roster for the Nuggets, who now have 15 players on NBA contracts. He figures to slot in as the team’s third point guard behind Jamal Murray and Isaiah Thomas. As long as both Murray and Thomas are healthy, Morris may not have much of a role in Denver’s rotation, so more G League stints are possible.

A three-year, minimum-salary contract would have been worth about $4.66MM for Morris. Based on Charania’s report, he’ll receive slightly more than that, so Denver will likely use Morris’ Non-Bird rights to complete the signing.

Nuggets Sign Monte Morris To Two-Way Contract

The Nuggets have signed second-round pick Monte Morris to a two-way contract, the team announced today in a press release. It’s the second two-way deal for Denver — the club confirmed earlier this week that forward Torrey Craig received the other one.

[RELATED: 2017/18 NBA Two-Way Contract Tracker]

Morris, 22, played his college ball at Iowa State, averaging 16.4 PPG, 6.2 APG, and 4.8 RPG in his senior year. The young point guard was selected 51st overall in the 2017 NBA draft last month, so he’ll become the highest pick so far to agree to a two-way contract rather than an NBA deal.

Two-way contracts are a new addition to the NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, so it has been interesting to see how teams have been using them for second-round picks in particular. So far, the four players drafted between Nos. 51 and 54 have all reportedly agreed to two-way deals.

For more information on how two-way contracts work, be sure to check out our FAQ.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Jazz, Morris, J. Johnson

Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who recorded the NBA’s first positive test for COVID-19, still hasn’t fully recovered from the virus. Gobert, whose test results sparked the league-wide shutdown, describes his symptoms in an interview with L’Equip (translation provided by BasketUSA).

The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%,” Gobert said. “I can smell the smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”

Gobert is eager to start playing again, saying he hasn’t been part of a five-on-five game since the hiatus began. He has been boxing, swimming and running in the mountains, but had a physical reaction last month that he said felt like “ants in my toes.” Gobert also talked about shouldering the blame for the shutdown.

The NBA was waiting for a first case to stop the championship, it fell on me!” he said. “I became the image of the coronavirus for the Americans, the domino that triggered the end of the season, but it was not I who brought the virus to the United States. ”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz will bring a fully healthy team to Orlando, except for Bojan Bogdanovic, who had surgery on his right wrist last month, coach Quin Snyder tells Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Snyder also expressed support for his players who are advocating for social justice, such as Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris has used the frustration of sliding in the 2017 draft as incentive to prove he belongs in the NBA, writes Steve Kosmider of the Athletic. Morris was projected as a first-rounder in some circles, but went to Denver with the 51st pick and had to work his way up from a two-way contract. “I was really mad about it,” Morris recalled. “Guys I dominated in college on multiple occasions were getting picked ahead of me. I got hurt during the draft process. I pulled my quad at the Laker workout, which was like my third workout. I still had about 15 workouts to go. I feel like if I had did them I would have moved up. I only worked out for three teams so that may have hurt me, but I still think my resume, doing what I did at Iowa State, should have had me going higher.”
  • James Johnson is certain to exercise his $16MM option and remain with the Timberwolves next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Johnson provides a veteran presence on a young team and is a vocal leader in the locker room.

Nuggets Notes: Craig, Morris, Porter Jr., Booth

Torrey Craig has established himself as a menace defensively but the Nuggets still have a tough decision regarding the swingman, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post explains. Craig is headed to restricted free agency and his playing time this season fluctuated due to his offensive limitations. However, Craig had some big moments as the season wore on and he’s a valuable reserve due to his pesky style, Singer adds. The team can make him a restricted FA by extending a $2.5MM qualifying offer.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Backup point guard Monte Morris has emerged as a key locker room voice, according to Singer. Morris is candid with the media and refuses to accept excuses such as injuries or absences during losses. Morris, who has a non-guaranteed $1.7MM contract next season, contributed on the court with his solid assist-to-turnover ratio and savvy decision making, Singer adds.
  • Michael Porter Jr. saw wild fluctuations in his playing time but the Nuggets haven’t lost any confidence in the rookie forward, who sat out the 2018/19 season due to back surgery, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post writes. Coach Michael Malone said Porter got frustrated at times and was bothered by an ankle injury prior to the hiatus but can still become a “great” player. “He’s shown all of us what he can do,” Malone said. “Now, the challenge is to help him do that on a more consistent basis.”
  • The team has reportedly chosen Calvin Booth as its GM and Malone wholeheartedly endorses the promotion, Fredrickson reports in the same story. “He works his butt off, is very detailed and organized. … I have complete confidence in Calvin Booth if he’s selected,” Malone said. “I would be shocked if he wasn’t.”

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Morris, Thomas, Layman

Scotty Hopson and Richard Solomon are both back on the free agent market after their 10-day contracts with the Thunder expired, according to the Real GM transactions page. Oklahoma City signed both players shortly before the All-Star break to reach the NBA’s roster limit. The team is back down to 13 players and will have two weeks to fill at least one opening.

Neither player saw any court time in OKC. Solomon has yet to appear in an NBA game, while Hopson played two games with the Cavaliers during the 2013/14 season and one with the Mavericks last year.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Markieff Morris has found a perfect opportunity with the Thunder, his twin brother said in a comment tweeted by Jay King of The Athletic. Markieff signed with Oklahoma City after reaching a buyout with the Pelicans, who acquired him from the Wizards at the trade deadline. “I think that’s a great fit for him,” Marcus Morris said. “… I don’t think they have a guy like him over there. … I think he could be that piece that helps them battle it out with Golden State.”
  • Isaiah Thomas‘ return to action adds one more player to an already deep Nuggets backcourt and could present Michael Malone with his greatest coaching challenge of the season, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In two games since returning from his latest hip surgery, Thomas has scored 24 points in 29 minutes and could be a valuable weapon off the bench for the rest of the season. Malone, who already had five guards that were getting regular playing time, unveiled a three-guard lineup Friday that had Thomas, Monte Morris and Gary Harris on the court together. “If we have to adjust, we will,” Malone said, “but playing small, you got three playmakers out there that can all generate shots for their teammates and get their own shot in Monte, in Isaiah, in Gary Harris. That’s a pretty good bench unit, if you ask me.”
  • Jake Layman has become a “secret weapon” for the Trail Blazers, notes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. A second-round pick in 2016, Layman saw little action during his first two NBA seasons, but has made a breakthrough this year through a combination of shooting and athleticism.

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Butler, Morris, Sefolosha

The Timberwolves‘ roller coaster season took a new turn on Friday, with the team suffering a 30-point loss to the Bucks in front of their home crowd. Minnesota has been rocked by trade rumors centered around Jimmy Butler, who remains on the roster nearly six weeks after his trade request went public.

Despite the constant, sometimes nagging attention from media and fans, Wolves players have tried to keep their focus on handling business and business only.

“Me personally, I don’t care,” Gorgui Dieng said, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If they trade Jimmy, then they’re trading him. If they keep him here, then they keep him here. It’s not my decision, it’s not something that I have a voice [in]. Most important is just what’s important for the team, and what I can do to help this basketball team.”

The Wolves have opened the 2018/19 season with a 2-4 record, and discussions to trade Butler are ongoing. Butler scored just four points on 2-11 shooting in Friday’s game.

“No team is ever going to go through a perfect season unscathed,” Taj Gibson said. “Everybody has a story at the end of the year sometimes of triumph and sometimes falling down. We’re in a crazy situation, kind of difficult, but we have to push through it. That’s why we’re professionals.

“We have to go into every practice, into every game with a smile on your face and push yourself.”

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Andrew Wiggins discussed his relationship with Jimmy Butler last week, stating that he and Butler “have always been cool,” according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Wiggins also claims the infamous practice where Butler stormed the court and took on the Wolves’ starters was overblown (Twitter link).
  • The emergence of second-year player Monte Morris has greatly helped the Nuggets, who have jumped out to a 4-1 record this season, Mike Singer of The Denver Post contends. Morris is averaging 9.4 points in five games, providing depth in the backcourt with Isaiah Thomas still out to injury.
  • Jazz guard Thabo Sefolosha will be available to play Sunday against the Mavericks, according to Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. Sefolosha served a five-game suspension this season for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy in April, and played just 38 games with the team last year.

The Beat: Monte Poole On The Warriors

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times about the Bucks. Click here to see all the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Warriors from Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area. You can follow Monte on Twitter at @MontePooleCSN, and check out his stories right here.

Hoops Rumors: It’s stunning, really. No team had ever won more than 15 games in a row to start the season, and now here are the Warriors at 22-0. [We talked to Poole before Golden State’s win over the Pacers on Tuesday that sent the team to 23-0] What sets this team apart from everyone else?

Monte Poole: I think it’s a couple of things. One, the system that they put in last year really did two things. It made their offense open up a little bit, and it showed them the value of defense leading to offense. They really did a great job of it last year. This year, I think their defense has fallen off a little bit, but they know that they can find that defense in spurts, four of five minutes here, five or six minutes there, and turn games around. So, you have that, plus the fact that you have Steph Curry, the most creative scorer and distributor in the game today, and you’ve got a pretty good recipe. You have a deep team, and several guys who are pretty unique around the NBA in terms of what they can do, leading off again with Steph and Draymond Green.

Hoops Rumors: It’s early, but has Green already proven that the five-year, $82MM deal he signed in the offseason is a bargain for the Warriors?

Monte Poole: Well, it’s already proven that they didn’t overpay the guy, that he’s not going to rest on his laurels, because that’s not his makeup. He’s had to fight for everything he’s gotten. He came into the league as a second-round draft pick, and he will be the first to tell you that he heard a lot of rejection from other scouts, and teams told him he wasn’t good enough. They pointed to things that he couldn’t do and didn’t focus on the things that he can do. So, he came into the league believing that he had to prove to people that he deserved to be picked higher, he deserved to be more respected, and I would say that he’s gotten that. I like to say three years ago teams were looking at Draymond Green and saying, “Nah, we don’t think so,” and “No, we don’t think so,” “He can’t do this,” “He can’t do that,” and now, guess what they’re doing. They’re looking for the next Draymond Green.

And it’s heart. He’s got a tremendous competitive heart. He’s one of those guys that really sort of personifies the underdog, and actually Steph has some of that, too. Both of these guys know what it’s like to be told, “You’re not good enough.” You think about Steph, and how both of his parents went to Virginia Tech. And Virginia Tech [said to Steph], “Nah, we don’t think so. Thanks, but no thanks.” Now, generally speaking, when both your parents went to a school, you can kind of get in there without a problem, but they weren’t swayed. And Coach K at Duke [Mike Krzyzewski] never looked twice at him. And he says now, “Big mistake,” but if you’re Steph Curry, it doesn’t help you out to hear that. And so, you look at those two guys, the two leaders of this team, and both of them came into the league believing that they had to prove to people that they could play. And they take that attitude into each and every game, every night. And that’s what you see. You see a team that, really, they don’t just want to beat you. They want to kind of annihilate you. They want to show you that they can, despite being told that they can’t.

Hoops Rumors: What has interim coach Luke Walton done, or not done, that’s helped the team to its historic start?

Monte Poole: Luke will be the first to tell you that he is basically a product of the system installed by Steve Kerr. He’s a little bit different guy, of course, but what he’s been able to do is keep the system alive, keep it going, and he hasn’t lost the respect of the players. There was some concern going into the season that, “OK, Steve Kerr won’t be around, so will they treat Luke Walton like a substitute teacher?” And there are very little traces of that. For the most part, they understand him, they listen to him, they talk to him, they respect him — that’s huge. So, he has been able to get these guys most of the time at the level they can play at.

Now, I would say there may be one or two things that I think would be different if Steve were around, and one of those things is turnovers. That’s Steve Kerr’s pet peeve. And there have been games this year where the Warriors went over the 20 mark in turnovers, and that would drive Steve nuts. Luke is a little more willing to take it in stride because they’re winning, and he doesn’t want to change anything dramatically because it’s not his team to change. So, he’s going to let them get away with that a little bit as long as they’re winning, and they’ve done that. The other thing is that they don’t play as great a defense as they can for as long as they can. They were better on defense early last year than they are right now. I don’t think it’s a big deal, because, again, they know that they can play it, and that if it’s a close game, and they play their type of defense for five or six minutes, that they’ll a double-digit lead. So, you could say maybe that’s something that Luke is kind of letting slide a little bit, but, hell, he’s 22-0, so it’s kind of hard to criticize the guy.

Hoops Rumors: Harrison Barnes is taking more shots and scoring more points than ever before, and Andre Iguodala said that the team is trying to give him a boost, cognizant that it’s his contract year. Have you noticed Barnes’ teammates looking out for him more often on the court?

Monte Poole: I mean, it’s always been sporadic. Last year, same way. There were times when Harrison would be a focal point for a few minutes of the game. There were times when he would disappear. And I don’t think it’s been that much different this year. There have been times when he’s barely there, and there have been times when you say, “OK, my God, this guy is going full-flight right now.” So, I don’t think it’s a dramatic difference. I do think Andre, he talked last year about getting Klay Thompson paid, and now he wants to get Harrison paid. I think Harrison’s going to get paid no matter what. He will get paid. I don’t see, quote-on-quote, a conscious effort, because, let’s face it, Harrison is like the fourth option in their offense. He doesn’t do a lot of dribbling, a lot of ball-handling. He’s basically a stand-up shooter and occasionally gets to go one-on-one with somebody and tries to go to the hoop, and he’s good in transition. So, he’ll get most of his points off transition baskets and just catch-and-shoot. I don’t think that’s changed a whole lot.

I asked Bob Myers, the general manager, before the season started, and I asked Luke this, too: “Are you concerned at all that maybe Harrison, being in a contract year, might go out of his game a little bit and try to do a little too much?” And Luke said, “I’ve seen guys do that, but I don’t think that’s Harrison’s personality, I don’t think that’s our team’s personality. I’d be surprised if it happens.” I’ve got to say that I don’t think it’s really happened. Any more shots that he’s gotten that he wouldn’t have gotten last year I think are just a product of the team getting deeper into its offense, because last year they were probably at 60% of it, and now they’re probably at 70 or 80% of it.

[Myers] said exactly that. He looked at his roster, and said, “That’s one of the things that I can honestly say about this roster is that I don’t think there’s a guy in the locker room that would say, ‘It’s about me, it’s about what I need and what I’m going to do.'” I think he’s right. It’s a quality team with quality players that have positive attitudes. They’re not all the same, they’re not cookie-cutter, but at the same time, you don’t sense that anybody is ready to make his agenda bigger than that of the team. Harrison certainly falls into that category. He doesn’t do that. He keeps within the team. It’s only in spurts when he gets really aggressive, and they want to see that. They want to see the aggressive Harrison Barnes because he’s effective. So, Bob believes the same thing that Luke does, that it’s not a problem in terms of Harrison going too far and getting outside of his normal game.

Hoops Rumors: Festus Ezeli‘s minutes are up, but it’s clear that the Warriors are at their best when they don’t have a true center on the floor. What do the results of this season say about Ezeli’s value to the team?

He’s actually got pretty good numbers. The metrics on him are pretty good, and [the Warriors] tell him all the time, the message is that, “You play defense, you anchor the back line, you take care of the paint, and anything else you do for us is gravy.” Well, he’s been actually giving them a little bit of gravy this year. They know that Andrew Bogut is prone to injury. He may be 31, but you know, Bogut’s probably going to be playing three to four more years, and they know he’s not going to be around a whole lot longer. So, I think they do value Festus. They understand his value to the team. I think they want to keep him. He runs the floor very well. He’s still got upside, and you’re seeing it every day and every month. He’s better each year because he’s working at it. And assistant coach Ron Adams — who by the way was voted the top assistant coach in the NBA in a poll of general managers — has sort of taken Festus as his personal pet project. And both after practices and before games, you’ll see Ron and Festus off in the corner sometimes by themselves going over video, or going over post moves, or going over defensive tactics and so forth.

So, they are investing in him, and I think they mean to have him around for a long time. He’s the big that can actually run the court like the smalls, and there’s value in that, because there are certain teams that you will need a guy like him on the floor [against], guys that Bogut can’t keep up with maybe. And Festus does a better job of being a big who can run the floor. Yeah, the small team is their most effective team most of the time, but they can’t always rely on that, and there are going to be times when they know they need Festus — and Bogut, too — but Festus is a guy who’s younger, and a little more agile, and a guy who they believe can be a quality starting center in the league for years to come.

Darren Collison Prefers Lakers, Clippers If He Returns

Darren Collison is expected to make a decision on his professional future after the All-Star game, a source tell Sean Deveney of Heavy.com.

It was recently reported that Collison, who abruptly retired last offseason, was considering a return to the league.  Deveney reports that the point guard will weigh all options later in the month. He doesn’t want to leave the Southern California area, meaning the Lakers or Clippers would be his preference.

The Clippers’ wish list includes a defensive-minded wing and a point guard, per Deveney, though the team is likely to wait on the point guard until the buyout market emerges. The Lakers have been using LeBron James as their point with much success, yet they could use an additional ball-handler.

The Nuggets and Sixers also have interest in Collison should he be willing to move away from the area, Shams Charania told Alex Kennedy on The HoopsHype podcast. Behind Ben Simmons, the Sixers have Raul Neto and Trey Burke, who isn’t getting much playing time. The Nuggets are without starting point guard Jamal Murray at the moment. They have Monte Morris and PJ Dozier manning the point guard spot.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Green, Clippers, Morris

As the top-seeded team in the Western Conference when the NBA went on hiatus in March, the Lakers have a vested interest in what form the league will take upon its return this summer. With that in mind, Brett Dawson, Bill Oram, and Brian and Andy Kamenetzky of The Athletic explore how each of the proposed playoff formats would impact the Lakers and discuss which ones the team might favor.

The Athletic’s panel agrees that the Lakers, who are already losing home-court advantage – assuming the NBA resumes play in Orlando with no fans in attendance – would be opposed to a World Cup-style, play-in pool, which would increase the likelihood of a top team being knocked out early in the postseason.

However, The Athletic’s writers think L.A. would be all over the idea of reseeding the playoff teams one through 16, regardless of conference. In that scenario, the Lakers wouldn’t have to get past the Clippers to get to the NBA Finals — they’d instead be pitted against the Jazz or Rockets in round two and likely the Nuggets or Raptors in the semi-finals.

Here’s more on the NBA’s Los Angeles teams:

  • Lakers guard Danny Green has stayed busy during the NBA’s layoff in part due to his role as the team’s union representative, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. It’s a responsibility Green takes seriously, having kept his teammates up to date on the latest discussions between the NBA and NBPA. “I care about the game of basketball and the next generation and want to make it better for them,” Green said of his NBPA role. “I’ll be, in the future, the old guy. It’s a fraternity you gotta make sure that it comes full circle where everybody is getting taken care of.”
  • Jovan Buha and John Hollinger of The Athletic dig into the Clippers‘ outlook beyond this season, with Hollinger arguing that retaining Marcus Morris should be a top priority for the club after surrendering a first-round pick for him at the trade deadline. The team also figures to try to re-sign Montrezl Harrell, though Hollinger notes that there are a number of potential center alternatives on the free agent market if the Clips get outbid for Harrell.
  • In case you missed it a few weeks ago, we previewed the Lakers‘ and Clippers‘ salary cap outlook for the 2020/21 season, taking a closer look at how much spending flexibility each team will have this offseason.

Lakers Sign Markieff Morris

FEBRUARY 23, 6:45pm: The Lakers have officially signed Morris, the team announced in a press release. As expected, Cousins has been waived to open up a roster spot.

FEBRUARY 23, 3:55pm: The Lakers will sign Morris using their $1.75MM disabled player exception once he clears waivers at 4 p.m. CST this afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

FEBRUARY 21, 5:04pm: Power forward Markieff Morris plans to sign with the Lakers once he clears waivers, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Morris reached a buyout agreement with the Pistons on Friday afternoon and was placed on waivers. It’s possible another team could swoop in and claim Morris, who was making $3.2MM this season. However, Morris had a $3.36MM player option on the second year of his contract with Detroit. He let the Pistons off the hook with the buyout but that option would be restored if he were claimed.

A team would have to have a traded player exception big enough to accommodate Morris’ $3.2MM cap hit in order to claim him. Most contenders that fit the bill have tax or hard-cap concerns, making a claim unlikely.

The Lakers will have to make a roster move to add Morris. They’ll reportedly release injured center DeMarcus Cousins rather than a little-used rotation player like Troy Daniels, Quinn Cook, or Jared Dudley, despite head coach Frank Vogel recently suggesting that Cousins could get healthy for the playoffs.

Morris’ addition to the Lakers provides even more intrigue between the Los Angeles teams. He could wind up guarding his brother, Marcus Morris, if the Lakers and Clippers meet in the playoffs. Marcus Morris was traded to the Clippers in a deadline deal.

Markieff Morris, 30, has appeared in 44 games for the Pistons this season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 3.9 RPG with a .450/.397/.772 shooting line in 22.5 minutes per contest.

Nuggets Optimistic Isaiah Thomas Will Return In Mid-February

The Nuggets are optimistic that oft-injured point guard Isaiah Thomas will debut with the team ahead of the mid-February All-Star break, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Thomas, 29, signed a one-year pact with the Nuggets in July as he recovered from hip surgery in March. It was the same hip injury that cut short his stint in the 2017 NBA Playoffs and delayed the start to his 2017/18 campaign.

Thomas’ final step in recovery is progressing to 5-on-5 scrimmages. If that goes well, Denver expects the former All-Star to possibly return by the Feb. 11-13 homestand and no later than the team’s first game after the All-Star break on Feb. 22, Wojnarowski reports.

It was just over two seasons ago that Thomas was third in the NBA with an average of 28.9 PPG. Thomas seemed destined for a lucrative deal worth north of $100MM but his troublesome hip prevented that. He split last season between the Cavaliers and Lakers, averaging 15.2 PPG in 32 games before undergoing hip surgery.

If Thomas successfully returns, he will battle with guards Jamal MurrayGary HarrisMalik BeasleyWill Barton and Monte Morris for playing time.

Nuggets’ Paul Millsap Suffers Broken Toe

11:08am: Millsap has suffered a right big toe fracture, the Nuggets announced in a press release on Saturday. Updates on his status will be provided when appropriate.

9:24am: Nuggets forward Paul Millsap suffered a broken toe on his right foot and will be re-evaluated once the team returns to Denver, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link). Millsap sustained the injury on Friday in Charlotte as the Nuggets lost to the Hornets.

Denver head coach Michael Malone said he heard Millsap suffered a cut on his foot whereas teammate Monte Morris said he heard the injury was a broken toe, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Millsap, 33, is in the midst of a productive season for Denver, averaging 13.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 2.0 APG through 25 contests. His .495% field goal percentage is his highest since the 2010/11 season.

The Nuggets signed the veteran to a three-year. $90 million deal in the summer of 2017. Millsap underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his left wrist last November and missed 44 games in 2017/18. Losing Millsap for another extended stretch would be a tough break for a Nuggets team currently percentage points ahead of the Warriors for first place in the Western Conference.

Nuggets Sign Thomas Welsh To Two-Way Deal

JULY 17: The Nuggets have officially signed Welsh, according to the league’s transactions log.

JULY 3: The Nuggets are expected to sign second-round pick Thomas Welsh to a two-way contract, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

Welsh, the 58th pick in the 2018 draft, spent his college career at UCLA, serving as the Bruins’ starting center for the last three years. In 2017/18, he averaged a double-double (12.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG) and added an outside shot to his game, knocking down 45 three-pointers at a 40.4% rate after having attempted just one in his first three seasons.

A year ago, when the NBA introduced the two-way contract for the first time, it became a common way for teams to sign late second-round picks. Five players drafted between 51-60 in the 2017 draft inked two-way deals, so it makes sense that Welsh would receive one in Denver.

In 2017/18, the Nuggets filled its two-way contract slots with Torrey Craig and Monte Morris. Morris’ two-way deal is for two years, so he’s the favorite to fill Denver’s second slot alongside Welsh next season. Craig is currently a restricted free agent.

Nuggets Waive Isaiah Whitehead

As expected, the Nuggets have waived recently-acquired guard Isaiah Whitehead, per the NBA’s official transactions log. Whitehead had been included in the trade between Denver and Brooklyn, which sent Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and draft picks to the Nets.

Whitehead, 23, was selected by the Nets with the 42nd overall pick in the 2016 draft and spent two seasons with the club, appearing in 89 overall games. The former Seton Hall standout was a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation in his rookie season, but saw his playing time cut back in 2017/18 as he spent more time with the Long Island Nets in the G League.  Whitehead averaged 22.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 30 games for the Nets’ NBAGL affiliate.

A Brooklyn native, Whitehead was disappointed to be included in last week’s trade, but there was no room for him in a Nets point guard rotation that will include D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Shabazz Napier. Similarly, the Nuggets had no need for another point guard with Jamal Murray, Isaiah Thomas, and Monte Morris in the mix.

Whitehead’s $1.54MM salary for 2018/19 was non-guaranteed, so Denver won’t be on the hook for his cap charge. He’ll become a free agent later this week, assuming he’s not claimed on waivers.

2020/21 Salary Cap Preview: Denver Nuggets

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead at the 2020/21 salary cap situations for all 30 NBA teams. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the NBA, it’s impossible to know yet where the cap for 2020/21 will land. Given the league’s lost revenue, we’re assuming for now that it will stay the same as the ’19/20 cap, but it’s entirely possible it will end up higher or lower than that.

After placing second in the Western Conference and winning a playoff series in 2018/19, the Nuggets were on nearly an identical pace this season, holding a 43-22 record prior to the NBA’s hiatus, the best mark of any non-L.A. team in the West.

In order to seriously contend for a title, Denver may need Jamal Murray and/or Michael Porter Jr. to evolve into a bona fide star alongside Nikola Jokic. In the meantime, the team isn’t weighed down by a ton of onerous contracts, but also may not be in a position to comfortably retain both Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap if and when they reach unrestricted free agency this offseason.

Here’s where things stand for the Nuggets financially in 2020/21, as we continue our Salary Cap Preview series:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Offseason Cap Outlook

The Nuggets have just shy of $95MM of guaranteed money on their books for 2020/21, but that’s only for six players. If we assume they’ll retain Morris and Bates-Diop on their minimum-salary deals and keep their first-round pick, that salary total rises beyond $100MM, likely eliminating the possibility of cap room for the 2020 offseason.

The Nuggets will have Bird rights on their three most important free agents – Grant, Millsap, and Craig – and could theoretically retain all three. However, depending on the price tags, that could push the club up into luxury tax territory, so some tough decisions may be on the horizon.

For now, we’re assuming that Denver will look to avoid the tax, but if the team is willing to cross that threshold, it would lose the full mid-level exception and bi-annual exception, gaining access to the more modest taxpayer MLE.

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Mid-level exception: $9,258,000 7
  • Bi-annual exception: $3,623,000 7
  • Trade exception: $3,321,030 (expires 2/5/21)
  • Trade exception: $1,845,301 (expires 2/8/21)

Footnotes

  1. This is a projected value. Murray’s actual maximum salary will be 25% of the cap, wherever it lands.
  2. Bates-Diop’s salary becomes fully guaranteed after July 7.
  3. Morris’ salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 30.
  4. Millsap’s cap hold will be the lesser of $45,525,000 or 35% of the 2020/21 cap.
  5. This pick could also land at No. 22 depending on the result of a random tiebreaker.
  6. The cap hold for Jefferson remains on the Nuggets’ books because he hasn’t been renounced after going unsigned since 2018. He can’t be used in a sign-and-trade deal.
  7. This is a projected value.

Note: Minimum-salary and rookie-scale cap holds are based on the salary cap and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Early Bird Rights was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pistons Buy Out Markieff Morris

2:49pm: The Pistons have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve bought out Morris. He’s on track to clear waivers on Sunday.

2:32pm: Just three days after buying out point guard Reggie Jackson, the Pistons have reached a buyout agreement with another veteran contributor, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the club is buying out forward Markieff Morris.

Morris, 30, has appeared in 44 games for the Pistons this season, averaging 11.0 PPG and 3.9 RPG with a .450/.397/.772 shooting line in 22.5 minutes per contest.

Morris’ two-year contract with Detroit paid him $3.2MM this season and included a $3.36MM player option for next season. Presumably, if he had finished the season with the Pistons, he would have opted out and tested the free agent market, so it’ll be interesting to see how much money he gives up as part of the buyout agreement.

According to Charania (via Twitter), the Lakers have emerged as a frontrunner for Morris. That would add a new layer of intrigue to a potential Los Angeles showdown in the Western Conference playoffs, since the Clippers added Morris’ twin Marcus Morris in a deadline deal earlier this month.

The Raptors have also expressed interest in Markieff, Charania adds.

And-Ones: Pistons, Morris, Harris, Gasol

The Pistons have made some interesting moves over the past few weeks, trading away Andre Drummond and agreeing to buyouts with both Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris. The franchise appears to be in the midst of a tear-down, and as ESPN’s Bobby Marks explains (Twitter link), this offseason will be a test to see if the team has the stomach to be patient and rebuild.

Detroit is projected to have approximately $36MM in cap space this summer and what the organization does with that flexibility will go a long way toward identifying the team’s actual plans.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Lakers appear to be the favorite to sign Morris, though as Marks tweets, other teams are eligible to claim the power forward off waivers, which would void the buyout. The new team would be on the hook for his player option next season if they claim Morris. Marks adds that teams can use a trade exception to claim the veteran and the Rockets are among the teams with a large enough TPE.
  • Joe Harris hopes to re-sign with the Nets, as Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Harris spoke about his desire to play alongside Kevin Durant, who hasn’t suited up since signing with Brooklyn.
  • Marc Gasol could miss additional time with his lingering hamstring injury, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). The Raptors want to make sure the big man is fully healthy before putting him back out on the court.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Malone, Rotation, Porter, Craig, Murray

The Nuggets have recalled rookie center Bol Bol from the G League but they’re not burning any of the 45 days he’s allotted to spend in the NBA on his two-way contract, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Bol is expected to remain with the Nuggets for a couple of weeks but won’t practice or play before being sent back down to the Windy City Bulls. He’ll be listed as out due to “injury management” for his surgically repaired left foot, Singer adds. Bol has averaged 11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG in less than 17 MPG with Windy City.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • The league has instituted coach’s challenges this season but like many of the men who patrol the sidelines, Michael Malone likes to save his challenge for crunch time, Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website notes. “As you see it kind of play out, most coaches like to keep it (the challenge) in their pocket for late game situations. The only time I can see using it early is if you’re trying to protect a great player (from foul trouble),” Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have plenty of depth, which has created a pleasant dilemma for Malone on a game-by-game basis, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic points out. Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Jerami Grant have defined reserve roles but Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr. and Malik Beasley have seen major fluctuations in playing time. “It’s not easy from a player or coach’s standpoint,” Plumlee said. “But I’ll say guys have handled it as well as any team I’ve been on.”
  • Porter has appeared in 10 games, averaging 3.8 PPG in 9.0 MPG, and Malone hopes to expand his role, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic“I have to find ways to play him this year,” Malone said. “This cannot be a wasted year for him.”
  • Craig has lost playing time but he’s not creating any problems in the locker room, Singer relays in a separate story“We all get along, we’re all happy for each other when each other have success,” he said. “I’m not one to sit here and pout when my teammates are doing good. If they’re doing good and we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  • Jamal Murray will play for Team Canada next summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada reports. Canada will host an Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. in late June, and then head to Tokyo if the team snags one of the six remaining spots in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

Sixers Sign Shake Milton To Four-Year Deal

JULY 7: Milton’s new four-year contract with the Sixers is now official, the team announced today in a press release.

“Shake is the perfect example of what hard work and strong player development can produce,” GM Elton Brand said in a statement. “We are proud of the strides he made in the G League last season, where his game was able to blossom while gaining confidence as a pro. He has earned the right to be where he is today. He is an exciting young talent and I look forward to his continued development with the 76ers and the depth that he provides our roster.”

JULY 2: Shake Milton will sign a new contract with the Sixers. The team has agreed to a four-year deal with the shooting guard, according to ESPN’s Jordan Schultz (Twitter link).

Milton played last season on a two-way contract, splitting his time between the Sixers and their G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats. He saw limited playing time in 20 games for Philadelphia, but put up big numbers in 27 NBAGL contests, averaging 24.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, and 4.9 RPG with a .484/.369/.810 shooting line.

Because Milton’s two-way deal featured a second year, this transaction will technically be treated as a conversion from his two-way contract to an NBA contract, similar to Monte Morrisdeal with the Nuggets last offseason.

The Sixers will have to use cap space to ink Milton to a four-year contract. There will also be no December 15 trade restriction for Milton, as two-way contract conversions don’t carry the same rules as most offseason NBA signings.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Clippers, Lakers Pursuing Marcus Morris

Reports earlier today suggested that the Knicks are expected to move Marcus Morris before Thursday’s trade deadline — it’s just a matter of where.

Los Angeles is one potential landing spot for Morris, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link via Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints), who said today that the Clippers and Lakers are competing for the veteran forward. As Woj pointed out, if either L.A. team lands Morris, it would have the added bonus of keeping him away from a top rival.

Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times provides some additional info on those talks, tweeting that the Knicks are interested in Kyle Kuzma in talks with the Lakers and Landry Shamet in talks with the Clippers. Kuzma is the more attainable player of the two — the Clips are unwilling to part with Shamet, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.tv.

While the Clippers have a logical salary-matching piece in Maurice Harkless, the Lakers’ path to absorbing Morris’ $15MM salary is less straightforward. A three- or four-player package of lower-cost guys could work, but Turner suggests in his tweet that the teams may be discussing Danny Green. The Knicks would want to flip Green to another team, according to Turner. For what it’s worth, I’d be pretty surprised if the Lakers are willing to move both Kuzma and Green for Morris alone.

Meanwhile, Marcus Morris may be the more sought-after twin, but his brother Markieff Morris is also drawing interest from contenders, including the Lakers and Clippers, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (via Twitter).

O’Connor (Twitter link) names the Bucks, Sixers, Celtics, and Rockets as other clubs that have interest in Markieff. The Pistons’ forward hasn’t had the type of season his brother has, but wouldn’t cost as much in terms of a trade package and has a modest $3.2MM cap hit.

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