Aaron Gordon

Northwest Notes: Hyland, Gordon, Towns, Blazers

Nuggets guard Bones Hyland would be open to a trade that allows him to secure a larger role on a new team, Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report stated during Tuesday night’s broadcast of the Pelicans/Nuggets game in Denver (Twitter video link).

While Haynes’ info is new, it lines up with what we’ve heard during the last week from other reporters. Jake Fischer said last Friday that “occasional clashes” between Hyland and Nuggets head coach Michael Malone were a factor in Denver’s willingness to gauge his trade market, while Marc Stein alluded this week to “tensions” about the second-year guard’s playing time.

Hyland averaged 19.0 minutes per game during his rookie season in 2021/22 and has played a similar role in year two, logging 19.5 MPG so far in ’22/23. He’s tied for seventh among Nuggets players in minutes per game, but is one of the team’s top five scorers with 12.1 PPG.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In a conversation with Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon spoke about the importance of continuity in Denver, his experience playing alongside Nikola Jokic, and the odds of earning his first All-Star nod. “It would mean a lot to me,” Gordon said of the All-Star possibility. “I hope I make it.”
  • There’s still no set return timeline for injured Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, who remains out indefinitely due to his calf injury, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said on Tuesday during a radio appearance on KFAN 100.3 (Twitter link via Dane Moore). However, the team’s “full expectation” is that Towns will return at some point this season, Connelly added.
  • After resetting their roster last season with a series of major trades, the Trail Blazers – tied for 11th in the West with a 24-26 record – seem to be back in no-man’s land, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. O’Connor considers what moves Portland can make around star point guard Damian Lillard to become a contender, arguing that center Jusuf Nurkic is a weak link and that the team should be open to the idea of moving any of Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, and Shaedon Sharpe if the return is right.

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Jokic, Murray, Booth

Aaron Gordon has emerged as a potential All-Star by simplifying what he does on the court, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required). Singer notes that the change began when Gordon was dealt to the Nuggets in 2021 and Nikola Jokic told him that the fadeaway shots he had been taking in Orlando were a “last option” with his new team.

Instead of trying to force his production to match his athletic gifts, Gordon has been content to find his role in an offense that has become the best in the league. He’s shooting a career-high 59.3% from the field this season and taking advantage of the opportunities that playing alongside Jokic creates.

“If I need to hit threes, I’ll hit threes,” Gordon said. “If I need to post-up, I’ll post-up. If I need to make plays, I’ll make plays. If I need to just rebound and do dirty work and play defense, I’ll do that. I’m here to do anything that I can to help this team win a championship, to help Joker win a championship, to help Jamal (Murray) win a championship, to help Michael Malone win a championship. That’s it. Winning is the end all, be all, so I’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jokic missed Friday’s game due to tightness in his left hamstring, according to an Associated Press report. He also sat out a game last week with a right wrist injury and is considered a game-time decision for Sunday’s contest with the Thunder.
  • With Jokic unavailable, Murray posted his first career triple-double in leading the Nuggets past the Pacers, per Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Murray appears to be fully recovered from the ACL injury that cost him all of last season, and he’s putting up numbers similar to what he did before the surgery. “He’s already had such a storied career here as a Nugget and everything he’s been through, so it’s very cool to see that,” said acting coach David Adelman, who is filling in while Malone is in health and safety protocols. “If Jamal is not in the conversation (for making the All-Star Game), then you don’t value winning.”
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports talks to Calvin Booth about how he went from being a journeyman player to general manager of one of the NBA’s best teams.

Western Notes: Wall, Rockets, Kessler, Gordon

Appearing on the Run Your Race podcast (YouTube link), Clippers point guard John Wall revisited his tenure with the Rockets, suggesting that the team went into tanking mode after trading James Harden during Wall’s first year in Houston. According to Wall, the culture during his stint with the club was so lax that he had to tell his young teammates not to get accustomed to how little was expected of them.

“I always talked to Jalen Green, Kevin Porter, K.J. (Kenyon Martin Jr.), I’m like, ‘Don’t get adjusted to this losing s–t, this is not how the league is,'” Wall said. “But at the same time, I had to tell them, like, ‘This s–t y’all are getting away with over here, if you go to any other team, you’d be out of the f—ing league. You wouldn’t play.’ I’m trying to explain that to them because they think it’s sweet. But I’m like, ‘If you ever get traded and go somewhere else, you going to be like, ‘This motherf—er was right.””

Wall also reiterated his disappointment with how his second year in Houston played out, when he sat out for the entire season. Wall said he would have been fine playing for the rebuilding club and mentoring its young players, but wasn’t comfortable with the team asking him to accept a limited bench role of no more than 10 or 15 minutes per night when he felt as if the Rockets’ prospects were being handed starting jobs instead of earning them.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic rank the Rockets‘ players in terms of value, agreeing that Jalen Green and Jabari Smith are in the top tier and Tari Eason and Alperen Sengun are in the second. However, the two authors disagree on the order within those tiers, as Iko favors Green and Eason while Vecenie prefers Smith and Sengun.
  • Jazz rookie Walker Kessler had his best game of the season on Monday against the team that drafted him, racking up 20 points and 21 rebounds in a one-point win over Minnesota. As Tony Jones of The Athletic observes, it was the latest instance of Kessler showing why Utah lobbied to have him included in the Rudy Gobert blockbuster over the summer and why the Timberwolves initially resisted his inclusion after having just drafted the young center.
  • Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon has been the second-best player for the top team in the Western Conference so far this season and is building a strong case for an All-Star spot with his two-way play, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. “For us to be the team that wanted to win at a high level, we had to have a much greater buy-in and commitment (on defense). And Aaron definitely fits that bill,” head coach Michael Malone said. “He guards the other team’s best player almost every night. And he never shies away from a challenge. … We wouldn’t be where we’re at at the halfway point without Aaron Gordon’s play, his attitude, and his team-first mentality.”

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Brown, Gordon, Saunders

The biggest obstacle to Nikola Jokic being named MVP may be that he won the award the past two seasons, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Larry Bird are the only players to capture MVP honors in three consecutive years, and it hasn’t happened since 1984-86. Voters tend to look for alternatives rather than casting their ballots for the same player every season.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone called that type of thinking “lazy” in a pre-game meeting with reporters Sunday night. He also expressed disgust with having to repeatedly make the argument for his center, adding, “I don’t really care what people think about Nikola.”

After Malone’s comments, Jokic bolstered his MVP candidacy with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Celtics. It was the league-best ninth triple-double of the year for Jokic, who is averaging 25.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game — numbers very similar to his past MVP seasons.

There’s more from Denver:

  • With Sunday’s matchup featuring the top teams in each conference, the Nuggets showed a defensive intensity that was lacking in their November meeting in Boston, Singer adds. Denver focused on closing out on three-point shooters and limited the Celtics to 3-of-19 from long distance in the first half. The defense got a boost from Bruce Brown, who was starting in place of Jamal Murray and who always gets excited about facing his hometown team. “I definitely look forward to (these games), just me being there, me growing up a Celtics fan,” Brown said.
  • Bones Hyland has joined the campaign for Aaron Gordon to make the All-Star Game (video link from HoopsHype). Gordon has been the Nuggets’ second-best player this season, averaging 17.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 31 games. “He does the junkyard work for us, and I feel like he doesn’t get a lot of praise,” Hyland said. “So definitely AG an All-Star for sure.”
  • Nuggets assistant Ryan Saunders will make his first trip to Minnesota tonight since being fired as the Timberwolves‘ head coach in 2021, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Saunders took a year sabbatical from coaching, turning down multiple offers, before joining Denver’s staff this season. “Looking forward to seeing fans that I remember seeing in the crowd, especially before COVID hit,” Saunders said. “That’s something that you kind of forget about too. In professional sports, jobs come and go, and all of a sudden you might be in a different situation than you were the day prior. The people you saw every day, the ushers, the security guards, the parking attendants, people who are just coming by your office to say hello from Mayo Clinic Square, you don’t see them anymore. I’m really looking forward to seeing that.”

Western Notes: Gordon, Nnaji, Brown, Wood

Aaron Gordon is having a career season for the Nuggets, and Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link) writes that the veteran forward has a compelling case to make his first All-Star appearance.

Gordon’s traditional stats — 17.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.9 SPG and 0.8 BPG through 29 games (30.0 MPG) — are all solid, if unspectacular. However, as Singer details, the 27-year-old’s efficiency (61.1 FG%, 68.0 2PT%, 39.0 3PT%, 66.9 true shooting percentage), defense, and synergy with center Nikola Jokic are what really stand out.

Singer also notes that Gordon is playing for one of the top teams in the league, which might matter to coaches (who select the All-Star reserves) — the Nuggets are currently 22-12, tied for the best record in the West.

Gordon (right shoulder strain) will return to the starting lineup on Friday against Miami following a two-game absence, tweets Singer.

Here’s more from the West:

  • With Nuggets forward Jeff Green sidelined for at least three more weeks due to a left hand fracture and left finger sprain, forward/center Zeke Nnaji has an opportunity to earn increased playing time. The former first-round pick plans to do the “dirty work” to help fill Green’s void, according to Singer (subscriber link). Head coach Michael Malone has a straightforward task for Nnaji. “I just want to feel Zeke’s energy out there,” Malone said.
  • The Kings announced that head coach Mike Brown has cleared the health and safety protocols and will resume his coaching duties on Friday against Utah, tweets James Ham of ESPN 1320 and TheKingsBeat.com. Brown entered the protocols on Tuesday, so his stint was brief. The Kings have been a pleasant surprise thus far, currently holding an 18-15 record, the No. 7 seed in the West.
  • Mavericks big man Christian Wood will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. How much will he make on his next contract? Keith Smith explores that topic in an article for Spotrac, ultimately concluding that Wood’s maximum extension number — about $77MM over four years — seems pretty fair. He’d be eligible for more than that if he reaches unrestricted free agency.

Nuggets Notes: Power Forwards, Gordon, Jokic, Braun

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said on Sunday that the team will take a by-committee approach to replacing Jeff Green‘s minutes with the forward expected to miss at least a month or so due to a finger injury.

As Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets, Malone mentioned Zeke Nnaji as a logical replacement from Green at power forward, but noted that Vlatko Cancar, Michael Porter Jr., and Bruce Brown could all see minutes at the four as well. Nnaji was ineffective vs. Phoenix on Sunday, picking up three fouls and no points or rebounds in nine minutes of action.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Aaron Gordon had 28 points, 13 rebounds, a highlight-reel dunk, and a key blocked shot in Sunday’s victory and has now been a plus-65 during Denver’s four-game winning streak (the Nuggets have been outscored by 31 points with Gordon off the court during the streak). As Mike Singer of The Denver Post writes, the forward’s ability to contribute all over the court has Malone talking about him as a potential All-Star and Nikola Jokic referring to him as the “soul of this team.”
  • Gordon is questionable to play on Tuesday in Sacramento due to a right shoulder strain, tweets Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette.
  • Voter fatigue will likely work against Jokic as he makes a bid for a third consecutive MVP award, but the Nuggets’ star center is building a strong case for consideration, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. The 27-year-old is nearly averaging a triple-double for the top team in the Western Conference and has scored more efficiently than ever, with a career-best .616 FG%. Additionally, the Nuggets have a plus-11.3 net rating with Jokic on the floor, compared to an abysmal minus-13.6 mark when he sits, per NBA.com.
  • Within the same Athletic story, Hollinger checks in on Nuggets rookie wing Christian Braun, who has been playing rotation minutes as of late. Hollinger is intrigued by the potential Braun has shown on defense, but acknowledges his role on offense is unlikely to expand beyond “guy who stands in the corner” anytime in the near future.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Alexander-Walker, Sexton, Edwards

Nuggets power forward Aaron Gordon has proven to be a reliable role player this season in perhaps his best year as a pro thus far, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Gordon is averaging 16.9 PPG on a career-high 61% shooting, along with 6.3 RPG and 2.1 APG, for the 17-11 Nuggets.

“I’m looking to be the glue guy,” Gordon said. “I think I’m using my physicality down on the block… And I like running and scoring in transition. But I have another level to get to — and so does this team.”

“You can see how he’s developed,” two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic said of the 6’8″ forward this week. “He can screen and roll, he can play one-on-one, facing the basket. He can run and rebound. He’s a complete player. He doesn’t have a weak spot. He’s probably one of the top-five, two-way players in the league now.” 

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has emerged as a key rotational component, which he credits to trying to be more effective by focusing on improving more limited elements of his game, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “When guys have fun, guys enjoy it, guys are in the flow state, there’s less tension and force; like the laws of attraction — the harder you try, the more it sometimes presses away from you,” Alexander-Walker said. “So I’ve just learned to let things take their course and be patient.”
  • Following a reassessment of his strained right hamstring, Jazz reserve point guard Collin Sexton is now considered day-to-day, per Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link). The Jazz have indicated that the evaluation included imaging. Sexton has been sidelined for the team’s last five contests with the injury. For the season, his first with Utah, the 6’1″ vet is averaging 14.3 PPG, 3.0 APG and 2.4 RPG mostly as a backup.
  • Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony Edwards has had to adjust quickly to serving as Minnesota’s (short-term) main playmaker with guards D’Angelo Russell and Jordan McLaughlin both sidelined in consecutive recent games, writes Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune. “I think these last couple games have been good for him to be on the ball,” head coach Chris Finch opined. “One thing we’ve been preaching to him a lot, the essence of offense in the league, is when they put two on you, create an advantage. No matter how you do it, pick-and-roll, trap, early gap help, all that stuff is a gravity that he creates.”

Northwest Notes: Prince, Nuggets Injuries, Watson, Grant

Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince said he’s relieved that a grand jury in Texas did not charge him with possession of a controlled substance stemming from a May 19 arrest, according to Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

“To me, I wasn’t in the wrong in the first place,” Prince said. “The situation that happened was very unfortunate. Things happen, for whatever reasons they happen. I’m past it now, though.”

Police in Arlington, Texas said after the arrest that they found guns and a vape pen with THC oil in Prince’s car when they stopped him for an expired registration. Possession of marijuana is illegal in Texas, and it also violates state law “to carry a gun while engaging in a criminal offense.”

Prosecutors also dropped the gun charges after the grand jury’s decision, according to a TMZ report.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will likely be without several key players again when they host Detroit on Tuesday, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Jeff Green is out with a right knee contusion, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are doubtful due to health and safety protocols, while Aaron Gordon (non-COVID illness) and Ish Smith (right calf strain) are listed as questionable.
  • Rookie Peyton Watson has appeared in just five Nuggets games and is currently playing for their G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Watson, a late-first round pick, is trying to be patient while developing his skills, Singer writes in a separate story. “They know I want it right now and that I’m super, super motivated to take it,” Watson said. “You’ve got to wait your turn. We’re the No. 2 team in the West.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Jerami Grant learned during his first season with the Pistons what it was like being the top scorer for his team. He told current teammate Damian Lillard that he gained a greater appreciation for players with that status, Grant revealed on an interview with The Athletic’s Shams Charania (video link). “I told him I got a lot more respect for people who are the No. 1 option because it’s a lot more difficult than just putting up the numbers,” Grant said.

Western Notes: Jokic, Hyland, Porter Jr., Paul, Fox, Lakers

Reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. The Nuggets center will miss at least Wednesday’s home tilt against the Knicks. Backup point guard Bones Hyland is also in the protocols.

The Nuggets a two-game set at Dallas after the Knicks game. Forward Aaron Gordon is listed as questionable to play on Wednesday due to a non-COVID illness.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone is pleased with the growth Michael Porter Jr. has displayed this season, Singer writes in a separate story. He has shown more discipline on the defensive end and his shot selection has improved offensively. “More important to me, deeper than the numbers, are the fact that offensively, like, I can count on one hand how many shots that he’s taken where you can say, ‘Probably not a great shot,’” Malone said.
  • Chris Paul hasn’t played since an abbreviated stint on Nov. 7 due to a sore right heel. The Suns point guard could be back in action on Wednesday. He’s listed as questionable to play against Golden State, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets.
  • Kings star guard De’Aaron Fox is switching agents and will be represented by Klutch Sports, Damien Barling and James Ham report (Twitter link). Fox was previously with Chris Gaston and Family First Sports Firm.
  • A trio of Lakers rehabbing from injuries — Thomas Bryant, Kendrick Nunn and Dennis Schröder — joined the G League’s South Bay Lakers for a practice and scrimmage Tuesday morning, Mark Medina of NBA.com tweets. The Lakers recalled them after the practice.

Western Notes: Wolves, Olynyk, Gordon, Nuggets, Rockets

The Timberwolves are planning to be versatile with their play styles this season, Chris Hine of the Star Tribune writes. To start, head coach Chris Finch mentioned it would be ideal to have at least one of Karl-Anthony Towns or Rudy Gobert on the floor at all times, but that’s not a guarantee.

Minnesota will likely sport a starting lineup of D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Towns, and Gobert this season. Off the bench, the team would have Jordan McLaughlin, Bryn Forbes, Jaylen NowellTaurean Prince, Kyle Anderson, and Naz Reid, among others. The team’s style of play will largely depend on who’s in the game.

By acquiring Gobert, Minnesota also created additional lineup flexibility. The team can play Towns and Gobert together and go bigger, or it could replace one player with a wing depending on the in-game circumstances. Towns and Gobert figure to be the most formidable 4-5 combo in the league this season, having averaged a combined 40.0 points, 24.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game last year.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference: