Calvin Booth

Northwest Notes: Reddish, Thybulle, Thunder, Booth, Cancar

After failing to establish themselves as long-term cornerstones in New York (and Atlanta) and Philadelphia, respectively, fourth-year forwards Cam Reddish and Matisse Thybulle are welcoming the opportunity to prove their worth in Portland, where they’ve immediately been inserted into the Trail Blazers‘ starting five.

As Jason Quick of The Athletic writes, Reddish shed tears when he learned of the trade sending him to Portland, which came as a surprise to the 23-year-old, who said he didn’t “really know why” it happened: “I think it was I just had so much stuff bottled up.”

Following the Blazers’ acquisition of Reddish, head coach Chauncey Billups told the former lottery pick that he has a “clean slate” in Portland and that he’ll only be judged on what he does going forward, rather than what he’s done in his first three-and-a-half NBA seasons.

“I just haven’t really had like a real, real shot to really play my game at the level I know I can play it,” Reddish said. “I feel like, honestly, I’m blessed to be in Portland, to have this opportunity. And I want to take full advantage of it. I’m not going to take it for granted, not even for one second.”

As for Thybulle, Billups pulled the two-time All-Defensive wing into his office before his first game as a Blazer to tell him how happy the team was to have him, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Billups also advised Thybulle to play freely and not worry about making mistakes.

“The first thing was I felt comfortable,” Thybulle said, per Fentress. “I didn’t realize how much you can take that for granted. So, just to be out there and feel comfortable and to feel and know that I’m wanted and needed, and this coaching staff and players have my back. I think it showed in just my ability to play and be more of myself.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Within a feature on Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr., his father Jabari Smith Sr. suggests to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that his son believed he had a promise from the Thunder to draft him second overall last June. Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link) doesn’t dispute that claim, but notes that Holmgren’s agent Bill Duffy told him on draft night that Holmgren – who was widely viewed as the favorite to be the No. 2 overall pick – was OKC’s “number one priority.” It’s possible the Thunder were counting on either Smith or Holmgren to be selected first overall and intended to draft the other.
  • Harrison Wind of argues that Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth has a strong case for this year’s Executive of the Year award after drafting Christian Braun, trading for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and signing Bruce Brown as a free agent last summer. More recently, Booth addressed a pair of roster holes by acquiring Thomas Bryant at the trade deadline and signing Reggie Jackson on the buyout market.
  • One under-the-radar Nuggets move last offseason was the decision to sign little-used forward Vlatko Cancar to a new three-year deal. As Wind writes in another TheDNVR.story, Cancar has enjoyed a breakout season in the first year of his new contract, posting a shooting line of .506/.442/.958, making high-IQ plays, and holding his own against most assignments on the defensive end.

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.

Nuggets Notes: Smith, Championship Chances, Murray, Brown

Nuggets reserve guard Ish Smith only recently made his debut for an NBA-record 13th team, and has already emerged as a key role player for the club, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports as part of an interview with the 34-year-old journeyman. Smith has made an impact on both ends of the floor already, as head coach Michael Malone detailed.

“He finds guys, he makes plays, he gets off the ball,” Malone said. “Him and [backup center DeAndre Jordan] in pick-and-rolls, having a big on the rim, that dynamic roller… And for a guy with his stature, he does a great job of contesting shots. Let’s go back to the Clipper game when he blocked Norman Powell’s shot, which led to a transition dunk. Ish does all the right things, all the little things on defense. And you trust him out there. It’s been great having him back.”

Across nine games with Denver, Smith is averaging just 3.2 PPG and 2.4 APG in 11.4 MPG, but making his presence felt in all manner of other ways on the floor. Speaking to Wind, he registered optimism about the Nuggets’ ceiling this season.

“There’s obviously another gear (the team can reach),” Smith said. “You don’t want to be peaking early in the season. So for us, we’ve got to gradually get to that level. But for us, coach Malone’s not lying, especially when we’re trying to win as big as we’re trying to win. We’ve got to bring our defense for four quarters. We can score the basketball, I think you’ve seen that. If we can travel our defense on the road and then at home, you know, make that commitment for four quarters, we’re going to be really, really good.”

There’s more out of Denver:

  • The 2022/23 version of the Nuggets could be the best club in the franchise’s history, with the ability to potential win Denver its first NBA title, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Kiszla notes that the Nuggets may actually be better than their 14-7 record suggests, as the team has played an inordinate number of road contests already (13). Kiszla adds that Malone continues to experiment with his rotations as he figures out the best fits for starters Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. this season after injuries kept them out for most or all of 2021/22. Reigning two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic seems capable of leading Denver, if healthy, to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance.
  • Shooting guard Murray is still working out the kinks in his first on-court action since tearing his ACL during the 2021 playoffs, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. “You’ve just got to keep a level head and know that the work that I put in the weight room and rehabbing, I know that it’s going to show when it needs to show,” Jamal Murray said. “I just got to take my time and be ready for April. And that’s when I’ll hopefully see the best version of myself.”
  • Nuggets GM Calvin Booth recently raved about the fit of under-the-radar free agency signing Bruce Brown, a versatile reserve capable of playing and defending multiple positions, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post.“I thought the fit with Jokic, his versatility, his defense,” Booth said. “I thought he was going to be the perfect fit for our team. It’s played out like that.”

Nuggets, GM Calvin Booth Agree To Extension

7:12 pm: Denver has officially announced that Booth has signed an extension.

“Calvin has been a huge part of what we’ve done here over the last five seasons and I have the utmost confidence in him as our General Manager,” Josh Kroenke said in a statement. “Cal has seen the game from every angle and has an extremely bright basketball mind. I look forward to continuing alongside Calvin and the rest of the organization with the goal of bringing an NBA championship to the city of Denver.”

3:13pm: Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth has agreed to a long-term contract extension that is set to keep him in Denver through the 2024/25 season, sources inform Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Financial terms of the agreement have yet to be disclosed. Singer also added (via Twitter) that essentially all of Denver’s front office was extended through ’24/25.

After former team president Tim Connelly departed the Nuggets front office during the 2022 offseason to take over the lead front office gig with the Timberwolves, Booth assumed the prime role in personnel decision-making for what could be a title contender in Denver this year.

As Singer writes, Booth quickly addressed the team’s perimeter defense in trading for 3-and-D wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and reserve point guard Ish Smith earlier this summer, plus signing versatile free agent vet Bruce Brown. Booth also selected rookies Christian Braun and Peyton Watson in the 2022 draft, and added former two-time All-Defensive First Team center DeAndre Jordan in free agency.

With the high-level scoring duo of guard Jamal Murray and forward Michael Porter Jr. set to return from injuries to help two-time reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic shore up the team’s offense, Denver looks to be at its healthiest since the 2019/20 season, when the team reached the Western Conference Finals.

Nuggets To Make Several Scouting Hires

Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth is adding a number of professional and college scouts, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports.

Jared Jeffries, who previously spent time in the Nuggets’ front office as director of player personnel, is returning to the organization as a college scout.

Drew Nicholas, who previously worked for the Sixers and Celtics, will be the director of scouting and oversee the department. Former Lakers assistant Mike Penberthy will be hired as a pro scout and shooting coach. Jarrett Stephens will depart the college coaching ranks to become a pro scout along with former Hornets assistant Chad Iske.

Todd Checovich, the former GM of the NBA G League’s Iowa Wolves, will be hired as a college scout and capologist.

The Timberwolves hired away Nuggets director of pro personnel Joe Connelly last week to head their scouting department.

Nuggets’ Booth Talks Offseason Moves, Murray, MPJ, Jokic

Following Tim Connelly‘s departure for Minnesota, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth was thrust into the lead role of Denver’s front office just weeks before the 2022 draft and wasn’t shy about immediately shaking up the roster this offseason.

Of the 17 players who currently have standard guaranteed contracts or two-way deals with the Nuggets for 2022/23, eight have joined the team since the ’21/22 season ended. That group includes wings Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown and rookies Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, among others.

Speaking to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, Booth said that last year’s team was “a little bit smaller” than the front office had envisioned, so it was a priority this summer to add some size, especially on the perimeter. Upgrading the defense was also a goal, according to Booth, who discussed a few specific roster moves in his conversation with Vorkunov.

Here are a few of the most noteworthy comments from the Nuggets’ new head of basketball operations:

On the motivation for the trade that sent JaMychal Green to Oklahoma City:

“It helped us open up another roster spot to get a more regarded or better defender on the perimeter. JaMychal brought a lot of toughness and explosion around the rim and he’s a great shooter, but (defending) in space wasn’t his strength. So, it allowed us to open up a roster spot where we can get somebody that could be more versatile and switch and do something like that.”

On whether Booth thinks the defense will be better in 2022/23, particularly on the perimeter:

“Yeah, definitely do. I think, again, with the injuries, and Jamal (Murray), I think, is an underrated defender. Obviously, it’s gonna take a while to get back into tip-top form for him coming back off the injury, but I fully expect him to be a two-way guy once he’s back feeling like himself.

“But Aaron Gordon had to cover a lot of holes last year; he had to go into the backcourt a lot more probably than Coach (Michael) Malone or himself would have liked to. So, hopefully with the addition of KCP and Bruce Brown and Christian Braun and some of the guys of this nature — Davon Reed, he’s back, he does some good things for us — Aaron won’t have to go into the backcourt quite as much.”

On the plan for Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. as they return from injuries this fall:

“I definitely think they’ll both be healthy (to start the season). Especially with the nature of Mike’s injury, and even Jamal, we’ll probably have to be wary about back-to-backs and things of that nature. As we get close to the season Coach Malone and I will sit down with performance staff and map out a plan for what that looks like during the regular season.”

On attempting to maximize Nikola Jokic‘s prime years:

“That’s just a priority. That’s the No. 1 focus. Maximize the timeline. Put personnel around him that allows him to play his best and get the most out of his teammates. So, that’s the No. 1 priority in our organization right now.”

Northwest Notes: Micic, Utah, Booth, Walker

28-year-old Vasilije Micic, the 2021 EuroLeague MVP whose draft rights are currently owned by the Thunder, is interested in joining the NBA if a trade is available, per Adrian Wojanarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Woj notes that, due to the team’s focus on rebuilding around a young roster, Oklahoma City might not make sense as a landing spot for the veteran guard. Micic was selected by the Sixers with the No. 52 pick in the 2014 draft. The Thunder acquired his draft rights during the 2020/21 season. Since 2018, Micic has played for Turkish club Anadolu Efes, winners of the past two EuroLeague titles.

During his 2021/22 EuroLeague stint with Anadolu Efes, Micic averaged 18.1 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.3 RPG and 1.1 SPG across 28 contests. He posted shooting splits of .467/.349/.886.

The 6’5″ guard recently reiterated his enthusiasm for taking the leap across the pond.

I’m still showing a desire to go to the NBA,” Micic told Achilleas Mavrodontis of Eurohoops. “I would like to try myself there, I would like to go there to see how is everything over there. Some things are not in my hands. I have some days left to make it happen, day by day. We will see. Otherwise, I will stay in Efes, but for now, it’s to go there.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • After trading All-Star center Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves for a handful of veterans and present and future draft picks, the Jazz will look very different during the 2022/23 season. Trent Wood of the Deseret News unpacks what Utah can expect from new ex-Minnesota acquisitions Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro and rookie Walker Kessler. GM Justin Zanik praised 34-year-old veteran point guard Beverley. “Patrick Beverley, longtime NBA antagonist, brings great defensive fire and that intensity is needed with our team,” Zanik said. Beyond Kessler, it sounds as if the more veteran players could either be on-court contributors or be made available via trade.
  • New Nuggets team president Calvin Booth is not taking his opportunity to win a title in Denver for granted, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. “I never thought I’d be, you know, the steward of a team of this caliber in my very first job,” Booth said.
  • Details have emerged regarding the deal of new Trail Blazers second-round pick Jabari Walker. According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link), Walker, the No. 57 selection in the 2022 draft, has inked a three-season contract worth $4.76MM, with only the 2022/23 season fully guaranteed. During the ’23/24 season, the deal is partially guaranteed for $400K, per JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). Walker’s deal will be non-guaranteed under the last year of the contract in ’24/25. Although it’s a minimum-salary contract, Portland used the mid-level exception to give the rookie a third year.

Northwest Notes: Connelly, Booth, Morris, Jazz

New president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has a lot of decisions to make in his first draft with the Timberwolves, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. In addition to the No. 19 pick, Minnesota holds three second-round selections at 40, 48 and 50. Connelly is looking forward to shaping the team, but he admits that whoever is selected might not have a major role next season as the Wolves are planning to be contenders.

“If you look at the final eight teams this year, there’s not many teams that were playing rookies,” Connelly said. “So, we’re drafting for the next three to seven years. If we expect the 19th pick to make an instant impact on a team that was in the playoffs last year, it’s unfair for that player. You want to get on base with 19. How much do you want to swing for the fences? That depends who’s there.”

Connelly adds that the Wolves are “super open” to trading one or more of the picks, but he’s been surprised by how quiet the market has been so far.

“I thought they’d be a bit further advanced than they are today,” he said about trade talks. “But all it takes is one call, and you make a trade in two minutes. A lot of jabbing right now; hopefully there’s some punching starting [Thursday] morning.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets could also be active on the trade market as new general manager Calvin Booth runs the team’s draft for the first time, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Booth has two first-round picks to work with after acquiring No. 30 in a trade with the Thunder, and sources close to the team told Singer he might try to move up or swap both selections for veteran help. If the Nuggets keep the picks, Singer expects them to prioritize experienced prospects who can contribute on both ends of the court.
  • There’s speculation that the Wizards are interested in Monte Morris, but the Nuggets won’t part with the back-up point guard without a “significant return,” Singer tweets.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith said the team has started conducting second interviews in its search for a new head coach, per Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. He added that the organization is taking it slow and he’s trusting CEO Danny Ainge and general manager Justin Zanik to determine the best candidates.

Nuggets Rumors: Anunoby, Barton, Morris, Front Office

Count the Nuggets among the teams interested in trading for Raptors forward OG Anunoby, according to Matt Moore of Action Network.

I’m somewhat skeptical Denver has the necessary assets to acquire Anunoby because the Nuggets have given up two future first-round picks and four second-rounders without acquiring any extra picks of their own in win-now moves over the past few years. However, Anunoby certainly makes sense as a fit for the Nuggets, since he’s a strong, versatile defender with good size, and improves on offense every year.

League sources outside of Denver tell Moore that Nuggets guards Will Barton and Monte Morris are “believed to be available” in potential trades this summer. It’s worth noting that Barton’s $14,375,000 expiring salary in 2022/23 could theoretically work in the framework of a deal for Anunoby, who’ll make $17,357,143 in ’22/23, but the Raptors would likely ask for at least Bones Hyland and a first-round pick or two on top of Barton, assuming Toronto is even interested at all.

The Nuggets plan to aggressively build a “true contender” around back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, aided by the returns of Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., says Moore. Murray missed the entire season recovering from a torn ACL, while Porter played just nine games after undergoing another back surgery.

Although Tim Connelly‘s exit to Minnesota was unexpected, Moore reports that there’s no “sense of confusion or uncertainty” within Denver’s organization, noting that general manager Calvin Booth has had more control of the team’s day-to-day operations the past couple seasons. Moore also points out that assistant GM Tommy Balcetis has been with the Nuggets since 2013, so both front office members have plenty of experience.

In case you missed it, Luke Adams published our Nuggets Offseason Preview a couple days ago, in which he wrote that Barton and Morris could be used as trade chips this summer.

Nuggets’ Josh Kroenke: “It’s Championship Or Bust”

In a wide-ranging conversation with the media on Friday following Tim Connelly‘s exit to Minnesota, Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke said he has championship expectations going forward, according to an ESPN report.

We’re entering a new phase of the organization, and with this squad in particular, which is: It’s championship or bust. And this is the first time those words have been uttered around these halls, I think,” Kroenke said.

We have a two-time MVP, we have two more All-Star-caliber players coming off injuries,” Kroenke said, referring to Nikola Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray. “And I think that we are poised in a way that perhaps this organization hasn’t been in the past.

And that excites me. But that brings a lot of pressure. We’re no longer the underdog that’s kind of the lovable guys that are bouncing along from Denver, Colorado. I think that when we get healthy and show what we’re capable of, we will have a target on our back.”

Kroenke said he doesn’t regret signing Porter to a five-year, $172MM contract extension last summer, despite him only playing nine games in 2021/22.

I’d say we’re concerned about his injuries, not concerned about the contract,” Kroenke said, per ESPN.

He also said the team was prepared to pay the luxury tax, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post relays.

Yeah, I mean, I think that you know, first of all, my dad (Stan Kroenke) is the owner. I’m just making sure I don’t screw everything up on a day-to-day basis. … If you’ve drafted well, you better be ready to pay that tax, and we’re ready to pay that tax,” Kroenke said.

Here’s more from Kroenke’s press conference:

  • Kroenke endorsed GM Calvin Booth to replace Connelly as the top basketball decision-maker going forward. “I’ve always thought very highly of Calvin, I think he’s going to do a wonderful job for us,” Kroenke said, per Singer. “… He’s got a great mind and I think he’s open to suggestions but he showed me that he can make ruthless decisions when he needs to.”
  • The team sent out a tweet to leave no doubt about who will be in charge of the front office. “At the top of the org chart, it’s going to be Calvin Booth,” Kroenke said.
  • Multiple sources told Singer that Booth doesn’t have much “contractual security” as he transitions to the lead basketball executive, so Kroenke was asked if he was committed to Booth long-term. Kroenke suggested an extension could be coming soon. “Calvin and I are going to be sitting down, our whole front office and I will be sitting down in the very near future,” he said. “… We’re all talking and I think those guys know where they sit, and we’ll have some more announcements and some more information coming in the very near future.”
  • Kroenke said he regretted giving Connelly an opt-out clause after three years when the Nuggets gave him a contract extension in 2019, according to Singer. “I put that in his contract never anticipating that he would opt out and go to another NBA team and that’s what happened,” he said. “There was an option in his contract, he chose to exercise that option. And there was a major offer out there for him.”
  • Kroenke reiterated that the Nuggets made Connelly a competitive offer to stay in Denver, and said Minnesota’s offer was definitely unwelcome from his perspective. “Tim was under contract, the offer kind of came in through the side door, as they always seem to do in the NBA,” he said, per ESPN. “And so once those type of numbers start getting thrown around and get into someone’s head, it becomes very difficult to contain. I felt that we made a very competitive offer that would have allowed him to feel good about staying in Denver, and ultimately he felt that some of the upside there on the back end through some of the bonus schemes were probably too good to pass up for his family.” As Singer writes, Kroenke also twice characterized a team willing to pay significant money to poach a rival executive as “desperate.”
  • A new practice facility could be in store for Denver, says Kroenke, but Singer notes that the team’s governor made a similar statement five years ago and there’s been essentially no progress since.