Calvin Booth

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.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Connelly, Morris, Booth

Echoing Mike Singer’s reporting from earlier this week, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic confirm that Nikola Jokic remains fully committed to the Nuggets and intends to sign a five-year, super-max extension this offseason.

According to The Athletic’s duo, Jokic’s brothers Strahinja and Nemanja have met with general manager Calvin Booth and assistant GM Tommy Balcetis in the days since Tim Connelly‘s departure to discuss the team’s future, while Booth and head coach Michael Malone have spoken on the phone to Jokic, who is in Serbia. Everyone is in the same page going forward, per Charania and Amick.

As the Nuggets continue to build around Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., the focus for Booth and the new-look front office this offseason will be to add long, versatile, defensive-minded players, sources tell The Athletic.

The team will be open to surrendering more of its draft assets if that helps open up favorable opportunities to acquire win-now talent, according to Charania and Amick, since the goal is to compete for a championship and make the most of Jokic’s prime years.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • The Timberwolves’ willingness to include equity in their offer to Connelly was viewed by the Nuggets as an obstacle they couldn’t overcome, say Charania and Amick. In addition to the Nuggets, the Kroenkes own franchises in other sports – including the NFL’s Rams and the NHL’s Avalanche – and had no interest in setting a new precedent on equity that might affect future negotiations with team executives.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic takes a close look at the Nuggets’ situation going forward, wondering if the team will be open to trading Will Barton and/or Monte Morris this offseason. Hollinger suggests Morris could be more expendable due to Murray’s return and Bones Hyland‘s emergence.
  • Within his story, Hollinger notes that Connelly’s salary during his last season in Denver put him in the bottom half of the NBA’s lead basketball executives and suggests that the Nuggets have a history of investing minimally in their basketball operations department and organizational infrastructure.
  • Mike Singer of The Denver Post takes a closer look at what Calvin Booth will bring to the Nuggets’ head of basketball operations job, speaking to several people who have worked with him over the years. One source told Singer that Booth is more “structured” than Connelly and predicted he’ll have a lower tolerance for “locker room headaches.”

Tim Connelly Named Timberwolves’ President Of Basketball Operations

6:06pm: The Timberwolves have officially named Connelly their president of basketball operations, according to a team press release.

“We are thrilled to announce Tim Connelly as the next leader of our basketball operations department and welcome his family to the Twin Cities,” the team said in a statement attributed to ownership. “He brings a wealth of NBA front office experience with various franchises. We look forward to building upon our most recent playoff run and bringing more success to Timberwolves fans for years to come.” 

“My family and I couldn’t be more excited to join the Timberwolves organization,” Connelly said in a statement. “I appreciate Glen, Becky, Marc and Alex’s confidence in me to lead this organization and I can’t wait to get to work to build an elite franchise that our fans can continue to be proud of.” 

2:28pm: Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly will be leaving Denver for Minnesota, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link), who reports that Connelly and the Timberwolves have agreed to a deal that will make him one of the NBA’s highest-paid executives.

Connelly’s new contract as the Wolves’ president of basketball operations will cover five years and will be worth $40MM, per Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The agreement will also include a kicker for ownership equity, The Athletic’s duo adds.

After Timberwolves minority owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez initiated talks with Connelly and presented him with a preliminary offer, the longtime Nuggets executive flew to Minnesota on Saturday and had a four-hour meeting with majority owner Glen Taylor, according to The Athletic (Twitter link). Taylor signed off on the offer, and Connelly subsequently took two full days to deliberate before accepting the job on Monday.

Connelly had been the head of basketball operations in Denver since 2013, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure for Toronto. He reportedly had a significant impact on the Nuggets’ culture, empowering coaches, staffers, and players while creating a positive work environment.

His loyalty to Denver and his comfort level with Nuggets ownership made it a difficult decision to leave for Minnesota, according to Charania and Krawczynski, who say Connelly’s new contract more than doubles his previous salary — the equity component also makes the deal substantially more lucrative.

Mike Singer of The Denver Post confirms that financial compensation was a significant factor in Connelly’s decision to leave Denver and join a division rival, since he hadn’t been eager to depart. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), the Nuggets made a bid to retain Connelly that would’ve significantly increased his salary, but Woj describes the ownership equity in Minnesota as “life-changing money” for the veteran executive.

The Wolves, who dismissed Gersson Rosas shortly before the 2021/22 season began, had been in the market for a big-name executive to fill the president of basketball operations role on a permanent basis. With Lore and Rodriguez expected to take over majority control of the franchise in 2023, they wanted to “change the narrative” around a team that has often been overlooked nationally, according to Charania and Krawczynski.

Executive VP of basketball operations Sachin Gupta, who ran the Timberwolves’ front office on an interim basis following Rosas’ ouster, remains part of the long-term vision in Minnesota, sources tell The Athletic. While Connelly will likely make some hires of his own, it sounds as if there are no plans to move on from Gupta or head coach Chris Finch, who was previously an assistant coach in Denver.

The Nuggets, meanwhile, are considered likely to promote general manager Calvin Booth to run their front office, Charania reports (via Twitter).

The club has produced a series of successful basketball executives across the last decade, including Ujiri, Connelly, and Arturas Karnisovas, the GM in Denver before leaving to become the Bulls’ president of basketball operations. There’s a belief within the organization that Booth – a rising talent well-respected around the NBA – is capable of carrying that torch going forward, Charania notes.

Coach/Exec Notes: Connelly, D’Antoni, Nets, Rockets

In general manager Calvin Booth, the Nuggets have a logical in-house replacement for Tim Connelly should their current president of basketball operations decide he wants to leave Denver to run the Timberwolves‘ front office, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article. The Wolves are said to be in the market for a big-name basketball executive and are reportedly courting Connelly.

However, for the Nuggets, it’s not just as simple as wishing Connelly well and promoting Booth, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (all Twitter links), who says there’s a lot of “angst” within the organization over the situation.

Connelly has had a significant impact on the Nuggets’ culture, empowering coaches, staffers, and players while creating a positive work environment, says Singer, adding that no one wants to see him go and there are people under Connelly who have taken less money to stay with the team. Connelly has also earned a significant amount of trust from Denver’s players, including Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, per Singer.

According to Stein, there’s some skepticism around the NBA that Connelly will view the Minnesota opportunity more favorably than his current situation in Denver, where the two-time reigning MVP is on the verge of signing a long-term extension. However, if the Wolves offer significantly more money or an ownership stake, Connelly will have a tough decision to make. It will be interesting to see if the Kroenkes, the Nuggets’ owners, step up to retain him, says Singer.

Here are a few more front office and coaching notes from around the NBA:

  • After previously reporting that Mike D’Antoni appeared to be in a strong position to land the Hornets‘ coaching job, Stein says there has been some “push-back” on that report this week, as some sources in coaching circles believe team owner Michael Jordan may be wary of hiring such an offense-first coach.
  • Nets director of player development Adam Harrington isn’t likely to return to the team for 2022/23, according to Stein. Harrington has worked closely with Kevin Durant over the last three years and his impending departure hadn’t been expected, Stein adds.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic identifies Rio Grande Valley Vipers coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah as a strong candidate for one of the open assistant jobs on Stephen SilasRockets staff. A report this week said that Rockets assistants Jeff Hornacek and Will Weaver won’t be back for next season.

Latest On Kings’ Front Office Search

As expected, Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth has withdrawn from the Kings‘ search for a new head of basketball operations, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Following a weekend report that Booth would remove his name from consideration, word broke on Sunday that he had met with Sacramento after all, but his level of interest in the position was unclear and he didn’t move on to the second round of interviews.

With Booth – along with Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon and Heat assistant GM Adam Simon – out of the running, Sacramento is expected to make a hire from a group of finalists that includes Timberwolves executive VP Sachin Gupta, Rockets assistant GM Monte McNair, and former Hawks executive Wes Wilcox, according to Wojnarowski, who tweets that a decision may be finalized this week.

As Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes, Gupta, McNair, and Wilcox advanced to the second round of interviews with the Kings this week. It’s unclear exactly which Kings executives are participating in those interviews — Sam Amick of The Athletic reported on Sunday that interim head of basketball operations Joe Dumars isn’t taking part, but Carmichael Dave of KHTK hears that Dumars is, in fact, sitting in on the in-person meetings.

It’s also not clear whether there’s a frontrunner in the process. Dave hears that there’s “strong movement” in Sacramento toward hiring Gupta as head of basketball operations, with McNair coming aboard as his top lieutenant. However, a source tells James Ham of NBC Sports California that the Kings haven’t made any final decisions yet.

Ham adds that whoever Sacramento ultimately hires will have the option of hiring another executive to “help fill the gaps in the front office.” While that person could be McNair, the decision will be up to whoever lands the top job, says Ham.

On one key point, all reporters appear to be in agreement — the Kings’ new hire will gain full control of basketball decisions and will report directly to team owner Vivek Ranadive.