Nuggets Rumors

Marks Previews Nuggets' Offseason; Tuesday Workouts

While making a decision on Nikola Jokic‘s team option – and possible subsequent free agency – will be the Nuggets‘ top priority this offseason, the club will face several challenges in the coming weeks and months, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN.com (Insider link).

As Marks outlines, one of those challenges will be finding a way to bring back Will Barton next season, since it looks on paper like the Nuggets won’t be able to afford him. Still, with Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur all expected to be on expiring contracts in 2018/19, Denver shouldn’t worry too much about going over the tax line, according to Marks, who points out that the team should be able to cut costs when those veteran contracts expire in the summer of 2019. That would mean avoiding multiple years in tax territory.

Six Prospects Worked Out For Nuggets On Monday

Draft Notes: DiVincenzo, Spellman, Walker, Bearden

Coach Jay Wright will recommend to Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman that they return to Villanova if it doesn’t look like they’ll be drafted in the first round, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv. DiVincenzo goes to the Mavericks at No. 33 in the latest mock draft compiled by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, while Spellman isn’t projected to be taken. Players have until May 30 to make their decisions.

“Omari and Donte are out there to try to prove themselves as first-round picks,” Wright said of his players’ trips to the NBA Draft Combine. “For them, I hope they are. And I think this process has been good for them. I think they will get some good information.”

DiVincenzo met with the LakersMagicTimberwolvesTrail BlazersCavaliersSpursHawks and Grizzlies at the combine and said he received a lot of “positive feedback.” Spellman has upcoming workouts with the Lakers [May 23], Clippers [May 24], Spurs [26] and Jazz [28] that will likely influence his decision, Zagoria adds.

There’s more draft news as the deadline for decisions draws closer:

  • The Sixers may consider Miami guard Lonnie Walker at No. 10, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Walker met with Philadelphia officials Friday and was impressed by the experience. “It went well,” he said. “See a little bit of Elton Brand and all those guys, I felt like a little kid, seeing guys I watched on TV.” Givony has Walker projected at No. 13 to the Clippers.
  • Lamonte Bearden of Western Kentucky will sign with an agent and stay in the draft, tweets ESPN’s Jeff Goodman. The guard averaged 11.8 points and 3.4 assists as a redshirt junior.
  • Kent State’s Jaylin Walker tweeted that he will return to school for his senior season. He averaged 16.6 points per game for the Golden Flashes this season.
  • The Nuggets have pre-draft workouts scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, the team announced in an e-mail. Scheduled to appear at Monday’s session are Tyler Davis of Texas A&M, Cody Martin of Nevada, William McDowell-White of Brose Bamberg, Isaiah Reese of Canisius, Admiral Schofield of Tennessee and Reid Travis of Stanford. Tuesday’s schedule features Tyler Cook of Iowa, Jon Elmore of Marshall, Ethan Happ of Wisconsin, Mustapha Heron of Auburn, Charles Matthews of Michigan and Shamorie Ponds of St. John’s.

Combine Notes: Bridges, Sixers, DiVincenzo, Sexton

Michigan State wing Miles Bridges, a probable lottery pick, interviewed with the Bulls, Pacers, Kings, Cavaliers, Spurs, Nuggets, and Clippers earlier this week, and was set to meet with the Sixers, Hornets, and Knicks on Friday, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bridges is one of several intriguing prospects the Sixers are meeting with in Chicago this week, according to Pompey, who adds Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Michigan State power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and IMG Academy guard Anfernee Simons to that list. Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo was also scheduled to interview with Philadelphia on Friday, Pompey tweets.

Finally, Pompey has details on Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo, who has been impressing NBA evaluators at this week’s combine and says he’s received plenty of “positive feedback.” According to Pompey, DiVincenzo has had meetings with the Lakers, Magic, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Spurs, Hawks, and Grizzlies in Chicago.

Here’s more on meetings taking place at the combine:

2018 NBA Draft Picks By Team

While the Sixers were knocked out of the 2018 playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the underdog Celtics, few teams are better positioned in this year’s draft than Philadelphia. The 76ers own six of the 60 picks in the 2018 NBA draft, including a pair of first-rounders.

As our full 2018 draft order shows, the Sixers are one of seven NBA teams that holds more than two selections in this year’s draft. On the other end of the spectrum, eight teams have just one pick in 2018, while two teams – the Heat and Raptors – don’t have any selections.

To present a clearer picture of which teams are most – and least – stocked with picks for the 2018 NBA draft, we’ve rounded up all 60 picks by team in the space below. Let’s dive in…

Teams with more than two picks:

  • Philadelphia 76ers (6): 10, 26, 38, 39, 56, 60
  • Phoenix Suns (4): 1, 16, 31, 59
  • Atlanta Hawks (4): 3, 19, 30, 34
  • Dallas Mavericks (3): 5, 33, 54
  • Orlando Magic (3): 6, 35, 41
  • Denver Nuggets (3): 14, 43, 58
  • Brooklyn Nets (3): 29, 40, 45

Teams with two picks:

  • Sacramento Kings: 2, 37
  • Memphis Grizzlies: 4, 32
  • Chicago Bulls: 7, 22
  • New York Knicks: 9, 36
  • Charlotte Hornets: 11, 55
  • Los Angeles Clippers: 12, 13
  • Washington Wizards: 15, 44
  • San Antonio Spurs: 18, 49
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 20, 48
  • Utah Jazz: 21, 52
  • Indiana Pacers: 23, 50
  • Los Angeles Lakers: 25, 47
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: 53, 57

Teams with fewer than two picks:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers (1): 8
  • Milwaukee Bucks (1): 17
  • Portland Trail Blazers (1): 24
  • Boston Celtics (1): 27
  • Golden State Warriors (1): 28
  • Detroit Pistons (1): 42
  • Houston Rockets (1): 46
  • New Orleans Pelicans (1): 51
  • Miami Heat (0)
  • Toronto Raptors (0)

Community Shootaround: Draft Lottery Scenarios

The 2018 NBA draft lottery will take place on Tuesday night, as we noted in our lottery primer earlier today. While the odds favor the Suns, there are 14 NBA teams that could ultimately end up with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, creating some fascinating drama.

In a piece for The Ringer on Monday, Paolo Uggetti broke down some of the most interesting potential scenarios for the draft lottery. As Uggetti observes, the two teams still alive in the Eastern Conference Finals have a chance to get some great news before they take the court on Tuesday, since the Cavaliers own the Nets’ first-round pick, while the Celtics will own the Lakers’ first-rounder if it lands at No. 2 or No. 3 overall. The possibility of one or both of those teams landing a top-three pick at the same time they’re looking to advance to the NBA Finals isn’t good news for the rest of the league.

Of course, the Sixers would keep that Lakers pick if it moves all the way up to No. 1. It’s currently 10th in the lottery standings, so the odds of it becoming a top-three pick are slim, but it would create some terrific drama if it lands in the top three, since the balance of power in the Eastern Conference could shift significantly depending on whether the pick ends up at No. 1 (Sixers) or Nos. 2 or 3 (Celtics).

Uggetti’s other intriguing scenarios include big-market teams like the Knicks and Clippers getting a top pick — L.A. could theoretically move into the top three while keeping a second lottery selection, courtesy of the Pistons. Uggetti points to the Magic or Kings getting the No. 1 pick as interesting scenarios too, since neither of those clubs has had much lottery luck in the last few years — despite several appearances near the top of the draft.

Outside of the teams we’ve already mentioned, the Grizzlies, Mavericks, Hawks, Bulls, Hornets, Pistons, and Nuggets all have a chance to land a top pick.

What do you think? What would be the most interesting draft lottery scenario? Which team deserves some good luck the most (or least)? Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Draft Notes: Ayton, Pinson, Spalding, Amius, Eubanks

DeAndre Ayton is the top pick in ESPN Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft heading into the draft lottery on Tuesday. Givony has the Arizona center going to the Suns, Euro guard Luka Doncic being snapped up by the Grizzlies at No. 2 and Duke big man Marvin Bagley III heading to the Mavericks at No. 3. Naturally, the deck could be shuffled after Tuesday’s results. Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. (Hawks) and Texas center Mohamed Bamba (Magic) round out the Top 5.

In other draft-related developments:

  • North Carolina combo guard Theo Pinson will participate in the draft combine in Chicago, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Pinson is ranked the No. 89 prospect on Givony’s latest Top 100. Louisville’s power forward Ray Spalding has also been invited, Charania reports in a separate tweet. Spalding is currently ranked No. 58 by Givony.
  • Western Carolina junior forward Mike Amius has hired an agent and will remain in the draft, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. He averaged 12.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG last season. He is not among Givony’s Top 100 prospects.
  • Oregon State forward Drew Eubanks has signed with agent James Dunleavy and ISE Worldwide, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The junior averaged 13.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG for the Beavers last season.
  • The Suns will send Josh Jackson and the Kings will be represented by De’Aaron Fox at the draft lottery on Tuesday, Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report relays. The Nuggets’ Jamal Murray and the Pistons’ Luke Kennard are the other current players who will represent their teams in Chicago. The full list of representatives can be found in Conway’s story.

2018 NBA Offseason Salary Cap Digest: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets went all-in during 2017’s free agent period, locking up Paul Millsap to a multiyear deal that would pay him in the neighborhood of $30MM annually. In signing Millsap and extending Gary Harris, the Nuggets essentially forfeited any cap flexibility they would’ve had for the summer of 2018, but that aggressive spending didn’t result in a playoff berth in a competitive Western Conference. Denver will head into the 2018/19 campaign hoping that better health from Millsap and continued improvements from its young players will produce better results.

Here’s where things currently stand for the Nuggets financially, as we continue our Offseason Salary Cap Digest series for 2018:

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Projected Salary Cap: $101,000,000

Projected Cap Room: None

  • Even if Chandler turns down his player option, Arthur is a virtual lock to exercise his, and Jokic will be back — either on his cheap team-option salary or on a lucrative new deal to avoid having him reach unrestricted free agency in 2019. With their nine guaranteed contracts, Arthur’s player option, Jokic’s team option, and the cap hold for their lottery pick, the Nuggets already have a total team salary of $97,544,153, essentially eliminating cap room.
  • If Chandler opts in and the Nuggets want to sign Jokic to a new contract this summer, the team projects to be way over the cap, and may have to make a trade or two to avoid blowing past the luxury-tax line.

Footnotes:

  1. The Nuggets are 14th in the draft lottery standings. They could technically end up picking at No. 1 ($8,095,595), No. 2 ($7,243,344), or No. 3 ($6,504,619), though that’s unlikely.

Note: Rookie scale cap holds are estimates based on salary cap projections and could increase or decrease depending on where the cap lands.

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

Jokic’s Agent Advises Nuggets Not To Pick Up Option

Nikola Jokic’s agent told the Nuggets that picking up his option for next season would hinder their chances of locking him up long-term, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets.

If Denver exercises its team option for 2018/19, Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Currently, Jokic is arguably the biggest bargain in the league. He made $1.47MM this season and the team option is just $1.6MM.

If the Nuggets declines their option, Jokic will be a restricted free agent this summer and they’ll be able to match any offer. The team option deadline is June 29th.

Jokic is represented by Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management.

The Nuggets want to keep Jokic, but matching an offer sheet rather than paying him $1.6MM in 2018/19 would have major luxury-tax implications for next season unless they can dump some salary. Still, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly talked at season’s end about wanting to get Jokic’s signature on a long-term contract sooner rather than later, so the team and the center’s camp may be on the same page when it comes to that option decision.

Jokic had a breakout season in 2016/17 and continued to increase his production despite a stronger lineup around him. He averaged 18.5 PPG and 10.7 RPG in his third NBA season while connecting on 39.6% of his 3-point attempts.

Five Player Options That Look Like Locks To Be Exercised

As we recently detailed when we previewed this summer’s player option decisions, those options have been overwhelmingly declined over the last two offseasons.

Over the last two years, only eight of 53 veterans who held player options on their contracts have actually exercised those options. Half of those eight players (Tim Duncan, Caron Butler, Mo Williams, and Spencer Hawes) haven’t played a single NBA minute since picking up their options, having either retired or been waived. Another one of the eight (Chris Paul) only opted in because it cleared the way for him to be traded to his preferred destination.

However, those opt-outs came at a time when NBA free agent spending was at an all-time high, primarily due to the substantial salary-cap jump in the 2016 offseason. For most players with an opportunity to reach the open market, it made sense to test free agency rather than playing out a contract that had been negotiated when the cap was far lower.

That may not be the case this summer though. The increases in the salary cap have become more modest, with the cap for 2018/19 projected to only be about $2MM higher than this year’s figure. With fewer teams armed with cap room and less money available in free agency, many of the player options for 2018/19 don’t look too bad.

I expect more than five player options to be exercised this offseason, but here are five that look like virtual locks to be picked up:

  1. Carmelo Anthony, Thunder ($27,928,140): Our list starts with a player option that’s technically not a player option. Anthony actually has an early termination option, which essentially gives him the same rights as a player option would — he’ll simply have to waive his ETO in order to opt in and finish out his current contract. Given Anthony’s underwhelming season in Oklahoma City, which saw him set new career lows in PPG (16.2) and FG% (.404), opting in looks like an easy call. If the Thunder lose in the first round and Paul George departs in free agency, it will be interesting to see how enthusiastic Anthony is about remaining in OKC. This situation reminds me a little of Dwyane Wade‘s in Chicago a year ago, when Wade exercised his $23MM player option, then surrendered a big chunk of it as part of a buyout agreement.
  2. Wesley Matthews, Mavericks ($18,622,514): Matthews has already indicated he plans to opt in, so it’s probably cheating a little to include him here. Still, his case is an interesting one. Matthews is still capable of being a useful wing who can make three-point shots — that could make him more valuable to a contender than to the rebuilding team, and an $18MM+ expiring salary would also look appealing to a club looking to clear cap room for 2019. If and when Matthews officially picks up the option, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Mavs explore the trade market for him, likely expressing a willingness to take on longer-term money.
  3. Iman Shumpert, Kings ($11,011,234): Shumpert’s player option decision figures to hinge on money rather than destination. After an injury-plagued season in which he played in just 14 games, the veteran swingman won’t come close to matching his $11MM option salary, so it’s the right move to opt in and then see what happens. The rebuilding Kings, who held onto vets like Zach Randolph and Vince Carter for the entire 2017/18 season, could try the same approach with Shumpert next year, but I’d expect him to become a buyout candidate sooner or later — assuming he’s not traded first.
  4. Darrell Arthur, Nuggets ($7,464,912): In Denver, Wilson Chandler‘s player option decision will be a tougher one than Arthur’s, which looks like a mere formality. Ongoing knee issues – as well as a deep Nuggets roster – resulted in Arthur appearing in just 19 games and playing 141 total minutes in 2017/18. If he were to opt out, he’d almost certainly be looking at a minimum-salary offer, so picking up his option makes sense.
  5. Ron Baker, Knicks ($4,544,400): It’s hard to call a contract worth less than $10MM in total a disastrous signing, but the Knicks’ decision to commit their entire room exception to Baker last offseason on a two-year deal was immediately panned, and it doesn’t look any better now. Like other players on this list, Baker didn’t play a whole lot in 2017/18 due to injuries – and to not having a permanent spot in the rotation – which would limit his value significantly if he were to hit free agency. He’s recovering from shoulder surgery now, making his option decision an easy one.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.