- With Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Paul Millsap all banged up and the Nuggets not looking to rush them back, the team’s depth is coming in handy, according to Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Players who have been in and out of the rotation – such as Juan Hernangomez, Malik Beasley, and Torrey Craig – have all seen regular action with those starters sidelined.
- Intriguing rookie Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has shown enough defensive improvement to lock in rotation minutes for coach Michael Malone, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Since Christmas, Porter has been averaging nearly 11 PPG on a team-high 65.4% field goal percentage, including 48.3% from long distance. But Malone had special praise for his defense. “You see the improvement,” Malone said. “Understanding what our game plan is, what our rules are.”
Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:
- The Pacers assigned Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team’s PR department tweets. Sumner did not play in the last two Indiana games, while Johnson has appeared in just one NBA game this month.
- The Spurs recalled forwards Chimezie Metu, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson from the Austin Spurs, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. With Rudy Gay sidelined on Friday, the NBA team was looking for added depth. Metu, second-round pick in 2018, has appeared in 11 NBA games this season.
- The Nuggets recalled forward Jarred Vanderbilt from the Windy City Bulls, the team’s PR department tweets. Vanderbilt, a 2018 second-rounder, has appeared in four NBA contests this season.
- The Clippers assigned Derrick Walton Jr. and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers, according to the team’s PR department. Both guards received garbage-time minutes against Orlando on Thursday and did not score.
- The Warriors assigned rookie forward Alen Smailagic to their Santa Cruz affiliate, the team’s PR department tweets. The second round pick has appeared in nine Warriors games.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone credits reserve guard Malik Beasley for not sulking during a difficult season, Mike Singer of the Denver Post relays. Beasley, who can be a restricted free agent this summer if the Nuggets extend a qualifying offer, got extended minutes on Thursday with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris sidelined and took advantage. He scored a season-high 27 points in an overtime win over Golden State. Beasley hasn’t received steady playing time but Malone says Beasley has handled it professionally.
“You have a choice, as a man, you have a choice,” Malone said. “‘Am I gonna feel sorry for myself or am I gonna stay ready?’ And to his credit he’s continued to stay ready.”
We have more on the Nuggets:
- Malone vows to keep rookie Michael Porter Jr. in the rotation going forward, Singer tweets. “Earlier in the season, he wasn’t sure when he was going to be playing, is he going to be playing? So now, that’s out the window,” he said. “Michael Porter is a huge part of our future, he’s going to play every night.” Porter has reached double figures in each of his last three games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist performance against the Warriors.
- Trading forward Juan Hernangomez would negatively impact the locker room, Singer opines in his latest mailbag. Hernangomez has a major influence on team chemistry and is close friends with Nikola Jokic, Singer notes, adding that Jokic, Murray and Porter are the team’s untouchables in trade discussions.
- Malone is glad to be coaching a playoff contender that didn’t take shortcuts to success, as he explained to Michael Lee of The Athletic. Malone notes that Denver hasn’t gone for the quick fix. “For me, this being my fifth year, that’s maybe one of the more enjoyable things about our journey, is how we’ve been able to build this from the ground up and build it from within, organically,” he said. “We haven’t gone out and traded for the marquee player. We haven’t mortgaged our future by sending these two young assets to here, to rent a player for a year or two, to have instant success, but not long-term success. It speaks to our front office, our ownership that we can continue to communicate and collaborate and challenge each other.”
Nuggets guard Jamal Murray underwent testing on his injured left ankle and while the results came back clean, he is expected to miss multiple games as a result of the ailment, Nick Kosmider and Shams Charania of The Athletic report (Twitter link).
Murray exited the Nuggets’ game against the Hornets after coming down awkwardly on his ankle, and the injury has since been diagnosed as a sprain. PJ Dozier stepped up in his place and Denver was able to win the contest.
Murray, who signed a $170M extension prior to the season, is averaging 17.6 points and 4.6 assists per game so far during the 2019/20 campaign. He’ll miss Denver’s game against Golden State tonight, the contest vs. the Pacers on Sunday, and the trip to Minnesota on Monday. After those games, Denver has the a pair of matchups against the Rockets and a tilt with the Pelicans on deck.
JANUARY 16: Asked on Wednesday night about his status with Serbia, Malone denied that the two sides had finalized an agreement, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). They’ve talked, but nothing is official yet, Singer adds.
JANUARY 15: Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has been hired by the Serbian national program to be a consultant and a top aide for Igor Kokoskov during this summer’s Olympic qualifying efforts, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets. Marc Stein of The New York Times first reported (via Twitter) that the two sides were in advanced discussions.
Although Kokoskov – the former Suns head coach and current Kings assistant – will run the show for Serbia this summer, Malone’s experience with Nuggets star Nikola Jokic makes him a natural fit to be involved with the team as well. Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes (via Twitter) that Malone’s involvement is likely contingent on Jokic participating.
With his contract locked in through 2023, there’s no reason to think Jokic won’t play for Serbia in the summer, barring an injury. After a disappointing showing at the 2019 World Cup, the Serbians will be vying for one of the four remaining spots for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, with Denver’s big man leading the way.
One of those four Olympic qualifying tournaments in June will be held in Belgrade — Serbia will need to win that tournament to advance to Tokyo.
Malone becomes the latest in a line of NBA head coaches who are involved in international programs. Gregg Popovich, of course, will coach Team USA in the 2020 Olympics and may be joined by assistants like Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce, who were on Popovich’s World Cup staff. Brett Brown and Nick Nurse coach Australia and Canada, respectively.
Over the course of the 2019/20 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.
After identifying three Northwest trade candidates in November and three more in December, including one who was dealt shortly thereafter, we’re returning to the division today to identify another three players who could be dealt by February 6. Let’s dive in…
Robert Covington, F
$11.3MM cap hit; $12.1MM guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $13.0MM guaranteed salary in 2021/22
Covington is one of the more intriguing potential trade chips on the market. Barring a huge second-half push led by Karl-Anthony Towns, the 15-24 Timberwolves are likely lottery-bound, so it makes sense for the team to be sellers at the deadline. However, Covington still has two more years on his contract beyond this season – at a very reasonable price – and is the sort of player a retooling team might want to hang onto.
As a strong perimeter defender and a reliable three-point shooter, Covington should draw interest from virtually every contender. There are some teams that wouldn’t necessarily be suitable trade partners for Minnesota due to a lack of salary-matching options or valuable assets, but it’s hard to find a club that wouldn’t be an on-court fit for the 29-year-old forward.
New Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas spent most of the last two decades with the Rockets, whose front office always prioritized chasing superstars. If Rosas has brought that philosophy to Minnesota, it will be interesting to see what sort of return he’d seek for Covington. Getting a star in return is unlikely, but perhaps the Wolves could acquire draft picks and/or prospects that could be used as the foundation of a package for an impact player down the road.
Juan Hernangomez, PF
$3.3MM cap hit; RFA in 2020
Jerami Grant‘s arrival and Michael Porter Jr.‘s return to health have made the Nuggets a deeper and more dangerous team than they were last season. However, what’s been good for the franchise hasn’t been good for Hernangomez’s playing time — he’s averaging just 11.9 minutes per game and frequently gets DNP-CDs after logging 19.4 MPG in 70 contests a year ago.
Hernangomez, who has played at least 20 minutes in a game just once since December 8, could reclaim an increased role if the Nuggets are hit by injuries at some point, but it’s not as if he’s been all that effective even when he gets to play. His 3.0 PPG, .356 FG%, and .267 3PT% are all career lows.
With potential restricted free agency on tap for Hernangomez this summer, it might be in everyone’s best interests to grant the 24-year-old Spaniard a change of scenery. Unless the Nuggets still envision the fourth-year forward as a long-term rotation player, trying to extract a second-round pick for him now – or including him in a larger package for an upgrade – would make sense.
Justin Patton, C
Oklahoma City Thunder
$1.6MM cap hit; $1.76MM non-guaranteed salary in 2020/21; $1.9MM team option in 2021/22
Patton is the sort of under-the-radar trade candidate whose status is more important for financial reasons than it is for on-court ones. After all, the third-year big man has appeared in just four games this season, playing a total of 14 minutes. He’s not a difference-maker for the Thunder and wouldn’t be more than a project for any team acquiring him.
However, with the Thunder approximately $922K over the tax line – per Early Bird Rights – the idea of moving Patton might appeal to the team. Trading away the 22-year-old at the deadline and then replacing him with a player on a prorated minimum-salary within the next couple weeks would allow Oklahoma City to get out of the tax for the 2019/20 season.
Of course, the penalty for finishing $922K over the tax wouldn’t be significant. But the Thunder have been a taxpayer for the last two years and would be subject to repeater penalties this season – and going forward – if they finish in the tax again this spring. Plus, sneaking below that threshold would mean profiting from the payments made by other taxpayers.
Unless they’re committed to Patton’s development or make another trade that gets them below the tax line, I’d be surprised if the Thunder don’t make a move involving the center.
Revisit the rest of our 2019/20 Trade Candidate series right here.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’re nearly at the halfway mark of the 2019/20 NBA regular season, with several teams having already played their 41st game. As such, it’s a good time to check in on the traded 2020 first-round picks that have protections on them to get a sense of whether or not those protections will be applied this year.
Of this year’s 30 first-round selections, 10 have been traded, and all 10 have some form of protection on them. In other words, the ’19/20 standings will dictate whether or not those first-rounders actually change hands in 2020.
Here’s our latest look at which of those picks are safe bets to move, which ones will likely be retained, and which ones are still up in the air:
Likely to change hands:
- Bucks acquiring Pacers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Celtics acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-7 protected)
- Nets acquiring Sixers‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Thunder acquiring Nuggets‘ pick (top-10 protected)
It’s safe to say at this point that the Pacers (25-15), Bucks (35-6), Sixers (25-16), and Nuggets (27-12) aren’t missing the playoffs this season, which means their traded first-round picks, which range from lottery-protected to top-7 protected, will be on the move.
Currently, the Milwaukee and Denver picks project to fall near the end of the first round, while the Philadelphia and Indiana selections could end up in the late-teens or early-20s, as our Reverse Standings show.
Unlikely to change hands:
- Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘ pick (1-7, 15-30 protected)
- Nets acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected)
The Warriors (9-32) keeping their first-round pick is the safest bet on the board. Not only will that first-rounder land within the top 20, but it appears likely to be a top-five selection. Brooklyn will see the value of that asset decline significantly when it’s officially protected this year, receiving a 2025 second-round pick in place of that first-rounder.
Meanwhile, the Jazz (27-12) would have to finish out of the playoffs for the Grizzlies to get their first-rounder this year. That was always unlikely to happen, even before Utah’s recent hot streak. The protections on that pick will roll over to 2021 and will be identical next year (1-7 and 15-30).
Still up in the air:
- Celtics acquiring Grizzlies‘ pick (top-6 protected)
- Hawks acquiring Nets‘ pick (top-14 protected)
- Pelicans acquiring Cavaliers‘ pick (top-10 protected)
- Sixers acquiring Thunder‘s pick (top-20 protected)
Usually by this point in the season, we have a reasonably clear idea of which draft picks will be protected, but these four first-rounders are still very much up in the air.
The Thunder (23-17) weren’t considered a probable playoff team entering the season, but they’re comfortably holding the seventh seed in the West for now and project to have the No. 18 pick. Another winning streak or two could move that pick outside the top 20, which would be good news for the Sixers. If the pick is protected this year and Oklahoma City keeps it, Philadelphia would instead receive second-rounders in 2022 and 2023.
Like OKC, the Grizzlies (18-22) are defying modest expectations and hold one of the final playoff spots in the West. If they keep playing like this, there’s no chance their pick will end up in the top six, so it would be sent to the Celtics. But if Memphis doesn’t make the playoffs, there’s always a chance the lottery could push that selection into the top four, where the Grizzlies would keep it. In that scenario, Memphis would owe Boston its unprotected 2021 first-round pick.
The Nets (18-20) are the eighth seed in the East for the time being, and would send their lottery-protected to Atlanta as long as they hang onto a playoff spot. The Hawks would be happy for the Nets to stay where they are, resulting in the No. 16 overall pick. If Brooklyn slips out of the playoff picture and hangs onto its protected first-rounder, Atlanta would almost certainly receive a less valuable pick in 2021 when Kevin Durant returns and makes the Nets a more dangerous team.
Finally, it may seem safe to assume that the Cavaliers (12-28) will keep their top-10 protected pick, but we’re not writing that in pen yet. Even though the Cavs currently have the NBA’s fourth-worst record, only 3.5 games separate them from the 15-24 Timberwolves, who are the league’s 11th-worst team. I expect Cleveland to continue losing as the team shops its veterans, but there are enough bad teams in the NBA that hanging onto their pick can’t quite be considered a lock.
After a breakout year in 2018/19, it has been an up-and-down season for Malik Beasley in 2019/20. The Nuggets‘ swingman has been in and out of the team’s rotation — for instance, he got a DNP-CD in last Monday’s win before playing 26 minutes in a win on Wednesday. While Beasley would like to have a more regular role, he’s trying to make the most of the opportunities he gets, as Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post details.
“I wish it (playing time) was consistent, that’s just me as a player,” Beasley said after last Wednesday’s game. “But I’m happy to contribute to the team and get a win, that’s the most important thing that comes out of every day.”
After acquiring Jerami Grant and getting a healthy Michael Porter Jr. back for this season, the Nuggets have made an already-deep rotation even deeper, resulting in a decline in minutes for some players. Head coach Michael Malone said he understands Beasley’s frustration and admitted that the fourth-year swingman isn’t wrong to believe he should have a bigger role.
“Malik Beasley is sitting there saying, ‘I should be playing more,'” Malone said. “You know what? He’s right. I can’t argue that.”
Beasley, who will be a restricted free agent at season’s end, has been the subject of some trade speculation this season, since he still has long-term value and could be included in a package if Denver makes a play for another impact player. For now, he’ll make the most of the minutes he gets with the Nuggets.
Here’s more out of Denver:
- Beasley isn’t the only RFA-to-be who could be on the trade block in Denver. Mike Singer and Mark Kizsla of The Denver Post make a case for why the Nuggets should seriously consider trading Juan Hernangomez in advance of this year’s deadline. Like Beasley, Hernangomez has had his role dialed back this season, averaging just 11.9 minutes per game after playing 19.4 MPG in 2018/19.
- In a separate article for The Denver Post, Mike Singer looks at how the Nuggets built what they believe is one of the strongest locker rooms in the NBA.
- Jerami Grant showed on Sunday with his defense on Kawhi Leonard why the Nuggets made him their big offseason acquisition last summer, writes Eric Spyropoulos of Nuggets.com.
- In case you missed it on Friday, we noted that the Nuggets are one of several teams around the NBA with an open 15-man roster spot.
- Nuggets coach Michael Malone hopes the current roster remains in place through the trade deadline, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. However, he also knows that some reserves would have better opportunities elsewhere. Among those players are guard Malik Beasley and forward Juancho Hernangomez. “I hope we can keep this team because I know what this team is capable of… I also know it’s a business, I also know these guys all want to play,” Malone said.
- Nuggets forward Paul Millsap wishes he would have played it safer regarding the left knee contusion he suffered in a collision with Jamal Murray on December 20, Singer reports. Millsap has missed three games and hasn’t played up to his usual standards when he has suited up. “Probably should’ve got it taken care of and sat down and make sure it was good at that time,” Millsap said. “It’s a little lingering effect to it, and a few other things going on because of it. But, best-case scenario is just sit down and make sure I’m fully healthy.” Millsap, who insists the injury isn’t serious, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.