Nuggets Rumors

Bruce Brown Has Been A Great Find For The Nuggets

  • Bruce Brown continues to look like a major free agency bargain for the Nuggets, Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes. Brown posted his first career triple-double Wednesday to help Denver pull out a win despite the absence of four rotation players. “Some guys are in the foxhole with you, some guys, like they’ve got one foot in, one foot out,” Malone said. “Bruce is, he’s all the way in.”

Porter Jr. Focused On Dirty Work

  • Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has come to the realization that he needs to do the dirty work to live up to his contract, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes. “Offense for me should be on autopilot,” Porter said. “I should be focused on the intangibles, the defense, the rebounding, the dirty work. Then that just involves you in the game. If you’re struggling on offense and you’re also not rebounding or playing defense, then it’s like, ‘Why is he out there right now?'” Porter signed a five-year, max extension in September 2021.

Jokic, Murray Doubtful To Play Tuesday

  • 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.”

Northwest Notes: Grant, Gobert, Forbes, MPJ

Trail Blazers power forward Jerami Grant has once again elevated his play during his first season in Portland, potentially to an All-Star level, opines Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

The 6’8″ forward out of Syracuse is averaging 19.7 PPG on .480/.482/.750 shooting, while also contributing 4.7 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.9 BPG and 0.8 SPG. Beyond the stats, Fentress notes that Grant is a versatile defender, capable of guarding at least four positions.

“Just getting started,” Grant said of his run with the Trail Blazers. “I think it’s going the right way, though. Winning a lot of games… You get less attention [with All-Star point guard Damian Lillard as the focal point of opposing defenses]… You’re able to go one-on-one. You’re able to make plays and pick your spots.”

There’s so many really good players in the league that it’s hard to be an All-Star,” Lillard said. “So, for him it’s like whether he’s actually on an All-Star team or makes the All-Star team, or not, he’s that caliber player. So, I think we definitely got that guy that we were looking for at that position.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The addition of three-time Defensive Player of the Year center Rudy Gobert to the Timberwolves seems to have somewhat disrupted the offensive output of talented third-year shooting guard Anthony Edwards, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN in an in-depth piece. Having Gobert manning the middle has cramped Minnesota’s floor spacing, as point guard D’Angelo Russell acknowledged. “It’s our main thing on offense we’re trying to figure out,” Russell told MacMahon. “Obviously, you see us running into each other, trying to back door and might run into a guy. It’s just little things like that that aren’t in sync right now. It’s kind of hard to find rhythm or flow.”
  • Timberwolves backup swingman Bryn Forbes is bringing positive energy to the team despite not being a regular part of the rotation, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “That’s where I see a big role for me,” Forbes said. “Being encouraging, bringing the energy. Giving that off instead of having a bad attitude or this, that or the other.” Minnesota signed the 29-year-old vet in free agency this summer for his floor-spacing abilities, but he’s off to a slow start this season, averaging 3.3 PPG on 31% shooting from the floor, including 28.6% shooting from the three-point line on 1.8 attempts per game.
  • Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. has been having trouble connecting on his shots over the past two games, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Porter has scored a combined 15 total points on 5-of-23 shooting from the field. “We need Michael,” head coach Michael Malone said. “While [MVP center Nikola Jokic] is not here, we have to find ways to try to get Michael some easy ones, and I think Michael’s gotta help himself at the same time. … Make or miss, continue to play hard, compete and fight.”

Northwest Notes: Murray, Nnaji, Pokusevski, Jazz

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is the team’s second star player to enter the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, reports Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link).

The 6’3″ point guard has been playing solidly since his return from an ACL tear that kept him unavailable throughout the 2021/22 season. Through 13 games, Murray is averaging 16.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.9 RPG on .429/.355/.767 shooting splits.

Two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic, who entered the league’s coronavirus protocols earlier this week, remains sidelined, and both he and Murray will miss tomorrow’s contest against the Mavericks, Wind adds.

The league’s updated coronavirus policy this season dictates that vaccinated players only need to test for COVID-19 if they exhibit symptoms of the virus. Unvaccinated players are now tested just once a week.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Third-year Nuggets power forward Zeke Nnaji would love more rotation minutes for Denver, and expects to make the most of whatever playing time he gets, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Given the COVID-19 absence of Jokic, the 6’9″ big man has been able to get a bit more run in the short term. “A lot of the coaches said I had a great camp and made some huge jumps, so I’m just looking to apply that out on the court in an actual game,” Nnaji said. “I have to stay ready. I want to make it hard for them to put me back on the bench… I’m also a relentless rebounder and somebody who plays physical inside as well. I can promise that I will bring energy to the court.” Nnaji is averaging a career-low 6.3 MPG on a deep Denver club this year.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski seems to be turning a corner in his development this year, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. The 20-year-old is averaging a career-best 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Fuller adds that Pokusevski has also improved as a more efficient scorer and that the seven-footer seems to noticeably more assertive.
  • Jazz forward Rudy Gay continues to rehabilitate from a third finger MCP joint sprain in his left hand, Utah announced in a press release. The Jazz add that the 6’8″ vet will have his injured finger reevaluated in two weeks. In 12 games this season, Gay is averaging 4.5 PPG and 3.4 RPG across 15.8 MPG.

Jokic Enters Health And Safety Protocols

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.

  • 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.

Nuggets Notes: Green, Jordan, Malone, Brown

Nuggets forward Jeff Green made a concerted push to convince longtime friend DeAndre Jordan to join him in Denver as a free agent this summer. Mike Singer of The Denver Post examines the frontcourt reserves’ friendship and breaks down Green’s pitch.

“I said, ‘Just come be with your bestie,’ and it worked,” Green told Singer, who writes that the conversation took place over a FaceTime chat. “At this point of our careers, it’s all about winning,” Green said.

The duo had previously linked up as members of the Clippers and Nets. Their families vacation together, per Singer.

“Two guys who really just enjoy life, that like to have a good time, we have a mutual respect for one another as far as the whole journey of what it takes to be an NBA player,” Green said. “He’s a gentle giant, very soft. Tries to have a hard exterior, but he’s very soft.”

Across his 10 games with the Nuggets as the primary reserve behind two-time league MVP Nikola Jokic, Jordan is averaging 5.6 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 13.1 MPG. Green, who has been with Denver since the 2021/22 season, is averaging 7.9 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 19.9 MPG.

There’s more out of Denver:

  • Eighth-year Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has all the attributes of a championship-caliber leader, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Malone has found a way to balance an intense and demanding side with kindness and respect for his players, along with clever strategizing and some creative flexibility when it comes to maximizing the talent on his team’s roster. Over the years, Kiszla adds, that roster has come to reflect the dogged personality of its head coach to an extent.
  • Versatile Nuggets backup guard/forward Bruce Brown is acting as Denver’s reserve point guard with Bones Hyland in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, writes Singer in a separate article. “When you’re manning that second unit … you also gotta use your voice and get us organized to make sure all five guys are operating as one,” Malone said. Added Brown: “I think with our second unit, we just gotta run, we gotta push the ball, but we gotta get stops.”
  • In a new piece this morning, Luke Adams examines the biggest current trade exceptions in the league. The Nuggets possess one of them, an exception worth $9,125,000 that will expire if it’s not used by July 6, 2023.

Largest Trade Exceptions Available This Season

As the NBA’s 2022/23 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.

As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception plus $100K is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.

For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.1MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.

In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have been major wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $28.6MM trade exception in a sign-and-trade sending Gordon Hayward to Charlotte in 2020, the Celtics used that TPE to acquire Evan Fournier at the following deadline and then to acquire Josh Richardson during the 2021 offseason.

However, as our tracker shows, there are currently no trade exceptions worth anywhere near $28MM. In fact, the largest current TPE barely eclipses the $10MM mark.

Here are the all of the current trade exceptions worth more than $4MM, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder: $10,183,800 (10/2/23)
  2. Utah Jazz: $9,774,884 (2/9/23)
  3. Los Angeles Clippers: $9,720,900 (2/10/23)
  4. Utah Jazz: $9,614,379 (7/6/23)
  5. Denver Nuggets: $9,125,000 (7/6/23)
  6. Boston Celtics: $6,907,815 (1/19/23)
  7. Utah Jazz: $6,745,122 (9/22/23)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers: $6,519,792 (2/6/23)
  9. Boston Celtics: $5,890,000 (2/10/23)
  10. Toronto Raptors: $5,250,000 (2/10/23)
  11. Washington Wizards: $5,220,900 (2/10/23)
  12. Atlanta Hawks: $4,564,980 (9/27/23)
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: $4,374,000 (7/6/23)
  14. Oklahoma City Thunder: $4,220,057 (10/2/23)
  15. Sacramento Kings: $4,023,600 (2/8/23)

These trade exceptions aren’t useless. For instance, if Detroit made point guard Cory Joseph available, any of the top 11 TPEs on this list could be used to absorb Joseph’s $5,155,500 salary. The non-Utah TPEs in the top eight could be used to acquire Rudy Gay and his $6,184,500 cap hit from the Jazz. All 15 of them are big enough to take on the $3.5MM salary of Thunder big man Mike Muscala.

But these exceptions will ultimately be of no consequence when considering trade candidates who earn salaries well into the eight figures, since TPEs can’t be combined with other players or exceptions. There’s no scenario in which any of these trade exceptions could be used to take on the $18MM salary of Pacers center Myles Turner, for example.

That’s not the only factor working against the odds of most of these exceptions being used. All of the top 10 largest TPEs are controlled by teams that are rebuilding (the Thunder and Jazz), teams in the tax (the Clippers, Nuggets, and Celtics), or teams that are just below the tax line and likely want to stay that way (the Trail Blazers and Raptors). In other words, they don’t fit the profile of clubs that are looking to take on additional salary without sending any out.

That doesn’t mean that none of these trade exceptions will be used — after all, it sometimes makes sense to take advantage of them even in a deal that a team could complete using salary matching (for instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player). However, it does mean that it’s unlikely any TPEs will be game-changers on this season’s trade market.

Injury Updates: Beal, Bucks, Suns, Banchero, Lakers, More

Wizards guard Bradley Beal has cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced. However, Beal will still miss Saturday’s game against Utah due to “return to competition reconditioning,” with further updates to be provided as he continues to inch closer to a return.

Beal has missed three games while in the protocols, with the Wizards going 2-1 without their star shooting guard. Through nine games, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists on .517/.325/.917 shooting in 35.1 minutes per night.

Here are several more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee soreness) and Jrue Holiday (right ankle sprain) were both ruled out for Friday’s loss to the Spurs, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Both players missed their second consecutive game for the league-leading Bucks, holders of a 10-2 record in the early going.
  • Similarly, Suns guard Chris Paul was ruled out for the second straight game Friday, in what turned out to be a loss to the Magic, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Fellow guard Landry Shamet (concussion symptoms) was also sidelined after scoring a season-high 16 points in Wednesday’s win over Minnesota. “We didn’t see anything. Just kind of jumped up on him last night. It just speaks to how complicated those things are. Can go for a while and not even know something is going on and then it just jumps up on you,” head coach Monty Williams said of Shamet (Twitter link via Rankin). For Orlando, No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero missed his second straight contest with a left ankle sprain.
  • The Lakers provided an update today on center Thomas Bryant and guard Dennis Schröder, both of whom are recovering from thumb surgery. They were evaluated this week and are said to be progressing well, and both players will be reevaluated next Thursday, as Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times relays (via Twitter).
  • Shaedon Sharpe, the No. 7 overall pick, has suffered a volar avulsion fracture to his right fifth finger, the Trail Blazers announced in a press release. He’s considered day-to-day going forward and is officially listed as questionable for Saturday’s contest at Dallas.
  • Nuggets guard Bones Hyland has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and was ruled out for Friday’s loss at Boston, Denver announced (via Twitter). Hyland is a key reserve for Denver, with averages of 14.0 points and 3.7 assists through nine games (20.7 minutes). He’ll need to pass some testing requirements before returning to action. The Nuggets play Sunday, Wednesday and Friday next week.
  • Last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, was downgraded from questionable to out on Friday with left shin soreness, tweets Keith Langlois of On a positive note, wing Alec Burks made his 2022/23 season debut following foot surgery, scoring 17 points in 25 minutes during Detroit’s loss at New York.

Northwest Notes: Hart, Wolves, KCP, Markkanen, Conley

The Trail Blazers faced some criticism last winter for not receiving more in return when they traded CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. to New Orleans, but they certainly haven’t been disappointed by what they’ve gotten from Josh Hart, one of the key pieces in that deal.

A full-time starter this season for the 7-3 Blazers, Hart is attempting just 6.8 shots per 36 minutes in the early part of this season, by far a career low. But he’s filling up the box score by averaging 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, all of which are career bests, and is earning praise from his teammates, as Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian details.

“His last name is the perfect last name for him,” Damian Lillard said. “He rebounds like he is seven feet, he’s always in the passing lanes, he’s physical, playing hard, passionate, cares about winning. He doesn’t care about shots.”

While Hart admits that he wouldn’t mind a greater role on offense, he said he’s OK with taking a back seat to Lillard, Jerami Grant, and other teammates if that’s what’s best for the club.

“When you want to win, you’ve got to sacrifice,” Hart said, per Fentress. “I would love to be out there shooting 10, 12, 13 shots per game, and doing stuff like that. But at the end of the day, if you want to win, guys are going to have to sacrifice. Guys have to play different roles to help the team.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • It’s officially time to start worrying about the Timberwolves, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. The Wolves, who lost on Wednesday to a Suns squad missing Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson, have shown “no energy, no drive, and no heart” this season, Krawczynski writes, pointing out that the team has trailed by at least 18 points in six of its seven losses. “It’s just the sign of a team that’s lacking a little bit of confidence and purpose right now,” head coach Chris Finch said.
  • Acquired in an offseason trade, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been an ideal fit as a three-and-D piece for the Nuggets, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports, who says head coach Michael Malone has given Caldwell-Pope the freedom to deviate from the team’s defensive game plan when he sees fit.
  • Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, who is thriving in his new home in Utah, sat down with Shams Charania of Stadium (Twitter video link) to discuss his trade from Cleveland, his goal of making an All-Star team, and why things didn’t work out with the Bulls, among other topics.
  • The presence of veteran point guard Mike Conley has been one important reason why so many of the Jazz‘s newly acquired players are fitting in seamlessly this season, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I’ve played with some good point guards, but nothing like Mike,” Markkanen said on Wednesday. “He’s a really smart player and knows not just when to pass ball, but he delivers on target.”