Nuggets Rumors

Re-Signing Cousins Is On Nuggets' Agenda

The Nuggets have strong interest in re-signing backup center DeMarcus Cousins, according to Harrison Wind of Cousins began the season in Milwaukee and finished it in Denver, averaging 8.9 PPG and 5.5 RPG in 31 regular-season contests and 10.6 PPG and 3.4 RPG in five postseason outings. Whether Denver makes that move depends upon the market for Cousins, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer.

  • Having Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. back in the lineup will certainly boost the Nuggets’ offense next season. However, they need to get much better defensively to truly become a championship team, Mike Singer of the Denver Post notes. The club was 24th defensively in points allowed in the paint and also aided the opponent’s cause with careless turnovers. “To be a dangerous, deep playoff team, you have to have an elite defense,” coach Michael Malone said.

Nikola Jokic Repeats As Most Valuable Player

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won his second straight Most Valuable Player Award, topping the SixersJoel Embiid and the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo by a comfortable margin, the NBA announced in a press release.

Jokic received 65 first-place votes and 875 total points, putting him well ahead of Embiid, who finished second with 26 first-place votes and 706 points. Antetokounmpo came in third with nine first-place votes and 595 points.

Nobody else received a first-place vote, but Suns guard Devin Booker was fourth with 216 points and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic was fifth at 146 points. With 100 total voters, the balloting system awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, seven points for second, five points for third, three points for fourth and one point for fifth.

Other players receiving votes were the Celtics‘ Jayson Tatum (43 points), the GrizzliesJa Morant (10), the Warriors‘ Stephen Curry (4), the SunsChris Paul (2), the BullsDeMar DeRozan (1), the LakersLeBron James (1) and the NetsKevin Durant (1).

Jokic is the 13th player to win MVP honors in back-to-back seasons. He averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists in 74 games and helped the Nuggets earn the sixth seed in the West despite the absence of Jamal Murray and  Michael Porter Jr. Jokic was named Western Conference Player of the Month twice this season and reached the All-Star Game for the fourth straight year.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Monday that Jokic would win the award.

Nikola Jokic To Win Second Straight MVP Award

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Sources told Woj that a formal announcement will be made later this week.

Jokic turned in better numbers in 2021/22 than he did last season, averaging 27.1 points and 13.8 rebounds per game, both career bests. He also ranked eighth in the league at 7.9 assists per game. ESPN notes that he became the first player to ever reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in the same season.

Jokic’s outstanding performance helped Denver remain competitive with Jamal Murray missing the entire season due to a torn ACL and Michael Porter Jr. playing just nine games before undergoing back surgery. Denver managed to post a 48-34 record and grabbed the sixth seed in the West.

The 27-year-old center is the 13th player in history to claim back-to-back MVP honors. Next season he will try to join Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell on an elite list of players to win the award three years in a row.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Sixers center Joel Embiid were the other finalists in this year’s MVP voting.

Nuggets May Need A Trade To Improve Defense

  • The Nuggets might have to consider trading Will Barton this offseason to help upgrade their defense, suggests Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barton, who has spent eight years with the team, has an expiring $14MM contract for next season and Denver may need a stronger defensive guard to pair with Jamal Murray as he returns from his ACL injury. Singer identifies Monte Morris and JaMychal Green as other players who might be moved.

Nuggets Notes: Offseason, Rivers, Cousins, Draft

Simply getting Jamal Murray (ACL) and Michael Porter Jr. (back) on the court again in the fall will raise the Nuggets’ ceiling for the 2022/23 season. However, head coach Michael Malone suggested in his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday that the team has to do more than just wait for everyone to get healthy in order to capitalize on its title window.

“This might be the biggest offseason, at least for me, in my perspective, since I’ve been here,” Malone said, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “… We have a window, and I think windows are only open so long. We have a 27-year-old phenom, who will hopefully soon be named a back-to-back MVP. We have to capitalize while we have a player, a special player in Nikola (Jokic), and do everything we can as an organization — and I know we will — to put the best players around him.”

As Singer writes, it will be important for the Nuggets to get the right “fringe” pieces around their perennial MVP candidate using the No. 21 overall pick in the draft and/or their cap exceptions in free agency. Denver was among the league’s worst teams at protecting the rim in 2021/22, so a backup center to help spell Jokic and a wing who can take some defensive pressure off of him could be priorities this summer, Singer adds.

“You can’t bleed at the rim the way we bled at the rim this year,” Malone said.

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Both Malone and general manager Calvin Booth spoke highly of free-agent-to-be Austin Rivers on Wednesday. As Singer relays (via Twitter), Malone praised Rivers’ defensive tenacity and said his two years in Denver “speak for themselves,” while Booth said the veteran guard is a player the team would look to bring back.
  • Asked about how big a priority it is to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins this offseason, Booth said the Nuggets will talk to the veteran center’s reps, but Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link) didn’t get the sense that Cousins is a lock to be back.
  • The Nuggets like some draft prospects in the No. 21 range, but aren’t “married” to their pick and will explore all their options with it, according to Booth (Twitter link via Singer).
  • Booth hinted that Denver will look to add more shooting this summer. You don’t have to watch basketball for five minutes to know that Joker likes to have shooters around him,” the GM said (Twitter link via Singer).

Nuggets Players Consider Season Successful Considering Adversity

  • The Nuggets only got one playoff victory, but they consider this season a success because of all they had to overcome, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. In addition to playing almost the entire season without Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., Denver was missing PJ Dozier, who suffered an ACL tear in November. “I say we beat adversity a lot of the times,” Monte Morris said. “Without Mike and Jamal, two great players, we still found ways in tough, hostile situations to win. That shows the character and how good we can be.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter, Connelly, Gordon

The Nuggets were hoping all season to have Jamal Murray back in time for the playoffs, but he didn’t believe his surgically repaired ACL was strong enough to take the risk, writes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. Meeting with reporters Friday in the wake of Denver’s first-round exit, Murray explained that he hadn’t recovered enough to feel comfortable on the court.

“I remember saying at the beginning of my rehab, I want to come back when I’m 100 percent and not 85,” Murray said. “I don’t think I’m 85 right now. I know I can go get a bucket. But in terms of the intensity of the playoffs, I’m just not there yet.”

Murray, who suffered the injury last April, was cleared to participate in five-on-five practice about four weeks ago. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the team monitored Murray’s progress closely and made a “collective decision” to keep him out of action.

“We knew specifically with Jamal’s injury that the timeframes can be all over the place. We’ve done all the studies and it can be anywhere from X to Y. We didn’t want to put a firm timeframe on it,” Connelly said. “As he started to feel better and better, we didn’t want to be too definitive because we didn’t want to mislead anyone in this room. As the year progressed and we got into the postseason, I thought it would be irresponsible for him to enter that level of competition.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. expressed a similar sentiment, saying even if he had tried to play, he couldn’t have helped much, per Pat Graham of The Associated Press. Porter was limited to nine games this season and never returned after having lumbar spine surgery in December. “On one leg and stand in the corner and shoot threes,” Porter responded when asked if he could have played. “Would I have been at my best? I definitely would not have been at my best. At that point, it’s just thinking long-term versus short-term.” Porter adds that he and Murray encouraged each other through the rehab process to not try to rush back from their injuries.
  • After taking a gamble by giving Porter a max extension before the start of the season despite his history of back issues, Connelly will be under pressure this summer to find some help for Nikola Jokic, observes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • Aaron Gordon bounced back strong after poor performances in the first two games of the series, notes Matt Schubert of The Denver Post. Although Gordon might be miscast as the second option on a title contender, he showed promise that he can contribute once Murray and Porter return, Schubert adds.

Tim Connelly Discusses Nuggets’ Roster, Future

Following the team’s first-round exit at the hands of Golden State, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly discussed a number of topics on Friday at his season-ending press conference, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Connelly said signing Nikola Jokic to a super-max extension this summer is a top priority.

It’s a pretty big (priority),” Connelly said. “… There’s nothing more important, organizationally, than to make sure Nikola stays here as long as he wants to play the game.”

Connelly also reflected on giving Michael Porter Jr. a five-year, maximum-salary extension prior to the 2021/22 season. Porter appeared in just nine games this season and clearly wasn’t himself prior to being shutdown and undergoing lumbar spine surgery in December, his third back surgery since 2017.

You analyze everything. Oftentimes the best indicator of future health is current health,” Connelly said. “Unfortunately, he had the injuries he dealt with this year. The previous couple years going into that contractual negotiation (last summer) we felt pretty good about it. Certainly his numbers were reflective of a guy that you’re going to have to give a lot of money.

“Hindsight is 20/20. I think we looked as much as we can. We’ve tended to be a team that rewards guys earlier instead of getting to the marketplace. We’re really looking forward to him being fully healthy, and I know he’s working his butt off to achieve that goal.”

The president said the reason the team never officially ruled out Porter or Jamal Murray for the season was because only the players knew how they felt: “It’s their body. … Whenever there’s an injury, the player has to have the loudest voice.”

Denver never applied pressure for either player to make a return if they felt they weren’t ready, Connelly added. Both players confirmed to the media that they were aligned with management’s thinking, Singer notes. Murray, who missed the entire season after suffering a torn left ACL last April, said he’s “not even sure if he’s 85% right now,” according to Singer (Twitter link).

Here are some more quotes from Connelly, courtesy of Singer:

  • Connelly said the small forward position and wing defense are areas that need to be addressed in the offseason. “Whenever you lose you have to be extremely self-critical and analyze areas where we’re not where we need to be. Losing Mike (Porter) was really big, but losing PJ Dozier, that was really two guys, all our depth at the small forward position, so we had to play some pretty wonky lineups. … I think it’s pretty evident where we need to get better.”
  • Connelly on DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, who’s an unrestricted free agent: “Boogie was fantastic. He brought a ton. … He helped stabilize that second unit.” The team plans to talk to Cousins about his future soon, Singer tweets.
  • Denver wants to retain two-way player Davon Reed and only decided against converting him to a standard deal (to become playoff-eligible) because it would’ve meant cutting someone else (Twitter link via Singer). “He’s a guy that we’re very high on for the future,” Connelly said.
  • Connelly on the possibility of paying the luxury tax next season and/or in the future: “If the team is good enough, (ownership will) pay accordingly.

Nuggets Notes: Cousins, Offseason, Future

Nuggets backup center DeMarcus Cousins was highly productive in the team’s first-round loss to Golden State, carving out a niche on Denver’s bench, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

DeMarcus, to be playing 10 minutes a game and to be having the productivity that he’s had, and the efficiency that he’s had, is really remarkable,” said head coach Michael Malone. “And I told him after the game (Game 4), you know, everybody wants to play more, but it’s important for DeMarcus to know the impact he’s having is real.”

In the five-game series, Cousins averaged 10.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in just 11.4 minutes per night, sporting a blistering shooting line of .655/.667/.733. He scored 19 points in 15 minutes during Denver’s 102-98 Game 5 defeat on Wednesday.

He gives us a calming influence, somebody that we can — instead of trying to go up and down, go crazy — settle down, play inside-out basketball,” Malone said. “He’s gotten JaMychal Green layups and dunks at the rim, he’s kicked out for open threes, and then the last part of it, now you can step out on the perimeter and play pick-and-roll with Bones Hyland. We know DeMarcus sets really good, physical screens, and he gets guys open.”

Cousins is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he says he’s not sure if he’ll be back with the Nuggets next season, per Alex Kennedy of

I honestly don’t know what the future holds,” Cousins said. “A lot in this short time has transpired. I’m still trying to get over the fact that G.P. (Gary Payton II) hit that big shot, right? I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity. I’m happy to be a part of this group. I’m happy with the opportunity that was given to me from Mike [Malone], [president] Tim [Connelly], [general manager Calvin] Booth. To answer that question, I can’t right now. I don’t know what’s future holds.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Count Will Barton and Monte Morris among the teammates who hope Cousins is brought back for 2022/23, Kennedy writes in the same article. “Anytime you have a guy like that, you always want him back,” Barton said. “Like I say, he’s still DeMarcus Cousins — a guy who, when he’s healthy, is a very good player. Those are not my decisions; I’m not in management. Obviously, if I have a voice in the fight, I definitely would love to have him back. He was big for us on and off the court, [a] presence in the locker room. We’ll see what happens.” Morris echoed that sentiment: “Signing Boogie, man… I love him to death. A guy that would pick up 19 points in a do-or-die elimination game just shows how much heart he has, how much love he has for the game. I’m definitely proud of him… He’s a great guy.”
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) and HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan explore Denver’s roster possibilities in their offseason guides.
  • Malone is optimistic about what Denver’s future holds despite the team’s first-round exit, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “The future’s definitely bright,” Malone said. “I think we also have to understand that Jamal Murray to start the season next year is not going to be the Jamal Murray [we know] right away. I think it’s going to be a buildup, him getting comfortable and confident out there.”
  • Warriors forward/center Draymond Green was effusive in his praise of Nikola Jokic after Game 5, notes Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “It’s an honor and a pleasure to play against someone so talented and so skilled,” Green said of Jokic. “Usually when you have a guy that’s that talented and that skilled, they’re a little soft. He’s far, far from soft. He’s an absolutely incredible player.”
  • In case you missed it, Jokic said if the Nuggets offer him a five-year, super-max extension this offseason, he plans to accept it.

Jokic: If Nuggets Offer Super-Max Extension, I’ll Accept

With Denver’s season officially over as of Wednesday night, Nikola Jokic has just one year left on his contract with the team. However, the star center told reporters after the Game 5 loss to Golden State that if the Nuggets offer him a five-year, super-max extension this offseason, he intends to accept it.

“I would like it, of course,” Jokic said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “… I think if (the) offer is on the table, of course I’m going to accept it because I really like the organization, I really like the people who work here. I’m in (a) really good relationship with everybody from (the) owner to equipment manager.”

A “super-max” is the term we use for a maximum-salary contract worth more than a player would typically be eligible for. Jokic only has seven years of NBA experience under his belt, which would normally qualify him for a maximum salary starting at 30% of the salary cap. By winning last year’s MVP award, he made himself eligible for a maximum salary starting at 35% of the cap, though he wasn’t able to officially sign an extension last offseason when he still had just six years of NBA service.

This offseason, Jokic and the Nuggets are free to move ahead with that deal, if they so choose. It sounds like he’s on board and there’s no reason to believe Denver won’t be as well. Jokic is still very much in his prime at age 27, he appears to be in line for a second consecutive MVP award this spring, and he has proven himself to be extremely durable, appearing in at least 72 games in all seven years since he entered the league.

Jokic’s agent Misko Raznatovic said earlier in the year that he anticipates his client will sign a super-max extension this offseason.

The deal, if completed, would tack on five years to Jokic’s current contract, locking him up through the 2027/28 season. The exact value is not yet known, since it will depend on where the 2023/24 cap ends up. But based on a fairly conservative $125MM cap projection for ’23/24, the five-year super-max extension would be worth $253.75MM.

If Jokic were to play out his current contract without an extension, he could theoretically sign elsewhere in 2023, but his max deal with another team (about $161MM over four years, based on a $125MM cap) would fall well short of the super-max he could get from Denver. Besides, the All-NBA big man doesn’t sound like someone interested in a change of scenery.

“I think we have something that we are building,” he said on Wednesday, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “… We have pieces. We have tools. The only thing is are we going to work together. That’s the only thing.”