Nuggets Rumors

Timberwolves To Hire Joe Connelly As Director Of Scouting

After Tim Connelly left Denver for Minnesota to become the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations earlier this year, his brother Joe Connelly will make the same move, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post, who reports (via Twitter) that Joe will become the Wolves’ director of scouting.

Joe Connelly has spent the last few years with the Nuggets, working in a player development role and in the organization’s scouting department. His most recent title in Denver was director of pro personnel. According to Singer (Twitter link), Joe was a major advocate for Bones Hyland leading up to last year’s draft — the Nuggets ultimately selected Hyland with the No. 26 pick.

Tim Connelly is continuing to reshape Minnesota’s front office after changing teams within the Northwest Division this spring, and this isn’t the first of his recent moves that involves an executive heading from the Nuggets to the Timberwolves. Singer reported on Thursday that former Nuggets scouting coordinator Jon Wallace is becoming the Wolves’ director of player personnel and G League general manager.

Dell Demps, Matt Lloyd, and Steve Senior are among the other veteran executives who have joined the Timberwolves’ front office this offseason, while assistant GM Joe Branch is moving on from the team.

And-Ones: Offseason, Tampering Rules, FA Signings

In a roundtable discussion, Howard Beck, Chris Mannix, Robin Lundberg, and Rohan Nadkarni discussed the best, worst, most surprising, and most intriguing moves of the 2022 NBA offseason, agreeing on some issues and sharing opposing views on others.

For instance, while Beck and Mannix both view the Rudy Gobert blockbuster as the best roster move of the summer, Beck makes the case that the Jazz‘s side of the deal was the offseason’s top move, while Mannix argues for the Timberwolves‘ side.

Beck, Lundberg, and Nadkarni, meanwhile, all named the Hawks‘ acquisition of Dejounte Murray as the summer’s most intriguing roster move, while Beck and Lundberg agree that Kevin Durant‘s trade request with four years left on his contract was the offseason’s worst move. From a basketball perspective, Durant would be best off staying in Brooklyn and playing for a Nets team that looks capable of contending for a title, Beck writes.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA’s tampering rules aren’t exactly working as intended, but it’s unclear if there’s any obvious way to fix them, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “The threat of harsher penalties and random audits doesn’t even make teams flinch,” one source told Todd. “And at this point, if we investigated every possible instance of tampering, the whole league would come to a screeching halt and nothing would ever get done.” According to Todd, multiple front office executives that she spoke to expressed support for moving free agency ahead of the draft, among other changes to the current system.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic wrapped up his series on which teams improved the most and least this offseason by listing his picks from 20 to 11 and from 10 to one. The Sixers were Aldridge’s choice for the team that made the best roster upgrades, followed by the Hawks, Nuggets, Celtics, and Timberwolves.
  • Dan Devine of The Ringer shines a light on seven under-the-radar free agent agreements that he’s intrigued by, including the Heat‘s three-year deal with Caleb Martin, the Timberwolves‘ acquisition of Kyle Anderson, and the Pistons‘ investment in Marvin Bagley III.

DeAndre Jordan Discusses Nuggets Decision, Title Expectations, Jokic

In an expansive interview with Mike Singer of the Denver Post, new Nuggets reserve center DeAndre Jordan spoke about his hopes for his 2022/23 tenure in Denver.

According to Jordan, a recruiting pitch from Denver forward Jeff Green – who was previously Jordan’s teammate on the Nets and Clippers – and a lengthy conversation with head coach Michael Malone helped convince the veteran center to make the leap to another contender, following a 2021/22 season split between the Lakers and Sixers. The 34-year-old, on the cusp of his 15th NBA season, inked a single-season deal with the Nuggets in the hopes of winning a title.

A former All-Star and two-time All-NBA Third Team honoree, Jordan is well aware of what his role with his new club will be.

“Obviously everybody knows that Nikola (Jokic) is the head of the snake,” Jordan said. “So with that, my role being obviously coming off the bench, helping our second unit with pace, screens and getting guys open, getting guys better shots and also finishing everything that I can in transition, offensive rebounds, controlling the glass for our unit, also being a defensive presence for however long I’m out there.”

Despite recent evidence to the contrary in his stops with the Nets, Lakers and Sixers, Denver is optimistic that Jordan can roll back the clock to somewhat resemble his All-Defensive First Team self, when the 6’11” vet was a productive, rim-running force on offense and a mobile athlete on defense.

Here are more highlights from the interview, well worth a read:

  • Jordan discussed his primary motivation for latching on with the Nuggets, a team that expects to compete for a championship thanks to the healthy returns of secondary stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., alongside reigning two-time MVP Jokic. Murray, who missed all of the 2021/22 season as he recovered from an ACL tear, was a crucial player on a 2020 Nuggets club that clawed its way into the Western Conference Finals. Porter also played a big part on that time, before a back surgery limited him to just nine games played last year. “I’m going into my 15th year, man, I was a second-round pick, I’ve done a lot of great things in this league, individually and also with the teams that I’ve been on,” Jordan said. “I know the respect that I have from myself, and also that my peers have for me … (Winning a title) is the only thing that still drives me at this point in my career.” 
  • When asked whether or not he’d be okay with occasionally being a healthy scratch, as dictated by certain matchups, Jordan responded tactically. “That’s something we’ll get to when it comes to personnel,” he said. Across 48 games played with Los Angeles and Philadelphia last year, Jordan averaged 4.3 PPG on 64.3% shooting, plus 5.5 RPG and 0.7 BPG in 13.0 MPG.
  • Part of what drew to the Nuggets to Jordan is his locker room leadership, and he acknowledged he plans to make an impact off the court. “Ever since I was with the Clippers, in my younger days, I learned from some great veterans about being a great locker room presence even if things weren’t going my way,” Jordan said. “I’ve done that throughout my career, and I think that that’s something I’ve prided myself on.” 

International Notes: Jokic, Antetokounmpo, Yurtseven, Pokusevski, Jovic

Nuggets star Nikola Jokic is looking forward to representing Serbia on the basketball court for the first time in three years, writes Johnny Askounis of EuroHoops. The two-time MVP will join the national team for a pair of 2023 FIBA World Cup qualifying games, hosting Greece August 25 and traveling to Turkey August 28.

“I feel great, similar to every time I reunite with these guys. I just met some of them,” Jokic said in advance of the Serbian team’s training camp. “We are preparing, we just started and we will see how far we can go. Up first are the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers and the goal of helping Serbia qualify to the World Cup.”

Jokic also plans to participate in EuroBasket next month, and he could return for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics if Serbia qualifies. Jokic cited a special pride in being able to play for his home nation.

“It means a lot, I talked with my family, it’s a totally different feeling when you play for the national team,” Jokic said. “I felt different when I came here than when I go to Denver.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • Another MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his brother and Bucks teammate, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, are in Athens waiting to join the Greek team for training camp, per Aris Barkas of EuroHoops. An agreement limits NBA players to 28 days of preparation before major FIBA tournaments and 14 days before the Olympics. The other Antetokounmpo brothers, Alex and Kostas, are already training with Greece. New Mavericks signee Tyler Dorsey is under the same restrictions as Giannis and Thanasis and can’t start training until Thursday.
  • Heat center Omer Yurtseven elected not to join the Turkish national team’s training camp in Italy, but he didn’t inform team officials of his decision or seek permission in advance, according to a EuroHoops report. The decision was made by Yurtseven rather than the Heat, the story adds, as the rookie center chose to stay in Miami and focus on preparing for training camp. The report notes that Yurtseven was suspended for eight games in 2018 for skipping national team activities without providing notice.
  • Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski and Heat rookie Nikola Jovic were denied permission by their respective teams to join Serbia for EuroBasket and the World Cup qualifiers, Askounis states in a separate story. Hawks forward Bogdan Bogdanovic is also unavailable because he’s recovering from knee surgery.

Northwest Notes: Gillespie, Edwards, Thunder, Micic

The lower left leg fracture that Nuggets two-way guard Collin Gillespie underwent surgery on last week occurred while he was at his alma mater of Villanova helping out with a team practice, his father Jim Gillespie told Mike Jensen of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“He was dribbling up court on fast break and someone in a trail position dove to take the ball away but got his leg,” Jim said in a text message. “Surgery was (Friday) and all the doctors feel he will (make) a full recovery.”

It’s a tough setback for the younger Gillespie, who went undrafted in June but quickly caught on with the Nuggets on a two-way deal that would likely have seen him splitting his time between the NBA and the Grand Rapids Gold, Denver’s G League affiliate. Jim told Jensen that his son will “hopefully (be) back on the floor in five or six months.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • In an entertaining conversation with Zion Olojede of Complex.com, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards said that one of his goals for his third NBA season is to be an All-Star starter. Edwards also said he felt like the Wolves “handed” the Grizzlies their first-round playoff series this spring. “It was like taking candy from a baby and they took the candy,” Edwards said. “We had every game won, man, and I don’t know what happened.”
  • Unlike the Sixers, who recently announced their plans for a privately funded arena development project, the Thunder will likely be seeking public funds when they begin formally working on a new arena of their own, writes Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman (subscription required). As Carlson writes, the franchise can use the threat of relocation as leverage to seek money from the city, whereas that approach wouldn’t work in Philadelphia. Carlson estimates that we’re probably still eight to 10 years away from the Paycom Center being replaced.
  • In his latest mailbag for The Oklahoman, Joe Mussatto discusses Theo Maledon‘s tenuous future with the Thunder, whether Darius Bazley or Derrick Favors will still be on the team by season’s end, and Vasilije Micic‘s trade value. Mussatto believes Oklahoma City should be willing to trade Micic’s rights for a single second-round pick, since he gets the sense the EuroLeague star is using the threat of a move to the NBA to earn bigger contracts overseas.

Nuggets’ Collin Gillespie Underwent Surgery For Leg Fracture

Nuggets two-way guard Collin Gillespie suffered a lower left leg fracture earlier this week and underwent surgery Friday night in Philadelphia to repair it, according to a team press release.

Gillespie was signed to a contract during the first week of this month after going undrafted.

He averaged 15.6 points per game for Villanova last season, shooting 41.5% from three-point range. Gillespie averaged 11.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.3 APG and 1.5 SPG in four Summer League contests.

With Gillespie out indefinitely, it’s possible the Nuggets will look for another two-way option. They already have 20 players on their camp roster, according to our latest count.

Gabe Brown Signing Exhibit 10 Deal With Nuggets

Undrafted free agent rookie Gabe Brown is signing an Exhibit 10 contract to go to training camp with the Nuggets, according to Adam Zagoria of NJ.com (Twitter link).

Brown, who declared for the draft this spring after spending four years at Michigan State, became a full-time starter for the Spartans as a senior in 2021/22, averaging 11.6 PPG and 3.8 RPG with a .382 3PT% in 36 games (28.9 MPG). His performance earned him a spot on the All-Big 10 Third Team.

Brown suited up for the Thunder‘s Summer League team this month, recording 11.0 PPG and 3.5 RPG on .421/.370/1.000 shooting in four Las Vegas contests (21.8 MPG).

Zagoria reported last month that Brown would be signing a “partially guaranteed” contract with Oklahoma City and Jake Weingarten of StockRisers.com later said it would be an Exhibit 10 deal, but based on Zagoria’s newest report, it seems as if that deal fell through.

An Exhibit 10 is a one-year, non-guaranteed minimum-salary contract that counts toward a team’s 20-man offseason roster limit, but doesn’t count against the cap unless the player makes the regular season roster. It can be converted into a two-way contract or can make a player eligible for a bonus worth up to $50K if he’s waived and joins his team’s G League affiliate.

Denver doesn’t currently have a two-way slot available, so the team may envision Brown as an affiliate player for the Grand Rapids Gold.

And-Ones: Offseason Questions, Maker, Offseason Grades

Kevin Pelton, Nick Friedell, Kendra Andrews, Ohm Youngmisuk and Jamal Collier of ESPN all expect Kevin Durant to be on the Nets’ roster to start next season, but four of the five think Donovan Mitchell will begin the 2022/23 season with the Knicks.

The ESPN colleagues, who discussed a handful of lingering offseason questions, unanimously agreed that Carmelo Anthony will be on an NBA roster at some point next season, though it might not be by training camp.

Pelton believes that the Warriors signing free agent Donte DiVincenzo to a two-year, $9.3MM deal with a player option might be the “steal of the summer” if the 25-year-old is healthy and regains his prior form. DiVincenzo struggled a bit last season after a major ankle injury required surgery during the 2021 playoffs, but he could be a bounce-back candidate for the defending champions.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Thon Maker has signed with China’s Fujian Sturgeons, according to Sportando. Maker appeared in 263 NBA games from 2016-21 with the Bucks, Pistons and Cavaliers, holding career averages of 4.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 13.8 MPG. He spent last season with Israeli club Hapoel Jerusalem, but only appeared in six games.
  • The Athletic’s staff handed out grades to all 30 NBA teams for their offseason work so far. The Nets, Hornets, Lakers, Knicks and Jazz all received an “incomplete” for various reasons, mostly roster uncertainty. Only one team, the Heat, received a grade below a B-minus, with John Hollinger giving them a “C” for losing P.J. Tucker and not finding a suitable replacement at power forward. The two teams with the highest grades? The Nuggets and Thunder, who both received an “A” for their offseason work. The Nuggets gave back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic a super-max extension, traded for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and signed Bruce Brown in free agency, a couple of two-way wings who should complement Jokic’s game nicely, per Dave DuFour. As for the Thunder, Andrew Schlecht says the primary reason they deserve an “A” is for drafting Chet Holmgren with the No. 2 overall pick last month.

Jordan Adds Rim Protection, Lob Threat

  • Why did the Nuggets choose DeAndre Jordan as a backup big rather than re-signing DeMarcus Cousins? According to Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com, there were concerns about Cousins staying healthy for a full season. He battled calf and foot injuries after signing with Denver last season. The Nuggets also wanted more rim protection at backup center and a lob threat for Denver’s current group of guards.

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.”