Nuggets Rumors

Nuggets, Monte Morris Agree To Three-Year Deal

The Nuggets have reached an agreement with Monte Morris on a three-year contract worth $4.8MM, with the first two seasons guaranteed, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Morris had been on a two-way contract with Denver, but his new deal will be a standard contract that moves him to the team’s 15-man roster.

Morris, the 51st overall pick in the 2017 draft, only appeared in three NBA games during his rookie season. However, he had a strong season for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the G League, averaging 17.8 PPG, 6.5 APG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.8 SPG in 37 contests.

The 6’2″ guard also played well for the Nuggets in Summer League action this month, posting a team-high 17.5 PPG on 50% shooting in four games in Las Vegas. He also chipped in 6.3 APG and 3.3 RPG.

Morris will fill out the roster for the Nuggets, who now have 15 players on NBA contracts. He figures to slot in as the team’s third point guard behind Jamal Murray and Isaiah Thomas. As long as both Murray and Thomas are healthy, Morris may not have much of a role in Denver’s rotation, so more G League stints are possible.

A three-year, minimum-salary contract would have been worth about $4.66MM for Morris. Based on Charania’s report, he’ll receive slightly more than that, so Denver will likely use Morris’ Non-Bird rights to complete the signing.

Michael Porter Jr. Undergoes Second Back Surgery

JULY 19, 1:30pm: Porter’s surgery involved the lumbar spine, and there is no timetable for him to start playing again, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

JULY 18, 9:46pm: Per Steve Aschburner of NBA.comNuggets rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who was recently selected by Denver with the No. 14 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft, had a second surgery on his back last week.

Porter, 19, who ultimately slid to the Nuggets on draft night due to worries about his ongoing back issues, first underwent back surgery in November of last year, which limited him to just three games during his freshman season at Missouri.

The latest procedure, according to Porter’s camp, has led to a greater understanding of Porter’s herniated-disks condition, thereby boosting he and his team’s confidence that he will be able to move on from the injury more quickly and begin his NBA career without having to sit out the 2018-19 season.

Per Aschburner, a spokesperson for the Nuggets declined to speak when reached for comment but did indicate that an update on Porter’s health from the team’s medical staff would be forthcoming.

As we relayed at the beginning of the month, Porter has already signed his rookie scale contract with the Nuggets, which will see him earn a salary of just over $2.41MM in his rookie season.

Isaiah Thomas Excited To Be A Nugget

  • Armed with deep motivation after having his career curtailed by injury, Nuggets point guard Isaiah Thomas is eager to play for a team who wanted him, reports Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com. Thomas, who played for head coach Mike Malone in Sacramento during his breakout season in 2013-14, credits Malone’s trust in him as a key to his continued success.

Nuggets Waive Isaiah Whitehead

As expected, the Nuggets have waived recently-acquired guard Isaiah Whitehead, per the NBA’s official transactions log. Whitehead had been included in the trade between Denver and Brooklyn, which sent Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, and draft picks to the Nets.

Whitehead, 23, was selected by the Nets with the 42nd overall pick in the 2016 draft and spent two seasons with the club, appearing in 89 overall games. The former Seton Hall standout was a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation in his rookie season, but saw his playing time cut back in 2017/18 as he spent more time with the Long Island Nets in the G League.  Whitehead averaged 22.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 30 games for the Nets’ NBAGL affiliate.

A Brooklyn native, Whitehead was disappointed to be included in last week’s trade, but there was no room for him in a Nets point guard rotation that will include D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Shabazz Napier. Similarly, the Nuggets had no need for another point guard with Jamal Murray, Isaiah Thomas, and Monte Morris in the mix.

Whitehead’s $1.54MM salary for 2018/19 was non-guaranteed, so Denver won’t be on the hook for his cap charge. He’ll become a free agent later this week, assuming he’s not claimed on waivers.

Nuggets Sign Thomas Welsh To Two-Way Deal

JULY 17: The Nuggets have officially signed Welsh, according to the league’s transactions log.

JULY 3: The Nuggets are expected to sign second-round pick Thomas Welsh to a two-way contract, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

Welsh, the 58th pick in the 2018 draft, spent his college career at UCLA, serving as the Bruins’ starting center for the last three years. In 2017/18, he averaged a double-double (12.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG) and added an outside shot to his game, knocking down 45 three-pointers at a 40.4% rate after having attempted just one in his first three seasons.

A year ago, when the NBA introduced the two-way contract for the first time, it became a common way for teams to sign late second-round picks. Five players drafted between 51-60 in the 2017 draft inked two-way deals, so it makes sense that Welsh would receive one in Denver.

In 2017/18, the Nuggets filled its two-way contract slots with Torrey Craig and Monte Morris. Morris’ two-way deal is for two years, so he’s the favorite to fill Denver’s second slot alongside Welsh next season. Craig is currently a restricted free agent.

Latest On Kawhi Leonard

The Spurs‘ asking price for Kawhi Leonard remains high, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne. In an article packed with Leonard-related tidbits, the ESPN duo suggests that – based on conversations with opposing teams – San Antonio appears to be seeking an All-Star caliber player, high-potential young players, and draft picks in exchange for Kawhi.

It’s not clear if the Spurs will be able to land that sort of return, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, who note that a three-way bidding war involving the Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers never really materialized. The Lakers are being patience and conveying confidence that Leonard will sign with them in 2019. As for the Celtics and Sixers, they’ve held their top players out of trade discussions and have offered pick-heavy packages, which haven’t enticed the Spurs.

Given the Spurs’ reported demands, a Raptors offer built around one of their All-Star guards (likely DeMar DeRozan), one or two of their young players, and draft picks could be the most logical package for San Antonio.

In an appearance on Zach Lowe’s ESPN podcast, Brian Windhorst said he thinks the Raptors are in the “driver’s seat” in the Leonard sweepstakes, since the Lakers and Sixers haven’t been aggressive in their pursuit of the star forward. Lowe didn’t go so far as to call the Raptors the favorites, but he cautioned not to underestimate the club or to view the rumors linking Leonard to Toronto as mere speculation.

Here are a few more notes and rumors on the NBA’s most noteworthy trade candidate:

  • In addition to the four teams noted above, the Clippers, Nuggets, Suns, Trail Blazers, and Wizards have talked to the Spurs about Leonard, league sources tell Wojnarowski and Shelburne. However, it’s unlikely that any of those teams has made a monster offer, given concerns that Kawhi would be a one-year rental. Portland hasn’t discussed Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum, for instance, per ESPN.
  • Leonard is “seriously considering” participating in Team USA’s mini-camp next week, league sources tell Wojnarowski and Shelburne. There’s a sense that the All-Star wants to show the Spurs‘ prospective trade partners that he’s healthy, but there may be a concern within Leonard’s camp that participating in the mini-camp would give San Antonio more leverage to push him to report to camp in the fall.
  • While there have been whispers that Leonard has no intention of showing up at the Spurs‘ facility if he’s not traded, rival teams generally view that as an “empty threat,” since they’re skeptical he’s willing to risk forfeiting his $20MM salary for 2018/19, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne,
  • The Spurs haven’t allowed potential trade partners to talk directly with Leonard or his camp, or to see his medical information, per ESPN’s report. It’s unlikely that stance would change unless the Spurs agree to a trade in principle with a team, Woj and Shelburne add.
  • Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders addressed the Leonard situation in his latest article, suggesting that the start of training camp could be a key deadline to keep an eye on. One source close to Leonard also tells Kyler that the forward would ideally like to be the “focal point” of a team going forward. It’s not clear how that alleged desire to be a team’s focal point will impact Leonard’s preference to join the Lakers now that LeBron James is in L.A., Kyler writes.

Contract Details For Jarred Vanderbilt

  • Jarred Vanderbilt, the 41st overall pick in this year’s draft, got a three-year, minimum-salary contract from the Nuggets with two fully guaranteed seasons (Twitter link). The third year will be non-guaranteed until July 15, 2020.

Nuggets Sign Isaiah Thomas

JULY 16: The Nuggets have officially signed Thomas, the team announced today in a press release.

JULY 12: The Nuggets will sign free agent guard Isaiah Thomas to a one-year contract, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He will accept a veteran’s minimum deal (Twitter link) and will join forces with head coach Michael Malone, who previously coached Thomas in Sacramento.

Thomas will have a $2,029,463 salary for the upcoming season, while Denver will absorb a $1,512,601 cap hit.

Thomas will try to rediscover the form that made him an MVP candidate in Boston after a brutal season that saw him traded to the Cavaliers and Lakers. He sat out the first half of the season while recovering from a lingering hip injury, then played just 15 games for Cleveland before being moved. The veteran guard was a controversial figure with the Cavs, facing frequent complaints over his attitude and poor defense.

Thomas’ performance was a little better with the Lakers, but he appeared in just 17 games before undergoing minor hip surgery in March. He has since declared himself fully healed from that procedure.

An opportunity may be waiting in Denver, which could use another scorer after trading Wilson Chandler to the Sixers last week. The Nuggets also didn’t have a ton of backcourt depth behind starting point guard Jamal Murray, so Thomas could be a key contributor and offensive play-maker for the club.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nets Notes: Lin, Faried, Napier, Vezenkov

The Nets weren’t convinced that point guard Jeremy Lin will be physically ready for training camp, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Lin, who was traded to the Hawks on Thursday, is coming off a ruptured patellar tendon that he suffered in last season’s opener.

The 29-year-old point guard hasn’t been medically cleared for three-on-three contact games and may take a while to get ready for five-on-five. He played just 37 games over two years after signing with Brooklyn in 2016 and carried a $12.5MM salary that the team needed to unload before completing a deal with Denver.

“I love Jeremy Lin because he represents the underdog in all of us — truly first class on and off the court,” tweeted co-owner Joe Tsai after the deal was completed. “Jeremy is not only exciting to watch, he sets an example for perseverance and leadership. We are great friends, and I will follow his progress no matter where he is.”

There’s more today out of Brooklyn:

  • The Nets had been trying for months to acquire Kenneth Faried from the Nuggets, Lewis adds in the same story. Brooklyn officials hoped to make a deal before last month’s draft, but Denver was unwilling to give up this year’s first-rounder, which it used to get Michael Porter Jr. Nets GM Sean Marks improved his bargaining position by unloading Timofey Mozgov to the Hornets and Lin to the Hawks, giving him enough cap room to take on Faried and Darrell Arthur while getting a future first-rounder and second-rounder.
  • Today’s agreement with Shabazz Napier will use up the last of the Nets’ remaining cap room, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Brooklyn has 14 players under contract, 13 with guaranteed money, and can now exceed the cap by finalizing deals with Joe Harris under the Early Bird exception and Ed Davis under the room mid-level exception.
  • Aleksandar Vezenkov, a second-round pick from 2016, will get a better chance to develop his skills after signing with Olympiacos in Greece this week, according to NetsDaily.com. A stretch four, Vezenkov spent last season with F.C. Barcelona, which allotted more minutes to players who weren’t likely to eventually leave for the NBA. That shouldn’t be a concern with Olympiacos, where Vezenkov will play for former Cavaliers coach David Blatt.

Nuggets Trade Faried, Arthur, Picks To Nets

JULY 13, 8:42pm: The trade is official, according to a Nets press release.

JULY 12, 5:18pm: The Nuggets have found a team willing to take on their unwanted contracts, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that Denver is sending Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, a protected 2019 first-round pick, and a 2020 second-round pick to the Nets in exchange for Isaiah Whitehead.

It’s a salary-dump deal for the Nuggets, who intend to waive Whitehead after acquiring him, Wojnarowski adds. Whitehead’s salary guarantee deadline was recently pushed back, so his $1.54MM salary for 2018/19 remains non-guaranteed — Denver won’t be on the hook for it.

Having reached a deal with Isaiah Thomas earlier in the night, the Nuggets were poised to have 16 players on guaranteed NBA contracts and were well into luxury-tax territory. Their deal with the Nets will solve both issues, reducing their roster count to 14 players after Whitehead’s release and getting their total team salary below the tax threshold.

Bobby Marks of ESPN.com has the full details, noting that the Nuggets should be about $8.7MM below the tax line after the trade, giving the team room to use the rest of its mid-level exception to fill the last spot on its roster, if it so chooses. So far, Denver has committed $2MM of its MLE to Torrey Craig and is believed to have used about another $1MM on Jarred Vanderbilt.

As Marks observes, trading Faried, Darrell Arthur, and Wilson Chandler (to Philadelphia) projects to save the Nuggets approximately $90MM in salary and tax payments. The team gave up a first-round pick and two second-rounders in those two deals.

The Nuggets have also created three sizable traded player exceptions to work with — those TPEs are equivalent to the salaries for Faried ($13.76MM), Chandler ($12.8MM), and Arthur minus Whitehead ($5.92MM)

Meanwhile, from the Nets’ perspective, they’ll rent their cap room in order to add a pair of draft assets. The big prize is the 2019 first-rounder, which is top-12 protected, according to Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Coming into the day, Brooklyn didn’t have the cap room necessary to absorb both Faried and Arthur, but the club created that space by trading Jeremy Lin to the Hawks in another deal. It’s not clear whether Faried and/or Arthur are in the Nets’ plans for 2018/19 or if they’ll become buyout candidates.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.