Nuggets Rumors

Northwest Notes: Conley, George, Blazers, Nuggets

Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley will earn $9,975,962 in 2024/25 followed by $10,774,038 in ’25/26 as part of his new two-year extension, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). It’s a straight two-year contract with no options, and Conley can’t be traded for six months due to the 8% raise in year two of the extension, Marks adds.

Appearing on NBA Countdown, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said (Twitter video link) Conley initially wasn’t thrilled that Utah sent him to Minnesota at last year’s deadline, having instead hoped to land with the Lakers or Clippers. However, he and his family now love the area and he was enthusiastic about staying with the Wolves.

In a story for, Kevin Pelton writes that Conley’s extension looks like a win for the Wolves on the court and off, even though they’re almost certain to be a second apron team in 2024/25. Pelton says the No. 1 seed in the West is well worth spending money on. Minnesota has only paid the tax once in franchise history, but Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez are set to become majority stakeholders next season.

Pelton also examines Minnesota’s free agents this summer and ways in which the team could trim payroll, which seems unlikely barring an unforeseen development.

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Jazz guard Keyonte George, the 16th pick of last year’s draft, spent the summer watching all 82 of Utah’s games from 2022/23 to prepare for his rookie campaign, he tells Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. “I watched as much film as I could just so I knew what my role was going to be coming in,” George said. “I knew Mike (Conley) was gone, so I just had to go into a new situation, trying to be a lead guard, and I was trying to speed up the process. My main goal was to be effective as soon as possible so I wanted to put myself in a position to be knowledgeable and not think about what I was doing in a new system and just play.” Known as more of scorer coming out of Baylor, George knew facilitating would be key to NBA minutes. He says he continues to study other players to gain an edge. “As the year has gone on, I’ve felt way more comfortable and my shot is starting to fall,” George added. “Definitely the game is slowing down for me. I’ve been watching games around the league and seeing how other guards get to their spots and just trying to figure out my spots and my shot selection.”
  • The Trail Blazers have reached a five-year “bridge agreement” with the city of Portland that will keep the team in the Moda Center through at least 2030, with the current lease expiring in 2025, per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. The Blazers own the arena but the city leases the land. President of business operations Dewayne Hankins said the move will keep the team in Portland and owner Jody Allen has instructed the Blazers to get a long-term deal done with the city.
  • The Nuggets are 25-8 with all five starters active but just 12-11 when at least one player from the group is unavailable. With that in mind, head coach Michael Malone says he’s more focused on repeating as NBA champions instead of angling for the West’s top seed, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes. “For me, (the top seed) is not a top one or two priority, to be very honest,” Malone said. “We talked about that with our team today. The good thing is Minnesota is No. 1. We play them three more times. We’re three games out (of first place). So we have avenues to become the No. 1 team. It’s definitely attainable. But I don’t want to win that battle and lose the bigger war. … I think having home court in the first round is very, very important. I think having a healthy team going into the postseason is very important. And if we happen to be the No. 1 seed, that’s just a cherry on top. But we’re not gonna put all our cards in just to attain that and to risk being healthy for a very deep playoff run.”

Three Questions Will Determine Nuggets' Fate

  • Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports looks at three issues that will define the closing part of the Nuggets‘ season: how hard they’ll pursue the No. 1 seed, whether coach Michael Malone will consider expanding his rotation, and how effective Christian Braun and Peyton Watson can continue to be.

Mavs Notes: Nelson Lawsuit, Gafford, Washington, Exum, Luka

The wrongful termination lawsuit that former Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson filed against the franchise in 2022 is scheduled to go to trial this December, according to Xuan Thai of ESPN.

Nelson’s lawsuit alleged that he was fired in retaliation for reporting that his nephew was sexually harassed and assaulted by Mark Cuban‘s chief of staff, Jason Lutin, during a job interview on February 16, 2020. Nelson claims that he didn’t find out about the incident until five months after it occurred, by which point the nephew had reached a settlement agreement with the team.

According to Nelson’s lawsuit, he was in discussions with the Mavericks about a contract extension at the time, but those talks came to an abrupt end after he reported the incident to Cuban. He was fired the following year.

The Mavericks vehemently denied the allegations in a series of statements back in 2022 when Nelson initially filed the suit. According to Thai, in their formal response, the Mavs denied that the veteran executive was wrongfully terminated, stating that his dismissal was the result of multiple other factors, including “poor job performance.”

Here’s more from out of Dallas:

  • The Mavericks are 3-0 and have the NBA’s best defensive rating since trade deadline acquisitions Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington made their debuts. But while Gafford has been playing some of his best basketball since arriving in Dallas, the team is still looking to get Washington going, head coach Jason Kidd said on Tuesday, according to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). “I’ve always talked about getting their feet settled. And I think Gafford, you can see, his feet are settled,” Kidd said. “Now it’s (about) getting P.J.’s feet settled. I think P.J. having family and friends here will help with that. And then being aggressive. We need P.J. to be aggressive and not just wait for (Kyrie Irving) or Luka (Doncic). We need him to play his game too.” Washington has averaged 8.7 points on 40.7% shooting in his first three games as a Mav.
  • Mavericks guard Dante Exum, who has played just twice since January 1 due to injuries and has been sidelined since January 27 as a result of right knee bursitis, appears to be getting close to returning to action. “No setback,” Kidd said of Exum, per Townsend (Twitter link). “He’s been working out. He’ll do practice (on Wednesday), non-contact. I think the plan is for somewhere on this road trip to get him back.” Dallas’ upcoming four-game road trip begins on Sunday in Indiana and runs through next Friday (March 1).
  • Does two-time MVP Nikola Jokic believe there’s a scenario in which he and Doncic join forces on an NBA team? Asked that question at All-Star weekend, Jokic said he has no desire to leave Denver but suggested with a laugh that if Luka gets fed up in Dallas, he’s welcome to join him on the Nuggets (Twitter video link via DNVR Sports).

Western Notes: Conley, Beal, Curry, Jokic

Timberwolves guard Mike Conley, who agreed to a contract extension on Monday, doesn’t meet the criteria for a full no-trade clause. As explained in our glossary, in order for a player to receive a no-trade clause, he must be signing a free agent contract and not an extension, must have at least eight years of NBA experience and must have spent at least four years with the team he is signing with. Conley isn’t signing a free agent contract and hasn’t spent four years in Minnesota, so he doesn’t qualify.

Suns guard Bradley Beal remains the only player in the NBA with a full no-trade clause.

Darren Wolfson of SKOR News and 5 Eyewitness News observes (Twitter link) that while Conley doesn’t qualify for a no-trade clause, he likely received assurances he wouldn’t be dealt, which possibly helped extension talks move forward.

Relatedly, The Star Tribune’s Chris Hine (Twitter link) hears that Conley’s exact extension number comes in at $20.75MM over two years. Conflicting reports Thursday indicated differing values, though it’s possible the deal includes incentives.

We have more notes from the Western Conference:

  • Beal underwent a procedure on his broken nose, according to Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic. He suffered the break in the second half of the Suns‘ January 16 game against Indiana. According to Rankin, Beal is on track to return Thursday in Phoenix’s first game out of the All-Star break against Dallas. Beal is averaging 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 30 games (all starts) with the Suns this season.
  • Warriors superstar Stephen Curry indicated he’s nowhere near retiring. “Eventually, your body will tell you when it’s time, but I don’t think I’m anywhere close to that,” Curry said (Twitter link via Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach). Curry, 35, is averaging 28.0 points per game while connecting on an absurd 42.1% of his 12.0 three-point attempts. Still, he told ESPN’s Malika Andrews (Twitter link) his 10th All-Star appearance made him contemplate the future. “This isn’t going to be around forever,” Curry said. “... I think the lesson I’ve learned is not to put any limitations on it, but approach every year like this could be the last year.
  • Even though he’s arguably the best basketball player in the world and was the only defending champion on either All-Star team, Nuggets superstar Nikola Jokic is still OK with being overlooked when compared to his peers, writes The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando. “I’m not the face of the NBA,” Jokic said.

Jokic Doesn't Support 65-Game Rule; Braun Thankful For All-Star Break

  • Nikola Jokic isn’t a fan of the NBA’s new 65-game minimum for players to qualify for postseason awards, per Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. The Nuggets center believes it puts pressure on players to take the court when they shouldn’t, adding that it likely factored into Joel Embiid‘s meniscus injury. “We saw what happened with Joel,” Jokic said. “… I just don’t like it, how it forces players to play even if they’re injured if they want to achieve something.”
  • Nuggets guard Christian Braun has been dealing with a series of injuries dating back to October, according to Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. The latest is a sprained left ankle that robbed Braun of his explosiveness and made him grateful for the week-long break. “I don’t want to sit here and make any excuses, but it hasn’t been great,” Braun said. “But I feel all right … I think this this break for me, personally, will be great for my body. I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now, is getting my body back. (It) hasn’t felt great all year.”

Gordon: All-Star Break Is Much Needed

  • Jamal Murray was passed over for All-Star recognition yet again this season, but he has something more important — a championship ring. The Nuggets guard expressed that sentiment to The Athletic’s Sam Amick. “I’m an All-Star when you need the All-Star to show up — in the playoffs,” he said. “You want the best to step up (then), right? And I think I do a good job of that. So I kind of backed myself up in that way. That’s it. That’s what it is. So it’s just more fuel to the fire. But (not being selected an All-Star) doesn’t hurt me like that, psychologically. I haven’t made it for so long, and I’m a champion. And I’m on the best team in the world playing with the best player in the world.”
  • The Nuggets enter the All-Star break on a three-game skid and Aaron Gordon tells The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando that some time off is exactly what they require. “I think everybody needs a break,” Gordon said. “Everybody needs some rest. I think that’s what it comes down to. When you’re fatigued, not only is your body tired, but your mind is tired, too. Your ability to focus is just not as laser-sharp.”

NBA Teams With Open Roster Spots

A number of free agent signings have been finalized in the days since last Thursday’s trade deadline, but there are still many teams around the NBA with one or more open spots on their respective rosters.

For clubs with just a single standard or two-way opening, there’s not necessarily any urgency to fill those spots, especially ahead of the All-Star break. But the clock is ticking for teams who have two or more openings on their standard rosters to make a move, since clubs are only permitted to carry fewer than 14 players on standard contracts for up to two weeks at a time.

With the help of our roster count tracker, here’s where things stand for all 30 teams around the NBA as of Tuesday afternoon. As a reminder, teams are typically permitted to carry up to 15 players on standard contracts and three on two-way deals.

(Note: Teams marked with an asterisk have a player on a 10-day contract.)

Teams with multiple open roster spots

  • Brooklyn Nets
    • Note: One of the Nets’ roster openings is a two-way slot.
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Milwaukee Bucks
    • Note: Both of the Bucks’ roster openings are two-way slots.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • New York Knicks *
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Phoenix Suns

The Warriors, Timberwolves, and Pelicans are all currently carrying 13 players on standard, full-season contracts, with all three of their two-way slots filled. That means they’ll have to add a 14th man at some point in the not-too-distant future to adhere to the NBA’s minimum roster requirements.

Golden State and Minnesota made trades on February 8 that dropped them below 14 players, so those two teams have until Feb. 22 to add a player. New Orleans’ deadline is coming a little earlier, since the club dipped to 13 when Malcolm Hill‘s 10-day contract expired on Feb. 6.

No roster moves are required for the Nets and Bucks, as both teams have at least 14 players on standard contracts, with one or more two-way openings. I’d expect Brooklyn and Milwaukee to fill those two-way slots before the two-way signing deadline in early March, though they don’t necessarily have to.

The Knicks and Sixers currently only have 12 players on standard, full-season contracts. New York also has Taj Gibson on a 10-day deal, while Philadelphia is poised to sign Kyle Lowry to a rest-of-season contract. Both teams will need to make at least one more roster move by Feb. 22 after dipping down to 12 players on trade deadline day last Thursday.

As for the Suns, they’re currently carrying just 13 players on standard contracts, but it sounds like they’ve already lined up a deal with a 14th man — a report earlier today indicated that they’re preparing to sign Thaddeus Young.

Teams with one open roster spot

  • Boston Celtics
  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Cleveland Cavaliers *
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Miami Heat
  • Utah Jazz
  • Washington Wizards

One of the 14 players on the Cavaliers‘ standard roster is Zhaire Smith, who is on a 10-day deal. Once his contract expires next week, the Cavs will have to either re-sign him or add another 14th man — and they’ll have to do it right away.

In addition to being prohibited from carrying fewer than 14 players on standard deals for more than two weeks at a time, NBA teams are limited to 28 days of carrying fewer than 14 players over the course of a season. The Cavs have already reached that 28-day limit, having carried just 13 players from January 4-18 and again from January 28 until February 11.

The rest of these teams have 14-man standard rosters with no two-way openings, meaning there’s no urgency for them to make any moves, though they’ll likely fill those open roster slots at some point between now and the end of the season in April.

Teams with no open roster spots

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Detroit Pistons *
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Memphis Grizzlies *
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Portland Trail Blazers *
  • Sacramento Kings
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors *

Twelve of these 13 teams have full 18-man rosters, with 15 players signed to standard contracts and three to two-way deals. However, the Pistons, Trail Blazers, and especially the Raptors are worth monitoring here, since they all have players on 10-day contracts and can open up roster spots when those deals expire.

Detroit and Portland are each carrying a single player on a 10-day deal, while Toronto has two, meaning the Raptors will dip down to 13 players on standard contracts during the All-Star break. They’ll have up to two weeks to get back to 14.

The Grizzlies are actually carrying 19 players at the moment, with 16 players on standard contracts (15 full-season deals, plus Jordan Goodwin on a 10-day) because they’ve been granted a hardship exception due to all the injured players they’re missing.

And-Ones: MVP Race, 2024 Draft, Korkmaz, Okafor, More

With Joel Embiid no longer eligible for this season’s MVP award due to the number of games he has missed, the race appears wide open, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN, who conducted another version of his straw poll ahead of the All-Star break.

The 100 media members polled over the weekend by MacMahon selected Nuggets center Nikola Jokic as the current MVP favorite, with Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as the runner-up. Jokic earned 69 first-place votes and was the only player selected by all 100 voters on their five-player ballots, while Gilgeous-Alexander was listed on 99 ballots and was the top choice on 24 of them.

Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, and Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard rounded out the top five in Bontemps’ latest poll, with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, and Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell also appearing on double-digit ballots. Notably, while just four of 100 media members had Anthony Edwards in their top five, one made the Timberwolves guard their MVP choice.

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

  • Although Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN (Insider link) still feel as if the 2024 draft class is short on high-end talent, they believe it could end up being a relatively deep draft. Givony and Woo suggest that some teams will be able to find rotation players later in the first round or in the second round, even if there are no sure-fire stars at the top of the class.
  • After being traded from Philadelphia to Indiana and then waived by the Pacers, veteran swingman Furkan Korkmaz has turned down interest from Turkish club Besiktas for now and is hoping to remain in the NBA, according to a report from Eurohoops. Korkmaz didn’t play much for the Sixers the past two seasons, but is still just 26 years old and is a 36.1% three-point shooter over the past five years.
  • Former lottery pick Jahlil Okafor is on the move again, having recently signed with Puerto Rican team Capitanes de Arecibo, as Dario Skerletic of Sportando relays. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor played in Spain and China earlier this season. He last played in the NBA with Detroit in 2020/21.
  • Grizzlies guard Vince Williams has been chosen to replace injured Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels in this Friday’s Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend, while Indiana Mad Ants guard Kyle Mangas will replace Sixers two-way player Kenneth Lofton Jr. in the G League Next Up game, according to a pair of announcements from the NBA and NBAGL.

Northwest Notes: Hayward, Morris, Jazz, Strawther

Gordon Hayward has battled injuries for the past several seasons and is no longer playing at the same level as he was back in 2017 when he made his first and only All-Star game. But Hayward is the sort of big wing who has real value on a playoff roster, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who notes that the price the Thunder paid to acquire the veteran forward – three matching salaries and a pair of second-round picks – was relatively modest.

Hayward may end up being no more than an insurance policy for the Thunder, Mussatto acknowledges, but in a best-case scenario, he’ll become a regular rotation piece and perhaps even a player who could be part of closing lineups. And, as Mussatto points out, the three players Oklahoma City gave up for Hayward (Davis Bertans, Tre Mann, and Vasilije Micic) almost certainly wouldn’t have been playoff contributors.

Hayward, who has been sidelined since December 26 due to a calf injury, appeared to be nearing a return for the Hornets, but he won’t play until after the All-Star break for Oklahoma City, tweets Joel Lorenzi of The Oklahoman.

As Rylan Stiles of Locked on Thunder notes (via Twitter), head coach Mark Daigneault suggested Hayward is probably healthy enough to play today, but the Thunder want to put him through their return-to-play protocol and let him adjust to his new surroundings before he takes the court.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch is enthusiastic about having the opportunity to add newly acquired guard Monte Morris to his rotation, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. “He’s a winner. He just kind of makes the right play. Super solid, low-turnover guy,” Finch said. “He’s used to playing off of a lot of star players really well. I think it’s a fairly seamless partnership with Mike (Conley). It’s not like this other type of guard that you have to adjust to. Just his high basketball IQ, you can’t have enough of those guys.”
  • Morris also expressed excitement about joining the Timberwolves and said on Friday that he’s still getting up to game speed after spending most of the season recovering from a quad injury, per Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. “I was out for a long period of time,” Morris said. “Realistically, I’d say just ramp up my strength and conditioning running. I’ve played in games. I’m not dead tired, but I know there’s another notice I can get to, and I’ll get to it really, really soon.”
  • The Jazz‘s moves at the trade deadline signal that they continue to prioritize the long term over the short term, despite the fact that they currently hold a play-in spot, writes Andy Larsen of The Star Tribune. As Larsen observes, the departures of Kelly Olynyk, Ochai Agbaji, and Simone Fontecchio should open up playing time for rookies Taylor Hendricks and Brice Sensabaugh.
  • Nuggets forward Julian Strawther, who was sidelined for over a month due to a knee injury, played on Friday for the first time since January 4, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in 20 minutes. According to Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (subscription required), head coach Michael Malone said prior to Friday’s game that Strawther wouldn’t necessarily be assured of a consistent rotation role going forward.

And-Ones: Embiid, NBA Cup, Taxpayers, Sochan, Rising Stars, More

Team USA head coach Steve Kerr, who texted Sixers center Joel Embiid this week to say hello and wish him well in his recovery from knee surgery, remains hopeful that the reigning MVP will be able to play in this summer’s Olympics, writes Dan Gelston of The Associated Press.

“Our fingers are crossed he’ll be healthy this summer and able to play,” Kerr said. “He’s an amazing player and we’re really excited to have him be part of the program.”

While the Sixers are hopeful that Embiid will be able to return before the end of the season and compete in the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising if the big man decided to forgo the Olympics and take the summer to rest and recuperate, given the nature of his injury. There’s still plenty of time to figure out his plan though, since the Paris games are still over five months away.

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

  • The NBA’s in-season tournament will have a new name going forward, according to the league, which announced on Thursday in a press release that the event will be known as the NBA Cup and will be sponsored by the airline Emirates. NBA referees will also begin wearing Emirates patches on their uniforms later this month, per the announcement.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) breaks down what the luxury tax figures for 2023/24 look like after the trade deadline, noting that nine of the 10 teams projected to be taxpayers a month ago either shed salary or stood pat. The Sixers and Pelicans ducked out of the tax, while the Suns were the only one of those 10 teams to increase their payroll. The 22 non-taxpayers currently project to receive $11.5MM apiece this offseason, Marks adds.
  • Spurs sophomore Jeremy Sochan has replaced injured Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe in next weekend’s Rising Stars game, the NBA announced in a press release. The league also shared (via Twitter) the results of the Rising Stars draft, with coaches Jalen Rose, Pau Gasol, and Tamika Catchings building seven-man rosters from a 21-player pool.
  • Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan would be open to the possibility of playing in Europe later in his career, he said during an interview with Toni Canyameras from Mundo Deportivo (hat tip to BasketNews). Jordan specifically named Barcelona as a team that would pique his interest, since he loves Spain.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic shares some observations on the trade deadline, noting that many of the would-be buyers didn’t have the assets necessary to take a big swing this week.