Nuggets Rumors

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 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 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.

Cap Impact Of Thursday’s Trades For Nets, Hawks, Nuggets

After a relatively quiet day in terms of NBA transactions on Thursday, a flurry of agreements were reached in the evening. The Nuggetsfree agent deal with veteran guard Isaiah Thomas kicked off a series of moves that saw Denver agree to send Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur to Brooklyn, with the Nets flip Jeremy Lin to the Hawks in order to create the cap room necessary to absorb the Nuggets’ unwanted contracts.

As we detailed on Thursday, the Hawks and Nets were two of the only teams with any cap room still available. The Nuggets, meanwhile, entered Thursday with one of the NBA’s highest projected payrolls, and were looking for a way to get out of luxury-tax territory. The 2018/19 cap outlooks for all three teams were altered significantly by last night’s trade agreements.

With the help of salary data from Basketball Insiders and information from cap experts Bobby Marks and Albert Nahmad, here’s a breakdown of how each team involved in last night’s action will be impacted from a cap – and tax – perspective:

Atlanta Hawks

There are a few factors to consider when determining exactly how much cap room the Hawks still have available. For one, we’re still not sure whether or not Lin is waiving his trade kicker as part of his move to Atlanta. If he doesn’t waive that trade kicker – and he’d have no real reason to – his bonus will increase his cap hit from $12.5MM to $13.75MM, cutting into the Hawks’ cap space.

Atlanta also still has Jaylen Morris and Antonius Cleveland under contract. Both players are on modest non-guaranteed salaries worth $1.38MM apiece.

If we assume that Lin’s trade kicker will increase his cap hit and Morris and Cleveland remain on the Hawks’ roster, the team projects to have about $7.7MM in cap space remaining. However, that number would increase to nearly $10.5MM without Morris and Cleveland.

Brooklyn Nets

Most of the Nets‘ leftover cap room will be eaten up by Faried’s and Arthur’s salaries. After Brooklyn completes its reported deal with second-round pick Rodions Kurucs, the team will have less than $3MM in cap space available.

The Nets still haven’t finalized their contract agreements with Joe Harris and Ed Davis, since it makes sense to use up all their cap room before they use their Early Bird rights to go over the cap for Harris and sign Davis with the room exception.

If Brooklyn determines that it will have no use for its remaining $2-3MM in cap space, the club could complete those signings after officially locking up Kurucs. However, GM Sean Marks figures to explore all options with that leftover cap room before going over the cap by signing Harris and Davis.

Denver Nuggets

There are plenty of moving parts in play for the Nuggets, who still have to finalize Thomas’ signing and waive Isaiah Whitehead, whose non-guaranteed contract will be acquired in the trade with the Nets. We also don’t have final, official figures for new contracts for Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, and Jarred Vanderbilt.

Based on what we know though, it appears the Nuggets will have a team salary of about $115MM after waiving Whitehead and signing Thomas, putting the team approximately $8.7MM below the tax line.

As Nahmad observes (via Twitter), Denver has a few unlikely incentives to consider for Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Gary Harris. The 2018/19 cap hits for those players would increase if they earn their incentives, so the Nuggets will want to leave a little breathing room to account for that. Still, the team has flexibility to use its full mid-level exception.

So far, the Nuggets have used a reported $2.84MM of their mid-level to sign Torrey Craig and Vanderbilt, which would leave about $5.8MM of the $8.64MM exception available. Denver could also technically use its $3.382MM bi-annual exception, though the team would become hard-capped if it uses any of its BAE or uses more than the taxpayer portion ($5.337MM) of the mid-level.

Contract Details For Nikola Jokic

While Nikola Jokic‘s new five-year deal with the Nuggets was reported as a maximum-salary contract, that’s not technically accurate. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter), the base value of Jokic’s new deal falls just short of the max, since it includes about $1MM per year in bonuses linked to team success.

As Lowe explains, about half of those annual bonuses can be earned if the Nuggets make the playoffs, while the other half can be earned if the club advances to the second round. Because Denver didn’t achieve either of those benchmarks in 2017/18, those bonuses are currently considered “unlikely” incentives and don’t count against the Nuggets’ cap.

In 2018/19, for instance, Jokic’s cap hit will be about $24.6MM rather than the maximum $25.5MM, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. However, if the Nuggets were to win a playoff series in 2019, Jokic would earn his first-year bonus and his second-year bonuses would subsequently be considered “likely,” causing his future cap hit to increase.

  • As expected, the Nuggets used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Torrey Craig to his new two-year deal. Craig will earn a flat $2MM salary in each season, for a $4MM total (Twitter link).

Nuggets Sign Second-Rounder Jarred Vanderbilt

The Nuggets have signed second-round pick Jarred Vanderbilt to a multiyear contract, the team announced today in a press release. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed by Denver, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets that it’s a three-year, $4MM contract.

[RELATED: 2018 NBA Draft Pick Signings]

The over-the-cap Nuggets will dip into their mid-level exception to complete the Vanderbilt signing, since the minimum salary exception would only have allowed for up to two years. The team is believed to have used a portion of its MLE on Torrey Craig, but still should have plenty left.

Vanderbilt, whose college career was limited by foot and leg injuries, appeared in just 14 games last season for Kentucky, averaging 5.9 PPG and 7.9 RPG in 17.0 MPG. Although he was unable to make much of an impact during his time with the Wildcats, the combo forward is a good athlete and has upside as a defender and rebounder.

The Nuggets used the No. 41 overall to nab Vanderbilt, trading up a couple spots to ensure that they landed him.

With Craig and Vanderbilt now on NBA contracts, and free agents like Nikola Jokic and Will Barton back in the fold as well, Denver is up to 15 players on guaranteed deals. That doesn’t leave room for two-way player Monte Morris, who had been a candidate for a promotion to the 15-man roster, prompting Gina Mizell of The Denver Post (Twitter link) to wonder if another salary-dump trade may be on the horizon for the Nuggets.

Nuggets Received $110K In Chandler Trade

  • The Sixers will receive $1.5MM from the Lakers to complete the Isaac Bonga deal, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. The Lakers have a 45-day window from July 6 to get that done, Pincus adds. Philadelphia also received the Bulls’ second-round pick in the deal for the 39th pick of this year’s draft. The Sixers are paying $110K to the Nuggets as part of the Wilson Chandler trade, Pincus adds in another tweet. Denver generated a $12.8MM trade exception from the deal.

Nuggets Sign Torrey Craig To Two-Year Deal

After playing on a two-way contract with the Nuggets last season, Torrey Craig will be promoted to the 15-man roster for the 2018/19 campaign. According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Craig has agreed to a two-year, $4MM contract with Denver. Chris Dempsey of first tweeted that the deal was done.

Craig, 27, appeared in 39 games for the Nuggets in 2017/18, averaging 4.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 16.1 minutes per contest. He also played 15 G League games for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, averaging an impressive 22.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 2.0 BPG with a .477/.386/.787 shooting line.

With his two-way deal expiring, Craig was tendered a qualifying offer last month by the Nuggets. That one-year offer was only for another two-way contract, but any other team could have signed the 6’6″ forward to an offer sheet. Denver decided not to take any chances, locking up Craig to a two-year standard contract that should assure him of a roster spot.

Assuming his new deal is indeed worth $4MM, Craig may have been signed using a portion of the Nuggets’ mid-level exception, since that figure exceeds what he could have received using the minimum salary exception or his Non-Bird rights.

With Craig out of the mix for one of Denver’s two-way slots, Monte Morris and Thomas Welsh appear likely to open the 2018/19 season as the Nuggets’ two-way players.