Nuggets Rumors

Serbia, Greece Set 12-Man Rosters For Olympics

Two more nations have set their 12-man rosters for the upcoming Olympic games in Paris, with Serbia and Greece both officially announcing their squads (Twitter links).

The Serbian roster is headlined by three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and includes a few more NBA players beyond the Nuggets center. Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hornets guard Vasilije Micic, and Heat forward Nikola Jovic will also represent Serbia in Paris.

Jovic’s inclusion is particularly notable, since there was some uncertainty earlier this month about whether he’d be healthy enough to play. He injured his ankle during an offseason workout in Miami in June, but has apparently received medical clearance for the Olympics.

Nikola Milutinov, Ognjen Dobric, Vanja Marinkovic, Marko Guduric, Filip Petrusev, Aleksa Avramovic, Dejan Davidovac, and Uros Plavsic round out Serbia’s roster. Former NBA first-round pick Aleksej Pokusevski, who finished last season with the Hornets, isn’t among the final 12.

Meanwhile, Greece has also confirmed its Olympic roster, which will be led by another former NBA MVP, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis is the only Antetokounmpo suiting up for Greece in France at this year’s event, since his brothers Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Kostas Antetokounmpo are both dealing with injuries.

While Giannis is the only active NBA player on the Greek roster, a few others have previously played in the league, including Nick Calathes, Georgios Papagiannis, and Kostas Papanikolaou. Former Stephen F. Austin standout Thomas Walkup also signed an NBA contract back in 2016, though he never appeared in a regular season game.

Dinos Mitoglou, Giannoulis Larentzakis, Vassilis Charalampopoulos, Nikos Chougkaz, Dimitris Moraitis, Panagiotis Kalaitzakis, and Vassilis Toliopoulos make up the rest of Greece’s roster.

Serbia’s first pool-play game of the Olympics will take place on Sunday vs. Team USA, while Greece’s Olympic schedule will tip off a day earlier, with a Saturday showdown vs. Canada.

Russell Westbrook Gave Up $1.7MM In Buyout Agreement With Jazz

As part of a buyout agreement with the Jazz, veteran guard Russell Westbrook gave up exactly $1.7MM, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Utah waived Westbrook on Saturday.

The buyout reduces Westbrook’s cap hit on Utah’s books from $4,027,525 to $2,327,525, giving the team a little extra salary cap flexibility. No team currently has more cap space than the Jazz, who still have about $33MM in available room.

The Jazz also reportedly received $4.3MM in cash from the Clippers in their trade for Westbrook, so despite being on the hook for about $2.33MM of the guard’s salary, they’ll come out nearly $2MM ahead from a financial perspective.

Westbrook will also come out ahead, since he’s reportedly on track to sign a minimum-salary contract with the Nuggets. That deal with Denver will pay him $3,303,771, increasing his total earnings for the 2024/25 season to $5,631,296, exceeding what he would have made if he had remained on his original $4.03MM contract.

As for the Clippers, they presumably could’ve reached a similar buyout agreement with Westbrook, but trading him to Utah allowed them to give Kris Dunn a more lucrative contract than they otherwise would’ve been able to. Using Westbrook’s $4MM+ outgoing salary for matching purposes, L.A. acquired Dunn via sign-and-trade, giving him a starting salary of $5,168,000 on his new three-year deal.

Westbrook is on track to serve as Jamal Murray‘s primary backup and play a significant role in Denver this season. Nikola Jokic reportedly advocated for the addition of the former MVP.

Column: Don't Start Westbrook

  • The Nuggets shouldn’t put Russell Westbrook in the starting lineup to fill Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s spot, Sean Keeler of the Denver Post opines. Westbrook is joining Denver after clearing waivers on Monday. Westbrook would be better off anchoring a mostly youthful second unit, providing leadership and a change of pace. He’d be a better backup at the point than Reggie Jackson – who was dealt to Charlotte – was last season, Keeler adds. Westbrook would still get chances to start if and when Murray is unavailable.

Jazz Waive Russell Westbrook

The Jazz have officially waived Russell Westbrook, the team announced in a press release. The 35-year-old point guard, who was acquired from the Clippers on Thursday, is expected to join the Nuggets after clearing waivers on Monday.

Westbrook was sent to Utah as part of a sign-and-trade involving free agent guard Kris Dunn, who reached an agreement with L.A. shortly after the start of free agency. The Jazz received a second-r0und pick swap and cash in the deal, which gave the Clippers the ability to remove Westbrook’s salary from their books while offering Dunn a higher salary than they otherwise could’ve.

This is the second time in 17 months that Westbrook has been traded to Utah and then released without playing a game. The Jazz also picked him up from the Lakers in a February 2023 deal before negotiating a buyout that enabled him to join the Clippers.

It’s not clear yet if there was a buyout involved this time or if Utah agreed to pay Westbrook his entire $4MM contract for the upcoming season. He’ll earn about $3.3MM with Denver, which is limited to offering him a veteran’s minimum contract due to apron restrictions.

Westbrook could have tested the free agent market this summer, but he opted to exercise his option and remain in L.A. The Clippers immediately began working with him to find a trade, and the Nuggets, who need a backup point guard after sending Reggie Jackson to Charlotte, quickly emerged as the most likely destination. Adding Westbrook as a free agent simplifies things for Denver, which doesn’t have to worry about matching salaries in a trade.

Westbrook, a nine-time All-Star and former MVP, settled into a bench role in his first full season with the Clippers. He appeared in 68 games and averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals on .454/.273/.688 shooting in 22.5 minutes per night.

Nuggets To Sign Spencer Jones To Two-Way Deal

The Nuggets will fill their open two-way contract slot by signing undrafted rookie free agent Spencer Jones to a two-way deal, reports Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (Twitter link).

A 6’7″ forward, Jones spent all five of his college seasons at Stanford from 2019-24, starting 139 of his 146 games during that time. As a super-senior last season, he averaged 11.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 steals in 29.1 minutes per game, with a shooting line of .438/.409/.645.

Jones was a 39.7% three-point shooter on 5.4 attempts per contest across his five seasons with the Cardinal, setting a school record with 315 career made three-pointers. Denver likes his combination of size, skill, and shooting, according to Durando.

Jones was on the Trail Blazers’ Summer League roster in Las Vegas. He came off the bench in Portland’s first game last Saturday, but was ruled out for Monday’s contest due to an illness and hasn’t played since.

Denver filled its other two-way slots earlier this month by signing two other undrafted rookies, Trey Alexander and PJ Hall. Once they complete their reported signings of Jones, Russell Westbrook, and DeAndre Jordan, the Nuggets will have 15 players on guaranteed standard contracts and three on two-way deals, so they’ll essentially be set for the regular season.

A player who spends the entire 2024/25 season on a two-way deal will be eligible to appear in up to 50 NBA regular season games and will earn a salary of $578,577.

Olympic Notes: Durant, Team USA, Jokic, Murray

Suns star Kevin Durant, who is recovering from a strained calf, participated in Team USA’s practice in London on Friday, per Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. It was the first time Durant has practiced with the team ahead of the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

The United States will face South Sudan on Saturday and Germany on Monday in its last pre-Olympic tune-up games. Durant is day-to-day and is considered questionable to play in those contests.

I’m going to see how I feel after practice today,” Durant said.

Here are some more notes ahead of the Olympics, which begin next week:

  • Team USA has gone 3-0 in exhibition contests vs. Canada, Australia and Serbia thus far. While the Americans’ roster is brimming with talent and skill, and their record is unblemished in unofficial games, not everything has been clicking so far, particularly the awkward fit of Joel Embiid, according to Michael Pina of The Ringer. Embiid is used to being the center of his team’s offense, but he has looked out of sorts playing under a different set of rules and with a reduced role, Pina observes. On the other hand, the team’s defense — led by Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo — has been extremely impressive ahead of the Olympics, says Pina.
  • Three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic undoubtedly raises the ceiling of the Serbian national team, but participating in international events for his home country also comes with increased scrutiny, as Bennett Durando of The Denver Post writes. “It’s a big burden, because it’s kind of like, he’s the best basketball player in the world,” said Nuggets assistant Ognjen Stojakovic, who has coached for Serbia since last summer. “People identify themselves with athletes and sports. They all have high expectations, especially for the national team. … There’s so much pressure on Nikola to play. And not just Nikola, for every athlete to play in all those big competitions.” Serbia is in Group C, alongside the U.S., South Sudan and Puerto Rico.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was held out of Canada’s exhibition game vs. France on Friday, tweets Josh Lewenberg of The Canadian national team said Murray was rested for precautionary reasons. The 27-year-old battled a left calf strain and a right elbow injury during the playoffs, but Denver was eliminated from contention more than two months ago.
  • In case you missed it, Suns forward/center Bol Bol will miss the Olympics for South Sudan due to personal reasons.

Northwest Notes: Dillingham, Wolves, Hendricks, Nuggets

Timberwolves guard Rob Dillingham, the No. 8 overall pick of last month’s draft, has been receiving advice from Mike Conley and John Wall as he prepares for his rookie season, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

Dillingham said he reached out to new teammate Conley for defensive advice. As for Wall, the former All-Star point guard is a North Carolina native who went to Kentucky, just like Dillingham.

That’s my guy,” Dillingham said of Wall. “He been knowing me, texting me and stuff. At Kentucky, he came to all our games. I just hit him after the [Pelicans] game. I was super mad because I didn’t play that well. I just hit him, and he was just telling me to play my game.”

Here’s more from the Northwest:

  • Michael Rand and Hine of The Star Tribune recently discussed which Timberwolves players participating in Summer League have the best odds of becoming rotation members in the future. Despite struggling so far in Las Vegas, Dillingham will be given “every chance” to be Conley’s backup at point guard next season, according to Rand and Hine, who also expect fellow first-rounder Terrence Shannon to carve out rotation minutes in 2024/25. Former second-round pick Leonard Miller has impressed at Summer League, but he’s more likely to contribute in 2025/26 than ’24/25, per Rand and Hine.
  • Second-year Jazz forward Taylor Hendricks bounced back with a strong performance at Summer League on Wednesday after struggling on Monday, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. A lottery pick last year (No. 9 overall), Hendricks contributed 23 points (on 9-of-10 shooting), nine rebounds, one steal and one block. “I think he was just more aggressive and more physical right from the start,” said Summer League coach Sean Shelden. ” … How you stick in a rotation, how you stick in the NBA, is just playing like how he did tonight.”
  • In a subscriber-only story for The Denver Post, Bennett Durando breaks down the Nuggets‘ projected depth chart for next season. Durando has Christian Braun sliding into the starting lineup at shooting guard, with Russell Westbrook, Julian Strawther, Peyton Watson, Vlatko Cancar and Dario Saric as Denver’s first five off the bench. Westbrook will reportedly sign with the Nuggets after he finalizes a buyout with Utah and clears waivers.

Clippers, Jazz Complete Trade Involving Westbrook, Dunn

8:04pm: The trade is official, according to an announcement from the Jazz, who also acquired the draft rights to Balsa Koprivica (the No. 57 pick in 2021) in the deal.

1:33pm: The Clippers are sending Russell Westbrook, a second-round pick swap, and cash to the Jazz in order to acquire free agent guard Kris Dunn via sign-and-trade, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links). The second-round swap will be for 2030, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic.

Westbrook is expected to reach a buyout agreement with Utah and eventually sign with the Nuggets once he clears waivers, according to Wojnarowski.

Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears that Dunn will sign a three-year, $17MM contract. The final season of Dunn’s deal with Los Angeles will be a team option, per Woj (Twitter link).

Strangely, this will be the second time that Westbrook will be traded to — and then waived by — Utah in 17 months, with the first instance coming in February 2023. In this case, the Jazz are acquiring a second-round swap and some cash in exchange for using a small chunk of their cap room to take Westbrook’s salary off L.A.’s books.

The 35-year-old will earn a little over $4MM this season, while the minimum salary for a player with his amount of experience will earn about $3.3MM. We’ll have to wait and see how much he gives up in the buyout, but it’s safe to assume he’ll be on a minimum-salary deal with the Nuggets — it’s all they can offer due to their financial situation.

Westbrook exercised his player option this summer but reports came out almost immediately saying the Clips were working with him on a trade. He has essentially only been linked to Denver, which has an opening at backup point guard after salary dumping Reggie Jackson to Charlotte.

Three-time MVP Nikola Jokic is reportedly a fan of Westbrook, who also received an endorsement from veteran center DeAndre Jordan. The nine-time All-Star and former MVP averaged 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals on .454/.273/.688 shooting in 68 games with the Clips last season (22.5 minutes per contest).

Haynes reported on July 1 that Dunn would sign with the Clippers, with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports later stating that the two sides were working on sign-and-trade scenarios to open a wider salary range for the 30-year-old guard. It took a few weeks, but a deal has finally come to fruition.

The fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft, Dunn didn’t live up to his draft billing in Minnesota or Chicago during the early years of his career, but has evolved into a solid rotation piece in recent years. Dunn spent the past two seasons in Utah, where he provided solid, versatile defense in the Jazz’s backcourt and earned praise from head coach Will Hardy for his voice in the locker room.

In 88 total appearances (35 starts) across two seasons in Utah, Dunn averaged 7.4 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, with a shooting line of .497/.395/.741.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Westbrook, Hendricks, Dozier

Asked on ESPN’s broadcast on Tuesday about what holes still need to be filled on the Nuggets‘ roster, head coach Michael Malone pointed to the backup point guard spot, saying that Denver could use “somebody to play behind Jamal Murray,” according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Malone added that general manager Calvin Booth is “all over it.”

The point guard who has been linked most frequently to the Nuggets this offseason is former MVP Russell Westbrook — he and Denver reportedly have mutual interest, and the Clippers are looking to move the 35-year-old. However, it’s unclear if the Nuggets and Clippers will be able to work out a trade that makes sense for both sides, so Westbrook is considered more likely to join Denver as a free agent.

Westbrook would be a logical fit in Denver if the team can find a way to add him, says Tony Jones of The Athletic. As Jones outlines, Westbrook’s ability to put pressure on defenses off the dribble is something the Nuggets didn’t have enough of last season. The team could also benefit from his passing, his on-court “swagger,” and his ability to play significant rotation minutes, which would allow Malone to lean less heavily on his starters, Jones adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nikola Jokic shouldn’t be happy with the Nuggets‘ offseason so far, according to Sean Keeler of The Denver Post, who argues in an opinion column that the front office has made several missteps in the past year or two and that many of Denver’s conference rivals have improved their rosters while the Nuggets have arguably gotten worse.
  • Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune is concerned about Taylor Hendricks‘ underwhelming Summer League performance, including a three-point, five-rebound showing on Monday that saw the Jazz forward go 0-of-6 from the floor and fail to make a defensive impact. Hendricks is still just 20 years old, so there’s plenty of time for last year’s No. 9 overall pick to show improvement, but he’ll have to make major strides to warrant a rotation role next season, Larsen contends.
  • PJ Dozier‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Timberwolves is partially guaranteed for $1MM, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News and SKOR North (Twitter link). Dozier will be assured of his full salary (approximately $2.6MM) if he remains under contract through the league-wide guarantee date of January 7.

Western Notes: Markkanen, Warriors, Podziemski, Strawther, Holmes, Clippers

After sharing some reporting on Monday about the trade talks between the Warriors and Jazz concerning star forward Lauri Markkanen, Shams Charania of The Athletic appeared on SiriusXM NBA Radio later in the day to provide some additional insight into where things stand between the two Western Conference clubs.

“I don’t think (the Jazz) want to move Lauri Markkanen,” Charania said (Twitter video link; hat tip to Ali Thanawalla of NBC Sports Bay Area). “But if the Golden State Warriors put in a Brandin Podziemski and – from what I’m told – three first-round picks, three or four unprotected pick swaps, three or four second-round picks…”

Asked at that point if Jonathan Kuminga is a player the Jazz are seriously pursuing in their discussions with the Warriors, Charania’s downplayed the forward’s importance in getting a deal done, suggesting that Kuminga – who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason – isn’t as high a priority for Utah as Podziemski is.

“From everything I’ve been told, the Jazz are more focused on Brandin Podziemski and his inclusion in the deal (and) all the picks being in the deal,” Charania said. “And I think from the Warriors’ perspective, (if) it’s Podziemski, then there’s not all the picks, and if it’s all the picks, then there’s not going to be a Podziemski.

“… Both sides are kind of entrenched right now at where they’re at. (I’m not) saying nothing is going to change. Only time will tell. But I think the Jazz are very comfortable with extending Lauri Markkanen, and at that point you’ll see more suitors potentially as well in on him — not just teams that feel like, ‘OK, we’ll be able to re-sign him.”

As we’ve previously outlined, Markkanen becomes eligible on August 6 for a renegotiation and extension. If the Jazz extend him on that day, he would become trade-eligible on February 6 – the day of the 2025 trade deadline – whereas if he were to sign an extension on August 7 or later, he would be ineligible to be dealt until the 2025 offseason.

Here’s more from around the West:

  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic takes a look at where things stand for the Warriors after an eventful few weeks, noting that – with Klay Thompson and Chris Paul gone – Podziemski could have a chance to become the starting shooting guard and Stephen Curry‘s primary backup at point guard. As Kawakami observes, given the significant role the 21-year-old may play in Golden State going forward, it’s no surprise the team would prefer to keep him out of an offer for Markkanen.
  • Despite dealing with a sore right ankle, second-year Nuggets forward Julian Strawther has been a Summer League standout, averaging 28.5 PPG with a .409 3PT% in two games in Las Vegas. Strawther averaged just 10.9 MPG across 50 appearances as a rookie, but teammate Peyton Watson is optimistic that the 2023 first-rounder will play a larger role in 2024/25. “He obviously has a gift shooting the rock,” Watson told Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “He’s a big-time shooter. That’s gonna be big for us this coming year. I’m super excited for him. He already showed flashes of what he can do this season, and he’s had some big games for us already. So I expect him to have plenty more, and I can’t wait to play a lot more with him.”
  • The Nuggets confirmed in a brief announcement on Monday that rookie forward DaRon Holmes has undergone a surgical repair of his right Achilles tendon. The team didn’t provide a specific recovery timeline for Holmes, but the expectation is that he’ll miss the entire 2024/25 season after tearing his Achilles in his Summer League debut.
  • The Clippers will return to Seattle for a third consecutive preseason, having announced on Monday in a press release that they’ll host the Trail Blazers on October 11 at Climate Pledge Arena.