Nuggets Rumors

Murray Didn't Start Due To Team Violation

Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver is disappointed about getting benched but vows not to be a distraction, he told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Tolliver, who signed a one-year, $5MM+ contract to essentially replace Nemanja Bjelica in the rotation, had his first DNP of the season on Wednesday against New Orleans.

“Obviously it’s not what I came here for, but it’s been one game,” the Timberwolves forward said. “It’s a long season. Just figuring out where my value lies and go from there.”

Tolliver wasn’t notified by Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau that he would sit out. But he added that “you won’t see me complaining about anything.” Tolliver is averaging just 5.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 19.1 MPG, though he hasn’t gotten a lot of shots up (Twitter links here).

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray didn’t start Thursday’s game against Atlanta because he was late for the team’s shootaround, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. Murray only played 23 minutes, contributing 14 points and five assists in the blowout victory. Murray, who is averaging 17.5 PPG and 3.9 APG for Denver, will return to the starting lineup on Saturday against New Orleans.
  • Multiple sources believe the Trail Blazers will likely be sold during the next three years, says John Canzano of The Oregonian. Speculation has been rampant about the future of the organization in the aftermath of owner Paul Allen’s death. The timeline for the sale of the franchise, according to Canzano, would be in the 18-36-month window. The most likely buyer would be a syndicate headed by Merritt Paulson, who owns the Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers.
  • The Thunder’s offensive numbers suffer greatly with Russell Westbrook out of action but they’re posting strong defensive stats when he sits, Rob Searles of notes. OKC is scoring at a 118.1 points per game clip and shooting 47.4% in the games he’s played, compared to 103.9 PPG and 42.5% without him. However, opponents are averaging 112.3 PPG on 46.5% shooting when Westbrook is in the lineup, compared to 99.6 PPG and 44.2% when he’s in street clothes.

Nuggets Hire Sue Bird In Front Office Role

The Nuggets have officially hired WNBA star Sue Bird to their front office staff, the team announced today in a press release. According to the club, Bird will serve as a Basketball Operation Associate in Denver.

“We are very excited to have Sue join our organization,” president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said in a statement. “Her résumé certainly speaks for itself and as a still active player she will offer an extremely unique perspective.”

Bird has familiarity with several people within the Nuggets’ organization, including head coach Mike Malone, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic, who tweets that Bird and Malone got to know one another when Bird was rehabbing an injury in New York and Malone was an assistant coach for the Knicks.

Bird, a longtime WNBA player who has earned 11 All-Star nods in 16 seasons, is the latest in a string of female basketball stars hired by NBA franchises. Kristi Toliver (Wizards), Lindsey Harding (Sixers), Jenny Boucek (Mavericks), and – of course – Becky Hammon (Spurs) are among the current or former WNBA players who are now members of NBA coaching staffs or basketball operations departments.

Barton Progressing; Malone Defends Jokic

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton is making progress in his rehab after surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to an Associated Press story. There’s still no timetable for his return, but Barton said he’s “getting stronger every day.” Team doctors planned to re-evaluate his progress six weeks after the October 23 procedure, so his comeback could start in early December. Barton said strengthening core muscles is the focus of his rehab work.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone defended center Nikola Jokic, who was fined $25K this week for using “derogatory and offensive language” in a postgame interview, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post“There’s so many things being said about this poor kid, and I understand some of it, but those of us who know him, like most people in this hallway, give the kid a break,” Malone said. “He made a mistake, he’s paying for it, get off his back a little bit. He’s a great kid. He loves everybody, and he meant no offense to anybody.”

Jokic Fined For Offensive Comment

  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was fined $25K for using “derogatory and offensive language” when discussing Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter, Sean Highkin of Dime Magazine tweets. Jokic made the comment after Denver’s 108-107 overtime victory on Wednesday.

How Early Hot, Cold Streaks May Impact Traded Draft Picks

The Raptors, NuggetsBucks, Grizzlies, and Kings are among the NBA teams that have made the strongest impression in the first month of the 2018/19 season, outperforming expectations early in the year. On the other end of the spectrum, the Cavaliers and Mavericks have been among the league’s worst teams, underperforming expectations that weren’t all that high to begin with.

These teams all have something in common — they’ve traded away their 2019 first-round picks, often with protections on them. We still have about 70 games to go in ’18/19, so it’s way too early to determine exactly where those picks will fall, or even whether or not they’ll changes hands in many cases. However, based on what we’ve seen from those teams so far, we have a better idea of what to expect the rest of the way than we did a month ago.

Let’s take a look at how some of those early-season trades may affect 2019’s traded first round picks…

Toronto Raptors (11-1)
First-round pick traded to Spurs (top-20 protected)

Even with top-20 protection, this pick looks like a very safe bet to change hands. If the season ended today, it would be No. 30, since Toronto has the NBA’s best record.

Denver Nuggets (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Nets (top-12 protected)

After a season in which the Nuggets narrowly missed the playoffs, it wasn’t unreasonable for Brooklyn to hope this pick would fall in the mid-teens. Instead, with Denver looking like one of the Western Conference’s best teams so far, it may land well into the 20s.

Milwaukee Bucks (9-2)
First-round pick traded to Suns (top-3 protected; 17-30 protected)

The unusual protections on this pick will likely to prevent it from changing hands for a second consecutive year, since it projects to fall in the 17-30 range. If Milwaukee’s 2019 first-rounder doesn’t convey, the Bucks would owe the Suns their 2020 first-rounder, with top-7 protection.

Memphis Grizzlies (6-4)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-8 protected)

After finishing last season with a 22-60 record, the Grizzlies were no lock to take a major step forward in 2018/19. In the early going though, the club looks like a legitimate playoff contender. Assuming Memphis can remain in the postseason mix, even if it’s just on the outskirts, this pick should stay out of the top eight and get sent to Boston.

Sacramento Kings (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Sixers (if it’s No. 1 overall or if it’s less favorable than Sixers’ pick) or Celtics (if it’s more favorable than Sixers’ pick and isn’t No. 1 overall)

The Kings, who were expected to be one of the NBA’s worst teams entering the season, would generate some fascinating drama between the Sixers and Celtics if their pick ends up in play for No. 1 overall. However, Sacramento’s young roster has created more problems than anticipated for opponents so far, with the team occupying a playoff spot for now.

Despite the Kings’ hot start, a finish in the lottery still seems likely, but if Sacramento keeps exceeding expectations, the team’s first-round pick will almost certainly end up in Boston instead of Philadelphia, avoiding that No. 1 spot.

Los Angeles Clippers (6-5)
First-round pick traded to Celtics (top-14 protected)

This could be one to watch all season long — the Clippers currently hold a playoff spot in the West by one game, but teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Pelicans, and Rockets are right on their tail. If the Clips eventually fall out of the top eight in the West, they’ll keep their 2019 pick and would owe Boston their top-14 protected 2020 first-rounder. If L.A. keeps winning, the Celtics have a real shot at ending up with four first-rounders next spring.

Dallas Mavericks (3-8)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-5 protected)

After drafting NBA-ready prospect Luka Doncic and signing DeAndre Jordan, the Mavericks hoped to contend for the postseason and expected to lose this pick. Given the way Dallas has struggled so far, that no longer looks like a sure thing. I don’t view the Mavs as a bottom-five team in the NBA, but if they don’t turn things around soon, an aggressive second-half tank is a possibility. The Hawks would love for this pick to land in the back half of the top 10.

Cleveland Cavaliers (1-10)
First-round pick traded to Hawks (top-10 protected)

While Atlanta may luck out with the Mavs’ pick, the Hawks will probably have to wait at least one more year to get anything from the Cavaliers, who have the NBA’s worst record so far and aren’t exactly in position to turn things around. If the Cavs keep their 2019 first-rounder, they’ll owe the Hawks their top-10 protected 2020 pick.

NBA Trade Candidate Watch: Northwest Division

Over the course of the 2018/19 NBA season, up until February’s trade deadline, we’re keeping an eye on potential trade candidates from around the NBA, monitoring their value and exploring the likelihood that they’ll be moved. Each of these looks at possible trade candidates focuses on a specific division, as we zero in on three players from that division.

Entering the 2018/19 season, all five Northwest teams were projected to finish above .500. That scenario would create a dearth of sellers in the division, but that doesn’t mean there are no trade candidates to be found. In fact, the NBA’s most notable current trade candidate, one who has dominated headlines since mid-September, plays in the Northwest.

Here’s our early-season look at a few possible trade candidates from the Northwest…

Jimmy Butler, G/F
Minnesota Timberwolves
$20.45MM cap hit; $19.84MM player option for 2019/20

Since Butler’s trade request went public on September 19, our archive of Butler-related rumors and news items features a staggering 74 additional stories.

The saga has taken a number of twists and turns along the way, and we don’t need to belabor it in this space. Suffice it to say, Butler is very much available and at this point, it seems like just a matter of when – not if – the Timberwolves will move him.

While the Wolves could drag out the process to the trade deadline, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune offers five reasons why it would make sense for Minnesota to find a deal right now. When the club gets serious about moving its All-NBA swingman, the Heat, Rockets, Sixers, and Clippers are among the likeliest trade partners, though a dark horse suitor could always emerge.

Derrick Favors, F/C
Utah Jazz
$16.9MM cap hit; non-guaranteed $16.9MM salary for 2019/20

The Jazz have insisted for years that the Favors/Rudy Gobert frontcourt pairing can work, and at times it has. But Favors is a better fit at center than power forward, and Utah is a better team with a smaller power forward alongside Gobert — so far this season, the four-man duo of Gobert, Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, and Joe Ingles has a +18.6 net rating with Jae Crowder filling out the lineup, compared to a -7.5 rating with Favors in that last spot.

Sean Deveney of The Sporting News recently wrote that few people around the NBA expects Favors to remain in Utah in 2019/20, when his $16.9MM salary is non-guaranteed. Deveney suggested that if the Jazz could move Favors for a more versatile forward, an in-season trade would be a possibility.

It won’t be easy to find a forward who would improve the Jazz and whose 2018/19 salary is similar to Favors’, without any guaranteed 2019/20 money. DeMarre Carroll, who has a $15.4MM expiring deal, could be one option, but the Nets wouldn’t have much need for Favors.

Malik Beasley, G/F
Denver Nuggets
$1.77MM cap hit; guaranteed $2.73MM salary for 2019/20

Beasley hasn’t been the subject of any trade rumors this season and there’s no indication that Denver wants to move him, so this is merely speculation on my part. However, if and when Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas get healthy, there likely won’t be enough minutes to go around in the backcourt and on the wing for the Nuggets, so someone like Beasley or Torrey Craig could be the odd man out.

If the Nuggets, who currently rank 28th in the NBA in three-point percentage, go shopping for outside shooting help at the deadline, they have three sizeable trade exceptions they could use to acquire a player without sending out any salary, but they’re only about $7.5MM shy of the luxury tax threshold. In certain trade scenarios, they might want to move a small salary like Beasley’s or Craig’s in order to avoid the tax.

Here’s one hypothetical scenario involving a popular trade candidate: If the Nuggets were to send a draft pick to Cleveland for Kyle Korver, they could use one of their trade exceptions to land him, but his $7.56MM salary would nudge the team slightly over the tax line. Attaching Beasley or Craig to that draft pick would improve the package for the Cavs and allow Denver to stay under the tax.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Nuggets Were 'On The Periphery' In Offseason Kawhi Sweepstakes

  • Before Kawhi Leonard was traded to Toronto in July, the Nuggets were “on the periphery” late into the Leonard sweepstakes, but opted to hang onto their young core, says Charania. That decision has paid off so far this season, with Denver off to a 9-1 start.


Nuggets Decline Option On Tyler Lydon

The Nuggets won’t pick up the third-year option on power forward Tyler Lydon, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

The 24th pick in the 2017 draft, Lydon was acquired from the Jazz as part of the return for Donovan Mitchell, who finished second in last season’s Rookie of the Year voting. Lydon spent most of the season in the G League appearing in just one game for Denver. He has played twice this season, averaging 2.0 minutes per night.

Lydon, who would have made $2,190,720 for the 2019/20 season, will instead become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Nuggets can still re-sign him, but can’t exceed the value of his option in the first year of any new contract.

Nuggets Exercise Options On Murray, Hernangomez, Beasley

The Nuggets have officially exercised their 2019/20 team options on Jamal Murray, Juan Hernangomez, and Malik Beasley, the team confirmed today (via Twitter). Michael Scotto of The Athletic had reported on Monday that Beasley’s option would be picked up, and the other two were viewed as locks.

The trio of fourth-year options will add about $10.5MM in guaranteed money to the Nuggets’ cap for next season — $4,444,746 for Murray, $3,321,030 for Hernangomez, and $2,731,714 for Beasley. All three players will now be extension-eligible as of July 1, 2019, and would reach restricted free agency in the summer of 2020 if they don’t sign new deals with Denver before then.

Murray, the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft, is one of the Nuggets’ core pieces. So far this season, he’s averaging 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.8 APG in six games (31.2 MPG). Hernangomez and Beasley have more modest roles in Denver’s rotation, but have been seeing fairly regular playing time in 2018/19. They’re each averaging just over 15 minutes per contest.

The Nuggets’ announcement doesn’t mention Tyler Lydon, whose third-year option for 2019/20 must also be picked up by tomorrow to avoid making him an unrestricted free agency next July. Lydon has been unable to carve out a role in Denver’s crowded power forward picture, appearing in just three games since being selected 24th overall in the 2017 draft, so the club seems likely to pass on his option.

We’re tracking all of this year’s rookie scale option decisions right here.

Nuggets To Pick Up Malik Beasley’s Option

The Nuggets will exercise their 2019/20 team option on Malik Beasley in advance of Wednesday’s deadline, reports Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

It’s a fourth-year option for Beasley, who was the 19th overall pick in the 2016 draft. By picking it up, Denver will lock in his $2,731,714 cap hit for next season.

Beasley, who turns 22 next month, played sparingly in his first two seasons in Denver. He’s picking up a little extra playing time so far in 2018/19, averaging 4.8 PPG and 1.6 RPG in 12.2 minutes per contest. All of those numbers would be career highs.

The Nuggets have several option decisions to officially finalize by Wednesday’s deadline. Jamal Murray and Juan Hernangomez look like locks to have their fourth-year options exercised, but Tyler Lydon‘s third-year option is more of a question mark.