Jamal Murray

Northwest Notes: Tolliver, Murray, Blazers, Westbrook

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 DailyThunder.com 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 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.

Rockets Making Strong Effort To Land Jimmy Butler

The Rockets are making a “strong effort” to acquire Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Timberwolves, sources tell Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link). Berman’s report comes after ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated on Wednesday that Houston was pursuing Butler.

Wojnarowski, who suggested that the Rockets were “trying to be creative” as they explored trade possibilities for Butler, wrote that it would be tricky for the club to pull off a deal for the All-NBA wing without involving a third team. Berman, meanwhile, doesn’t offer much in the way of specifics.

It’s hard to imagine Houston being able to trade for Butler without giving up Eric Gordon, whose $13MM+ salary would make for a good salary-matching piece and whose ability to make an immediate impact might appeal to Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Rockets also have full control over their future first-round picks, though the value of their 2019 selection would be limited, since it’s likely to fall in the late-20s.

Although the Rockets are apparently pushing to land Butler, they’re not the only team involved. Wojnarowski’s report on Thursday named the Clippers and Cavaliers as other clubs in the mix, with the Heat still considered the most aggressive suitors. The Wizards and Mavericks have also gauged the asking price on Butler, while the Nets have interest but haven’t engaged Minnesota recently, per Woj.

Here’s more on Butler:

  • The Heat are open to the idea of taking on Gorgui Dieng‘s contract from the Timberwolves “under the right circumstances,” according to Wojnarowski.
  • Wojnarowski indicates that potential trade partners are skeptical of Thibodeau’s willingness to move Butler, since he’s making counter-offers he knows would never be accepted. In an appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer provided an example, reporting that the Timberwolves asked for Ben Simmons when they made a counter-offer to the Sixers (hat tip to Dane Delgado of NBC Sports). We passed along a report earlier today suggesting that Philadelphia has since pulled out of the Butler sweepstakes.
  • The Nuggets were mentioned several days ago as a potential dark horse for Butler, but T.J. McBride of Mile High Sports hears that Denver views Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris as “untouchable” (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). A trade for an All-Star like Butler is probably a long shot without any of those players involved.
  • Earlier today, we relayed an update on the Kings‘ potential involvement in the Butler talks — Sacramento is still interested in getting involved as a facilitator, but will be cautious about adding too much multiyear money to its cap.

Northwest Rumors: Butler, Porter, Thunder, Aminu

The Nets, Knicks, Nuggets, Sixers and Lakers are potential landing spots for Jimmy Butler if the Timberwolves decide to trade him before he hits free agency next summer, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. Butler is reportedly meeting with Minnesota’s brass on Monday to discuss his future with the organization. The Nets could offer a package featuring the Nuggets’ top-12 protected 2019 first-round pick, as well as defensive-minded wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, while Denver could make either Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. the centerpiece in a deal for the All-Star wing, Urbina adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Porter is trying to return to full strength after two back surgeries and there’s no guarantee he’ll play this season, Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website writes in a player profile. The Nuggets will keep him on the sidelines until they’re convinced the rookie forward won’t have any setbacks. There’s no timetable on when he will be ready to make his debut, Dempsey adds.
  • Defense will be the Thunder’s biggest strengths this season, according to Basketball Insiders’ season preview of the team. The return of Andre Roberson from his knee injury and the subtraction of Carmelo Anthony give the Thunder five above-average-to-elite defenders in their lineup. Oklahoma City’s biggest issue is closing out games but without the chemistry issues caused by trying to fit Anthony in with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, its performances in the clutch should also improve this season.
  • Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jusuf Nurkic have returned to Portland after competing in regional FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, according to Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. Aminu helped Nigeria go 3-0 during the tournament but Bosnia and Herzegovina went winless in two games despite the efforts of Nurkic.
  • Shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom has remained in Minnesota to work out following his recent tryout with the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. He could still be added to the training camp roster, Wolfson adds.

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Thibodeau, Collison, Murray

After two years of trying to earn an NBA job, Royce O’Neale broke through in a big way with the Jazz last season, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. After unexpectedly making the roster in training camp, O’Neale played in 69 games and was part of the rotation right through the playoffs. As he prepares for his second NBA season, O’Neale hasn’t changed his mindset of fighting to prove he belongs on the team.

“I can’t rest,” O’Neale said. “I still have to come out here and play with a chip on my shoulder.”

O’Neale has dedicated the summer to working on ball-handling and 3-point shooting, as well as spending time in the weight room. He heads into this year’s camp with a contract in hand, even though both seasons are non-guaranteed. O’Neale will receive $1,378,242 this season and $1,618,520 in 2019/20 if he remains on the roster.

There’s more tonight from the Northwest Division:

  • Coming off a difficult season with the Timberwolves, coach/executive Tom Thibodeau feels refreshed after a summer away from the team, relays Jim Souhan of The Star-Tribune. Minnesota entered the season with high expectations after trading for Jimmy Butler and signing Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, but the pieces didn’t always fit together well and the Wolves had to win on the final night of the regular season to reach the playoffs. “I know I have to recharge,” said Thibodeau, who spent much of the summer traveling. “Now that I’m back here, I walk around the lake quite a bit. It’s beautiful here in the summer.”
  • The Thunder should honor Nick Collison‘s years of service to the organization by retiring his number, contends an article in The Oklahoman (subscription only.) Collison was the 12th pick in the 2003 draft by the SuperSonics and remained with the team for a full decade after its move to Okahoma City. He announced his retirement in May.
  • Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has proven he can excel on offense, but he still needs to improve at the other end of the court, contends Joel Rush of Forbes. Rush runs the numbers and shows that Murray’s ineffectiveness on defense negates much of what he contributes on offense.

Canada Basketball Unveils 18 Training Camp Invites

Canada Basketball has announced its preliminary 18-man roster of players who have been invited to participate in training camp and exhibition play ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers next month, reports Josh Lewenberg of The Sports Network.

Among the 18 named individuals, eight played in the NBA last season – Khem Birch (Magic), Chris Boucher (Warriors), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies), Cory Joseph (Pacers), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Kelly Olynyk (Heat), Dwight Powell (Mavericks), and Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers).

The preliminary roster also includes former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, as well as three other G League players – Aaron BestOlivier Hanlan, and Kaza Kajami-Keane.

The remaining six players are former first-round pick of the Magic, Andrew Nicholsonformer college standouts’ Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim, Baylor’s Brady Heslip, and Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos, as well as brothers Phil Scrubb and Tommy Scrubb.

As also highlighted by Lewenberg, notable absences include Trey Lyles (Nuggets), Nik Stauskas (Nets), and most glaringly, Andrew Wiggins (Timberwolves). Per Lewenberg, multiple sources indicated that one factor in Wiggins’ decision to decline Canada Basketball’s invitation is his strained relationship with national team head coach Jay Triano, who left Wiggins on the bench during the final moments of a qualifying game for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Draft Notes: Ayton, Pinson, Spalding, Amius, Eubanks

DeAndre Ayton is the top pick in ESPN Jonathan Givony’s latest mock draft heading into the draft lottery on Tuesday. Givony has the Arizona center going to the Suns, Euro guard Luka Doncic being snapped up by the Grizzlies at No. 2 and Duke big man Marvin Bagley III heading to the Mavericks at No. 3. Naturally, the deck could be shuffled after Tuesday’s results. Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr. (Hawks) and Texas center Mohamed Bamba (Magic) round out the Top 5.

In other draft-related developments:

  • North Carolina combo guard Theo Pinson will participate in the draft combine in Chicago, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Pinson is ranked the No. 89 prospect on Givony’s latest Top 100. Louisville’s power forward Ray Spalding has also been invited, Charania reports in a separate tweet. Spalding is currently ranked No. 58 by Givony.
  • Western Carolina junior forward Mike Amius has hired an agent and will remain in the draft, Jeff Goodman of ESPN tweets. He averaged 12.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG last season. He is not among Givony’s Top 100 prospects.
  • Oregon State forward Drew Eubanks has signed with agent James Dunleavy and ISE Worldwide, Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal tweets. The junior averaged 13.2 PPG and 6.8 RPG for the Beavers last season.
  • The Suns will send Josh Jackson and the Kings will be represented by De’Aaron Fox at the draft lottery on Tuesday, Tyler Conway of Bleacher Report relays. The Nuggets’ Jamal Murray and the Pistons’ Luke Kennard are the other current players who will represent their teams in Chicago. The full list of representatives can be found in Conway’s story.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, G League, Sefolosha

After missing the playoffs by one game for the second consecutive season, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and president of basketball operations Tim Connelly are tired of going home after the regular season ends. Yet, as reported by Gina Mizell of The Denver Post, there’s reason for optimism, with Connelly declaring that “this is the most confident I’ve felt in our core group since I’ve been here.”

The first order of business for the Nuggets is locking up budding superstar Nikola Jokic to a long-term contract. Jokic actually has a team option worth $1.6MM for next season, but because he was a second-round pick and has been in the league for three or fewer seasons, he becomes a restricted free agent if Denver declines his option, allowing the Nuggets to match any offer from another team.

Both of the Nuggets other young potential stars – Jamal Murray and Gary Harris – are already locked in for next season, meaning the next order of business is re-signing sixth man Will Barton. “We’re hopeful we can get something done,” Connelly said. “(Barton is) our guy. We love him. I think if he’s back in a Denver jersey, it’s good for both him and the team.”

Barton added, “We’re building something real special here.  I love playing with Jok and Jamal and Gary. The guys we have in the locker room, I like being around. The coaching staff has really come a long way with trusting me and me trusting them. Just the whole (Nuggets) organization, I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • In more after-season content from the Nuggets, Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com relays some of Connelly’s positive thoughts on the Nuggets’ season. “Certainly, when you’re on the outside, looking-in you have to address some needs,” Connelly said. “I think there will be some pretty interesting financial decisions we’ll make this offseason. But standing in front of (the media) now, I finally can say with full confidence that we have a core that can be really good for a long time. They all want to be here, and they are all about the right things.”
  • The Trail Blazers are closing in on setting up a G League team in Beaverton, OR, reports Adam Johnson of Two Ways and 10 Days. There have been suggestions of Seattle as a prime location for a Portland G League team, but it seems the Blazers are looking to bring a potential afilliate closer to home. Nike, the NBA’s new uniform supplier, is headquartered in the Portland suburb.
  • Jazz swingman Thabo Sefolosha may be out of the lineup with injury, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t playing a role against his former team, the Thunder, reports Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News. “I try to just help when I see something like offensively, defensively, something that we can do a little differently,” Sefolosha said. “Just whatever I see, I like to communicate, whether it’s with the coaches or with the players, so I try to stay involved as much as I can.”

Nuggets Notes: Jefferson, Malone, Chandler

With the Clippers riding a six-game winning streak, the Nuggets currently find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. At 23-22, Denver is just a half-game back of the Clips and Pelicans, and one game back of the Trail Blazers, so it’s hardly time to panic yet. Still, as Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes, the Nuggets are one of a few teams treading water in the West right now.

Grouping Denver with the Pelicans and Blazers as middle-of-the-pack Western playoff contenders, Grizzard notes that the Nuggets’ late-game execution has been inconsistent with Paul Millsap on the shelf. Richard Jefferson attributes those struggles to the club’s overall youth: “I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Jefferson was brought in at the start of the season to provide veteran leadership for the Nuggets, but the veteran forward has taken on a role in the club’s rotation within the last week, as Gina Mizell of The Denver Post details. “People forget — and I have to remind myself, for that matter — R.J. last year in Cleveland, on a team that went to the Finals, was playing 20 minutes a night,” head coach Michael Malone said of Jefferson. “He still has something left, and I have to give him a chance to play.”
  • Speaking of Malone, he’s under pressure this season to prove that he’s a coach capable of guiding the Nuggets to a spot in the postseason, according to Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • After parting ways with Roc Nation last May, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has returned to his old agency, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Chandler, who was being represented by Excel Sports for most of 2017, will be repped by Sam Permut with Roc Nation, says Amick. With a $12.8MM player option looming for 2018/19, Chandler will either be seeking a new team this summer or entering next season on an expiring contract.
  • Jamal Murray, who has been in the NBA’s concussion protocol this week, has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for the team’s Friday game against Phoenix, per Mizell.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Nelson, Irving

The Nuggets were in discussions with the Suns about an Eric Bledsoe trade, but it appears their decision not to offer too much for a new starting point guard is paying dividends. Jamal Murray, who has been Denver’s starting point guard since the beginning of the season, is playing well and the team is encouraged by his development.

“I love the pace he’s playing with,” said coach Michael Malone after a recent game (via Christopher Dempsey of NBA.com). “He’s got to set the pace that we want to play at, he’s got to be aggressive and he’s got to play with confidence. And you’re seeing that a lot more consistently right now. He’s starting to become a consistent starting point guard in the NBA.”

The 2016 No. 7 overall pick spent much of his playing time at shooting guard during his rookie season, but this year, he’s seeing all of his minutes at the one.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver had a deal in place to trade Jameer Nelson to a lottery team for a protected second-rounder prior to the season, though the team could “not stomach” sending the 35-year-old to a bad team, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN. The Nuggets ended up waiving Nelson, a move that allowed the vet to pick his own suitor.
  • Malone would have liked to keep Nelson on the team, though he is supportive of the organization’s decision to let the veteran go, Lowe relays in the same piece. “It was tough to see Jameer go,” Malone says. “The players trusted him. I find value in veteran mentors. In our meetings, of course I brought up all the reasons it made sense to keep him. But you have to think big picture. It wasn’t like I was kicking and screaming. By the end, we were all on board.”
  • The Nuggets had exploratory discussions with the Cavs about Kyrie Irving prior to them dealing away the point guard, though talks never got that far, per Lowe (same piece). The scribe notes that Murray, Wilson Chandler, and a lightly-protected first-rounder would have intrigued Cleveland, but Murray was never on the table.