Jamal Murray

Western Notes: Morant, Harrell, Hood, Gasol, Murray

The Grizzlies are playing Ja Morant limited minutes and they plan to keep it that way for the foreseeable future, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. Morant played fewer than 30 minutes in four of his first five games, with the exception coming during an overtime game. Coach Taylor Jenkins hopes the approach will keep the second overall pick and anointed floor leader fresh during the 82-game schedule. “I’ve always been a big believer, you start playing in the mid-30s (minutes per game) you kind of wear down,” Jenkins said. “Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”

We have more from around the Western Conference:

  • Forward Montrezl Harrell continues to prove his worth to the Clippers, Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times writes. Harrell, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, is averaging 19.3 PPG and 5.9 RPG to help the team weather the injury absence of Paul George. After acquiring him in the Chris Paul deal with Houston, the Clippers were so unsure about Harrell that they considered waiving him during the summer of 2017, according to Elliott.
  • Trail Blazers guard Rodney Hood suffered a knee injury on Saturday but he didn’t sustain any structural damage, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports. The team’s medical staff determined that Hood has a bone bruise. Hood re-signed with Portland this offseason on a two-year, $11.7MM contract. Veteran center Pau Gasol, who joined Portland on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, has ramped up his workouts as he continues rehab from offseason foot surgery. Gasol did a series of shooting drills after a shootaround last week.
  • Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has become a more vocal leader this season and his teammates appreciate the change, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic relays. “I think it’s big-time,” fellow guard Monte Morris said. “If he’s going to be our starting point guard, everybody’s going to look for him to lead us.”
  • Nikola Jokic‘s numbers are down and Nuggets coach Michael Malone says his center must get more aggressive, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. He’s averaging 15.8 PPG, 4.3 PPG down from his average last season, while taking 2.6 fewer shots per game. “I don’t think he is, in terms of people thinking he’s checked out or not playing hard,” Malone said. “I don’t see that as the case at all. … I just have to make sure I keep on reminding him of how important he is to us, being aggressive and setting the tone.” Jokic is in the second year of a five-year, $147.7MM contract.

Nuggets Notes: Free Agents, Beasley, Murray

The Nuggets are about to find out whether a roster full of players who deserve regular minutes is really a good problem to have, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. That’s how coach Michael Malone has been framing the situation, but keeping everyone happy on one of the league’s deepest teams could be a season-long challenge. Coming off a 54-win season, Denver traded for Jerami Grant this summer and will have to incorporate 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter Jr.

Playing time will be important with potentially half the roster heading into a contract year. Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee both have expiring deals, and Grant could become an unrestricted free agent as well if he declines a $9.3MM option for 2020/21. Juan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley are both eligible for rookie scale extensions, while Monte Morris and Jarred Vanderbilt will be eligible for extensions next summer. Torrey Craig is headed for restricted free agency.

“Sacrifice is the biggest word in our locker room,” Morris said. “We’re so deep that you have to be able to know sometimes that it ain’t gonna be your night. It’s knowing that you can be the so-called hero with six points on any given night.”

There’s more out of Denver:

  • The team has a little more than a week to reach an extension with Beasley before facing the prospect of matching a very expensive offer sheet next summer, Kosmider notes in a separate story. Beasley already rejected a three-year, $30MM offer and recently hired Rich Paul of Klutch Sports as his new representative. The fourth-year shooting guard has a chance to cash in if he can repeat last year’s outbreak, which saw him average 15.9 PPG while shooting 55% from the floor and 50% from 3-point range. “I don’t think you can look at an 82-game season as a fluke,” Malone said. “… He built up to that. He worked toward that and when the opportunity presented itself, he took advantage of it.”
  • It was only a matter time of time before Jamal Murray signed a maximum-salary contract, so Denver determined it made sense to do it sooner rather than later, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. With championship hopes this season, the Nuggets wanted to resolve Murray’s contract situation early so he could focus on basketball.
  • Denver isn’t likely to make a trade early in the season, Singer adds in the same piece. Barton, Hernangomez and Gary Harris all missed time with injuries last year, so that depth could be needed until opportunities emerge closer to February’s trade deadline.

Nuggets Notes: Load Management, Duval, Cancar, Backcourt

Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for load management in order to keep them fresh for the playoffs, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic writes. While coach Michael Malone isn’t a fan of the tactic, an occasional night off for the trio could make some sense, Kosmider continues. Age is a factor for Millsap, while there isn’t a lot of depth behind Jokic and Murray at their respective positions.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Free agent point guard Trevon Duval worked out for the Nuggets last week, Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops tweets. Duval was a two-way player for the Rockets last season and became a free agent when the team didn’t give him a qualifying offer this summer. He was claimed by Houston in March after the Bucks waived him.
  • Rookie forward Vlatko Cancar isn’t the kind of player that brings people out of their seats, as he told Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website. Cancar signed with Denver, which drafted him in the second round in 2017, after spending last season in Spain. “I’m not a spectacular, flashy player,” he said. “I’ll be the player that gets the job done and helps the team be in the best position it can be.”
  • The starting backcourt of Murray and Gary Harris is ranked among the top five in the league by Bleacher Report.

NBA Updates 2020/21 Salary Cap Projection

The NBA has informed its teams of a new salary cap projection for the 2020/21 season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania details, the updated projection calls for a $116MM cap and a $141MM luxury tax line for the ’20/21 campaign.

Previously, the NBA projected a $117MM cap with a $142MM tax line for 2020/21, so the new figures come in slightly below those marks. However, they’d still represent a substantial jump up from the cap figures for 2019/20, which are $109.14MM (cap) and $132.627MM (tax).

According to Charania, the league’s projections for 2021/22 remain unchanged, with the NBA still estimating a $125MM cap and a $151MM tax line for that season.

The updated figures won’t have a massive impact on teams’ plans for next summer, but every dollar counts when it comes to creating cap flexibility. Players who have signed maximum-salary contract extensions that take effect during the 2020/21 season will also take note of the league’s new cap estimates, since it will have a small impact on their projected earnings.

Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, for instance, signed maximum-salary extensions that will start at 25% of the cap next season, assuming neither player earns an All-NBA spot in 2019/20.

Under the previous $117MM projection, Simmons’ and Murray’s deals were expected to be worth $169.65MM over five years. A $116MM cap would reduce the projected value of those five-year contracts to $168.2MM.

Several other figures, including the rookie scale, mid-level exceptions, minimum salaries, and cash available in trades, are also linked to the percentage the salary cap increases from year to year and would be affected by the adjusted 2020/21 projection.

Team Canada Dealing With Depleted Roster

Much has been made of the withdrawals from Team USA by prominent players as it prepares for the FIBA World Cup in China this summer. Team Canada has experienced similar issues.

Canada Basketball unveiled its training camp roster in a press release and many notable names are missing. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mfiondu Kabengele, Naz Mitrou-Long, Trey Lyles, Dwight Powell, Marial Shayok, Nik Stauskas, and Tristan Thompson were among the invitees who opted not to participate.

Knicks lottery pick RJ Barrett and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray are on the roster but will only participate in training camp. Barrett is dealing with a mild calf strain, while Murray is nursing an ankle injury, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Among the NBA players who are on the roster and intend to participate in the tournament are Kings guard Cory Joseph, Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, Magic center Khem Birch and Raptors big man Chris Boucher. Toronto’s Nick Nurse is the head coach of the team, which will play seven exhibition games before its FIBA opener against Australia on September 1.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Wolves, Jazz, Thunder

Jamal Murray‘s new five-year, maximum-salary extension with the Nuggets will start at 25% of the cap if the standout guard doesn’t make an All-NBA team in 2019/20, which would make the deal worth $169.65MM based on the league’s current cap projections.

However, as Bobby Marks of ESPN outlines (via Twitter), the two sides agreed to include Rose Rule language in Murray’s new deal, which would increase the value of the contract in the event that he has a huge ’19/20 season. If Murray earns All-NBA honors in 2020, his starting salary would be worth 26% (Third Team), 27.5% (Second Team), or 30% (First Team) of the cap.

That means Murray’s five-year extension could have a value as high as $203.58MM if he makes the All-NBA First Team or wins the MVP award next season, which is a long shot. A spot on the Second Team would result in a deal worth a total of $186.62MM, while a Third Team nod would bump the total value to $176.44MM.

As we wait to see if Murray can have a breakout year and insert himself into the All-NBA discussion, here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • With Tom Thibodeau no longer in the picture in Minnesota, the Timberwolves project to have a deeper rotation to start the 2019/20 season than they did a year ago. Still, as Kent Youngblood of The Star Tribune writes, with so many young, hungry players on the roster, there should be some interesting position and rotation battles in training camp this fall.
  • Upon being introduced by the Jazz on Friday, veterans Ed Davis and Jeff Green said they chose Utah because they view the team as a team capable of competing for a championship, as Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com relays.
  • In a pair of stories, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman and Brett Dawson of The Athletic explore whether Sam Presti‘s references to “repositioning” and “replenishing” – rather than “rebuilding” – the Thunder is merely semantics, or if it provides a clue for how the process in Oklahoma City might play out.

Nuggets Sign Jamal Murray To Five-Year Extension

JULY 24: The extension is official, per a release (via e-mail and Twitter) from the team.

JUNE 30: The Nuggets have agreed to terms with guard Jamal Murray on a five-year, maximum-salary contract extension, agent Mike George tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The extension will take effect to start the 2020/21 league year.

While the exact value of that extension is not yet known, it would be worth $169.65MM based on the NBA’s current cap projection of $117MM for ’20/21, starting at $29.25MM in year one and increasing all the way up to $38.61MM by year five.

Murray, 22, has emerged as a foundational piece for the Nuggets since being selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 draft. In 2018/19, he established new career highs in PPG (18.2), APG (4.8), and RPG (4.2) over the course of 75 games (32.6 MPG). He and fellow franchise cornerstone Nikola Jokic helped lead Denver to a No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and came within one game of appearing in the conference finals.

While Denver clearly wanted to lock up a budding young star early, extending Murray now rather than waiting until the 2020 restricted free agent period will limit the team’s financial flexibility next season. Murray would have had a cap hold of approximately $13.3MM as a restricted free agent. Now that he has been extended, his new cap hit (projected to be $29MM+) will hit the books right away, eating into the Nuggets’ potential cap room.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: Paul, Sylla, Tampering, Canada

In an interesting piece regarding Chris Paul‘s role as the head of the NBA Players Union, Tom Ziller of SB Nation opines that Paul’s reported insistence and hand in incorporating the Over-38 Rule into the 2017 CBA has now ironically landed him with one the most untradeable contracts in the NBA.

Paul, who is admittedly now under contract to make more money because of the rule change, is also stuck on the Thunder, a non-contending team, with no real way out until later this year when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible.

Ultimately, Ziller opines that the tradeoff (non-contending team vs. an extra $45MM) was worth it for Paul, but wonders whether CP3, as union president, sacrificed the good of many (mid-level earners) for the benefit of few.

We have more odds and ends to report from around the basketball world:

  • Amar Sylla, the No. 23 prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft, has signed a three-year contract containing NBA out clauses with Belgian league champions BC Oostende, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes that many executives believe the penalty for tampering needs to be harsher, including the removal of first-round picks or even as severe as being barred from trading any picks for some amount of years in addition to the loss of picks. “Basketball operations needs to get hit the hardest, not an owner’s wallets,” said another executive.
  • Canada Basketball has announced the 29 players invited to attend the Senior Men’s National Team training camp ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. The list includes R.J. Barrett, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Cory Joseph, Jamal Murray, and Tristan Thompson.

Sixers Discussing Extension With Ben Simmons, Nuggets Begin Talks With Jamal Murray

The Sixers have begun contract extension talks with Ben Simmons and his agent Rich Paul, Adrian Wojnarowski of the ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). Sham Charania of The Athletic tweets that the Nuggets have starting discussing an extension with Jamal Murray and his agent, Mike George of One Legacy.

Players from the 2016 draft class who remain on their original rookie deal are eligible to sign extensions this summer. Simmons was the No. 1 overall pick from the draft and Murray was the No. 7 overall selection.

Assuming a projected salary cap of $117MM for the 2020/21 season, the total max value of an extension for either player is approximately $170MM over five seasons.

Each player had arguably had their most successful campaign in 2018/19. Both the Nuggets and Sixers made it to the Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, each falling in heartbreaking fashion.

Nuggets Considered Anthony Davis Deal

The Nuggets weren’t one of Anthony Davis‘ preferred destinations but that didn’t stop Denver from conducting their due diligence on a potential trade, sources tell Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

The franchise came to the conclusion that Davis wouldn’t seriously consider staying in Denver long-term. Had the Nuggets had more confidence in their ability to retain Davis past the 2019/20 season, they would have been more aggressive in pursuing a trade.

The Pelicans needed Jamal Murray to be in any Davis-to-Denver deal, which was something the Nuggets were not willing to accommodate. Including Michael Porter Jr. in the deal may have also been required. Singer writes that no team could value last year’s No. 14 overall pick as much as the Nuggets since they are the only franchise that has seen him play as a professional. The league is expected to get a full look at Porter in summer league this offseason.

The Lakers could top any offer from the Nuggets or most teams because they knew Davis would want to stay with the franchise long-term. Denver couldn’t risk giving up core players for Davis regardless of how high the ceiling on a Nikola Jokic-Davis one-year run would be.