Jamal Murray

Ripple Effect Of Hiatus On Contracts, Cap, Offseason Dates

Given the typically rigid nature of the NBA’s annual calendar, the current hiatus threatens to complicate a number of dates and deadlines that will arrive in the coming months. In his latest Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a closer look at how those dates – linked to contracts and the salary cap – may be impacted, noting that the NBA and NBPA are expected to collectively bargain a set of transition rules once the league establishes a return timeline.

For instance, there are 29 player options and 12 team options that are currently scheduled to be exercised or declined before the end of June. Those dates will almost certainly have to be adjusted. The same goes for certain salary guarantee dates and the expiry dates on traded player exceptions, as Marks explains. Of course, the start of the 2020/21 league year will have to be pushed back too, so players with expiring contracts don’t become free agents on July 1.

Contract incentives will also be an issue worth keeping an eye on. Marks observes that during the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season, players’ incentives were prorated based on the fact that the league played 66 games instead of 82 games. The NBA could take similar measures this season. For instance, if a player needs to play 1,000 minutes to earn a bonus and his team ends up playing just 70 of 82 games, his incentive requirement would be adjusted so he only needs to play 70/82nds of 1,000 minutes (854 minutes).

Marks’ article is jam-packed with interesting info and is worth checking out in full if you have an Insider subscription. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Although the NBA’s basketball related income for 2019/20 is projected to take a huge hit as a result of this hiatus and the controversy with China in the fall, it’s too early to say what that will mean for the 2020/21 salary cap, according to Marks. In situations like this, the NBA and NBPA generally negotiate in good faith a cap adjustment that satisfies both sides, so we’re unlikely to see a big drop-off next year.
  • Still, with the cap for the next year or two no longer expected to increase by nearly as much as the NBA initially projected, the ripple effect could be significant. Maximum-salary contract extensions scheduled to go into effect next season or in 2021/22 for players like Jamal Murray, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, and Damian Lillard won’t be as lucrative as previously estimated, and teams will no longer have as much cap or tax flexibility as expected. As Marks points out, that could influence players with option decisions — they may be more inclined to opt in for ’20/21, with less leaguewide spending power available in the offseason.
  • Resuming the regular season – rather than just jumping straight to the playoffs – may not be a top priority for many fans, but there are reasons why the NBA won’t want to skip that step, Marks writes. Teams that wanted to make roster moves prior to the postseason wouldn’t get a chance to do so if the NBA moves straight from its current moratorium to the playoffs. For example, in that scenario, the Thunder wouldn’t get the opportunity to convert two-way player Luguentz Dort to their 15-man roster. As such, the NBA may want to play a few regular season games or at least give teams a few days to make necessary roster moves.

Northwest Notes: Whiteside, Nuggets, Towns, Wiggins, Dort

The Trail Blazers will entertain offers for center Hassan Whiteside, a free agent after the season, and The Athletic’s Jason Quick estimates the chances of him being traded at 50/50. Quick also dealt with a few other Blazers-related topics.

Their recent trade with the Kings which involved five players and two second-round picks was a solid one, according to Quick, because the Trail Blazers saved approximately $12MM and upgraded at the wing with Trevor Ariza replacing Kent Bazemore. Portland is unlikely to deal its first-round pick because president of basketball operations Neil Olshey covets draft choices, even if the draft class is considered weak, Quick adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will continue to be without three rotation players when they face the Grizzlies on Tuesday, Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports tweets. Starting point guard Jamal Murray will miss his sixth straight game due to an ankle sprain while power forward Paul Millsap will sit out for the 11th consecutive game due to a knee injury. Backup big man Mason Plumlee will miss his fourth straight game due to a foot ailment.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins get the blame when things aren’t going well with the Timberwolves but the players around them need to do more, Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Guard Shabazz Napier told Youngblood that the role players need to do their jobs better. “This team is so used to KAT and Wigs doing all the work that when it doesn’t happen, we just stand around,’’ Napier said. “That’s how it is. We just gotta find ways to help them guys out. … We all, the role players, have to figure out, how do we help them out better?’’
  • Undrafted rookie guard Luguentz Dort has earned playing time with the Thunder for his defense while showing more of an offensive game, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. Over the last five games, Dort is averaging 7.2 PPG and 1.8 APG while shooting 5-for-12 on 3-pointers and making seven steals. “You can’t tell me he’s a rookie,” guard Chris Paul said of the two-way player.

Injury Updates: R. Jackson, Hachimura, Wagner, R. Williams

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson hopes to play tonight after being sidelined since the second game of the season with a back injury, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Jackson is officially listed as questionable for the game against the Kings. He’ll be on a minutes restriction and isn’t sure if he’ll be used as a starter or a reserve (Twitter link).

“I don’t know how well I’m going to feel. Adrenaline is a different thing so I imagine I’ll probably be winded a little early,” Jackson said (Twitter link).

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura has been cleared for all basketball activities, head coach Scott Brooks told reporters, including Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link). Hachimura hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury December 16. “It’ll be great to have him back before the All-Star break, but you never know,” Brooks said (Twitter link).
  • The Wizards also got good news on Moritz Wagner, who has been cleared for non-contact activities after a check-up in New York City, Buckner tweets. Wagner has missed the past month with a sprained left ankle.
  • Injured Celtics center Robert Williams was able to do some running Tuesday and is set for another scan and evaluation February 4, the team tweeted. Team doctors expect to have a more concrete idea of when he can start playing again after that session. Williams has a bone edema in his left hip and won’t return until after the All-Star break.
  • Cavaliers center Ante Zizic is out indefinitely, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. He has been diagnosed with a vestibular condition that has forced him to miss the past five games.
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters that among his injured rotation players, Gary Harris is the closest to returning, relays Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link). “When I say closest, I don’t know how close that is,” Malone explained.Paul (Millsap) and Jamal (Murray) are still a ways off.”

Nuggets Notes: Beasley, Porter, Hernangomez, Malone

Nuggets coach Michael Malone credits reserve guard Malik Beasley for not sulking during a difficult season, Mike Singer of the Denver Post relays. Beasley, who can be a restricted free agent this summer if the Nuggets extend a qualifying offer, got extended minutes on Thursday with Jamal Murray and Gary Harris sidelined and took advantage. He scored a season-high 27 points in an overtime win over Golden State. Beasley hasn’t received steady playing time but Malone says Beasley has handled it professionally.

“You have a choice, as a man, you have a choice,” Malone said. “‘Am I gonna feel sorry for myself or am I gonna stay ready?’ And to his credit he’s continued to stay ready.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone vows to keep rookie Michael Porter Jr. in the rotation going forward, Singer tweets “Earlier in the season, he wasn’t sure when he was going to be playing, is he going to be playing? So now, that’s out the window,” he said. “Michael Porter is a huge part of our future, he’s going to play every night.” Porter has reached double figures in each of his last three games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist performance against the Warriors.
  • Trading forward Juan Hernangomez would negatively impact the locker room, Singer opines in his latest mailbag. Hernangomez has a major influence on team chemistry and is close friends with Nikola Jokic, Singer notes, adding that Jokic, Murray and Porter are the team’s untouchables in trade discussions.
  • Malone is glad to be coaching a playoff contender that didn’t take shortcuts to success, as he explained to Michael Lee of The Athletic. Malone notes that Denver hasn’t gone for the quick fix. “For me, this being my fifth year, that’s maybe one of the more enjoyable things about our journey, is how we’ve been able to build this from the ground up and build it from within, organically,” he said. “We haven’t gone out and traded for the marquee player. We haven’t mortgaged our future by sending these two young assets to here, to rent a player for a year or two, to have instant success, but not long-term success. It speaks to our front office, our ownership that we can continue to communicate and collaborate and challenge each other.”

Jamal Murray Expected To Miss Time

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray underwent testing on his injured left ankle and while the results came back clean, he is expected to miss multiple games as a result of the ailment, Nick Kosmider and Shams Charania of The Athletic report (Twitter link).

Murray exited the Nuggets’ game against the Hornets after coming down awkwardly on his ankle, and the injury has since been diagnosed as a sprain. PJ Dozier stepped up in his place and Denver was able to win the contest.

Murray, who signed a $170M extension prior to the season, is averaging 17.6 points and 4.6 assists per game so far during the 2019/20 campaign. He’ll miss Denver’s game against Golden State tonight, the contest vs. the Pacers on Sunday, and the trip to Minnesota on Monday. After those games, Denver has the a pair of matchups against the Rockets and a tilt with the Pelicans on deck.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Murray, Wolves, Jazz

Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said he considers expanding Michael Porter Jr.‘s role “everyday”

“I really do,” Malone said (via Mike Singer of The Denver Post). “We met as a staff yesterday and today, this morning prior to shootaround, when you’re 1-4 [over the last five games] and your offense is kind of holding you back, you have to have all options on the table.”

Heading into the night, Porter was averaging just 8.6 minutes per game and has appeared in just 10 contests for Denver.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray left the Nuggets‘ contest tonight with a torso injury, Singer tweets. The point guard injured himself during a collision with Ben Simmons. There’s no word yet on the severity of the ailment.
  • Matt John of Basketball Insiders examines whether the Timberwolves will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Minnesota would like to add more talent, though its hard to envision the team making a substantial trade without including one of its core pieces.
  • The Jazz remain buyers and could certainly use some help after a disappointing start to the 2019/20 campaign, John writes in the same piece. Utah’s bench has struggled and adding depth could be the key to turning around the club’s season.

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Malone, Rotation, Porter, Craig, Murray

The Nuggets have recalled rookie center Bol Bol from the G League but they’re not burning any of the 45 days he’s allotted to spend in the NBA on his two-way contract, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Bol is expected to remain with the Nuggets for a couple of weeks but won’t practice or play before being sent back down to the Windy City Bulls. He’ll be listed as out due to “injury management” for his surgically repaired left foot, Singer adds. Bol has averaged 11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG in less than 17 MPG with Windy City.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • The league has instituted coach’s challenges this season but like many of the men who patrol the sidelines, Michael Malone likes to save his challenge for crunch time, Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website notes. “As you see it kind of play out, most coaches like to keep it (the challenge) in their pocket for late game situations. The only time I can see using it early is if you’re trying to protect a great player (from foul trouble),” Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have plenty of depth, which has created a pleasant dilemma for Malone on a game-by-game basis, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic points out. Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Jerami Grant have defined reserve roles but Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr. and Malik Beasley have seen major fluctuations in playing time. “It’s not easy from a player or coach’s standpoint,” Plumlee said. “But I’ll say guys have handled it as well as any team I’ve been on.”
  • Porter has appeared in 10 games, averaging 3.8 PPG in 9.0 MPG, and Malone hopes to expand his role, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic“I have to find ways to play him this year,” Malone said. “This cannot be a wasted year for him.”
  • Craig has lost playing time but he’s not creating any problems in the locker room, Singer relays in a separate story“We all get along, we’re all happy for each other when each other have success,” he said. “I’m not one to sit here and pout when my teammates are doing good. If they’re doing good and we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  • Jamal Murray will play for Team Canada next summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada reports. Canada will host an Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. in late June, and then head to Tokyo if the team snags one of the six remaining spots in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

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.