Jamal Murray

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 Paul, 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.

Nuggets, Jamal Murray Agree To Five-Year Extension

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.

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.

Northwest Notes: Donovan, Rosas, Murray

Despite the fact that he’s already spent five seasons at the helm of the Thunder and that his All-Star dynamic duo was just dispatched in five games by the Trail Blazers, head coach Billy Donovan is expected to return to his post in 2019/20.

That patience in an era of scapegoating and quick fixes, Brett Dawson of The Athletic writes, could be attributed to general manager Sam Presti‘s tendency to take a long view on things.

Dawson writes about Donovan’s impact in Oklahoma City over the past few seasons, suggesting that he’s earned the faith of the organization and this is one organization in particular that isn’t afraid to see things through.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves CEO Ethan Casson has nothing but high praise for recent franchise hire Gersson Rosas, Chris Hine of the Minnesota Star Tribune writes. Rosas impressed the organization with a detailed vision not only for a generic basketball franchise but for the Timberwolves in particular. Beyond the team’s current roster, Rosas had a deep understanding of the team’s history and marketplace.
  • Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic logged a record-breaking 65 minutes played in Denver’s four-overtime loss to the Trail Blazers Friday night. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told the media afterward that he apologized for giving his center such a heavy work load. Jokic averaged 31.3 minutes per game for Denver this season.
  • Despite struggles from the field in his first playoff experience, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray is figuring out the difference between regular and playoff basketball, Sean Keeler of The Denver Post writes.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Jazz Workouts, Thunder, Hood

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has been fighting through a right thigh injury, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports.  Murray was limited to 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting, along with just one assist, in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series against Portland. But Murray refused to admit the injury might have affected him, Singer adds.

“I always play through pain,” the Nuggets’ guard said. “It’s something I’ve always done. I always put myself through more and do more than I can. Playing through pain is just another challenge for me. I’m gonna do it regardless of the stakes. Just try to be smart about it, obviously. If it’s something I can play through, it’s what I’m gonna do.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz are bringing in six prospects for pre-draft workouts on Saturday, the team’s PR department tweets. Centers Kevin Samuel (TCU) and Nathan Knight (William & Mary), forwards Tres Tinkle (Oregon State) and Jalen Hudson (Florida) and guards Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State) and Chris Clemons (Campbell) are the players they’ll evaluate.
  • The Thunder should make everyone but Russell Westbrook and Paul George available in trade talks, Brett Dawson of The Athletic argues in his offseason outlook. Oklahoma City needs to acquire more shooters to complement their All-Star duo and find a backup center, Dawson continues. Westbrook must also adjust his game in order for the Thunder to end their cycle of first-round playoff exits, Dawson adds.
  • Trail Blazers guard Rodney Hood has hired CAA Sports to represent him, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. Hood will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He was previously represented by Travis King of Independent Sports and Entertainment.

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Millsap, Murray, Harkless, Nuggets

The Trail Blazers are focused on executing their game plan more than using their emotion for Sunday’s Game 4 in Oklahoma City, Sekou Smith of NBA.com writes. 

Portland will look to take a 3-1 series lead in a hostile playoff environment and quiet the boisterous Thunder crowd, one of the league’s toughest arenas to win games in.

“We’ve just got to focus on us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We’ve got to be us and do what we do and all of the peripheral stuff … doesn’t have to do with us.”

The Blazers protected home court in Games 1 and 2, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead. Stealing Game 4 on Sunday would allow the team to wrap the series up in five games at their arena on Tuesday, but the mission will prove to be challenging.

“It’s going to be talk, it’s going to be fouls, it’s going to be all that stuff. All that stuff is going to be part of it. But it’s who can deal with that stuff and not be too emotional,” Lillard said on Saturday, one day after a crazy Game 3 atmosphere. “Who can be more even-keeled. Who can handle it more and still have the right mentality through all of those things. And we just stay within ourselves, play hard and we compete.

“And if something is brought to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on. And that’s all it was. Because we don’t go out there talking and acting no type of way. But like I said, if it comes to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap opened up on “little brother” and teammate Jamal Murray, as detailed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “The main thing is just playing the game,” Millsap said of Murray. “Not getting focused on what people want him to do but just playing the game. Seeing him having 19 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds instead of focusing in on just scoring and trying to be going for 50 every single night. He’s actually playing the game now, and I’m super proud of him by how far he’s come.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless was fined $15,000 for throwing his headband into the spectator stands during Game 3 of the team’s series against Oklahoma City, the league announced on Saturday. Harkless’ incident marks the fifth separate fine the NBA has issued since the weekend began.
  • Nuggets coach Mike Malone made a change to his starting lineup in Game 4 against San Antonio, starting Torrey Craig in place of Will Barton. The adjustment played a part in Denver stealing a road victory and regaining homecourt advantage, with Craig scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in 37 minutes. “Torrey’s size and physicality, his hustle, like Torrey Craig was leaving it all on the floor, which I love,” Malone previously said after Game 3, as relayed by Mike Singer in a different story for the Denver Post. “And then Malik’s obviously shooting (well).  He’s been one of our best offensive players this whole series, shooting the ball very confidently. Attacking the basket and also playing pretty good defense. Both of those guys warrant more minutes, and I’m sure they’ll both get a great chance to play extended minutes [in Game 4].”

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.