Mason Plumlee

Northwest Division: George, Morrow, Plumlee, Burks

Russell Westbrook‘s decision to sign an extension with the Thunder is making it easier for Paul George to decide whether to stay put when he becomes a free agent next summer, as he told ESPN’s Royce Young and other media members (Twitter link). George is impressed by the commitment between the reigning Most Valuable Player and the franchise, as Westbrook decided this week to sign a five-year, $205MM extension. George’s overt desire to leave the Pacers after this season, specifically for the Lakers, led Indiana to trade him to Oklahoma City. It appears George is now seriously interested in re-signing. “Not only in us pairing together but just knowing what type of dude Russ is and his values and his beliefs and him being committed to this organization says a lot,” George said. “And I’m one person that’s enjoying it here, so I think when that time comes the decision will be easier to make for myself.”

In other developments around the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Morrow has apparently taken an early lead in the fight for the Blazers’ 15th roster spot, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian reports. Morrow received a one-year, non-guaranteed contract prior to training camp and is battling Archie Goodwin and Isaiah Briscoe for a spot on the opening-night roster, Freeman continues. After four days of training camp, he’s already impressed coaches and teammates with his shooting, leadership and positive attitude, Freeman adds.
  • Center Mason Plumlee will be Nikola Jokic‘s backup but he’ll have a big role with the Nuggets, coach Michael Malone told Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Plumlee was re-signed by Denver to a three-year, $41MM deal this summer after being acquired from the Blazers in February. “He brings us a physicality and presence that, really, none of the other guys really have,” Malone said. “He is a lob threat on offense and he’s a rim protector on defense. On top of that, he’s a very skilled and capable playmaker.”
  • Jazz guard Alec Burks believes he’s finally fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in December 2015, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. Burks is looking for a bounce-back season, even though coach Quin Snyder isn’t sure what role Burks will have this season, Sorensen adds. “This summer I felt like I was before I got hurt on that December day two years ago,” Burks told Sorensen. “I felt more explosive, more like myself. As you could tell, last year I wasn’t myself athletically, I wasn’t at all.”

Nuggets Re-Sign Mason Plumlee

SEPTEMBER 20: The Nuggets have officially re-signed Plumlee, issuing a press release today to announce the deal.

SEPTEMBER 18: The Nuggets have reached a three-year deal with restricted free agent Mason Plumlee valued at $41MM, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Agent Mark Bartelstein tells Wojnarowski that the two sides struck an agreement late Sunday night.Mason Plumlee vertical

Plumlee came to Denver in a trade with Portland at last year’s deadline, with the Nuggets giving up Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick for Plumlee and a second-rounder. The 27-year-old center was used mainly in a reserve role behind Nikola Jokic and averaged 9.1 points and 6.4 rebounds over 27 games.

Plumlee confirmed the signing in a “Letter to Nuggets Fans” posted on his website, saying he is looking forward to the upcoming season. “I meant what I said when I was traded here last year,” he wrote. “This is an exciting, talented young team with a bunch of high character guys and I’ve always admired the loyalty and dedication of Nuggets fans. With some of the big additions this summer and another year of experience for the young guns, I believe this team can compete with anyone in the league.”

Plumlee, who made a little more than $2.3MM last season, got a deal similar to the four-year, $56MM extension the Hornets gave Cody Zeller last fall, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). The signing pushes Denver’s salary total to $103.2MM, which ranks 20th in the league (Twitter link).

At this point in the offseason, given the lack of cap room available around the NBA, it’s a strong deal for Plumlee, and reflects the value the Nuggets place on him, even with Jokic and Paul Millsap penciled in as the starters up front.

With Plumlee under contract, the only restricted free agents left on the market are Nikola Mirotic of Chicago, Alex Len of Phoenix and JaMychal Green of Memphis.

The Nuggets’ next priority, Wojnarowski adds, will be reaching an extension with Gary Harris before the October 16 deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

What’s Next For Unsigned Restricted Free Agents?

An unusually high number of notable restricted free agents remain unsigned as August nears its halfway point, and the rumor mill has been quiet on those players as of late. After the league-wide free agent spending spree in the summer of 2016, many of these RFAs likely entered free agency this year anticipating huge paydays, and were disappointed to see many potential suitors use up their cap room quickly.

Here’s the current list of restricted free agents still on the board:Nikola Mirotic vertical

The updates on those players have been few and far between over the last month or so. Early in free agency, Green’s agent seemed pessimistic about his client remaining in Memphis, suggesting that the Grizzlies seemed to be going in a “different direction.” However, with no offer sheet yet in hand, Green still looks like a decent bet to stay with his current team.

Plumlee, meanwhile, may not have as clear as role as the Nuggets initially envisioned when they acquired him, since the team nabbed Paul Millsap in free agency. Denver gave up a lot in the trade for Plumlee and presumably still wants to bring him back as Nikola Jokic‘s backup at center. But with Millsap making approximately $30MM annually and Jokic due for a mega-deal of his own as soon as next summer, the Nuggets may be reluctant to invest heavily in Plumlee as well.

As for Len, Mirotic, and Noel, there has been little indication that they’re going anywhere — all three of their respective teams still have a ton of cap flexibility, and could comfortably match virtually any offer sheet they’re dealt. Those offer sheets just don’t seem to be out there right now, since almost every team with the ability to make a big offer has its own RFA to worry about.

Besides Phoenix, Chicago, and Dallas, there are a small number of teams that could make an aggressive offer for a restricted free agent. The Sixers are really the only other club with a significant amount of leftover cap room, and based on their one-year agreements with J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson, it appears Bryan Colangelo and company want to avoid multiyear commitments that would compromise their 2018 cap space.

So what’s next for these restricted free agents? October 1 is the next key date to watch. That’s the day that each RFA’s qualifying offer will expire. Up until that point, any of those five players could accept the qualifying offer and play on a one-year deal, opting to try his luck at the open market again in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent. Green, Len, Mirotic, Noel, and Plumlee all figure to still be looking for longer-term deals, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see one or two of them signs that QO.

If an RFA situation remains unresolved beyond October 1, the player is still restricted, but no longer has the option of accepting his qualifying offer. With the regular season fast approaching at that point, players don’t have much leverage, and a situation can go south in a hurry.

A year ago, it was December before Donatas Motiejunas finally found an offer sheet, but that lucrative four-year deal with the Nets fell through after Houston matched it — the Rockets and Motiejunas couldn’t agree on incentive details, the forward skipped his physical, and the two sides eventually parted ways. Motiejunas, who later signed for the minimum and is now out of the NBA, could act as a cautionary tale this fall for RFAs who don’t yet have a deal when training camps begin.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mason Plumlee, JaMychal Green Receive Qualifying Offers

Mason Plumlee and JaMychal Green have formally received qualifying offers from the Nuggets and Grizzlies, respectively, making them restricted free agents, according to RealGM’s official transactions log.

Plumlee, who was traded from the Trail Blazers to the Nuggets in February, averaged a career-high 10.4 PPG in 2016/17 to go along with 7.5 RPG and 3.5 APG. He was in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, making him eligible for restricted free agency. Because the former 22nd overall pick met the starter criteria, the value of his qualifying offer from Denver increased to $4,588,840.

Plumlee could sign a one-year deal worth that amount and reach the unrestricted market in 2018, but he’s more likely to sign a long-term contract this summer. He could negotiate directly with the Nuggets or sign an offer sheet with another team, giving Denver the opportunity to match it.

As for Green, he wasn’t a first-round pick and isn’t coming off his rookie contract, but only has three NBA seasons under his belt, making him eligible for restricted free agency as well. Like Plumlee, Green met the starter criteria, bumping the value of his qualifying offer to $2,820,497.

The 27-year-old entered Memphis’ starting lineup on a full-time basis last season in place of Zach Randolph, averaging 8.9 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 77 contests (75 starts). With Randolph also eligible for free agency this offseason, the Grizzlies may have to make a decision between keeping their longtime stalwart at power forward, or their younger starter.

Nuggets GM Discusses Nurkic, Gallinari, Defense

Earlier tonight, we shared Nuggets GM Tim Connelly’s announcement that rookie guard Jamal Murray will have surgery tomorrow. Here are a few other highlights of Connelly’s radio interview with Altitude Sports 950, all tweeted by Chris Dempsey:

  • Although Jusuf Nurkic blossomed into a key player in Portland, Connelly doesn’t regret the February deal that sent him to the Trail Blazers. Portland acquired Nurkic and a first-round pick this year in exchange for Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second-rounder. “We think Mason is going to be a huge piece of our core,” Connelly said.
  • Re-signing free agent forward Danilo Gallinari will be the top off-season priority. Gallinari has been with the Nuggets since 2011 when he was acquired in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Connelly also hopes to reach a new deal with Plumlee, who will be a restricted free agent, and work out an extension for third-year guard Gary Harris.
  • Another objective is to add a stronger defensive presence around breakout star Nikola Jokic.
  • Connelly believed 39 wins would be enough to grab the West’s final playoff spot. The Nuggets finished 40-42, but Portland was a game better. Connelly insists he would have been more active at the trade deadline if he had known the team would miss the postseason.
  • The organization is making progress in changing the league-wide perception about Denver as a place to play and live. Connelly said several lottery prospects in a recent draft were “begging” the Nuggets to select them because they wanted to be in the city.
  • The team needs a “pecking order” in the locker room, with a strong veteran presence to guide younger players. “Maybe our biggest struggle since I’ve been here,” Connelly said, “is we haven’t had a pecking order.” He adds that the organization has also encountered problems with “role acceptance” among players.

Nuggets Notes: Plumlee, Trades, Jokic

Denver plans on bringing Mason Plumlee back on a new contract, Christopher Dempsey of Altitude Sports writes.

“Mase brought a lot of what we thought he would bring – intensity, a vertical threat at the rim,” GM Tim Connelly said. “An athletic big. A very good passer. It’s not an easy transition going from a starter to the third or fourth big. … When we traded for him, we traded for him for the purpose of bringing him back. Barring something unforeseen or some dramatic shift, we’re pretty excited to talk to his representatives this summer and figure something out.”

Plumlee, who’s a restricted free agent, came to the Nuggets in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic at this year’s deadline.

Here’s more from Denver:

  • The Nuggets are more likely to make major changes via trade since they will have only a handful of open roster spots this offseason, Dempsey adds in the same piece. Connelly believes he has a roster full of players who should be coveted on the trade market because they’ve outperformed their contracts. “I think what’s interesting about our team is we have a lot of good players,” Connelly said. “And I think relative to their contracts, most of our guys outperformed their contracts, which is a testament to our coaching and player development.”
  • Denver knows it has a rising star in Nikola Jokic, but it doesn’t want to put too much pressure on him next season, Dempsey relays in the same piece. “He’s only 22,” the GM said. “He’d be the first one to tell you it’s a team game. He’s probably the least stat-aware guy on the team. But certainly we’re playing a certain way now and having success playing that way primarily because of his unique skill set and the coaches confidence in him.”
  • Connelly explains how the team has a better sense than it has in the past on which players should be the franchise’s core members, Dempsey passes along in the same piece. “Some of these guys have cemented their place in next year’s role already,” Connelly said. “There’s a handful of guys that you know what you’re going to get, and I think coach trusts them and those are guys we are going to take a long-term approach with and feel good about growing with.”
  • Danilo Gallinari is going to take some time to decide whether or not he’ll decline his player option, USA Today relays.  “It’s not time right now to make the decision,” said Gallinari. “Right now, it’s time to digest the fact we were not able to accomplish the goal [of the playoffs] that I had, that we had, at the beginning of the season.” The franchise would also like Gallinari to stick around beyond his current deal, but it’s taking a wait-and-see approach with him.
  • The Nuggets plan to be aggressive in their attempts to lock up Gary Harris long-term, as we passed along on Wednesday.

Potential 2017 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will go into effect on July 1, 2017, includes a number of changes to the free agent process, including some that apply specifically to restricted free agents. However, one aspect of restricted free agency unaffected by the new CBA is what’s referred to as the “starter criteria,” which can affect how much an RFA’s qualifying offer will be worth.

Here’s how the starter criteria works: A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games in 2015/16 and 35 in 2016/17, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons exceeds 41.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player ensures that a team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet, and gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO. Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. Still, those QOs can have an impact on a team’s salary cap outlook during July’s free agent period, so it’s worth checking in to see which potential RFAs will be eligible for higher or lower qualifying offers this summer.

Listed below are the top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who have not met the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $4,187,598.

Len and Noel had the worst QO luck this season. As the fifth and sixth overall picks in 2013, they would have been in line for qualifying offers worth about $6.4MM and $5.85MM, respectively. Instead, their QOs will be worth less than $4.2MM. Both players were very close to meeting the starter criteria too — they’ve started 77 games apiece in the past two years, so they’ll fall just short of the 82 required.

The players listed below are non-lottery first-round picks who will meet the starter criteria. That will make each of them eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,588,840.

All four of these players were selected in the 20-26 range in the 2013 draft, and their QOs would’ve ranged from about $3.39MM to $3.22MM if they hadn’t met the starter criteria.

Here are the rest of the RFAs whose qualifying offers won’t necessarily be determined by the standard criteria:

  • Undrafted power forward JaMychal Green (Grizzlies) has met the starter criteria, putting him in line for a QO worth $2,820,497 instead of the more modest amount he would’ve received as a minimum-salary player.
  • Two players – Joe Ingles (Jazz) and Ben McLemore (Kings) – still have a chance to meet the starter criteria depending on how the season’s last four days play out. Ingles has played 1,848 minutes this season, meaning he would have to average about 38 MPG in Utah’s last four contests to reach 2,000, which is a tall order. McLemore may fall just short as well, as he currently sits at 79 starts over the last two seasons. He’ll need to start three of the Kings’ last four games in order to average 41 starts per year, but he has only been in Sacramento’s starting lineup twice since the start of March. (End-of-season update: Neither Ingles nor McLemore met the starter criteria.)

Nuggets Notes: Mudiay, Hibbert, Roberson

The Nuggets like what they see out of Emmanuel Mudiay since he’s re-entered the rotation, Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post writes. “He’s worked very hard since he’s been taken out of that rotation. He has a lot of confidence and he should. He’s played good basketball for us at times,” coach Mike Malone said. Mudiay, who was the No.7 overall pick in the 2015 draft, was rumored to be available at the trade deadline.

In a separate piece, Kosmider answers numerous questions about the Nuggets’ future. Here are the highlights from that piece:

  • Kosmider explains why the Nuggets traded for Roy Hibbert. Denver was under the salary floor and Hibbert’s $5MM deal moved the team closer to it. The scribe adds that if the franchise somehow makes the playoffs, Hibbert could be useful in certain situations.
  • The Nuggets’ biggest needs are perimeter defense and rim protection, Kosmider writes. The scribe believes Andre Roberson, who will be a restricted free agent, could be a player to watch.
  • While Portland appears to have won the Jusuf NurkicMason Plumlee swap, it doesn’t mean the Nuggets made a bad trade, Kosmider argues. Nurkic wouldn’t have started with Nikola Jokic on the team and he wouldn’t have been happy coming off the bench. Plumlee is more a facilitator and he’s better suited to run with the second unit.
  • Denver won’t move veterans for the sake of opening up playing time for its younger players, Kosmider cautions. The Nuggets will enter next season expecting to make the playoffs, though they are expected to listen to offers on their older players this summer.

Northwest Notes: Plumlee, Turner, Donovan, Faried

Jusuf Nurkic has been on a tear since his trade to Portland, but Mason Plumlee‘s teammates are happy to have him in Denver. While Plumlee and the Nuggets are still in the “getting-to-know-you phase,” as Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post puts it, Mason has grown more comfortable with each passing game.

“I was telling Mike (Miller) on the bench that this is collectively the best passing team I’ve played on,” Plumlee said. “It’s exciting. There is energy in the ball. I feel like the way guys play on this team is contagious.”

The Nuggets maintain a 2.5 game lead on the eighth seed; between his stints with the Nets and Trail Blazers, Plumlee has a combined 27 games of playoff experience. Plumlee’s style of play has already earned the respect of standout center Nikola Jokic.

“He just wants to win,” Jokic said. “He wants to do the stuff that some other players don’t want to do.”

More from around the Northwest:

  • After missing five weeks with a fracture in his right hand, Evan Turner is expected to make his return to the lineup tomorrow against the Hawks. According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Turner returned to practice Friday after hour-long workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. A seventh-year veteran, Turner’s “brand of playmaking and solid perimeter defense” should provide a boost to the Trail Blazers‘ postseason push. “I’m done talking about the injury and worrying about it, because it’s already over with,” Turner said. “Knock on wood.”
  • Now two years into his NBA coaching career, Billy Donovan‘s name still surfaces when a college coaching job opens up. According to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman, the Indiana Hoosiers were speculated to have interest in hiring Donovan; a rumor the OKC coach shot down. “I am totally happy here,” Donovan said. “I love it here. I love the guys I work with every day. I love our staff, the organization. As far as I’m concerned, my commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I’m here.”
  • Kenneth Faried is eager to return to form after suffering a debilitating back injury, Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post writes. “The Manimal” missed 14 out of 17 games due to the injury, scoring 12 points over 18 minutes in his return to the court last night. “It was some of the worst pain I ever felt,” Faried said. “I’m just happy to be able to walk and jump and do the normal things like sit down normally. I’m glad to be able to do a light sprint or a jog and not have to worry about my back flaring up. I’m happy to be able to do those little things. You never know what can happen, and you take those for granted until something like that happens.”

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Adams, Payne

Jusuf Nurkics presence on the court has opened up the Blazers‘ offense and his energy has helped the team on the defensive end, Mike Richman of the Oregonian writes. Coach Terry Stotts praised the big man after Tuesday’s win over the Thunder.

“There’s no question he’s had an impact,” Stotts said of Nurkic. “I don’t want to undersell that. But I do think everybody is playing well off of him. But I think he has infused some energy and a different look. His style of play is obviously different than [Mason Plumlee]. The way he’s been able to integrate with our team on both ends of the court has made a huge difference.”

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The addition of Nurkic has helped the Blazers get back into the playoff picture and Joe Freeman of the Oregonian (podcast link)  wonders if the big man can be the team’s center long-term. Nurkic is averaging 14.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting 54.9% from the field since coming to Portland.
  • Steven Adams, who signed a $100MM extension during the offseason, admits that he’s struggled on the defensive end lately, but added that the Thunder‘s issues go beyond his poor play, as Erik Horne of the Oklahoman relays. “Even though your defensive coverages aren’t perfect or everything, the backside’s still got to be there. It’s literally a five-man thing. It ain’t really on one guy on the team. It ain’t so much scouting. It ain’t scouting at all. It’s our discipline to the defensive system we have going on.” Oklahoma City has lost four straight games.
  • Adreian Payne, who missed the last 13 games for the Wolves while being treated for thrombocytopenia, has been cleared to practice and the big man is thrilled to be back on the court, as Dane Mizutani of the Pioneer Press passes along. “I’m feeling good,” Payne said. “Healthy. I’m just trying to get back in shape. I’m happy to be with the team.”
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