Mason Plumlee

Northwest Notes: Butler, Anthony, Millsap, Jazz

In the wake of Jimmy Butler‘s meniscus injury, the Timberwolves find themselves in a worse position than their Western Conference rivals who have lost star players, writes Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. With the trade deadline already passed, Minnesota has few options to replace Butler if he is sidelined for several weeks or the rest of the season.

The Grizzlies lost Mike Conley early in the season and started pointing toward next year before Christmas arrived. Rudy Gobert of the Jazz and Paul Millsap of the Nuggets both had time to heal before the stretch run. The Pelicans were able to deal for Nikola Mirotic when DeMarcus Cousins got injured. The Spurs have a successful foundation to fall back on without Kawhi Leonard.

None of those benefits are available to the Wolves, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Coach Tom Thibodeau has relied heavily on Butler on both ends of the court since acquiring him from the Bulls in an offseason trade. Butler ranks second in the league in minutes per game at 37.1 and is the key to a defense that becomes the NBA’s worst without him on the court.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Some tears can’t be fixed surgically, meaning the meniscus has to be removed, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. That leads to a faster recovery, adds Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), but it has become less popular since Dwyane Wade had it done and blames it for his ongoing knee pain.
  • Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony is enjoying himself away from the stress that marked most of his time in New York, relays Tim Keown of ESPN. Anthony’s tenure with the Knicks was marked by disappointing results and a long public feud with team president Phil Jackson. “In New York, there was so much going on with the organization and the city,” Anthony said. “It was very tense up there, and you never really get a chance to have stability there. Here, man, I’m having fun with the game again. The joy of it — that’s what guys know me as: laughing and smiling and enjoying the game. I think over the past couple of years I’ve lost that, and I think guys around the league have seen it.”
  • After climbing to sixth in the Western standings, the Nuggets face the challenge of incorporating two injured players back into their rotation, writes Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post. Mason Plumlee returned to the lineup Friday, and Millsap is expected back soon. “It’s just great to have those guys back,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ll figure out who plays and when they play, but being healthy with 24 games to go [is] a good thing to be.”
  • The Jazz, who haven’t hosted an All-Star Game in 25 years, have submitted a formal bid to bring the game to Utah in 2022 or 2023, according to Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News.

Northwest Rumors: Nuggets, Wolves, Noah

The Nuggets are a team to watch as today’s trade deadline approaches, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who tweets that Denver is “active on several fronts.” The club is trying to land Tyreke Evans and is looking to move players like Emmanuel Mudiay and Wilson Chandler. The Nuggets are also willing to use a draft pick to incentivize a team to take on Kenneth Faried, Woj adds.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Having talked to sources around the NBA, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets that things remain quiet on the Timberwolves‘ front. Shabazz Muhammad may be dealt, but there doesn’t seem to be much else happening for now, says Krawczynski.
  • The Knicks aren’t expected to find a trade partner willing to take Joakim Noah. However, opposing executives believe the Thunder and Timberwolves will be among the teams with interest in Noah if he’s waived or bought out, sources tell Ian Begley of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, who has been sidelined with a right calf strain, is on track to return to action after the All-Star break, writes Christopher Dempsey of

Nikola Mirotic, 15 Others Become Trade-Eligible

Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.

The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.

The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.

Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:

With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.

Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.

Northwest Notes: Anthony, Crawford, Plumlee, Mitrou-Long

Carmelo Anthonys struggles this season have mirrored that of the Thunder: struggling to find consistency. Anthony has been primarily a ball-dominant player in his career but he has changed that approach recently, helping the Thunder in the process, Royce Young of ESPN writes.

In recent games, Anthony has hovered around the perimeter, waiting for catch-and-shoot situations. In Oklahoma City’s win over the Hawks on Friday, Anthony netted seven three-pointers, allowing Russell Westbrook to facilitate plays. Anthony admitted that he can find sustained success in that role once he gets adjusted.

“I think for me it’s just a matter of accepting that role. That’s all it is,” Anthony said. “Realizing that’s what it’s going to be, these are the type of shots I’m going to get, this is the type of offense we’re going to be running and accepting that, and working on that role. That’s something that I’ve kind of been doing over the past week, is allowing myself to accept that role and do whatever I gotta do to make this team win.”

Anthony, 33, is averaging a career-worst 17.5 PPG this season through 32 games. With Westbrook and fellow All-Star Paul George, Anthony is not required to shoulder the load the way he did in New York the past six seasons. Head coach Billy Donovan said he and the team appreciate Anthony’s willingness to change his style for the betterment of the team.

Read up on other news out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves signed three-time Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford to be instant offense off the bench and to be a veteran presence on a young, promising team. While his minutes and production were down through the first third of the season, he is still capable of putting up points in a hurry for Minnesota, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes.
  • Injuries to Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic have allowed Mason Plumlee to receive more playing time and the Nuggets’ center is becoming a trusted vocal leader for the team, Gina Mizell of The Denver Post writes.
  • Naz Mitrou-Long finished up a game in the G League and after a long flight home learned the Jazz were signing him to a two-way deal. As he gets the chance to suit up for Utah in the NBA, Mitrou-Long is appreciative of the opportunity, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes. “I obviously don’t presume to come in here and play a substantial amount of minutes or even play at all,” he said. “If I get any opportunity, it’s going to be to learn and take advantage of it.”

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.