Mason Plumlee

Northwest Notes: Thomas, Plumlee, Rose, Wolves

Isaiah Thomas hasn’t played since signing with the Nuggets over the summer, but he is having a huge impact on the team, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Thomas has become a mentor to younger players and a vocal leader on an otherwise quiet team.

“To have his voice in our locker room, to help some of these younger guys out, it takes a lot of load off myself,” said Paul Millsap, the only other player on Denver’s roster older than 30.

Thomas expects to return soon from a lingering hip injury and hopes to re-establish himself after a nightmarish 2017/18 season that began with a trade out of Boston, where had become a fan favorite and an MVP candidate. He missed his first two months in Cleveland, then took the blame for the team’s defensive and chemistry problems when he did start playing. The Cavaliers shipped him to the Lakers, who elected not to re-sign him when the season ended.

“For my wife and my family, it’s definitely been difficult,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day, I’m human. I’ve been three places in less than one year, so it’s like, I’m tired of moving.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mason Plumlee‘s teammate’s consider him the NBA’s “most underrated player,” Singer relays in a separate story. Although his stats aren’t impressive, Plumlee leads the Nuggets in field goal percentage, takes the toughest assignments on defense and is an important part of a bench unit that is tied for the second-highest plus-minus rating in the league. Coach Michael Malone believes Plumlee should be considered as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, even though the award usually goes to big scorers.
  • Timberwolves guard Derrick Rose also wants to be considered for the Sixth Man award, according to Chris Pine of The Star Tribune. The former MVP has settled into a reserve role since coming to Minnesota and is averaging 19.3 points per game while shooting a career high .494 from 3-point territory. “I would like winning Sixth Man of the Year,” Rose said. “I don’t think that’s anything bad to say or a bad goal with me coming off the bench. I want to be the best bench player.”
  • Adding Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the Jimmy Butler trade has turned the Timberwolves into a much better rebounding team, Pine notes in the same story. Since the deal, Minnesota has upped its defensive rebounding percentage from 67% to 73%.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Mitchell, Plumlee, Roth

Thunder guard and former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this week. The procedure was described as “maintenance” and he will be re-evaluated in four weeks. Westbrook is expected to miss the preseason but his status for Oklahoma City’s season opener on October 17 is to be determined.

Westbrook is coming off another outstanding season for the Thunder as he averaged a triple-double for the second consecutive season. As The Oklahoman details, Westbrook’s injury already has had ripple effects on the Thunder roster and will continue to do so until his impending return.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell had an outstanding rookie season for Utah, a season that would’ve earned him Rookie of the Year honors in nearly any other season. Frank Urbina of HoopsHype examines Mitchell skillset and projects how and when Mitchell could make the jump into superstar status.
  • Nuggets‘ big man Mason Plumlee needed offseason surgery after playing another season of at least 70 games. NBA.com previewed Plumlee’s upcoming 2018/19 campaign as he prepares to be Denver’s primary backup at center.
  • Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune looks at the Timberwolves‘ strategy for trying out players for the G League team. “Everybody’s just looking for the diamond in the rough,” Iowa Wolves coach and former Timberwolves player Scott Roth said. “Everybody wants the next Jonathan Simmons to walk into their building. 

Western Notes: Capela, Durant, Leonard, Williams

Clint Capela‘s new five-year contract with the Rockets on Friday, initially reported to be worth $90MM, is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Those annual incentives include $1MM for reaching the Western Conference finals, $500K for finishing with a 30% defensive rebounding rate, and $500K for shooting at least 65% from the free throw line, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision to take a one-plus-one contract with the Warriors kept his options open beyond the upcoming season, as he explained to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Durant will make $30MM the first year with a $31.5MM player option for the 2019/20 season. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do,” he told Charania. “It’s just one of those things.”
  • The Celtics offered at least two of the first-round picks they own from other teams for Kawhi Leonard, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Those picks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes, include the higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ pick next summer, unless it’s the top overall pick; the Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top-eight protected next summer and top-six protected in 2020; and the Clippers’ pick, which is lottery-protected the next two summers and then converts to a second-rounder. The Spurs instead decided to take another All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, in a package for Leonard. The way the Spurs organization treated Leonard may have had more to do with his departure than any issues with his teammates, Feldman notes in a separate piece, relaying reporting from Lowe and ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
  • C.J. Williams is a perfect waiver claim candidate, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Williams, who was waived by the Clippers on Friday, is on a $1.4MM non-guaranteed contract with $125K in protection if he’s not waived by opening night, Marks continues. His $1.6MM salary in 2019/20 has a $200K guarantee if he’s not waived by the first game, Marks adds.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit will likely be led by Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig, Chris Dempsey of the team’s website predicts. Dempsey dispenses his views on recent developments involving the club in his latest mailbag.

Nuggets Looking To Trade Chandler, Arthur, Faried

With a potentially huge luxury tax bill looming, the Nuggets are hoping to find someone willing to take on the contracts of Wilson Chandler, Darrell Arthur or Kenneth Faried, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. He adds that Denver isn’t finding many interested teams and may have to put center Mason Plumlee on the trade block too.

Chandler contributed to the cap crunch when he decided to opt in to the final year of his contract at $12.8MM for next season. Combined with a sizable new deal upcoming for Nikola Jokic and the apparent decision to re-sign free agent Will Barton, the Nuggets could have a team salary in excess of $140MM, well above the projected $123MM luxury tax threshold for 2018/19.

Denver can reduce that figure by unloading Faried, who will make nearly $13.8MM next season, or Arthur, whose salary is set at nearly $7.5MM. Both are on expiring contracts, as is Chandler. Plumlee has two years left on his current deal at $12.9MM and $14MM.

Nuggets’ Mason Plumlee Undergoes Surgery

Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee has undergone a successful surgical procedure to repair a core muscle injury, the team announced today in a press release. According to Gina Mizell of The Denver Post (Twitter link), Plumlee played through the injury for a significant chunk of the 2017/18 season.

Plumlee is expected to resume basketball-related activities at some point this summer, and should be back to 100% by the time the Nuggets open training camp in September, per the club.

Plumlee, 28, signed a three-year, $41MM contract with Denver during the 2017 offseason, so he remains under contract with the club for two more years before becoming eligible for free agency again in 2020. The former Duke standout saw his playing time cut back in 2017/18, averaging a career-low 7.1 PPG to go along with 5.4 RPG and 1.9 APG in 19.4 minutes per contest.

With Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap set to return as the Nuggets’ starting frontcourt for 2018/19, Plumlee figures to continue playing a backup role at center going forward, as long as everyone stays healthy.

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 Nuggets.com.

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.”