Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly confirmed today to reporters that head coach Michael Malone will return for the 2018/19 season, writes Gina Mizell of The Denver Post.
While Malone was always considered likely to continue coaching the Nuggets, the team’s inability to secure a playoff berth created a little speculation about his job security. In his end-of-season presser, Connelly dismissed the idea that the club would want to replace Malone.
“There’s improvement across all levels of our team,” Connelly said. “I guess (questioning Malone’s job status is) the unfortunate narrative of professional basketball, but ‘Mo’s done a fantastic job.”
While Malone will return next season, the same can’t necessarily be said of all the players on the Nuggets’ roster. Connelly acknowledged today that Denver will face some “pretty interesting financial decisions” this offseason, including a big one on Nikola Jokic.
There’s no doubt that Jokic will be a Nugget next season, but the team will have the option of exercising or declining his inexpensive team option — turning down that option would allow the Nuggets to re-sign Jokic as a restricted free agent, rather than risking losing him as an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
“He’s a guy that’s been tremendous in how quickly he’s developed and a guy that we love and he loves Denver. So, the sooner we can get his signature on a long-term contract, the better,” Connelly said, according to Arnie Stapleton of The Associated Press, hinting that the Nuggets may look to sign Jokic as an RFA this summer.
The Nuggets’ most noteworthy unrestricted free agent in 2018 will be Will Barton, who said this week that he’d “love” to re-sign with Denver, but would like a starting role going forward. For his part, Connelly said he hopes the Nuggets can get a deal done with Barton and keep him on their roster.
“He’s our guy,” Connelly said of Barton. “We love him and I think if he’s back in a Denver jersey, it’s good for both him and the team.”