Michael Porter Jr.

Northwest Notes: Russell, Johnson, SGA, MPJ

The Timberwolves were hit with a $25K fine by the NBA on Thursday for violating the league’s resting policy when they sat D’Angelo Russell a week ago despite D-Lo being considered a healthy player. Following that decision, the Wolves faced accusations of tanking, but president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas insists that’s not the case, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes.

“I wouldn’t say it gets under my skin, but it’s just disappointing when you don’t have all the facts,” Rosas said of claims that the Timberwolves are tanking. “The reality is if individuals knew what was going on behind the scenes, how hard our coaches are working, our players are working — that’s the disappointing part because I think it’s disrespectful to them and what they’re putting in.

“… The side effects (of the Timberwolves’ midseason roster overhaul) unfortunately for Coach (Ryan Saunders) and his staff is you have nine players from three different programs, three different philosophies that are coming here and learning on the fly what we’re trying to do,” Rosas continued. “When you’re playing good teams like we’re playing, you get exposed. That’s the stage we’re at. But to say we’re not focused day in, day out on winning? That’s false and inaccurate.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • While he was hardly the biggest name of the players acquired by the Timberwolves at the deadline, James Johnson has quickly emerged as a team leader in Minnesota, according to Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “If James told me to jump off a cliff I would do it yesterday,” Josh Okogie said of his new teammate. “He’s been great for us, and we’ve been following his lead.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s breakout year and budding stardom is giving the Thunder plenty to think about as they contemplate a potential rebuild, writes ESPN’s Royce Young. If Gilgeous-Alexander has All-NBA upside, it likely reduces the odds of the team fully bottoming out in the next couple seasons.
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic attempts to make sense of Michael Porter Jr.‘s reduced playing time for the Nuggets, arguing that it’s time to let the second-year forward reclaim a more impactful role.

Nuggets Seeking First-Round Pick For Malik Beasley

The Nuggets are open to listening to inquiries on swingman Malik Beasley, but are seeking a first-round pick in any deal for him, two league sources tell Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

After enjoying a modest breakout season a year ago for Denver, Beasley has been in and out of the rotation and hasn’t been as productive in 2019/20. For the season, he’s averaging just 7.8 PPG on .392/.364/.941 shooting in 40 games (18.1 MPG). The 23-year-old is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be eligible for restricted free agency at season’s end, so the Nuggets will have to decide soon whether he’s in their long-term plans.

Like Beasley, Juan Hernangomez will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason and could be had this week for the right price. The Nuggets are seeking a second-round pick for Hernangomez, sources tell Singer. Denver has already traded away its own first- and second-round selections for 2020.

The Timberwolves are among the teams with interest in Beasley, a source tells Chris Crouse of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link), who cautions that any pursuit of Beasley would be secondary to Minnesota’s efforts to land D’Angelo Russell. As for Hernangomez, Singer reports that the Hawks are one team that has inquired on the power forward.

While the Nuggets could explore the market for a larger trade, don’t expect second-year forward Michael Porter Jr. to be involved in such a deal. We heard earlier in the season that Denver views Porter as essentially untouchable and recent reports have confirmed as much.

Singer hears from a source that the Nuggets have no intention of moving Porter, while Sam Amick of The Athletic said on the Tampering podcast that team owner Stan Kroenke is among those who don’t want to see the 2018 lottery pick go anywhere (hat tip to RealGM).

Lowe’s Latest: Redick, Bertans, Collins, Drummond, OKC, More

A number of players who have been mentioned as trade candidates this season may not be moved – or may not be available at all – at Thursday’s deadline, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes in an article jam-packed with trade-related rumors and speculation.

For instance, teams who have called the Pelicans asking about J.J. Redick have been “shooed away,” sources tell Lowe. The Wizards have taken a similar approach to clubs inquiring on Davis Bertans, though Lowe notes that could change if Washington is offered something concrete that moves the needle more than a future first-round pick.

As Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last week, teams have been monitoring John Collins in case the Hawks think about trading him, but there’s no indication Atlanta has interest in moving Collins “on any of the general terms being bandied about,” Lowe writes.

The Pistons‘ talks involving Andre Drummond aren’t entirely dormant, but it’s “far from a sure thing” that he’ll be moved, according to Lowe, who suggests that even if Detroit does make a deal, the return will likely be less than the team envisioned.

Meanwhile, the Thunder have been mentioned all season long as a potential seller, given their offseason moves and their veteran trade candidates. But the safest bet is that they stand pat with guys like Danilo Gallinari, Dennis Schroder, and Steven Adams, per Lowe.

As Lowe points out, the Thunder could still have leverage to make deals after the season, when Schroder and Adams will be entering contract years and Gallinari will be a prime sign-and-trade candidate. The Heat are among the teams to inquire on Gallinari this season, sources tell Lowe.

As noted above, Lowe’s latest ESPN piece is filled with many more trade rumors and notes. Here are several of the highlights:

  • Lowe confirms a previous report that the Nuggets and Heat are among the teams to express interest in Jrue Holiday. Lowe also names the Raptors as a club that would be an ideal fit for the Pelicans guard, but he has a hard time envisioning a deal involving any of those teams unless they’re willing to part with young players like Michael Porter Jr., Tyler Herro, or OG Anunoby, which seems unlikely.
  • The Pacers could probably net a first-round pick for backup guard Aaron Holiday, but haven’t shown any real interest in moving him, says Lowe.
  • The chatter about the Trail Blazers making a major win-now move has died down, sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, the Lakers have explored the Kyle Kuzma market and are eyeing several ball-handlers, including Kings swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has also received interest from the Hornets.
  • The Sixers don’t intend to include Matisse Thybulle in any deal and seem most likely to “tinker” around the edges of their roster, per Lowe.
  • The Grizzlies have asked for a first-round pick from teams inquiring on Jae Crowder, according to Lowe. However, he’d “bet heavily” against any potential trade partner meeting that price.
  • Lowe provides updates on both Morris brothers, suggesting that the Knicks “seem hell-bent” on keeping and re-signing Marcus Morris, and citing sources who say the Pistons could probably get a second-round pick for Markieff Morris.
  • A lot of teams have asked the Bucks about Sterling Brown, while Pistons youngsters Christian Wood and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have also generated interest, according to Lowe, who thinks that Detroit is more likely to engage in talks on Wood than Mykhailiuk. Lowe also hears that a few clubs have “poked around” on Kings big man Harry Giles, and identifies Denzel Valentine (Bulls), Jakob Poeltl (Spurs), Marvin Williams (Hornets), and Malik Monk (Hornets) as other under-the-radar trade candidates to watch.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Blazers, Nuggets, Conley

For Michael Porter Jr., focusing on the postseason is significantly more important than being snubbed from the Rising Stars Challenge this past week, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes.

“He knows I deserve to be a Rising Star, be in that game, but I’m gonna be playing in the playoffs, and that’s worth a lot more to me than playing in that game,” Porter said, mentioning that he sent coach Mike Malone a lengthy text after the Rising Stars rosters were announced. “So I’m just gonna keep working, get my rest during that All-Star break and be ready for that second half of the season.”

As noted by Singer, six of the 10 players selected to the annual game for the United States are currently out of the playoffs. Porter has given consistent production in his first NBA season, averaging eight points, 4.4 rebounds and 14.3 minutes through 39 contests.

“I’ll use it as motivation, but I don’t really try to play the game out of anger,” Porter said. “Like I’m not going to go out there and be mad I didn’t make it, so try to go score a bunch of points. Like I just go out there and try to play the game that I love. To not get picked, it definitely adds some fuel to the fire. It is what it is. Man, that’s other people’s decision.”

The Nuggets currently have a 34-16 record through the season’s first 50 games, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference. Porter missed the team’s game against Detroit on Sunday due to an ankle injury, with Denver losing in overtime 128-123.

Here are some other notes from the Northwest Division:

  • Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey should take the week off and not make any monumental changes to his team, Jason Quick of The Athletic opines. Portland has been red hot over the past 1-to-2 weeks, led by Damian Lillard‘s incredible production (48.8 points per game in his last six contests). The team has won four straight games and is 7-3 in it’s last 10 outings. “I think it’s definitely a conversation,” Lillard said when asked if this group needs to be kept together to continue its momentum, according to Quick. “We are moving, and it’s against good teams. Golden State, Indiana, Houston, Lakers, Utah … I mean, good wins, so there’s something to be said about it.”
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores various trades the Nuggets could consider ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, labeling Jrue Holiday, Robert Covington and others as potential targets. Denver is 34-16 and sports one of the league’s best offenses.
  • The Jazz shuffled their lineup against Portland on Saturday, choosing to start Mike Conley at point guard and bring Royce O’Neale off the bench, ESPN’s Tim McMahon writes. Utah thrived off a Mitchell-O’Neale-Ingles-Bogdanovic-Gobert starting lineup without Conley, who missed several games due to a hamstring strain. “I know how frustrated he’s been because he’s wanted to play,” coach Quin Snyder said. “You hear about someone’s character, and until you go through things with them and you see how they react to that adversity … that’s what he’s demonstrated in my mind.”

Northwest Notes: Teague, MPJ, Blazers, O’Neale

Point guard Jeff Teague felt that it was only a matter of time before the new Timberwolves regime traded him. That came to pass in a Friday deal with the Hawks. “I came from the [Tom Thibodeau] regime, and I knew they [GM Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders] wanted to get their guys in there,” Teague explained, according to The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner.

“It was very difficult because I went there to play with Thibs, Jimmy [Butler], [Derrick] Rose and Taj [Gibson],” Teague continued. “That’s what I had envisioned for my whole time that I was going to be there.” Teague is in the final season of a three-year, $57MM contract he signed with the Timberwolves in 2017.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Intriguing rookie Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has shown enough defensive improvement to lock in rotation minutes for coach Michael Malone, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Since Christmas, Porter has been averaging nearly 11 PPG on a team-high 65.4% field goal percentage, including 48.3% from long distance. But Malone had special praise for his defense. “You see the improvement,” Malone said. “Understanding what our game plan is, what our rules are.”
  • Yesterday’s five-player trade that sent Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks to the Kings in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan and saved the Trail Blazers $12.6MM off their cap bill this season. John Hollinger of The Athletic speculates that the Trail Blazers may be making further deals to get the team under the tax line for even more savings. Portland currently sits at a paltry 18-26 record and the No. 11 seed in the West, three games behind current N0. 8 seed Memphis.
  • After Jazz forward Royce O’Neale inked a four-year, $36MM extension today, Utah GM Justin Zanik and executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey spoke with reporters, including Aaron Falk of Jazz.com, about the deal. Lindsey spoke to the import of complementary role players like O’Neale as the team builds a contender around centerpieces Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. “It goes beyond Donovan and Rudy,” Lindsey said. “As Donovan’s and Rudy’s decisions come up, they can see a core they can win with and see that we’re serious.”

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Patton, Wolves, Gilgeous-Alexander

Forward Michael Porter Jr. has solidified his spot in the Nuggets’ rotation and he may even become a regular starter sooner rather than later, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. It’s unlikely that Porter will supplant Will Barton in the lineup despite his 25-point outburst against Indiana but it’s not out of the question, Singer continues. It’s a safer bet that Porter carves out a significant role down the stretch as a microwave-type scorer off the bench, Singer adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • The Thunder‘s Justin Patton is the player most likely to be dealt over the next week, according to The Athletic’s John Hollinger. Patton’s $1.62MM salary becomes fully guaranteed if he remains on their roster through January 7 and the Thunder are currently $750,250 into the luxury tax threshold. The center could only be acquired by one of the nine teams with workable trade exceptions, or by the Hawks via cap room, Hollinger adds.
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr has been impressed with the Timberwolves’ unheralded young players, as he told reporters including Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “What I see with the Wolves is similar to what I see with our team, in that suddenly a bunch of young guys get their chance, and they play hard,” Kerr said. “For Minnesota to go to Milwaukee, play the best team in the league down the wire, without (Karl-Anthony) Towns and (Andrew) Wiggins, it shows you what a young team is capable of, just competing.”
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has established himself as one of the league’s top second-year players, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman writes. The second-year Thunder guard, the centerpiece of the Paul George deal with the Clippers from Oklahoma City’s perspective, is averaging 19.9 PPG while mainly playing the off-guard spot after averaging 10.8 PPG in his rookie year as a point man.

Nuggets Notes: Beasley, Porter Jr., Bol, G League

Malik Beasley hasn’t seen consistent minutes for the Nuggets lately, but head coach Mike Malone insists that the current rotation decisions are not set in stone.

“I think our players understand the importance of staying ready because I’m going to go back to Malik,” Malone said (via Mike Singer of The Denver Post). “Malik could play 25 minutes tomorrow night and help us win the game.

“By no means is anybody written off, we believe in all of our players, but it’s my job when we’re struggling to find something that maybe gives us a better chance.”

Here’s more from Denver:

  • Michael Porter Jr. won’t improve without playing meaningful minutes regularly and Singer (separate piece) examines whether the Nuggets should make a trade to free up playing time for the second-year wing. Beasley and Juan Hernangomez are both restricted free agents this summer, so perhaps trading one of two makes sense.
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic breaks down why the Nuggets are taking it slow with Bol Bol, who is on a two-way contract with the club. Denver wants to see Bol play within a system. Through his first 154 minutes in the G League, the rookie center hasn’t had one assist, which is something that seems problematic given Malone’s free-flowing game plan.
  • The Nuggets don’t have a G League team, though they do have an interesting agreement with the Windy City Bulls with regard to their two-way center, Kosmider relays in the same piece. The franchise mandates that Bol receives a certain amount of minutes per game when the big man is with Chicago’s G League squad.

Woj, Lowe On D-Lo, Mavs, MPJ, Love, VanVleet, More

Approximately 120 players around the NBA became trade-eligible on Sunday, signaling the unofficial start of the NBA’s 2019/20 trade season. To celebrate the occasion, Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe hosted an ESPN special to survey the trade market, discussing which teams are most likely to make moves and which players are most likely to be dealt.

Here are several of the highlights from that discussion between Woj and Lowe:

Western Conference:

  • The Warriors may field trade inquiries on D’Angelo Russell leading up to February’s trade deadline, but they’re unlikely to actively shop him and probably won’t move him before the 2020 offseason, according to Wojnarowski (video link).
  • Wojnarowski believes the Mavericks would like to acquire a standout center to complement Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis (video link). He cites Montrezl Harrell as one player who might fit that bill, though Dallas would have to wait for the Clippers‘ big man to reach free agency.
  • The Nuggets essentially view Michael Porter Jr. as “untouchable,” says Wojnarowski (video link).
  • Wojnarowski and Lowe expect contenders to keep a close eye on Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday and J.J. Redick as the deadline nears (video link). According to Woj, Holiday loves New Orleans, but it’s not clear how patient he’ll be with the team’s rebuilding process.
  • Woj and Lowe note that the Clippers pursued Marcus Morris in free agency and could have interest in him again on the trade market. Lowe wouldn’t be surprised if the club tries to see what it can get using a package of Maurice Harkless, Patrick Patterson, and its first-round pick (video link).
  • Wojnarowski views 2019/20 as a pivotal year for the Rockets, adding that GM Daryl Morey seems to have given up trying to find a way to trade for Grizzlies wing Andre Iguodala after exploring multi-team scenarios earlier in the year (video link).

Eastern Conference:

  • Wojnarowski thinks the best the Cavaliers can realistically expect in a Kevin Love trade is a protected first-round pick, an expiring salary, and another throw-in player (video link). Woj adds that it seems as if Love is “ready to go,” having lost patience with the rebuild in Cleveland.
  • Count the Raptors and Heat among teams that will be reluctant to make any moves that compromise their 2021 cap flexibility (video links). According to Wojnarowski, Toronto wants to re-sign Fred VanVleet this summer, but continues to eye Giannis Antetokounmpo for ’21. As for the Heat, they seem less likely to trade young players for veterans than they have been in the past.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores “loves” Andre Drummond, but the club will soon have to have a serious conversation about whether to go all-in on the veteran center or whether to try to shop him, per Woj (video link).
  • Lowe thinks players like Timberwolves forward Robert Covington and J.J. Redick will be on the Bucks‘ radar if they’re available, adding that Milwaukee appears willing to go over the tax line for the right deal (video link).

Northwest Notes: SGA, Vonleh, MPJ, Gallinari

New Thunder point guard Chris Paul has changed the way the team’s other new point guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, thinks about defense, Maddie Lee of The Oklahoman relays. “Everybody’s always talking about offense, offense, offense,” Paul said in November, “but the biggest thing I’m talking to him about is defense.”

Gilgeous-Alexander told Lee that before Paul, no one had “really sat me down and shown me how to read (an opposing team’s) offense the same way you read a defense on the opposite end.” Paul is a nine-time All-Defensive Team selection. The Thunder are currently 11-12, good for the No. 7 seed in a top-heavy Western Conference.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Wolves center Noah Vonleh has been relegated to the bench a lot lately, tallying eight healthy scratches in the last 10 games heading into tonight’s contest against the Jazz (he has yet to play tonight, too). Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune details Vonleh’s plight. The forward signed a one-year, $2MM contract with Minnesota expecting an opportunity to play, but thus far has seen sparse playing time.
  • In Denver, Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. is struggling to carve out a bench role for himself, and seeking clarity on his usage in coach Mike Malone‘s system.. The No. 14 draft pick in 2018, Porter got some meaningful spot minutes during the first half of last night’s 97-92 loss to the Sixers. But he was passed over in the third quarter in favor of fellow small forwards Torrey Craig and Juan Hernangomez“Yeah, I need to talk to coach again,” Porter told The Denver Post’s Mike Singer. “When we’re more mentally prepared about when we’re coming in, what he’s thinking for certain games.”
  • With most summer contracts eligible to be traded come December 15th, Thunder power forward Danilo Gallinari and his expiring $22.6MM contract have been the talk of the NBA town. One possible suitor, the Trail Blazers, could use Gallinari as their starting four in a 2020 playoff push. HoopsHype’s Bryan Kalbrosky details the versatile scorer’s potential fit in Portland.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Murray, Wolves, Jazz

Nuggets head coach Mike Malone said he considers expanding Michael Porter Jr.‘s role “everyday”

“I really do,” Malone said (via Mike Singer of The Denver Post). “We met as a staff yesterday and today, this morning prior to shootaround, when you’re 1-4 [over the last five games] and your offense is kind of holding you back, you have to have all options on the table.”

Heading into the night, Porter was averaging just 8.6 minutes per game and has appeared in just 10 contests for Denver.

Here’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jamal Murray left the Nuggets‘ contest tonight with a torso injury, Singer tweets. The point guard injured himself during a collision with Ben Simmons. There’s no word yet on the severity of the ailment.
  • Matt John of Basketball Insiders examines whether the Timberwolves will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Minnesota would like to add more talent, though its hard to envision the team making a substantial trade without including one of its core pieces.
  • The Jazz remain buyers and could certainly use some help after a disappointing start to the 2019/20 campaign, John writes in the same piece. Utah’s bench has struggled and adding depth could be the key to turning around the club’s season.