Monte Morris

Nuggets Notes: Malone, Free Agents, Morris, Murray

Even though the Nuggets‘ magical postseason run came to an end Saturday, the team appears to have a bright future ahead, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. After overcoming 3-1 deficits in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Denver couldn’t do it again against the Lakers, but coach Michael Malone believes the experience in Orlando should benefit his players.

“I think we have something special brewing,” Malone said. “And I think most importantly, I think people around this country, around the world, who were watching the playoffs, this group of guys, you would be hard pressed to find a better story coming out of this bubble. A bunch of young kids faced elimination, looked it in the face and just kept on surviving and advancing.”

The Nuggets’ hopes for improvement will center around the development of rookie forward Michael Porter Jr., who averaged 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the postseason. Porter should be a full-time rotation player next season, and fellow rookie Bol Bol may also have a larger role. In addition, Will Barton will return after missing the entire playoffs with a knee injury.

“I think all great teams and champions have to go through the pains of losing,” Malone said. “And nothing is handed to you in this business. And we’re making steps. We’re moving in the right direction with a great group of guys.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver’s challenge for the offseason will be deciding how to handle free agents Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig and Paul Millsap without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Nuggets hold Bird rights or Early Bird rights on all four players and can go over the salary cap to keep them. However, the team already has $95MM in guaranteed money committed to five players. Marks states that Denver can spend $29MM without paying the tax — that figure drops to $20MM if Grant opts into a $9.3MM salary for next season.
  • Reaching an extension with reserve point guard Monte Morris should be another priority, Marks adds in the same story. Morris has a $1.7MM non-guaranteed contract for 2020/21 that will become guaranteed whenever free agency begins. Marks believes a realistic extension offer would be in the neighborhood of $27MM over three years.
  • Jamal Murray played Saturday’s game with a bone bruise on his right knee and another bruise on his right foot, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The pain contributed to Murray’s off night with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting. “I don’t like to tell everybody what I got. I just like to play through it,” he said. “I was in pain, but it’s cool. I was out there. I was struggling a little bit today.”

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Daniel Theis, Celtics, 28, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2019

Heading into the playoffs, no one quite knew what the Celtics’ big man rotation would look like. There’s no doubt right now which center coach Brad Stevens trusts the most. Theis has played heavy minutes when he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble. He averaged 30.1 MPG in the seven-game series against the Raptors and was productive (10.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG) while keeping turnovers to a minimum (1.0). He’s averaged 33.5 MPG thus far against the Heat. Moreover, the Celtics’ staff trusts that Theis can switch onto a variety of players defensively. His $5MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s hard to imagine Boston would let him go.

Marcus Morris, Clippers, 31, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $15MM deal in 2019

Morris had an interesting and controversial journey through free agency last summer. He reneged a two-year agreement with San Antonio and signed a one-year, $15MM pact with the Knicks. When the Clippers acquired Morris at the trade deadline, he was viewed as potentially the final piece to a championship puzzle. The Clippers crashed and burned in part because Morris was a non-factor as the series against the Nuggets wore on. In the last two games, Morris averaged 6.0 PPG and shot 3-for-14 from the field. He was better at being an irritant than a difference-maker. It will be interesting to see if his price tag drops this offseason.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 31, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $65MM deal in 2017

Ibaka had a strong postseason run while coming off the bench. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 22.8 MPG while making 51.1% of his 3-point attempts. Ibaka turns 31 on Friday but he’ll receive his biggest birthday gift in the coming months when the Raptors or some other suitor hands him a lucrative deal. ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes he will get full $9.3MM mid-level exception offers from playoff teams without cap space but that Toronto may offer a one-year deal at $18MM to keep him and preserve cap space for next summer.

Monte Morris, Nuggets, 25, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4.66MM deal in 2018

When Malik Beasley was dealt to the Timberwolves in February, Morris became the clear-cut backup to Jamal Murray. He’s been a key piece off the bench during the Nuggets’ dream run to the Western Conference Finals. Morris averaged just 16.6 MPG against the Clippers but scored in double digits four times during the series. He’s also played smart and poised, making more steals (10) than turnovers (8) in 297 minutes during the first two playoff series. Morris has a $1.66MM non-guaranteed salary for next season. That seems like a very big bargain.

Meyers Leonard, Heat, 28, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $41MM deal in 2016

The Heat have received significant contributions from a good chunk of their roster during their surprising carpet ride to the Eastern Conference Finals. Leonard hasn’t been among that group. Leonard, who made $11.3MM this season, was a starter until February when he suffered an ankle injury. He’s been relegated to cheerleading status during the restart, appearing in two seeding games and one postseason game. He was mainly a second-unit player in Portland before this season and he’ll have to compete for a rotation spot wherever he lands next season.

Northwest Notes: Porter, Harris, Barton, Bryant, Little

The first round of the playoffs is an educational experience for young Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr., as Mike Singer of the Denver Post details. Porter had 13 points and eight rebounds in 31 minutes in the team’s postseason opener against Utah on Monday but was also targeted on defense and saw extra attention offensively.

“Just being out there, learning, going through it, you can’t put a dollar sign on that,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s the best teacher that Michael is going to have. We can tell him, we can prepare him, but he has to go out there and feel it for himself and learn from it, which I know he will.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets will once again be down two starters in Game 2 of their first-round series on Wednesday, Kendra Andrews of The Athletic tweets. Wings Gary Harris (hip) and Will Barton (knee), both of whom missed the opener, will sit out. Porter and Torrey Craig started in their place, though Jerami Grant and Monte Morris played heavy minutes off the bench.
  • Johnnie Bryant will remain on the Jazz’s coaching staff through the playoffs, Steve Popper of Newsday tweets. Bryant has reportedly reached an agreement with the Knicks to become the club’s associate head coach.
  • Trail Blazers rookie forward Nassir Little experienced a syncopal episode (fainting) on August 12 while attending an optional practice in Orlando, the team tweets. He was diagnosed with dehydration and further tests have been negative. He will remain with the team and undergo precautionary health monitoring for two weeks. Little has appeared in 48 games, but none during the restart.

Northwest Notes: Noel, Morris, Lillard, Dozier

Backup Thunder center Nerlens Noel missed the squad’s final scrimmage ahead of the NBA season restart in Orlando after accidentally not taking his daily COVID-19 test, according to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. The Thunder would go on to win that scrimmage, 131-120, against the Trail Blazers. Any player who misses a daily coronavirus test is required to quarantine in his hotel for at least a day before rejoining his team.

Noel signed a new one-year, veteran’s minimum contract with the Thunder last summer. He has proved to be a useful rotation addition for the club, averaging 7.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.0 APG in 55 games. The Thunder will play their first game of the league’s restart on Saturday against the Jazz.

Here are more notes from around the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris notes that he was entirely asymptomatic while testing positive for the coronavirus, Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets. “I never felt any kind of way in terms of symptoms,” he said. “I felt fine.”
  • All-NBA Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will play in the team’s first restart game on Friday against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic. Lillard missed the team’s final two scrimmage games against the Raptors and Thunder with a sore left foot. “I was able to do everything [normally],” he said after a private 45-minute solo workout Wednesday. “I feel fine. I’m ready to go for tomorrow.”
  • Nuggets bench guard P.J. Dozier cleared his quarantine this morning, according to The Denver Post’s Mike Singer (Twitter link). Singer notes that, with Dozier’s new availability, every non-injured Nuggets player can now suit up for seeding games. Dozier arrived in Orlando for the season restart on July 28.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz, Wolves

The Nuggets have been one of the most short-handed teams at the NBA’s campus so far, having been limited to just eight players in each of their first two scrimmages this summer. However, reinforcements are on the way for Monday’s game against Orlando.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told reporters this afternoon that Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr., and Keita Bates-Diop will all be available to play in tonight’s game, increasing the team’s roster count to 12 (Twitter link via Kendra Andrews of The Athletic).

While he won’t be active tonight, Nuggets guard Monte Morris moved one step closer to getting back on the court as well, having cleared quarantine, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post tweets. He seems likely to be ready by the time Denver plays its first seeding game vs. Miami on Saturday.

Let’s round up a few more Northwest items…

  • Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard missed Sunday’s scrimmage against Toronto due to inflammation in his left foot, but head coach Terry Stotts said the club doesn’t expect it to be “a long-term thing,” writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com.
  • Sarah Todd of The Deseret News takes a deep dive into the Jazz‘s ability to retain both Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert long term, exploring the odds of the team doing so and speculating about what their contracts might look like.
  • University of Denver guard Ade Murkey, a Minnesota native, has interviewed with his hometown Timberwolves during the pre-draft process, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (Twitter link). Murkey averaged 18.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG with a .481/.400/.731 shooting line as a senior.

Morris, Bates-Diop Joining Nuggets In Orlando

Nuggets backup point guard Monte Morris is scheduled to arrive at the NBA’s Disney World campus on Friday, per Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link). Andrews went on to note that deep-bench forward Keita Bates-Diop touched down in Orlando for the league’s season restart on Thursday.

The reason for either player’s delay in joining the Nuggets has not been provided. They’ll both be required to quarantine and take a physical, as well as testing negative for COVID-19 for two straight days, before joining their squad for team practices.

Morris was previously rumored to be missing from the Orlando campus, having not been spotted in team photographs or videos at all since the team touched down earlier this month.

Morris had developed into being an integral part of the Nuggets’ rotation during 2019/20. The 6’2″ third-year guard out of Iowa State logged averages of 8.4 PPG, 3.5 APG and 1.7 RPG in 21.6 MPG across 65 games for Denver. He connected on 37.5% of his 2.2 three-point looks and 82.3% of his free throw attempts.

At 43-22, the Nuggets are the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Their first seeding game during the NBA’s season restart is scheduled for Saturday, August 1 against the Heat.

The 6’8″ Bates-Diop, the No. 48 pick out of OSU in 2018, appeared in just two games for Denver this year prior to the suspension of the season, after being traded to the team from the Timberwolves in a larger deal. The Nuggets occasionally sent Bates-Diop to the G League’s Windy City Bulls to accrue in-game reps.

Nuggets Missing Multiple Players In Orlando

In addition to waiting on star center Nikola Jokic to arrive at the Walt Disney World campus from Serbia, the Nuggets are also currently missing a few other players, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). League sources tell Haynes that Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr., and Torrey Craig haven’t made the trip to Disney.

Haynes’ report doesn’t include any additional info, so it’s not clear if Harris, Porter, and Craig are set to arrive soon, or if there’s a possibility that any of them might end up not reporting at all. There’s also no word on whether the absences are related to the coronavirus.

Jokic’s trip to Florida was delayed by the fact that he tested positive for COVID-19 in his home country of Serbia. Before joining the Nuggets at the Disney campus, he had to be medically cleared and get a flight to the United States. Head coach Michael Malone said last week that he expected Jokic to arrive within a few days.

According to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link), guard Monte Morris also hasn’t been spotted in photos or videos since the team reported to Orlando last week, so it’s possible Morris isn’t there yet either, though that’s unconfirmed.

Even if all of the Nuggets’ missing players eventually arrive at Disney, they’ll have to go through a brief quarantine period before being cleared to participate in practices, so they could have a very abridged ramp-up period — Denver’s season is set to resume on August 1, just 19 days from now.

Still, with a comfortable hold on a playoff spot, the Nuggets could end up focusing on getting to full strength by the time the postseason begins rather than going all-out during the seeding games.

Northwest Notes: Gobert, Jazz, Morris, J. Johnson

Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who recorded the NBA’s first positive test for COVID-19, still hasn’t fully recovered from the virus. Gobert, whose test results sparked the league-wide shutdown, describes his symptoms in an interview with L’Equip (translation provided by BasketUSA).

The taste has returned, but the smell is still not 100%,” Gobert said. “I can smell the smells, but not from afar. I spoke to specialists, who told me that it could take up to a year.”

Gobert is eager to start playing again, saying he hasn’t been part of a five-on-five game since the hiatus began. He has been boxing, swimming and running in the mountains, but had a physical reaction last month that he said felt like “ants in my toes.” Gobert also talked about shouldering the blame for the shutdown.

The NBA was waiting for a first case to stop the championship, it fell on me!” he said. “I became the image of the coronavirus for the Americans, the domino that triggered the end of the season, but it was not I who brought the virus to the United States. ”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Jazz will bring a fully healthy team to Orlando, except for Bojan Bogdanovic, who had surgery on his right wrist last month, coach Quin Snyder tells Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. Snyder also expressed support for his players who are advocating for social justice, such as Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson.
  • Nuggets guard Monte Morris has used the frustration of sliding in the 2017 draft as incentive to prove he belongs in the NBA, writes Steve Kosmider of the Athletic. Morris was projected as a first-rounder in some circles, but went to Denver with the 51st pick and had to work his way up from a two-way contract. “I was really mad about it,” Morris recalled. “Guys I dominated in college on multiple occasions were getting picked ahead of me. I got hurt during the draft process. I pulled my quad at the Laker workout, which was like my third workout. I still had about 15 workouts to go. I feel like if I had did them I would have moved up. I only worked out for three teams so that may have hurt me, but I still think my resume, doing what I did at Iowa State, should have had me going higher.”
  • James Johnson is certain to exercise his $16MM option and remain with the Timberwolves next season, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Johnson provides a veteran presence on a young team and is a vocal leader in the locker room.

Nuggets Notes: Craig, Morris, Porter Jr., Booth

Torrey Craig has established himself as a menace defensively but the Nuggets still have a tough decision regarding the swingman, as Mike Singer of The Denver Post explains. Craig is headed to restricted free agency and his playing time this season fluctuated due to his offensive limitations. However, Craig had some big moments as the season wore on and he’s a valuable reserve due to his pesky style, Singer adds. The team can make him a restricted FA by extending a $2.5MM qualifying offer.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Backup point guard Monte Morris has emerged as a key locker room voice, according to Singer. Morris is candid with the media and refuses to accept excuses such as injuries or absences during losses. Morris, who has a non-guaranteed $1.7MM contract next season, contributed on the court with his solid assist-to-turnover ratio and savvy decision making, Singer adds.
  • Michael Porter Jr. saw wild fluctuations in his playing time but the Nuggets haven’t lost any confidence in the rookie forward, who sat out the 2018/19 season due to back surgery, Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post writes. Coach Michael Malone said Porter got frustrated at times and was bothered by an ankle injury prior to the hiatus but can still become a “great” player. “He’s shown all of us what he can do,” Malone said. “Now, the challenge is to help him do that on a more consistent basis.”
  • The team has reportedly chosen Calvin Booth as its GM and Malone wholeheartedly endorses the promotion, Fredrickson reports in the same story. “He works his butt off, is very detailed and organized. … I have complete confidence in Calvin Booth if he’s selected,” Malone said. “I would be shocked if he wasn’t.”

Nuggets Notes: Bol, Malone, Rotation, Porter, Craig, Murray

The Nuggets have recalled rookie center Bol Bol from the G League but they’re not burning any of the 45 days he’s allotted to spend in the NBA on his two-way contract, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Bol is expected to remain with the Nuggets for a couple of weeks but won’t practice or play before being sent back down to the Windy City Bulls. He’ll be listed as out due to “injury management” for his surgically repaired left foot, Singer adds. Bol has averaged 11.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG in less than 17 MPG with Windy City.

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • The league has instituted coach’s challenges this season but like many of the men who patrol the sidelines, Michael Malone likes to save his challenge for crunch time, Eric Spyropoulos of the team’s website notes. “As you see it kind of play out, most coaches like to keep it (the challenge) in their pocket for late game situations. The only time I can see using it early is if you’re trying to protect a great player (from foul trouble),” Malone said.
  • The Nuggets have plenty of depth, which has created a pleasant dilemma for Malone on a game-by-game basis, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic points out. Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris and Jerami Grant have defined reserve roles but Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr. and Malik Beasley have seen major fluctuations in playing time. “It’s not easy from a player or coach’s standpoint,” Plumlee said. “But I’ll say guys have handled it as well as any team I’ve been on.”
  • Porter has appeared in 10 games, averaging 3.8 PPG in 9.0 MPG, and Malone hopes to expand his role, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic“I have to find ways to play him this year,” Malone said. “This cannot be a wasted year for him.”
  • Craig has lost playing time but he’s not creating any problems in the locker room, Singer relays in a separate story“We all get along, we’re all happy for each other when each other have success,” he said. “I’m not one to sit here and pout when my teammates are doing good. If they’re doing good and we’re winning, I’m happy.”
  • Jamal Murray will play for Team Canada next summer, Michael Grange of Sportsnet Canada reports. Canada will host an Olympic qualifying tournament in Victoria, B.C. in late June, and then head to Tokyo if the team snags one of the six remaining spots in the 12-team Olympic tournament.