Nikola Jokic

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Plumlee, Jazz

The deal that landed Mason Plumlee may not be the last one the Nuggets make this month, suggests Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. The reporter relays that his sources believe Denver could still move names like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and even second-year point guard Emmanuel Mudiay.

After years of stock piling assets, the Nuggets have emerged as a playoff contender in 2016/17. Leading the charge for the franchise has been sophomore center Nikola Jokic. With Jokic at the helm and the club finally focused on building around him, the the team is in a position to deal some valuable building blocks in an effort to fortify their new core.

Kyler suggests that the emergence of Juan Hernangomez, too, could expedite a formal regime change in Denver. The Nuggets currently sit eighth in the Western Conference.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Newly acquired Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic spoke with the media about his new home. “I think it’s the perfect place for me,” he told the media. “They need me, and I need them.” The 22-year-old also mentioned that he didn’t mind whether head coach Terry Stotts slotted him into the starting lineup or brought him off the bench.
  • The Nuggets don’t anticipate having any issues working Mason Plumlee into their rotation, writes Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post. Head coach Mike Malone expects to seamlessly integrate the new big man, adding that Plumlee’s playmaking abilities should help the team’s offense continue to flow well when Nikola Jokic is on the bench.
  • The Trail Blazers will send $2.85MM to the Nuggets as part of the Nurkic/Plumlee swap, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. That, Pincus says, explains why Denver included a first-round pick in their outgoing package. For more details of the trade, consider Mark Deeks of Give Me Sport‘s break down of the deal.
  • A Utah-based analytics firm will sponsor Jazz jerseys in 2017/18, but rather than plug the company’s own logo, they’ll promote that of a charitable organization generating funds for cancer research. The 5 For The Fight patch will be on Jazz jerseys for at least the first year of the organization’s three-year commitment with the team, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.

Northwest Notes: Stephenson, Turner, Blazers

Newly acquired Timberwolves guard Lance Stephenson squared off against his former team Friday and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry had nothing but positive things to say about the 26-year-old journeyman, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

We had no problem whatsoever with him,” Gentry said regarding New Orleans’ decision to waive the then-15th man on their roster after a groin injury in November. “As a matter of fact, he probably raised our energy level as much as anyone. I think he’ll be fine. He’s playing for a great [Timberwolves] coach who loves energy and toughness and stuff like that.”

The Pelicans faced criticism at the time for parting ways with Stephenson as he recovered from the long-term injury but did so to free up space on their roster for Archie Goodwin (who has since been waived). Now Stephenson is back at full strength and on a 10-day contract looking to stick in Minnesota with a Timberwolves roster led by head coach Tom Thibodeau.

In two games with the Timberwolves so far, Stephenson has posted 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game. He’ll make $72K with Minnesota over the duration of his 10-day contract, in addition to the $1.2MM he’s owed by the Pelicans.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The news that Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner will miss 5-6 weeks comes just as the offseason acquisition was starting to find a rhythm in Portland, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian. Turner’s absence could thrust Allen Crabbe and Moe Harkless into a bigger role defensively where Turner had been checking the opposing team’s most potent perimeter threat. In the same column, Richman also discusses the progress that Al-Farouq Aminu has made on the offensive end since being relegated to the bench.
  • With a 23-31 record, the Trail Blazers remain very much in the hunt for the final Western Conference playoff berth (Denver sits in the eight-seed at 24-29) but TNT analyst Kenny Smith is skeptical that they have enough resources. “I don’t think they have a lot of talent, honestly. I think that’s the problem,” Smith said. Molly Blue of The Oregonian relayed both Smith’s and Charles Barkley‘s reservations about the guard-heavy roster.
  • When budding Nuggets star Nikola Jokic dropped 40 points on the Knicks Friday, he became just the second Denver player to do so in Madison Square Garden, writes Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post. The last? David Thompson in 1978,

Nuggets Notes: Barton, Trade Assets, Jokic

Will Barton‘s per-minute production this season has dipped significantly when he hasn’t received regular and significant minutes, as Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post details. Barton has always said he’s the kind of player who gets better the more time he spends on the court, and his numbers have backed that up, so the Nuggets will have to find a way to take advantage of that while finding sufficient minutes for their other rotation players, writes Dempsey.

“It’s a balance of trying to find ways to get him more minutes,” head coach Mike Malone said of Barton. “And it’s not an easy one because Jameer [Nelson] has played well, Gary [Harris] has played well, [Danilo Gallinari] has played well, Jamal Murray – a guy that we believe is a big part of our future – I have to play him. I have to find ways so that when he comes back next year, his rookie season has not been a waste. So, therein lies the challenge of getting Will Barton more minutes when we are fully healthy. But that is something that we constantly talk about and are trying to figure out.”

Malone didn’t even mention Wilson Chandler, who would reportedly like to have a more defined role in the Nuggets’ rotation. The team’s problem of having too many solid players and not enough minutes to go around extends to the frontcourt, where the club has struggled to find consistent minutes for someone like Jusuf Nurkic.

A trade could help the Nuggets narrow down their rotation, and one of our additional items out of Denver relates to that subject. Let’s dive in…

  • Rival executives believe the Nuggets’ front office wants to be active at the trade deadline, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. As Kennedy outlines, few NBA teams have the combination of veterans, young players, future draft picks, and cap room that Denver possesses, which makes the Nuggets an interesting team to keep an eye on as the deadline approaches.
  • We have a full breakdown of the Nuggets’ cap situation for 2016/17 right here, including salary details on the team’s latest 10-day signings.
  • In a fascinating piece for Sports Illustrated, Lee Jenkins takes a closer look at the unusual path Nikola Jokic has taken over the last several years, from a second-round pick to a core piece for Denver’s long-term future.

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Sanders, Grant

The Nuggets have a stockpile of young, promising assets but make no mistake, Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post writes, Nikola Jokic is their budding star. The second-year big man was shifted into the final spot of the team’s pregame starting lineup routine several weeks ago and hasn’t been able to duck out of the spotlight since.

While Jokic’s traditional numbers have improved dramatically since the Nuggets formally slid him back ahead of Jusuf Nurkic on the depth chart, his impact on the team’s overall offensive rating is significant, too. In 11 January contests, Jokic averaged 23.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game. When he’s on the court, Dempsey explains, the team’s offensive rating is 11 points higher.

Of course now that the Nuggets have pinpointed Jokic as the foundation on which they’ll build their future not everybody in the locker room is pleased with where things are headed. In his own piece for the Denver Post, Mark Kiszla writes that certain players are pouting now that things haven’t worked out in their favor.

Nurkic, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are three players who Kiszla suggests need to think long and hard about whether they want to be in Denver long-term. He adds that their attitudes are not conducive to winning, which a Nuggets team in the hunt for a playoff spot ought to take into consideration as the February 23 trade deadline approaches.

That’s not all out of the Northwest Division:

  • While the Jazz have gotten their fair share of attention as an emerging Western Conference threat, one player that hasn’t gotten the recognition he probably deserves is Joe Johnson. “It’s almost like we forget about Joe — or you guys do — until he does something great,” head coach Quin Snyder tells Jody Genessy of the Deseret News. The 35-year-old was brought board with a two-year deal to provide experience on a young roster.  Utah currently sits fourth in the West with a 32-19 record.
  • The Trail Blazers have no interest in adding big man Larry Sanders, tweets Jason Quick of CSN Northwest. The team is too close to the tax line to take on any addition salary. Sanders, who seeks to return to the league after abruptly retiring in 2015, is making his rounds working out with various franchises in need of a big man.
  • Retired forward Harvey Grant sees similarities between his first few years in the league and his son’s. Jerami Grant is in his third NBA season but just his first with the Thunder. “He reminds me so much of me,” the elder Grant told Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman. “It took me about three years to really get where I wanted to get, and once I scratched that surface, I just took off.

Community Shootaround: Denver’s Trade Chips

Despite a 22-28 record, the Nuggets find themselves within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Staked to a half-game lead in the eighth seed, Denver has outperformed expectations behind a breakout season from Nikola Jokic.

As Mark Kiszla pointed out in a Denver Post column, the Nuggets have a decision to make: pursue a No. 7 or 8 seed, or sell off their assets by the trade deadline? Wilson Chandler has been critical of his role (or occasional lack thereof) under coach Michael Malone, making him a logical trade candidate.

Malone firmly denied Emmanuel Mudiay‘s availability via trade, but several Nuggets remain viable trade chips; particularly Danilo Gallinari and Jusuf Nurkic. As of late January, Nurkic was rumored to be available in a package deal with veteran forward Kenneth Faried.

We know Nuggets GM Tim Connelly has a history of trade deadline activity; here’s what we want to know as February 23rd approaches…

Who would you like to see the Nuggets shop at the deadline? Would it be worthwhile for Connelly to keep his team intact while pursuing a playoff spot? Which team would be the most logical destination for Chandler?

Let us know in the comments section!

Northwest Notes: Anthony, Kanter, Towns

The Thunder are intrigued by the idea of adding Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, tweets Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, though he also adds that they know such a pairing is a long-shot.

Anthony has been the subject of trade speculation for the last few months. In order for the forward to change teams, however, he would have to first waive his no-trade clause, something that he’s said to have only considered for the Clippers or Cavaliers and not specifically the Thunder.

That said, the possibility of suiting up alongside Russell Westbrook must at least somewhat appeal to the 32-year-old. Westbrook has led the Thunder to a 28-19 record.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • After fracturing his forearm while punching a chair, Enes Kanter has undergone successful surgery, writes Royce Young of ESPN. The Thunder big man is still expected to be out of action for 6-8 weeks, but will be re-evaluated in four weeks.
  • Second-year center Karl-Anthony Towns started the year shooting nearly four three-pointers per game. That trend, Michael Rand of the StarTribune notes, has subsided of late. Rand observes that the Timberwolves big man saw his percentage from beyond the arc drop as the season went on and suggests that Towns is now striking a more successful balance between shooting from the outside and going to work down low. Seven of Towns’ highest games scores have come in his last eight game, a span in which he’s shot just 2.0 triples per game.
  • The unique ability of Nikola Jokic has given the Nuggets flexibility when it comes to generating lineups, writes Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. His passing ability gives the team plenty of options when executing their offense. “Nikola is a guy we play all over the floor,” says head coach Michael Malone. “He’ll be in the low post. At times he’ll be in the high post and at the elbows. We’ll play through him anywhere.”

Northwest Notes: Jokic, Kanter, Blazers, Thibodeau

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will undergo an MRI today to determine the damage caused to his left hip in a collision Thursday night, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. X-rays taken after the game were negative and the injury has been diagnosed as a hip strain. The Nuggets, who currently hold the eighth seed in the West with a 20-25 record, would have a hard time withstanding a prolonged absence by Jokic, who is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. “It’s good news for us,” teammate Will Barton said of the X-ray results. “He’s been playing out of this world for us, our best player. It would be tough to see him go down for a long time. I’m just happy he’s fine.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The loss of Enes Kanter will create an even greater burden for Russell Westbrook, notes Royce Young of ESPN.com. Kanter is expected to be sidelined six to eight weeks after breaking his right forearm by punching a chair Thursday night. The Thunder center was third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting last year and has become even more valuable this season by improving his passing, Young writes. His absence robs the bench unit of a player who can create his own offense.
  • The Trail Blazers have one of the best backcourts in the league in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but they may need to break it up to build a contender, writes Michael Pina of RealGM. He suggests dangling both players in trade talks to see what kind of return they might bring, mentioning Andre Drummond, Jimmy Butler and Nerlens Noel as possibilities.
  • Tom Thibodeau’s style is starting to work with the Timberwolves, contends Jim Souhan of The Star-Tribune. Thibodeau can be loud and profane on the sidelines, but he is said to be fair and even-tempered with players behind the scenes. The Wolves are 17-29, but are only 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot that would be the first for the franchise since 2004. “He’s honest,’’ Andrew Wiggins said after a recent Thibodeau press conference. “He said we were flat but he likes the way we fought at the end.’’

And-Ones: Motiejunas, Deng, Jokic

The Nets signed Donatas Motiejunas to an offer sheet on Friday and the timing of it was no accident, Marc Stein of ESPN.com writes. Brooklyn hopes that by waiting until after November 23 to sign Motiejunas, the Rockets will further consider not matching, as that was the last day they could have signed him and still been allowed to trade him this season. If Houston matches now, the big man can’t be traded for a full year without his consent.

Stein also notes that Brooklyn hired former longtime Rockets executive Gianluca Pascucci as its director of international scouting during the offseason and there’s likely a correlation between the hiring of Pascucci and the Nets offer to Motiejunas.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Luol Deng is struggling in his first season with the Lakers and the chatter about whether he fits in on Los Angeles’ young, promising team is expected to continue, Stein adds in the same piece. Deng signed a four-year, $72MM deal with the team in the offseason.
  • Nikola Jokic will miss at least a week as he recovers from a sprained wrist, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post relays. “Talking to Nikola, he wants to play right when he can catch the ball,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “I think we’ll probably be a little more cautious than that on this road trip, maybe get it looked at again just to kind of see where it’s at once the swelling goes down.”
  • Jake Rauchbach of Basketball Insiders examines how Russell Westbrook and James Harden are producing eye-popping numbers on the Thunder and Rockets, respectively. Both players signed extensions with their respective teams this offseason.

Northwest Notes: Oladipo, Ibaka, Jokic, Turner

Victor Oladipo has no regrets about the trade that sent him from Orlando to Oklahoma City, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Oladipo, who will face his former team for the first time tonight, not only landed with a contender, but he signed a four-year, $84MM extension last month. He is off to a good start in OKC, averaging 16.2 points per game and shooting 42% from 3-point range. “I was a little shocked at first,” Oladipo said of hearing about the deal. “But after it all soaked in, I was excited and looking forward to the opportunity. I’m glad where I am. Sometimes change is good.”

  • Serge Ibaka, who went to the Magic in the Oladipo deal, is looking forward to tonight’s return to Oklahoma City, relays John Denton of NBA.com. Ibaka spent seven years in OKC and helped the Thunder become one of the top teams in the Western Conference. He offered thanks to the fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “They gave me a lot of confidence,’’ Ibaka said. “Great things always have tough beginnings. It never starts great [and goes] to great. Big things come from small beginnings, so I have a lot of appreciation for those fans because my first year nobody knew who I was. But they gave me that trust and that’s one of the things I’m always going to appreciate them for.’’
  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone credits Nikola Jokic for being willing to accept a reserve role to help make the team better, according to Harrison Wind of BSNDenver. Malone tried juggling his lineup as Denver fell to 3-6 Saturday, starting Kenneth Faried and moving Jokic to the bench. “Nikola Jokic is probably the most selfless player on our team,” Malone said. “He’s a guy that even came to me, says ‘Coach I don’t want to start anymore. I just want to win.’ He’s one of the few guys on our team, that if I can pull him out of the starting lineup, he’s not going to be upset and pout. And I give him a lot of credit and respect for that.”
  • Evan Turner is feeling the frustration of his slow start in Portland, relays Jason Quick of CSNNW. The Trail Blazers gave Turner a four-year, $70MM deal this summer to add backcourt depth and another ballhandler. However, he is playing less than 24 minutes per game and averaging 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per night. He has 20 turnovers to go with 24 assists and appears bothered by his lack of playing time. “What can you possibly do?’’ Turner asked after Friday’s game. “When you get three shots and play 27 minutes … that’s not a knock, because we have the best guards in the league, but I mean, what can I possibly do besides be accountable to defense, take care of the ball, rebound, and play the floor? Where I just came from, I had the ball in my hands tons of times to make plays.’’

Northeast Notes: Harkless, Nurkic, Jokic, Sabonis

Maurice Harkless has played well enough this preseason to claim the Trail Blazers‘ starting small forward slot, contends Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. The 23-year-old Harkless re-signed with Portland this summer for four years at $40MM, but faces competition for the starter’s job from the re-signed Allen Crabbe and free agent addition Evan Turner. Coach Terry Stotts hasn’t named a starter yet, but Freeman believes Harkless’ defensive abilities and his chemistry with the other starters makes him the best choice. “Moe … just makes us versatile,” said Damian Lillard. “Being able to rebound the ball and push it, knock down threes, he can guard a bunch of positions, he changes the game in a different way.”

There’s more tonight out of the Northwest Division:

  • While the rest of the league is getting smaller, the Nuggets may start two 7-footers on opening night, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver PostJusuf Nurkic appears to have played well enough in preseason to earn the starting center job, with Nikola Jokic sliding over to power forward and Kenneth Faried moving to the bench. “It definitely is a herd mentality type of league,” said coach Michael Malone. “We’ve started two bigs together in (three) of our preseason games. We think that they can play well together because they are so skilled.”
  • The Jazz may need time to adjust to roster changes and the return of Dante Exum from injury, warns Dustin Jensen of The Deseret News. Utah traded for George Hill and Boris Diaw, signed free agent Joe Johnson and welcomed back Dante Exum after a year away with a torn ACL. Add in the emergence of second-year forward Trey Lyles and the Jazz may need time to develop chemistry.
  • Foul trouble is hampering rookie Domantas Sabonis as he bids for a starting job with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Sabonis has started every preseason game for Oklahoma City, but is averaging 3.3 personal fouls per night. Coach Billy Donovan is confident that Sabonis will learn to adjust. “When you’re a guard, you’re pretty much guarding the ball,” Donovan said. “But when you’re behind the (perimeter) defense and the floor starts moving and guys start shifting, you got to be able to pick up those movements and figure out what’s getting ready to happen.”
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