Nikola Jokic

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Morris, Offseason

Nikola Jokic isn’t going to make any predictions or boasts about how the Nuggets will do this season, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post writes. The league’s reigning Most Valuable Player says he’s not sure if they’re good enough to win a championship.

“If everybody buys in and everybody plays the right way, there is a chance, of course,” Jokic said. “Do we have enough talent? I don’t know. Are we the best team in the NBA? I don’t know. So we will see. The season is going to show us everything. As for goals for the season? You know, I don’t make any goals for the season. Of course, everybody says championship, (but) that’s what they were saying the last seven years. I’m not going to say championship, that’s just something in our imagination or something we want to do.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Monte Morris said he’s been nagged by knee tendinitis throughout his NBA career, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Morris underwent focused rehabilitation and medical management for approximately 10 weeks this summer and feels like he’ll regain his explosiveness. “For me to take this step where I want to go, on my end, personally, without that being done to it, it was going to be very tough,” Morris said. “It’s something I’ve been dealing with my whole career.”
  • The Nuggets’ front office received a C grade from The Athletic’s Zach Harper in his offseason evaluation. The team didn’t significantly improve at any position and it needs to find more of a defensive identity with this core group, in Harper’s estimation.
  • In case you missed it, the team signed forward Petr Cornelie to a two-way contract over the weekend. Get the details here.

Western Notes: Bozic, Gordon, Ntilikina, Fox

The Spurs have a new G League coach in Petar Bozic, according to a press release from the Austin Spurs. Bozic spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach for the G League franchise. Before coming to Austin, he served as head coach of Partizan in his home country of Serbia from 2015-16.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The agreed-upon four-year, $92MM extension between the Nuggets and forward Aaron Gordon is a sign that the franchise is going all out win a title in the next three seasons, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post opines. It’s a declaration that Nikola Jokic and the core group is good enough to capture the championship, regardless of the moves made by the Lakers and other contenders.
  • The two-year contract that guard Frank Ntilikina has signed with the Mavericks includes a team option in the second season, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. It’s still unclear whether the former Knick received a full guarantee for the upcoming season.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox explained why he’s faster than anyone else in the league in an interview with The Reel’s Kenny Beecham, relayed on the team’s website. “The way I move is so much different than everybody else,” Fox said. “Everybody’s not able to make the cuts and just stop and do what I do, especially going at full speed.”

Northwest Notes: Barton, Nuggets, D’Antoni, Rosas

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone would “love” for starting shooting guard Will Barton to return to the club in the 2021/22 season, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Barton has a $14.6MM player option.

“I would love for Will Barton to be back,” Malone said of Barton, who has been with the Nuggets since the club traded for him in a deal with the Trail Blazers during the 2014/15 season. “Everything he brings to the team. That’s on the court, off the court, in the locker room, from a culture standpoint. … He means a ton to me personally. He means a ton to this team and everything we’ve been able to accomplish these last six years. … Me, personally, I hope he’s back here for a long time.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Nuggets‘ chemistry, both on the court and on the bench, will eventually yield a title, opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. The night during which Denver was ousted from the playoffs by Suns, in a four-game second-round sweep, MVP center Nikola Jokic, head coach Michael Malone, and team owner Josh Kroenke all sat down for a drink. “When I went home that night, I said, ‘Man, we got a really unique setup here,’” Malone reflected. “We’re all disappointed, we lost, no one was happy. … But to have an owner and an MVP who are just so down to earth and committed to doing whatever it takes to be better and find ways to win a championship, those two hours were so important.” The club was without its second-best player, guard Jamal Murray, for the entirety of its playoff run. Kiszla notes that the close bond between that trio is a rare thing in pro sports.
  • Nets assistant coach Mike D’Antoni was perceived as the runner-up finalist to land the Trail Blazers head coaching job that is expected to go to Chauncey Billups, write Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic. Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, who would have been the first female head coach hired by a franchise in the big four American men’s sports, was the third option, Charania and Amick write.
  • Timberwolves GM Gerson Rosas handled the end of the 2020/21 season and the lead-up to last week’s lottery with the right approach, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune. A mostly-healthy Minnesota team went 7-5 to close the season. Their top-three protected first-round pick fell to No. 7 in the lottery, and will be conveyed to the Warriors. Neal commends Rosas for wanting to see what the Timberwolves had under new head coach Chris Finch, rather than tanking and attempting to retain the team’s 2021 first-round pick.

Olympic Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Birch, Bjorkgren, Jokic, Australia

Jimmy Butler will not play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler had an invite but he battled through a variety of ailments this season and had a short turnaround between seasons after Miami surprisingly reached the NBA Finals last summer.

We have more info on this year’s Olympics:

  • The Rockets’ Kelly Olynyk and Raptors’ Khem Birch are among the prominent players not listed among the 24 players Team Canada submitted to FIBA in advance of its Olympic qualifier, Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet tweets. They’re both unrestricted free agents. The Grizzlies’ Brandon Clarke is also not on the preliminary list, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. The 24-man roster can be found here.
  • Nate Bjorkgren, who was let go by the Pacers after one season as head coach, will join Nick Nurse’s Team Canada staff, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Bjorkgren was one of Nurse’s top assistants before his stint with Indiana.
  • MVP Nikola Jokic won’t play for the Serbian team at the Olympic qualifier due to an exhausting NBA campaign, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic told Serbian news agency Tanjug, “Simply, the condition of my body requires a longer absence from the court for recovery.” The Denver Post story asserts Jokic won’t play in the Olympics even if his national team qualifies, while an ESPN story says it’s unclear if Jokic would participate in Tokyo.
  • The Australian national team will play exhibitions against Team USA, Nigeria and Argentina in Las Vegas before departing for Tokyo, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. The 19-man preliminary roster, which will be trimmed to 12, is expected to be loaded with NBA players, including Ben Simmons and Joe Ingles.

NBA Announces 2020/2021 All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced the All-NBA First, Second, and Third Teams for the 2020/21 season, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way as the lone unanimous selection for the First Team.

Antetokounmpo and Nuggets‘ MVP Nikola Jokic were the two top vote-getters, combining for 998 out of a possible 1,000 points, with Warriors guard Stephen Curry following shortly behind. Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic rounding out the top five.

The full All-NBA teams are listed below, with their vote totals in parentheses. Players received five points for a First Team vote, three points for a Second Team vote, and one point for a Third Team vote, so Giannis scored a perfect 500 — First Team nods from all 100 voters.

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Among the players who just missed the cut were Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (69), Wizards guard Russell Westbrook (44), Nets guard James Harden (41), Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (37) and Heat center Bam Adebayo (32). A total of 12 other players received votes. The full results can be found here.

Today’s announcement has major financial implications across the league. Tatum, who received more votes than Kyrie Irving but still fell 20 votes short of a final forward spot, will lose out on a projected $32.6MM on his rookie scale extension, as his next deal will start at 25% of the cap instead of the 30% he would have received if he’d been named to an All-NBA team. Likewise, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Kings guard De’Aaron Fox and Adebayo will all receive starting salaries worth 25% of the cap on their respective extensions as a result of missing out on All-NBA honors.

Doncic, having been named to his second consecutive All-NBA First Team, will be eligible for a 30% extension that would be worth a projected $201MM+ and is almost certain to be offered this summer. Doncic has previously made clear his intentions to sign the extension when offered. It will go into effect for the 2022/23 season.

Embiid is now eligible for a super-max contract extension, which would run for four years, starting in 2023/24, and would be worth a projected $191MM, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. It’s unclear whether the Sixers will immediately put this extension on the table this offseason.

Bradley Beal‘s deal will not change with his first career All-NBA selection, as he is already eligible for a 35% contract extension on his next deal. Jokic, having been named MVP previously this week, also sees no change in his possible future super-max extension, which will be worth approximately $241MM.

Hoops Rumors readers accurately picked 12 of this season’s 15 All-NBA players in our poll. Devin Booker, Adebayo, and Tatum were your picks who didn’t make the official list.

Olympic Notes: Lillard, Green, Canada, Serbia, Italy

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Warriors forward/center Draymond Green are among the first players to commit to Team USA ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, sources tell Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Team USA figures to bring more than a dozen players to its initial camp this summer before paring down the roster to 12 for Tokyo, so Lillard’s and Green’s commitments don’t guarantee that they’ll be part of the final Olympic roster. However, it seems safe to assume that spots on the 12-man squad will be reserved for the two stars as long as they remain healthy and committed.

Green won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics, while Lillard has yet to play for Team USA in a major international tournament. Green and Lillard are two of the 57 names listed as part of USA Basketball’s initial player pool in March, though as we noted last week, many of the players on that list seem unlikely to participate for a variety of reasons, including injuries.

Here are a few more updates from around the international basketball world:

  • Team Canada’s preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament later this month included 14 current NBA players. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic and Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter links), at least three of those NBA players – Pacers forward Oshae Brissett, Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks, and Celtics center Tristan Thompson – now aren’t expected to participate.
  • The Serbian national team is preparing for the possibility of being without several key players for this month’s qualifying tournament, according to a MozzartSport report (hat tip to Sportando). Hawks swingman Bogdan Bogdanovic and reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets are among the players considered unlikely to be available for the OQT in Belgrade.
  • Longtime NBA shooting guard Marco Belinelli announced that he won’t be part of the Italian team attempting to earn an Olympic berth at this month’s qualifying tournament in Belgrade, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Belinelli, who is now playing for Virtus Bologna, wants to rest to make sure he’s 100% healthy for next season.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Barton, Porter, Offseason

The Nuggets became the latest NBA team to be eliminated from the postseason, as the Suns completed a four-game sweep on Sunday night in Denver. This season’s Most Valuable Player, Nikola Jokic, wasn’t on the court for the last quarter of his team’s season, having been ejected after being assessed with a flagrant two for a hard foul on Suns guard Cameron Payne. Head coach Michael Malone wasn’t thrilled with the decision, as ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

“I just didn’t feel like it warranted a flagrant two ejection because he’s making a play on the ball,” Malone said. “There’s marginal contact to Cameron Payne’s nose, I believe. So I was shocked. I’m still a little bit shocked that they called a flagrant two and ejected the MVP on such a play.”

Suns head coach Monty Williams said that he didn’t believe there was any “malicious” intent on Jokic’s part. But whether or not the star center had been ejected, the Nuggets were on the ropes and were unlikely to climb out of a deep hole in the series against Phoenix.

While Denver would’ve liked to advance further in the playoffs, the club was pleased with what it accomplished this season, including a first-round victory without standout guard Jamal Murray.

“The whole season was great, I think,” Jokic said. “Until the last four games.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Nuggets guard Will Barton has battled toe, adductor, knee, and hamstring injuries since the 2019/20 season began and has had to mourn the death of his cousin, who was shot and killed in December 2019, writes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. Barton admitted after Sunday’s loss that the last 18 months have been “tough for me, physically and mentally,” but vowed to “keep fighting.”
  • Barton will have to decide in the coming weeks whether to pick up his $14.7MM option for 2021/22 or decline it to seek a new contract. According to Keeler, Barton said on Sunday that if he opts out, he’ll want to end up somewhere where he can “play my game” and be in a “winning environment.” A new contract with the Nuggets is a possibility, since it sounds like he views Denver as a place that meets those criteria. “I definitely believe we’ve got the pieces,” Barton said. “And if we’re healthy, I feel like we can win it. And that’s all I’ll say about that.”
  • Barton’s potential free agency will be one of the biggest decisions facing the Nuggets this summer, but there will be plenty of others, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic, who points to JaMychal Green‘s contract situation, a possible extension for Aaron Gordon, and Paul Millsap‘s free agency as some other issues the organization will have to address.
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) also previews the Nuggets’ offseason, with a focus on how the team will handle a potential rookie scale extension for rising star Michael Porter Jr.

Nuggets Notes: Barton’s Return, Porter, Murray, Jokic, Malone

Nuggets’ guard Will Barton is expected to play tonight, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Barton had previously been listed as “doubtful,” but over the course of the last 24 hours, had been upgraded to “questionable.” Now it seems that barring a setback, he’ll appear for the Nuggets in an important Game Two.

The 30-year-old has been inactive since April 23 with a hamstring strain, but has been ramping up his workouts in recent days. Adding Barton back into the Nuggets rotation would give them a 6’6, athletic option to try defensively on Devin Booker, who had 21 points on 12 shots against a combination of Austin Rivers, Aaron Gordon, and others in the Suns’ Game One victory.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Michael Porter tweaked his back in Game One, but head coach Michael Malone expects him back for tonight’s game, reports ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “He got treatment all day today, had a good conversation with him. But, barring anything unforeseen, Michael should be good to go for Game 2,” Malone said. The 22-year-old forward missed his first year in the NBA due to back injuries, but there seems to be little concern Game One’s injury was anything more than a minor tweak.
  • The Nuggets haven’t provided a specific timeline for Jamal Murray‘s return from his torn ACL, but sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that the earliest they expect the guard to return would be in February 2022. Murray has been spotted getting shots up before games while avoiding putting weight on his injured knee.
  • The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and the Denver Post’s Sean Keeler both took a closer look at Nikola Jokic‘s rise from 41st pick to 2021 MVP. Keeler writes about Jokic’s underdog mentality and how he refuses to lobby for his own awards. “I didn’t come here to want to be MVP of the league,” Jokic told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I always think someone is better than me. I want to compete to beat him. Just by that mentality, I’m going to be underdog, always.” Meanwhile Vecenie writes about the draft process that led Jokic to Denver. “It was just kind of lucky scouting, to be honest with you,” said team president Tim Connelly.
  • Malone called the Nuggets’ mentality in Game One “soft,” reports ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I think [we] had a soft mentality,” Malone said. “You can’t give up eight and-1s in a playoff game. If you’re going to foul somebody, foul them, and not let them get the and-1.Aaron Gordon agreed with his coach’s assessment. “Scared, that’s another way to play it,” said Gordon. “You could choose between them two words, either soft or scared, that’s what it felt like we were playing like.” Jokic offered a different take, saying he didn’t believe they played soft, but that the team needed to be more decisive when the Suns started getting hot.

Nikola Jokic Wins Most Valuable Player Award

6:45pm: Jokic was the runaway winner, per an official press release from the NBA.

[RELATED: MVP Makes Jokic Eligible For Super-Max In 2022]

Jokic received 91 of 100 first-place votes and racked up 971 points. Embiid finished second despite receiving just one first-place vote; he had 586 points, aided by 62 second-place votes; Curry finished third with five first-place votes and 453 points.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Paul rounded out the top five finishers, while 10 other players received at least one vote. The only real surprise among that group was Derrick Rose, who, oddly, received a first-place vote.


4:39pm: Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has won the league’s Most Valuable Player award, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Jokic averaged a career-high 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game this season. In an era in which players are regularly given nights off for rest, Jokic showed his toughness and durability by appearing in all 72 regular-season games.

As the 41st selection in the 2014 draft, Jokic is by far the lowest draft pick to ever earn the honor. He’s also the first Nuggets player to win the award.

Sixers center Joel Embiid and Warriors guard Stephen Curry were the other finalists for the award.

Embiid averaged 28.5 PPG and 1o.6 RPG but only appeared in 51 regular-season games, mainly due to a knee injury. Curry led the NBA in scoring at 32.0 PPG along with 5.8 APG while playing 63 games.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sport Images.

MVP Makes Jokic Eligible For Super-Max In 2022

By virtue of winning the Most Valuable Player award, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will be eligible for the largest super max extension in NBA history, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Jokic would be eligible to sign the supermax contract worth a projected $241MM in the 2022 or 2023 offseason. He’s not eligible to sign it this summer because he is one year shy of the service year criteria. Jokic is in his sixth season after being drafted in the second round in 2014. A player needs at least seven years of NBA experience to sign a designated veteran extension that starts at 35% of the salary cap.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Designated Veteran Extension]

The breakdown of the supermax contract, based upon a projected $121.5MM cap, would look like this, per Marks (Twitter links):

  • 2023/24: $42.6M
  • 2024/25: $44.9M
  • 2025/26: $48.2M
  • 2026/27: $51.5M
  • 2027/28: $54.8M

Jokic has two years remaining on his current deal — he’ll make approximately $31.6MM next season and $33.6MM in 2022/23.