Nikola Jokic

Nuggets GM Talks Draft, Free Agency, Jokic

With the NBA draft right around the corner, Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly appeared on Altitude Sports Radio on Tuesday (SoundCloud link) and spoke to Vic Lombardi about his team’s plan for the upcoming offseason. Connelly, who suggested that he’d like the free agent period to happen before the draft, discussed the Nuggets’ approach to both of those major events on the NBA’s offseason calendar.

The interview includes a handful of interesting comments from Connelly about the Nuggets’ roster-building process, competing with the Warriors, Danilo Gallinari‘s status, and other topics. The conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are a few highlights from the Denver GM:

On the Nuggets’ approach to the draft:

“We have a handful more workouts, we’re bringing a bunch more guys at the end of this week, then watch a bunch of tape and work the phones. A large part of the analysis is done, we just have make sure our order makes sense and get a better sense of what’s going to happen before us and after us in the draft. … Anything certainly can happen, we always try to be aggressive. There’s a couple guys we’d be pretty motivated to move up for, but it’s difficult to get to certain areas of this draft. We like to make a lot of calls and see if we can’t shake up a little bit.”

On the Nuggets’ approach to free agency:

“I think we will dive in for a couple guys.  Certainly our own guys are extremely important and they’re going to take priority, but there’s two or three guys I think we’ll be extremely aggressive with. What we don’t want to do is sign guys to sign guys, and don’t want to overpay for role players. There are a couple guys we think may be difference makers for us and we’ll make a good pitch to those guys. If that doesn’t work out, then we’ll essentially step back a little bit and let the market develop.”

On how the free agent process will work for the Nuggets:

“It really depends. It can take shape numerous ways. If I have a direct relationship, I’ll just reach out to the player. As you know, I’m always not the most serious guy so it would probably be through humor and gauge their interest. Sometimes, an agent will reach out to us. This offseason, it’s been encouraging, we’ve had a handful of agents reach out to us and say, ‘My guy would really like to play with Nikola Jokic.’ I think that speaks well to our future. When guys want to play with someone, it’s encouraging.”

Northwest Notes: Miller, Jokic, Jazz, Brooks

After 17 years in the NBA, Nuggets forward Mike Miller isn’t ready to think about retirement, writes Mick Garry of the Argus [S.D.] Leader. Mitchell returned to his home state Saturday for an annual appearance at a basketball clinic and reflected on what it’s like to play professionally at age 37. “For me, it’s just a lot of fun – I enjoy playing,” Miller said. “I always will. My family still enjoys me playing, which is most important. So we’re going to keep going as long as we can. Every year is a new challenge and I enjoy those challenges. Until I quit, finding something to replace this will be hard.” Miller signed with Denver last summer, but appeared in just 20 games and averaged 7.6 minutes per night. His $3.5MM salary for next season won’t become guaranteed until July 12th.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Miller believes Nikola Jokic‘s breakout season will give free agents a reason to come to Denver. In an interview posted on the Nuggetswebsite, Miller talked about the bright future the 22-year-old has in the league. “I think the good thing that we have right now is Joker is one of those guys that everyone in the league is starting to take heed to and understand who he is,” Miller said. “He’s one of those superstars, I think he’s going to be a superstar. I think you’ll see even more growth at the beginning of this next year, that everyone just wants to play with. He plays that style of basketball. I’ve compared him a lot to Marc and Pau Gasol, I think he’s a lot like that.”
  • The Jazz have 11 players scheduled for workouts today, including UCLA big man T.J. Leaf, who is projected as a late first-rounder, relays Brandon Judd of The Deseret News. Joining Leaf at the second session will be Kentucky’s Dominique Hawkins, Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene, Louisiana Tech’s Erik McCree and Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay. The first workout will feature Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, Oregon’s Dylan Ennis, South Carolina’s P.J. Dozier, Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu, Indiana’s Thomas Bryant and North Carolina’s Tony Bradley.
  • Several players with NBA ties were among the 25 participants in Utah’s free agent mini-camp Friday and Saturday. Tyler Hansbrough, Lamar Patterson, Cleanthony Early and R.J. Hunter are the most recognizable names, and the complete list can be found on the Jazz website.
  • Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, who worked out Saturday for the Trail Blazers, told Casey Holdahl of NBA.com that he can see a role for himself with the organization. “I got to watch Portland a lot, you get to see where you’d fit in,” Brooks said. “Especially with Portland, they’ve got two dominant guards and they need help with role players scoring. They get up and down, get into guys, it’s kind of like Oregon. The coach is kind of like [Oregon] Coach [Dana] Altman, they just let their guys play and go out there and try to compete and try to win games.”

NBA Reveals Award Finalists

The NBA is in the process of revealing its finalists for each of the major year-end awards on TNT, the winners of which will be announced at the official award show on June 26.

Below is an ongoing list that we’ll update as the NBA on TNT crew reveals more.

Most Improved Player of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo
Rudy Gobert
Nikola Jokic

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP


Sixth Man of the Year
Eric Gordon
Andre Iguodala
Lou Williams

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man


Rookie of the Year
Malcolm Brogdon
Joel Embiid
Dario Saric

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY


Coach of the Year
Mike D’Antoni
Gregg Popovich
Erik Spoelstra

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COTY


Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert
Draymond Green
Kawhi Leonard

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY


Most Valuable Player of the Year
James Harden
Kawhi Leonard
Russell Westbrook

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

Nuggets GM Discusses Nurkic, Gallinari, Defense

Earlier tonight, we shared Nuggets GM Tim Connelly’s announcement that rookie guard Jamal Murray will have surgery tomorrow. Here are a few other highlights of Connelly’s radio interview with Altitude Sports 950, all tweeted by Chris Dempsey:

  • Although Jusuf Nurkic blossomed into a key player in Portland, Connelly doesn’t regret the February deal that sent him to the Trail Blazers. Portland acquired Nurkic and a first-round pick this year in exchange for Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second-rounder. “We think Mason is going to be a huge piece of our core,” Connelly said.
  • Re-signing free agent forward Danilo Gallinari will be the top off-season priority. Gallinari has been with the Nuggets since 2011 when he was acquired in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Connelly also hopes to reach a new deal with Plumlee, who will be a restricted free agent, and work out an extension for third-year guard Gary Harris.
  • Another objective is to add a stronger defensive presence around breakout star Nikola Jokic.
  • Connelly believed 39 wins would be enough to grab the West’s final playoff spot. The Nuggets finished 40-42, but Portland was a game better. Connelly insists he would have been more active at the trade deadline if he had known the team would miss the postseason.
  • The organization is making progress in changing the league-wide perception about Denver as a place to play and live. Connelly said several lottery prospects in a recent draft were “begging” the Nuggets to select them because they wanted to be in the city.
  • The team needs a “pecking order” in the locker room, with a strong veteran presence to guide younger players. “Maybe our biggest struggle since I’ve been here,” Connelly said, “is we haven’t had a pecking order.” He adds that the organization has also encountered problems with “role acceptance” among players.

Nuggets Notes: Plumlee, Trades, Jokic

Denver plans on bringing Mason Plumlee back on a new contract, Christopher Dempsey of Altitude Sports writes.

“Mase brought a lot of what we thought he would bring – intensity, a vertical threat at the rim,” GM Tim Connelly said. “An athletic big. A very good passer. It’s not an easy transition going from a starter to the third or fourth big. … When we traded for him, we traded for him for the purpose of bringing him back. Barring something unforeseen or some dramatic shift, we’re pretty excited to talk to his representatives this summer and figure something out.”

Plumlee, who’s a restricted free agent, came to the Nuggets in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic at this year’s deadline.

Here’s more from Denver:

  • The Nuggets are more likely to make major changes via trade since they will have only a handful of open roster spots this offseason, Dempsey adds in the same piece. Connelly believes he has a roster full of players who should be coveted on the trade market because they’ve outperformed their contracts. “I think what’s interesting about our team is we have a lot of good players,” Connelly said. “And I think relative to their contracts, most of our guys outperformed their contracts, which is a testament to our coaching and player development.”
  • Denver knows it has a rising star in Nikola Jokic, but it doesn’t want to put too much pressure on him next season, Dempsey relays in the same piece. “He’s only 22,” the GM said. “He’d be the first one to tell you it’s a team game. He’s probably the least stat-aware guy on the team. But certainly we’re playing a certain way now and having success playing that way primarily because of his unique skill set and the coaches confidence in him.”
  • Connelly explains how the team has a better sense than it has in the past on which players should be the franchise’s core members, Dempsey passes along in the same piece. “Some of these guys have cemented their place in next year’s role already,” Connelly said. “There’s a handful of guys that you know what you’re going to get, and I think coach trusts them and those are guys we are going to take a long-term approach with and feel good about growing with.”
  • Danilo Gallinari is going to take some time to decide whether or not he’ll decline his player option, USA Today relays.  “It’s not time right now to make the decision,” said Gallinari. “Right now, it’s time to digest the fact we were not able to accomplish the goal [of the playoffs] that I had, that we had, at the beginning of the season.” The franchise would also like Gallinari to stick around beyond his current deal, but it’s taking a wait-and-see approach with him.
  • The Nuggets plan to be aggressive in their attempts to lock up Gary Harris long-term, as we passed along on Wednesday.

Northwest Notes: Timberwolves, Thunder, Jokic

The Timberwolves fell short of their goal to win a playoff spot this season and team owner Glen Taylor is already thinking about how his organization can put the roster in position to do so in 2016/17, says Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune. One solution? Add veterans.

[Tom Thibodeau] needs some players that will come off the bench and keep us going and not give up the lead,” the Timberwolves owner said. “I think he would say if he can get some guys with experience that would be helpful, so he can mix them in with our young guys during those substitution times. I think that will be a priority.

The Timberwolves have plenty of money heading into the offseason, especially as the injured Nikola Pekovic‘s salary gets covered by insurance. That budget, coupled with Minnesota’s genuine emergence as a squad capable of contending in the near future (as opposed to a hypothetically spooky one), could bode well for the franchise’s pursuit of establish talent this offseason.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • It’s been an interesting year for the Thunder, one that started with devastation when Kevin Durant decided to leave via free agency. One thing the franchise has to be proud of, Erik Horne of the Oklahoman writes, is how they’ve responded to the heartbreak with a historic season. “We’re going to continue to advance, and we’ve always taken the approach of things are more new beginnings than endings, and there’s a new beginning here for the Thunder,” general manager Sam Presti said. “We have to embrace that, and we have to lean into that.”
  • The Nuggets aren’t concerned that Nikola Jokic has gone through a bit of a slump from the outside, Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post writes. “He’s shown that he can make that shot, and he’s a skilled player,” head coach Michael Malone said. “To his point, you don’t want any of your bigs to become reliant upon the shot. He’s one of your best finishers around the basket. … If he’s open from the 3-point line, sure. Feel the game, feel the situation, but we like putting him at the post and at the elbows, and his versatility is what makes him such a special player.
  • Jokic is making a case for the Most Improved Player of the Year award, Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post says. Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is well aware of how impressive his young center has been. “The numbers that Nikola Jokic are putting up are just a joke,” he said.

Nuggets Notes: Mudiay, Hibbert, Roberson

The Nuggets like what they see out of Emmanuel Mudiay since he’s re-entered the rotation, Nick Kosmider of The Denver Post writes. “He’s worked very hard since he’s been taken out of that rotation. He has a lot of confidence and he should. He’s played good basketball for us at times,” coach Mike Malone said. Mudiay, who was the No.7 overall pick in the 2015 draft, was rumored to be available at the trade deadline.

In a separate piece, Kosmider answers numerous questions about the Nuggets’ future. Here are the highlights from that piece:

  • Kosmider explains why the Nuggets traded for Roy Hibbert. Denver was under the salary floor and Hibbert’s $5MM deal moved the team closer to it. The scribe adds that if the franchise somehow makes the playoffs, Hibbert could be useful in certain situations.
  • The Nuggets’ biggest needs are perimeter defense and rim protection, Kosmider writes. The scribe believes Andre Roberson, who will be a restricted free agent, could be a player to watch.
  • While Portland appears to have won the Jusuf NurkicMason Plumlee swap, it doesn’t mean the Nuggets made a bad trade, Kosmider argues. Nurkic wouldn’t have started with Nikola Jokic on the team and he wouldn’t have been happy coming off the bench. Plumlee is more a facilitator and he’s better suited to run with the second unit.
  • Denver won’t move veterans for the sake of opening up playing time for its younger players, Kosmider cautions. The Nuggets will enter next season expecting to make the playoffs, though they are expected to listen to offers on their older players this summer.

Northwest Notes: Plumlee, Turner, Donovan, Faried

Jusuf Nurkic has been on a tear since his trade to Portland, but Mason Plumlee‘s teammates are happy to have him in Denver. While Plumlee and the Nuggets are still in the “getting-to-know-you phase,” as Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post puts it, Mason has grown more comfortable with each passing game.

“I was telling Mike (Miller) on the bench that this is collectively the best passing team I’ve played on,” Plumlee said. “It’s exciting. There is energy in the ball. I feel like the way guys play on this team is contagious.”

The Nuggets maintain a 2.5 game lead on the eighth seed; between his stints with the Nets and Trail Blazers, Plumlee has a combined 27 games of playoff experience. Plumlee’s style of play has already earned the respect of standout center Nikola Jokic.

“He just wants to win,” Jokic said. “He wants to do the stuff that some other players don’t want to do.”

More from around the Northwest:

  • After missing five weeks with a fracture in his right hand, Evan Turner is expected to make his return to the lineup tomorrow against the Hawks. According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Turner returned to practice Friday after hour-long workouts on Wednesday and Thursday. A seventh-year veteran, Turner’s “brand of playmaking and solid perimeter defense” should provide a boost to the Trail Blazers‘ postseason push. “I’m done talking about the injury and worrying about it, because it’s already over with,” Turner said. “Knock on wood.”
  • Now two years into his NBA coaching career, Billy Donovan‘s name still surfaces when a college coaching job opens up. According to Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman, the Indiana Hoosiers were speculated to have interest in hiring Donovan; a rumor the OKC coach shot down. “I am totally happy here,” Donovan said. “I love it here. I love the guys I work with every day. I love our staff, the organization. As far as I’m concerned, my commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I’m here.”
  • Kenneth Faried is eager to return to form after suffering a debilitating back injury, Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post writes. “The Manimal” missed 14 out of 17 games due to the injury, scoring 12 points over 18 minutes in his return to the court last night. “It was some of the worst pain I ever felt,” Faried said. “I’m just happy to be able to walk and jump and do the normal things like sit down normally. I’m glad to be able to do a light sprint or a jog and not have to worry about my back flaring up. I’m happy to be able to do those little things. You never know what can happen, and you take those for granted until something like that happens.”

Northwest Notes: Mudiay, Jokic, Oladipo

It wasn’t long ago when Emmanuel Mudiay was being touted as a key component of the Nuggets franchise. One year later, his future with the organization is uncertain, says Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post.

Over the course of the 2016/17 campaign, the second-year guard has seen his role in Denver shrink. In the eight games since the All-Star break, Mudiay has seen action just three times. It’s a precipitous drop for a 21-year-old once taken with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft but an understandable one considering the stable of young talent on the Nuggets roster.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division.

  • The Timberwolves are running out of times to sneak into the Western Conference playoff picture, Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune writes. With just 17 games left in the season, the Wolves will have to leapfrog three teams and make up 3.5 games in the standings.
  • After missing a pair of games with a flu, Nikola Jokic returned to action for the Nuggets. “I can still feel it in my chest, and my throat is a little sore when I start coughing,” Jokic told Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post. “It feels really good to be back.”
  • Though he missed six games resting his back, the time off helped Victor Oladipo in more ways than one, Brett Dawson of the Oklahoman writes. “It was amazing for my wrist, actually,” Oladipo said. “I’m not one to complain. It wasn’t 100 percent, but that rest kind of helped it out a little bit. It’s a lot better now.”

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.
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