Aaron Gordon

Nuggets Notes: Championship, Porter, Gordon, Booth

The Nuggets‘ championship victory on Monday represented a major financial boon for a pair of the team’s forwards.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the final year of Michael Porter Jr.‘s five-year contract with the Nuggets is now fully guaranteed. Previously, only $12MM of Porter’s $40.8MM cap hit for 2026/27 had been guaranteed, but since Porter appeared in at least 62 games (plus 75% of Denver’s playoff contests) and the club won a title, he’s assured of the full $40.8MM.

Meanwhile, Aaron Gordon earned a $1MM bonus as a result of the championship, Marks tweets. That will bump Gordon’s cap charge for 2023/24 from $21.2MM to $22.2MM, since that $1MM incentive will now be considered “likely” (rather than unlikely) for next season. However, the Nuggets wouldn’t be on the hook for that bonus money next season unless they win another title.

Here’s more on the NBA’s new champions:

  • Porter averaged just 9.6 points per game on .328/.143/.750 shooting in five NBA Finals games, but his performance showed that he’s capable of contributing in other ways, which bodes well for his future development, writes Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. Porter grabbed 13 rebounds in Game 1 and again in Game 5, matching his season high.
  • After playing a major part in helping the Nuggets secure the first title in franchise history, star guard Jamal Murray said on Monday that he believes the club is capable of winning more championships with this core. “I knew once we were healthy, we could do it,” Murray, who missed all of the 2021/22 season due to a torn ACL, told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “So this was long overdue. … I think this is the first of many.”
  • Sam Amick and Tony Jones of The Athletic take a look at all the moves and decisions that led to Denver’s first championship, including the promotion of assistant GM Calvin Booth after the departure of veteran executive Tim Connelly in 2022. “When Tim left, I remember talking to (Nuggets governor) Josh (Kroenke), and saying, ‘Listen, this is your call, Josh, but what I’m telling you as a head coach who has been here for seven years, we’re heading in the right direction, I really hope that Calvin Booth is given the opportunity to take over,'” Michael Malone told The Athletic. “I said, ‘I know him, he knows me. He knows our players. He knows you.’ (Booth) did a great job of taking all that and saying, ‘OK, we’re in a good spot. But how do we go from good to great? How do we make this even better?’ And Calvin had the balls to do that, man.”
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) preview the roster and contract issues facing the Nuggets this offseason, including Bruce Brown‘s potential free agency and Jamal Murray’s extension eligibility. In case you missed it, Brown expressed a desire to remain in Denver following Monday’s victory.

Nuggets Win First Title, Jokic Named MVP

The Nuggets secured their first championship on Monday night, completing a 4-1 series victory over the Heat with a 94-89 victory. The Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976 after the league’s merger with the ABA.

Nikola Jokic, the league’s two-time Most Valuable Player in the regular season, was named the MVP of the Finals, NBA Communications tweets. He had 28 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in the clinching victory. For the series, Jokic averaged 30.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 7.2 assists per night.

Jokic and the team’s other star, Jamal Murray, carried the Nuggets throughout the playoffs. However, the team’s role players made some of the biggest plays in Game 5.

Bruce Brown had the go-ahead put-back in the late going and hit clinching free throws. In between, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a key steal and made two clutch free throws.

Denver is well-positioned to make a run at back-to-back titles and beyond. Jokic, Murray, Aaron Gordon and Michael Porter Jr. are all signed through at least the 2024/25 season. Caldwell-Pope has two more years left on his contract, though he can opt out next summer.

There’s a good chance Brown will go elsewhere. He will almost certainly decline his $6.8MM option and the team doesn’t own his Bird rights, limiting its ability to offer much of a raise.

Jeff Green and a handful of other veteran reserves will be unrestricted free agents, though the Nuggets have some quality young players on rookie contracts poised to take on bigger roles, including Christian Braun and Peyton Watson.

The Heat have some key players entering free agency, most notably Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Kevin Love.

With the Finals decided, the 2023 NBA offseason is officially underway. The draft will be held in 10 days with free agency beginning the following week.

Nuggets Notes: Potential Dynasty, Jackson, Reserves, Kamagate

The Nuggets are one victory away from their first NBA title, but they have the foundation in place to win several more, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Hollinger notes that the team’s core players are all in their prime with Nikola Jokic at 28, Aaron Gordon at 27, Jamal Murray at 26 and Michael Porter Jr. at 24. All four are signed for at least two more seasons, and Denver isn’t facing any significant tax issues despite having three max contracts.

The only expected loss from this year’s rotation is Bruce Brown, a free agent addition last summer, who’s expected to turn down his $6.8MM player option and test the market again. The Nuggets don’t own Brown’s Bird rights and won’t be able to compete with the offers he’s likely to receive.

They may be in the same position with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope next year, Hollinger adds. Denver worked out an extension with the veteran guard after acquiring him from Washington, but he has a $15.4MM player option for 2024/25 that he might decide to decline.

Hollinger points out that Nuggets have navigated the cap by amassing young talent on affordable contracts. Late first-round picks Christian Braun and Peyton Watson will make a combined $4.5MM next season, and they both appear ready to become consistent rotation pieces.

There’s more from Denver:

  • Reggie Jackson hasn’t played much since signing with the Nuggets after a trade and a buyout in February, but the 33-year-old guard is happy to still be in the league, per Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Jackson thought about retiring when he was with the Pistons as persistent ankle injuries kept him off the court. “I can’t believe I’m here now,” he said. “Especially after Detroit, I wasn’t sure I wanted to play anymore and then being resurrected in L.A. (with the Clippers). The build-up there, the fun there. Then being traded, it’s coming full circle.”’
  • Denver’s bench players have contributed to the championship run by not making waves about their playing time, observes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jackson, DeAndre Jordan, Thomas Bryant, Ish Smith and others have been content with limited minutes and sometimes none at all. Jones adds that the only Nuggets player who has been unhappy with his role this season was Bones Hyland, who was traded in February.
  • Ismael Kamagate, whom the Nuggets selected with the 46th pick last year, is finalizing an agreement to play for EA7 Emporio Armani Milan next season, tweets Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews. A recent report indicated that he likely wasn’t in Denver’s plans for 2023/24.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Brown, Jokic, Trade

The Nuggets dispelled any thought that they’re a one-man or two-man team during a crucial stretch of Game 4 with Nikola Jokic on the bench, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. As they did most of the night, the Heat blitzed Jamal Murray on the pick-and-roll, trying to take him out of the offense. That allowed Aaron Gordon to score a team-high 27 points, while Bruce Brown added 21, including 11 in the fourth quarter.

“They were giving Jamal so much attention that let’s get Jamal off the ball, let Bruce make some plays,” coach Michael Malone said. “… Maybe our offense may not be as beautiful as it is with Nikola, but the five guys that are out there are defending.”

The Nuggets managed to keep the game even during the five minutes without Jokic, something that rarely happened during the regular season. It was the latest accomplishment for a roster that has become convinced that it’s worthy of capturing a title.

“We’re just ready to win a championship,” Murray said. “We have the tools to do it. It’s been on our minds for a while. We’re just locked in. I don’t think you’ve got to overthink it. We’re just dialed in, ready to win.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Brown made an impression on the Nuggets with his performance in last year’s postseason, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. That resulted in a two-year, $13.2MM offer from Denver with a player option that might have Brown back on the market this summer. “I watched him in the playoffs last year (with the Nets) against Boston, saw his impact of guarding guys like (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown, but his ability to facilitate, play with the ball, play off the ball, make shots,” Malone said. “And the one thing I know about Bruce … he’s not afraid.”
  • Former NBA player turned agent Mike Miller takes credit for coming up with the “Joker” nickname for Jokic, Singer adds in a subscriber-only story. Miller, who was a veteran in Denver when Jokic broke into the league, quickly recognized that his talent and feel for the game were unique. “Just how good he was and how poised he was and how easy the game came to him at a young age,” Miller recalled. “And that to me was what made him special even early.”
  • The Nuggets are on the verge of the first title in franchise history, but this week’s draft pick trade with the Thunder shows that they’re working to win as many rings as possible before Jokic retires, says Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Brown, Murray, Braun, Kamagate

Nuggets stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray looked relatively mortal in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday, combining for a series-low 38 points on 13-of-36 (36.1%) shooting as they faced increased attention from Heat defenders.

However, Denver still pulled out a victory thanks in large part to contributions from complementary players like Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown. Gordon scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting while also dishing six assists. Brown was 8-of-11 from the floor for 21 points. As Ramona Shelburne of ESPN details, Gordon has exceeded the expectations the Nuggets had when they acquired him from Orlando at the 2021 trade deadline.

“We didn’t realize how talented he was,” Nuggets GM Calvin Booth told Shelburne after Game 4. “We didn’t realize what a consummate teammate he was and how willing he was to sacrifice.”

As for Brown, he became the latest reserve guard to play a starring role for the Nuggets on the road in this series after Christian Braun had an outsized impact in Game 3, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. As with Gordon, the Nuggets knew they were getting a good player when they signed Brown in free agency last summer, but he has been even better than they hoped.

“Can I say that I envisioned him scoring 11 points (in the fourth quarter) on the road in Game 4 of the Finals?” head coach Michael Malone said on Friday. “I can’t say that. But I did envision him being a ball-handler, a play-maker.”

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • A floor burn suffered in the Nuggets’ Game 3 win didn’t have a major impact on Murray, whose increase in production from the regular season to the playoffs puts him in rare company, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. As Hollinger details, no player in NBA history has a bigger gap than Murray between his career regular PER (16.4) and his mark in the postseason (22.3).
  • Nick Kosmider of The Athletic explores why Braun is such an ideal fit in the backcourt next to Murray. The rookie is poised to take on a larger role in the Nuggets’ rotation next season and beyond, especially if the team is unable to re-sign Brown.
  • Having agreed to acquire a 2024 first-round pick from the Thunder, the Nuggets may use that selection – or their own 2024 first-rounder – in an effort to move up in this year’s draft, a source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The Nuggets own the No. 40 pick in 2023 and are also acquiring No. 37 in the deal with Oklahoma City, so they should have more than enough ammo to move into the first round if they’re willing to move a 2024 first-round pick.
  • French big man Ismael Kamagate, the 46th overall pick in the 2022 draft, will likely remain in Europe for at least one more year, sources tell Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Kamagate was drafted by the Nuggets last June but remained with Paris Basketball for the 2022/23 season. Denver “really likes” the 22-year-old, according to Wind, but wants to be patient with his development.

Nuggets Notes: Defense, Porter Jr., Malone, Pace, Green, Smith

Nuggets coach Michael Malone ripped into his team’s defensive effort in Game 2. During the team’s film session on Tuesday, Malone encouraged his players to talk through their mistakes and take responsibility for their assignments. Forward Michael Porter Jr. didn’t mind the tone, he told Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

“You definitely gotta own it,” he said. “You can’t be sensitive. Me personally, I know I gotta play better. If my teammates tell me that, I’m not going to be sensitive. If I tell that to someone else, like, ‘Yo, you gotta tell me if we need to work on switches.’ They’re not going to be sensitive.”

Porter knows he has to ramp up his game. He is shooting just 3-for-17 beyond the arc during the series, along with some defensive lapses.

“I think intensity and energy wasn’t where it needed to be from me personally or really the team as a whole,” he said. “We can talk about the mistakes that we had defensively, but really, it’s about intensity.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Malone wants to see his team increase the tempo in Game 3 on Wednesday but they have to play better defensively to make that happen, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. “We want to play fast; they want to play slow,” he said. “When you’re not getting stops, advantage Miami Heat because now they have their 2-2-1 press back to the zone. We’re playing way too slow to try to attack that, which is forcing a lot of late-clock situations for us.”
  • Veteran forward Jeff Green, who will be a free agent after the series, said he made a point of taking Aaron Gordon and Bruce Brown under his wing. “I’m here to push them to be better,” Green told Rob Mahoney of The Ringer. “Make sure that they’re doing what they need to do for us to win, but also for their career to go to the next level. Together we’ve been great, and that’s just a culmination of our relationship and trying to understand each other.”
  • Ish Smith has barely played in the postseason but the journeyman point guard, who is on his 13th team, could win his first championship ring if Denver takes the series. Smith will be a free agent after the season and hopes to get another opportunity. “Until they cut off the lights and say don’t come back, I’m going to be out here playing,” he told Ryan McFadden of the Denver Post. “You’re still going to see No. 14 running fast.”

Western Notes: Gordon, Nuggets, Booth, Cooper, Spurs

Aaron Gordon‘s siblings noticed a positive change in his focus, demeanor and approach last offseason after the Nuggets were eliminated in their first-round playoff series against the Warriors, they told Marc J. Spears of Andscape. The 27-year-old responded with a career year.

As the team’s best defensive player, Gordon is often given the unenviable task of attempting to slow down the world’s best scorers. He limited Heat star Jimmy Butler to just two field goal attempts in 34 half-court possessions during Denver’s Game 1 victory, per Spears. Butler finished with his fewest points scored (13 on 6-of-14 shooting) since March 29, Spears adds.

Gordon, who had 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and four rebounds in the first quarter en route to a lead the Nuggets would never relinquish, says he isn’t interested in anything but winning.

I’m not here for the credit. I’m here for the wins,” Gordon said in the post-game presser. “Playing with guys like the guys that are on this team is just a blessing. It’s a beautiful opportunity to play with guys on the team that have so much talent, have so much skill and have so much passion for the game of basketball.

That’s what I’ve always loved is to play the right way of basketball, and we do that here. I don’t care if I score 50 or 0, as long as I’m helping impact the game and we’re winning.”

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • In another story for Andscape, Spears details general manager Calvin Booth‘s influence on the Nuggets reaching the NBA Finals. “It’s pretty well known now the guys he brought in are a huge part of the reason why we’re in the Finals,” forward Michael Porter Jr. said. “Obviously, KCP (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and Bruce (Brown) being two of those guys. But really the vets, too, as much as the guys on the floor, are contributing to us winning, like DJ (DeAndre Jordan), Jeff (Green), Ish (Smith), Reggie (Jackson). Those guys’ attitude and their leadership is just part of the reason why we’re doing so well. It’s really just finding a group of guys that mesh in the locker room is a big part of winning. Calvin did a great job of that.
  • The Timberwolves are hosting a free agent camp on June 14 and 15, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News and Skor North (via Twitter). One former NBA player who will be present is guard Sharife Cooper, who spent his rookie season in 2021/22 with the Hawks. Cooper played for the Cavs’ G League affiliate, the Cleveland Charge, this past season, averaging 21.3 PPG, 6.3 APG and 3.8 RPG on .431/.316/.853 shooting in 25 regular season games (32.5 MPG).
  • As Mike Vorukov of The Athletic writes, the Spurs were the only NBA team in ’22/23 to finish below the league’s salary cap floor, coming in at about $14MM under the threshold. Because that amount is then distributed to the players, each member of the roster will be getting a check for more than $700K, sources tell Vorkunov. San Antonio might be the last team to go under the salary floor for quite a while, Vorkunov adds, since the new CBA penalizes teams for not spending enough.
  • LJ Ellis of SpursTalk.com recently took a look at San Antonio’s roster following the news that Victor Wembanyama will be in the fold. Ellis likes the fit between Wembanyama and big man Zach Collins, but thinks the Spurs will likely wait to see how they play together before contemplating a possible extension for Collins.

Northwest Notes: Gordon, Malone, Gobert, Doncic

The Nuggets don’t expect Aaron Gordon to shut down Kevin Durant, but his defensive effort so far has played a large role in Denver’s 2-0 series lead, writes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. Durant has scored 29 and 24 points in the first two games of the series, but he’s had to work hard to get those points. He shot 10-for-27 from the field in Game 2 and was just 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.

Gordon’s defense is a big part of that effort, Keeler adds. In the 17 minutes that he has been Durant’s primary defender during the series, Gordon has limited the Suns‘ star to 8-of-20 from the floor and 1-of-5 on three-pointers with just two free throws and five turnovers. That follows a similar defensive performance against Karl-Anthony Towns in the first round.

“The thing that jumps out to me in these playoffs is (that) Aaron is the definition of selfless,” coach Michael Malone said. “I mean, talk about a guy that, knowing that (Michael Porter Jr.) and Jamal (Murray) were back, has checked his ego at the door the whole season and he quietly goes under the radar. But the impact he is having is so profound both on offense and defense, (especially) by taking the other team’s best player (defensively).”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Malone is warning his players not to get too comfortable after two wins at home, per Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. The Nuggets appear to have control of the series, especially with Chris Paul unlikely to play in at least the next two games, but Malone understands that things can turn around quickly. “Whether it’s Chris Paul, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, our game plan remains the same,” he said. “We know that they have two guys in Devin Booker and Kevin Durant that are great players and they’ll have their home crowd in front of them. Down 2-0, we’re going to get their best effort and we have to exceed that.”
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reexamines the Rudy Gobert trade that transformed the Timberwolves last summer. He acknowledges that Minnesota overpaid for Gobert, but adds that president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and coach Chris Finch still believe Gobert and Towns can be effective together. “I thought it was a great learning experience and I’m excited to see (with) some real time together where we can get,” Gobert said. “And we saw some glimpses of that this year and we saw that we can give teams a lot of trouble.”
  • In a discussion of the Nets’ offseason, John Hollinger of the Athletic states that the Jazz are “keeping a very interested eye” on Luka Doncic‘s situation in Dallas. If Doncic were to ask the Mavericks for a trade, Utah has a huge parcel of draft assets to offer.

Western Notes: Murray, Brown, Gordon, Jokic, Suns

Jamal Murray‘s offensive skill was on full display in Game 1 of the Nuggets’ second-round series with the Suns, as he poured in 34 points. After missing last season due to a knee injury, Murray is all the way back, Tony Jones of The Athletic writes. He’s a three-level scorer, which makes him extremely difficult to contain.

“My mindset wasn’t coming back to be the same player,” Murray said. “My mindset was coming back and being a better player than I was. The biggest thing I had to do was build my body back up, not necessarily the skill. It was a lot of work, almost every day. But, I just wanted to get back to playing the way I thought I could. I didn’t want to get too high or low.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • While Murray erupted offensively, Bruce Brown and Aaron Gordon were the stars on defense in Game 1, Mike Singer of The Denver Post notes. Gordon was the primary defender on Kevin Durant, while Brown made three steals and generally disrupted the Suns’ offensive flow.
  • Nikola Jokic averaged a career-high 9.8 assists during the regular season. His teammates learn quickly they need to be prepared for Jokic’s distribution skills, Jason Quick of The Athletic writes. “He sees the game a couple steps before it even happens,” Gordon said. “They are things that nobody else sees. So we know to be ready, and keep our hands ready, and he’s going to hit us in the oven.”
  • Suns coach Monty Williams doesn’t expect his team to commit 16 turnovers again in Game 2 on Monday night, which led to 18 Denver points. “We’ve always been really good at making the right read right away,” Williams told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “I thought we were delayed and hesitant in that. I think we’ll do a lot better (Monday).”

Nuggets Notes: Gordon, Defense, Braun, Wolves Series

Nuggets power forward Aaron Gordon believes Denver has everything it needs to mount a long postseason run this year, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Specifically, Gordon credited the returns of small forward Michael Porter Jr. and point guard Jamal Murray, as well as the team’s offseason trade for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, its free agency signing of reserve guard Bruce Brown, and its retention of Jeff Green.

“I mean, it means a lot to have those guys back, Mike and Jamal, and then with the additions of KCP and Brucey, having Jeff with us like he was last year, too,” Gordon said. “Just having that continuity and that camaraderie is huge. It’s on us now and we’re going to step up to that. We really are appreciating that and knowing that it’s on us. I can’t say that enough.”

There’s more out of Denver:

  • The Nuggets’ defense during the 2022/23 regular season was fairly middle-of-the-road, but the team appears to have wholly revamped its approach to that side of the ball in the playoffs, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN (Insider link).
  • Head coach Michael Malone showed his trust in rookie reserve wing Christian Braun by keeping him on the floor during the fourth quarter of the team’s Game 3 win over the Timberwolves, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Braun helped spark a 9-2 Denver run early in the frame to create some separate between the Nuggets and Minnesota.
  • There are three key reasons the Nuggets are off to a 3-0 start in their first-round series against the Timberwolves, according to Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jones credits a shortened eight-man playoff rotation featuring a versatile trio of bench players, Porter’s improvement as a scorer, and a clear focus on trying to advance quickly.