Christian Braun

Northwest Notes: George, Edwards, Reid, Braun

Jazz rookie Keyonte George has been cleared to resume all on-court activities, Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets via a team statement.

George was named to the Las Vegas Summer League First Team despite suffering a right ankle sprain. The Baylor product, who was drafted with the No. 16 pick, could be in the mix for the Jazz’s starting point guard job.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Anthony Edwards is one of the top options for Team USA this summer heading into the World Cup. Timberwolves point guard Mike Conley expects Edwards to be better than ever during the upcoming NBA season, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweets. “He’s working on all facets of his game. He’s hungry, he’s angry, he’s all that at the same time,” Conley said. “It’s going to be really fun to see his development and how he comes back this season.”
  • Timberwolves center Naz Reid is no longer under the radar after signing a three-year, $42MM extension. He told Krawczynski that he’s fine with the added pressure that comes with the contract. “Bigger role, bigger expectations,” Reid said. “So I’m definitely going to show I’ve improved, in every facet of the game, maturity, basketball or whatever the case may be. Higher pay comes higher responsibility. This is what comes with it. So I’m ready for it.”
  • What player needs to step up the most for the Nuggets to repeat as champions? Harrison Wind of DNVR Nuggets believes Christian Braun fits that description with the anticipation that Braun can expand his offensive contributions.

Western Notes: Braun, Thunder Arena, Jones, Gordon

The Nuggets lost a key all-around performer in Bruce Brown during free agency. That could thrust second-year guard Christian Braun into an expanded role and he’s eager to show he can handle it, he told Sean Keeler of the Denver Post.

“I want that challenge. I want a bigger role and I think everybody wants a bigger role,” he said. “But the fact that the Nuggets show confidence in me and (in) our young guys to come in and take over that role and make that next step means a lot to me. And obviously, I’m going to prove them right.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Oklahoma City mayor David Holt doesn’t want to raise taxes to help pay for a new arena for the Thunder, according to Jana Hayes of The Oklahoman. He’d prefer to extend a temporary sales tax. “We just know that we won’t make a proposal that raises the tax rate,” he said. Negotiations are ongoing, including the potential cost of the arena and terms of the lease agreement.
  • Suns general manager James Jones believes the team’s experience can lead to a championship, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. After numerous free agent signings, the Suns have a dozen players who are 26 and older. “Versatility and balance and more importantly, experience. It takes a unique combination of skill, and know-how to navigate a regular season and a postseason,” Jones said. “You have to have success and failures in the postseason to understand what it actually takes to, ultimately, to be successful and win a championship.”
  • In a subscriber-only story, Gerald Bourguet of describes how Eric Gordon‘s offensive skills could make an impact on a top contender. Gordon signed a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Suns after the Clippers declined to guarantee his original $20.9MM salary for next season.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Jazz, Timberwolves Moves, Brown, Jackson, Braun, Wallace

The Jazz will have internal discussions about getting involved in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, according to The Athletic’s Tony Jones.

If they make a run for him, the Jazz could put together an impressive package of expiring contracts and future first-round picks for the Trail Blazers All-Star guard, who requested a trade this weekend. He’d instantly transform a team with a suddenly formidable frontcourt and quality depth into a contender.

The downside is Lillard’s age, defensive deficiencies and gargantuan contract. Jones explores the pros and cons of a potential Jazz trade for Lillard and ultimately concludes it would be worth it, as long as they set a strict limit on what they would give up.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves, after extending Naz Reid, made a number of under-the-radar moves in free agency to help them avoid future tax issues, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. They divvied up their mid-level exception to acquire Shake Milton and Troy Brown, as well as re-signing Nickeil Alexander-Walker via his Bird rights. All of the contracts were two-year deals. Thus, their roster is almost all set for next season and the combined salaries are below the luxury tax threshold.
  • After losing Bruce Brown in free agency to Indiana, the Nuggets have a huge hole to fill in their rotation. Jones explores how Denver will fill up those available minutes. Reggie Jackson, who is re-signing with the club on a two-year deal, is slated to be the backup point guard. Christian Braun will see his minutes expand, presumably as a combo guard.  Denver could also add another piece via free agency to improve its depth.
  • Due to trade restrictions, Cason Wallace will miss the Thunder’s three Summer League games in Salt Lake City, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman notes. Wallace was chosen with the No. 10 pick in a draft-night swap with the Mavericks, who also shipped forward Davis Bertans to OKC in exchange for the No. 12 pick. The trade can’t be finalized until at least Thursday, forcing Wallace to miss those games. However, he’ll be eligible to play in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Nuggets Notes: Brown, Jordan, Green, Jackson, Rookies, Braun

After winning a title during his first year as the Nuggets‘ head of basketball operations, Calvin Booth has no appetite for major roster changes heading into his second season. He tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required) that he’d like the team’s 2023/24 roster to look a lot like the ’22/23 group.

“Hopefully we get the whole crew back,” Booth said, in reference to a group of free agents that includes Jeff Green, Ish Smith, DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Jackson, Thomas Bryant, and – of course – Bruce Brown. The Nuggets can only offer Brown a limited raise, but hope to re-sign him.

“Obviously Bruce is the biggest fish,” Booth said. “He has a million options. Waiting eagerly to see what’s going to happen when the moratorium ends. Hopefully he’s back in a Nuggets jersey.”

Asked specifically about veteran leaders Green and Jordan, Booth expressed more confidence in the club’s odds of bringing back Jordan, noting that Green will have “options” and adding that he’ll have to check in with the forward’s agent.

Interestingly, while Jackson wasn’t a key contributor down the stretch for the Nuggets and didn’t have a rotation role in the playoffs, a league source tells Singer that the team would like to re-sign the veteran point guard.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver’s roster will look at least a little different in ’23/24 due to an influx of rookies — the club drafted Julian Strawther (No. 29), Jalen Pickett (No. 32), and Hunter Tyson (No. 37) on Thursday. Tony Jones of The Athletic explores what the Nuggets are getting in those newcomers and considers how the team is attempting its own version of a “two-timeline” plan that didn’t work out for the conference-rival Warriors.
  • Explaining why the Nuggets targeted Strawther at No. 29, Booth told reporters this week that he liked the fact that the former Gonzaga sharpshooter has played in “high-pressure games” and believes he can improve Denver’s shooting off the bench (subscriber-only story via Singer). However, if the Nuggets’ roster remains relatively healthy, Booth expects Strawther to spend some time playing in the G League as a rookie.
  • Despite playing rotation minutes during the Nuggets’ championship run this spring, second-year wing Christian Braun may suit up for Denver in the Las Vegas Summer League, tweets Singer. Some team executives would like to see him seek out his shot and be aggressive in a way he wasn’t asked to during his rookie season, Singer explains.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Irving, Smith, Williams, Braun, Watson, Anunoby

The Nuggets’ path to the championship was a testament to perseverance and patience. They didn’t panic when they fell short in previous postseasons, nor did they feel the need to replace coach Michael Malone. They were rewarded this season but there was some measure of luck involved. ESPN’s Zach Lowe (Insider link) offers some sourced nuggets on the Nuggets, sharing details about the steps along the way to the first title in franchise history. Here are some of the highlights from Lowe’s story:

  • The Nuggets never seriously considered trading Jamal Murray as he rehabbed from his ACL injury but former executive Tim Connelly approached Malone five or six years ago to say that Murray could be moved for a high-profile veteran player or two. Kyrie Irving, who requested a trade from the Cavaliers during the 2017 offseason, was one of the players Denver considered acquiring in a Murray deal, but the team ultimately decided against pursuing Irving.
  • The Nuggets had an opportunity to move journeyman point guard Ish Smith prior to this season’s trade deadline, but coaches and players lobbied the front office to keep him. Smith didn’t play much but he proved to be a powerful influence behind the scenes, including mimicking the Heat’s playbook as part of Denver’s scout team at Finals practices.
  • General manager Calvin Booth considered trading up to the No. 10 spot — held by the Wizards — in last year’s draft with the idea of selecting Jalen Williams. The Nuggets also considered moving up later in the lottery to nab Christian Braun, even though he was projected as a late first-rounder. They got him anyway at No. 21. They were also concerned that the Warriors would take Peyton Watson with the No. 28 pick. Golden State passed on Watson and Denver grabbed him at No. 30.
  • In one of the few mistakes they made, the Nuggets traded down from No. 13 to No. 24 in the 2017 draft — the 13th pick turned out to be Donovan Mitchell. Denver had considered taking OG Anunoby at that spot but felt he was a reach at that point in the draft. Anunoby came off the board at No. 23 and the Nuggets wound up with long-forgotten Tyler Lydon with the next pick.

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: 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: Jokic, Murray, MPJ, Braun, Green

Thanks to their stellar playoff performances to this point, Nuggets stars Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are laying claim to being the league’s most fearsome twosome, opines Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports.

During last night’s Game 3 Denver victory, Jokic and Murray made NBA history when they became the only teammates to ever record 30-point triple-doubles in the same game.

“I’d say it’s a trust and a feel, that’s the best way for me to put it,” Murray said of his collaboration with the two-time MVP. “It’s not really X’s and O’s. It’s just reading the game and trusting that the other is going to make the right play.”

Jokic is averaging a triple-double of 30.5 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 10.1 assists through his 18 playoff games this year. For his part, Murray has recorded 27.4 PPG, 6.8 APG and 5.7 RPG.

There’s more out of Denver:

  • Nuggets rookie swingman Christian Braun enjoyed a breakout performance in Game 3, racking up 15 points and four boards while also holding his own on defense, often against All-NBA Heat wing Jimmy Butler. The 6’7″ shooting guard made an outsized impact off the bench in a critical victory, writes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. “I mean, the guys just trusted me all year,” Braun said. “So when I get in the game, I try to defend, do the little things … obviously, [the stars] make it easier on me, my job’s not very hard.” Prior to Game 3, Braun’s playoff high was nine points against the Timberwolves.
  • Nuggets starting small forward Michael Porter Jr. has the support of head coach Michael Malone despite having a rough two-way run in the Finals thus far, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Michael Porter isn’t making shots right now, and we know he is a great shooter,” Malone said. “But we believe in Michael. He is our starting small forward. I have zero doubt he is going to have a very big game coming up here that is going to help us win this championship.” Through these first three contests, Porter is averaging just 7.0 PPG on .258/.158/1.000 shooting splits across 30.3 MPG. He had his worst outing of the series on Wednesday, scoring just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor.
  • Nuggets reserve forward Jeff Green is making the most of his second Finals appearance, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Green also suited up for the 2018 Finals as a role player with the Cavaliers, though that team was swept by the Warriors. Now, the heavily favored Nuggets lead the Heat 2-1. “I know who’s across that hall,” Green said. “So, I’m just living in the moment, relishing this moment. Because as you know, 16 years for me, second time here, they don’t come often. So we’re just appreciating everything.”

Nuggets Notes: Brown, Braun, Watson, Jokic, Rest

Nuggets wing Bruce Brown has been one of the keys to the team’s success all season long, making winning plays with his versatility on both ends of the court. He referred to Denver as a “perfect fit” and said it was a “great decision” to sign with the Nuggets last offseason, tweets Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports.

The 26-year-old could be a free agent again this summer if he declines his $6.8MM player option in search of a bigger payday, which seems likely. The Nuggets will be limited to offering him $7.8MM, as they only have his Non-Bird rights.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) hears the Nuggets are optimistic that Christian Braun will be able to step up as the sixth man if Brown leaves Denver in free agency, and the team is also bullish on Peyton Watson becoming a rotation player in 2023/24. Both Braun and Watson are finishing out their rookie seasons as Denver makes its first NBA Finals appearance.
  • In a Q&A with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune, former Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders, who is now an assistant with the Nuggets, raved about Western Conference Finals MVP Nikola Jokic. “It’s unbelievable his work capacity,” Saunders said as part of a larger quote. How hard he works every time he steps on the floor. His approach. His commitment. Just everything that he does is with winning in mind. Everything he does is with helping his teammates in mind. … You can’t help but fall in line in how he approaches it because any time he’s around in the building you want to work hard for him, and he wants to work hard for everyone else involved. He leads by example in so many ways.”
  • After sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, the Nuggets have a lengthy wait until the Game 1 of the Finals, which starts June 1. While they keep a close eye on the Boston/Miami series, they plan to enjoy the extra rest without developing complacency, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “We take the rest, yeah, but you don’t want to pick up bad habits throughout this week,” guard Jamal Murray said. “… We don’t want to relax and just wait.”