Michael Porter Jr.

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: 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: 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.”

Nuggets Notes: Layoff, Jokic, Porter, Roster Construction

The Nuggets are eager to get back to action after a long layoff, writes Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. Denver’s sweep of the Lakers wrapped up on May 22, so by the time Game 1 of the Finals tips off Thursday night, the team will have gone 10 days without playing. The break provided some welcome rest for the players, but it might have lasted too long.

“I told my wife when Boston won Game 6, it almost felt like – we’d been sitting so long, it almost felt like we weren’t in the playoffs anymore because the only thing we were doing was watching them,” Jeff Green said. “But I watched two good teams battle and when they won, it was like, ‘Now it’s time to refocus.’ The time off, I think it helped in many ways. It allowed us to regroup, touch up on some things, better ourselves. I enjoyed that series. They showed me some things on both ends. I’m looking forward to this matchup.”

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said the Nuggets were focusing their preparation on Miami after the Heat took a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. More Celtics work was mixed in as Boston rallied to tie the series.

“We’ve been sitting for a long time, we’re going to be a little jittery and anxious to play,” Caldwell-Pope said. “Just try to keep them calm. The first couple possessions are going to be a lot, even for myself. I’ll be feeling anxious, even right now.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Coach Michael Malone says Nikola Jokic has many of the “selfless superstar” qualities that Tim Duncan exhibited with the Spurs (video link). Even though Jokic has become one of the league’s best players, Malone said he’s never lost focus on helping his teammates and doing whatever is necessary to win.
  • Michael Porter Jr. overcame three back surgeries to reach the NBA Finals, notes Mirin Fader of The Ringer. With his athleticism reduced by the repeated injuries, Porter focused on adding things to his game and has become an improved rebounder, defender and three-point shooter. “There was a lot of sad feelings and there was a lot of really, honestly, depression and anxiety, not knowing if you’re able to fulfill what you thought for your life,” Porter said about last year’s recovery process.
  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports takes a look at how the Nuggets’ roster was built, including the 2021 Aaron Gordon trade that meant saying goodbye to Gary Harris, a long-time cornerstone of the franchise.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Strategy, Jokic, Porter

It was an ear infection that had Jamal Murray listed as questionable for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Murray contracted the infection on Saturday, but he was able to score 31 points Tuesday night as the Nuggets held off a late Lakers comeback.

Coach Michael Malone had Murray sit out practice leading up to the game so he could rest and try to recover. He watched film and reviewed the scouting reports, but he didn’t do anything physical until Tuesday’s tipoff.

“I sometimes marvel at the kid,” Malone said. “He showed up and performed like he always does.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • The Nuggets focused on attacking D’Angelo Russell in Game 1, Singer adds in another Post story. Speaking after Wednesday’s film session, Bruce Brown described Russell as “not the best defender, but he tries.” The Lakers guard was a minus-25 for the game and played just nine minutes in the second half. “A guy that’s played really well for them was not on the floor in the fourth quarter, D’Angelo Russell,” Malone said. “And that to me is an interesting storyline. Are they going to play him? Are they not going to play him?”
  • The Lakers had some success by using Rui Hachimura, a smaller defender, to guard Nikola Jokic in the second half Tuesday, but the Nuggets say other teams have tried the same tactic, including the Timberwolves in the first round, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “As a team, we’ve seen everything there is to see on how teams will try to guard Nikola,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “It might have surprised us for a little bit in that late second half, but looking at the film, I don’t think that that’ll be an issue for us. Next thing we know how to counter that when they put (Anthony Davis) off ball and AD is roaming a little bit, it opens up some stuff on the backside, so we just got to execute.”
  • The Nuggets have benefited from Porter’s unselfish attitude during the playoffs, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. During the second-round series against Phoenix, Porter told Malone that he wouldn’t object if Brown was used in his place to close out games, adding, “I just want to win.”

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Title Hopes, Porter, Bench

After missing the playoffs the last two years because of a torn ACL in his left knee, Jamal Murray is back and looking like the dominant force he was during the Orlando bubble, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Murray delivered 34 points and nine assists on Saturday night as the Nuggets topped Phoenix in their series opener. He drilled six three-pointers, including a pair on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to help Denver pulled away.

“Those moments, when you dream of it as a kid, you try to reenact those in the backyard,” Murray said. “Just counting down (final seconds for a winning shot) or feeling the energy or hitting that big shot and you hear the crowd that loud, you live for those moments and you want to make the most of those moments. And I have been waiting for a while to be healthy to be back and playing at this level and during this time of the year.”

Murray’s ACL injury happened in April 2021 and resulted in the Nuggets being swept by the Suns that year. He sat out all of last season while recovering, and a depleted Denver team lost to the Warriors in the first round. In his last playoff appearance, Murray led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals in 2020, and he hopes to take them even further this year.

“He is playing amazing,” Nikola Jokic said. “He is definitely showing what he is capable of. He is our best player, and we are following him right now.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Last night’s performance should help erase any doubts over Denver’s ability to win a title, contends Tony Jones of The Athletic. He points out that the Nuggets were so dominant during the regular season that they were able to cruise through March and still finish with as the top seed in the West. Along with the boost from Murray’s return, the team now has a strong defensive presence on the perimeter with the offseason additions of Bruce BrownChristian Braun and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. “You guys (the media) act like you’re surprised, like we haven’t been playing at this level for most of the season,” Murray said after Saturday’s victory. “It kind of gets tiring having to defend ourselves. So we’re just coming out, trying to play well, and trying to win games.”
  • The Nuggets have also benefited from the return of Michael Porter Jr., who missed nearly all of last season after undergoing lumbar spine surgery. Suns star Kevin Durant calls Porter the X-factor in the series, per Michael Singer of The Denver Post. “He got healthy now, got an opportunity to play with a team that’s playing for something, playing meaningful basketball every year, got a Hall of Famer he’s playing with (Jokic) as well to make the game a little easier for you, so sky’s the limit for him,” Durant said. “Still young in the game, still athletic after surgeries.”
  • Denver’s depth might be the difference in this series, Singer suggests in another Post article. While the Suns’ best players logged heavy minutes in the first round, Nuggets coach Michael Malone showed a willingness to use a nine- or 10-man rotation.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Porter Jr., Title Run, Jokic

Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are healthy this postseason and that makes the Nuggets much more dangerous, Pat Graham of The Associated Press writes. Murray, who missed last season due to a knee injury, finished off the Timberwolves in Game 5 with 35 points. Porter, who has been plagued by back issues in prior seasons, had a 25-point performance in Game 3.

“It was good to be back in the playoffs and just be playing at a high level along with Jamal,” Porter said. “It’s a good feeling.”

We have more on the Nuggets:

  • Murray was irritated by the chatter surrounding Minnesota’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and the way he was blanketing Denver’s star guard, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes. He made a statement with his Game 5 eruption. “He was our best player this series,” said Nikola Jokic, citing Murray’s energy, shot-making and leadership.
  • Can Denver go all the way with the current group? Tony Jones of The Athletic explores that question, suggesting that the Nuggets’ biggest concern is their defense – particularly against the Suns’ superstars in the second-round series – and the need for a steady No. 3 offensive option to emerge.
  • Jokic earned a bonus with the team reaching the second round, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. He’ll collect an extra $568,966 as a result of the Nuggets winning a series.

Northwest Notes: Murray, MPJ, Thunder, Clarkson

Jamal Murray‘s breakout on a postseason stage occurred during the 2020 playoffs in the Orlando bubble, when he averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists with a .505/.453/.897 shooting line in 19 games as the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals.

Between then and now, Murray has had to endure a lengthy recovery process from an ACL tear, but he’s off to a great start in the 2023 postseason, putting up 32.0 PPG and 6.5 APG on .500/.500/.909 shooting in his first two games against Minnesota. Teammate Michael Porter Jr. told reporters this week that Murray “looks better than ever,” as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays.

For his part, the star guard is eager to prove that “Bubble Murray” isn’t just a moniker to live up to — it’s a level he believes he can surpass.

“People say, ‘Oh, that’s like vintage (Murray),'” he told Youngmisuk, referring to the “Bubble Murray” term. “It’s like, I haven’t even hit my best. … I feel like people are making that to be the best that’s been seen. And I’m thinking that was just the beginning.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Like Murray, Porter has had to overcome injury issues to get to where he’s at with the top-seeded Nuggets this spring, as Nick Kosmider of The Athletic details. Porter has undergone multiple back surgeries, including one procedure that wiped out his rookie year and another that limited him to nine games in 2021/22. “Injuries have definitely made my basketball career a little different path than I would have wished for growing up,” Porter said. “But I’m here in the playoffs, and it is a dream come true. I’m playing for the No. 1 team in the West. I’m playing a lot of minutes for the No. 1 team in the West and we’re up 2-0 in (the first round of) the playoffs. It’s all you can ask for.”
  • Speaking to local reporters on Thursday in his end-of-season presser, Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti didn’t rule out the possibility of last year’s No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren playing for OKC’s Summer League squad and stressed that he wants to see the team become more physical going forward, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. “A lot of people think about physicality, and they think about one side of the ball, they think about defense,” Presti said. “Offensively I think there’s room for us to get more physical. You can see that at the free throw line. We were last in the league of getting into the bonus before our opponent. That’s not a place you want to be.”
  • If Jordan Clarkson declines his player option for 2023/24, the opportunity to play for a winning team will be a top priority as he weighs his options in free agency, writes Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. However, that doesn’t mean Clarkson would rule out the retooling Jazz, who exceeded expectations this past season and are well positioned to keep improving. “Everybody this year really took steps super fast and grew super fast,” Clarkson said. “I think next year we’ll be back to our winning ways, with a chance to compete for something.”