Nikola Jokic

And-Ones: Postseason Awards, Fernandez, SLC Summer League, Players’ Poll

The NBA revealed the finalists for seven postseason awards on Sunday. The league will begin announcing the winners on Tuesday, the NBA’s communications department tweets.

The Most Improved Player award will be announced on Tuesday. Tyrese MaxeyAlperen Sengun and Coby White are the finalists. The Sixth Man of the Year award winner will be revealed on Wednesday, followed by the Clutch Player of the Year (Thursday) and Coach of the Year (Sunday).

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • The Nets’ hiring of Jordi Fernandez as their head coach won’t affect his status with Team Canada. Fernandez will coach their national team at the Paris Olympics, Canada Basketball tweets.
  • The Salt Lake City Summer League will take place July 8-10 at the Jazz’s Delta Center, according to a press release. The Jazz, Grizzlies, Thunder and Sixers will once again compete in the round-robin summer showcase, which precedes the Las Vegas Summer League.
  • The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Josh Robbins compiled poll results from 142 NBA players on a variety of topics. Nikola Jokic topped Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for MVP, while Michael Jordan edged out LeBron James for Greatest Player of All Time. A majority of the players chose James Johnson as the player they’d least like to fight.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Reaves, Russell, Vanderbilt, Jokic

Anthony Davis could have some extra motivation for the remainder of the Lakers‘ first-round series against the Nuggets. Davis feels slighted that he wasn’t one of the three finalists for the Defensive Player of the Year award, he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

“I’ll never get it,” Davis said. “They’re not giving it to me. The league doesn’t like me. I’m the best defensive player in the league. I can switch 1 through 5. I can guard the pick-and-roll the best in the league, from a big standpoint. I block shots. I rebound. I don’t know what else to do. I’m over it. I’m just going to do what I got to do to help the team win and try to play for a championship. Accolades and individual awards, I’m done with those.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Austin Reaves is hopeful that D’Angelo Russell remains with the team beyond this season, and his reasons go beyond the court, he told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “I want him to be around. That’s probably my best friend on the team,” Reaves said. “We hang out off the court and golf a lot together. We’re constantly in communication and play Call of Duty together. He’s been one of my closest friends since I’ve been in the NBA. Obviously, his basketball play speaks for itself with how talented he is and what he can do for our group. We need him to be at our best. When he’s playing at his best is when we’re playing at our best. Anything we can do or I can do to help him stay around, I’m definitely going to try to do that.” Russell holds an $18.7MM option on his contract for next season.
  • Jarred Vanderbilt is no longer wearing a walking boot, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Vanderbilt hasn’t played since Feb. 1 due to a right midfoot sprain. He went through some drills during the team’s shootaround on Tuesday but won’t play in Game 2.
  • Coach Darvin Ham admits it’s virtually impossible to keep Nikola Jokic in check, Buha adds in another tweet. “It’s like (bleep), I don’t know what to do. You just gotta go out there and try to be as disciplined as possible, aggressive and consistent. And have a next-play mentality, man. … Kid is a generational-type player,” Ham said.

Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Jokic Named MVP Finalists

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic were revealed on Sunday as the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award, according to the NBA (Twitter link).

Doncic led the league in scoring (33.9 points per game) and finished second in assists (9.8) while also grabbing 9.2 rebounds per contest. Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder to the top seed in the Western Conference by averaging 30.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.0 steals per contest. Jokic, who is widely considered the favorite to win his third MVP trophy, averaged 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per night.

The NBA also announced the finalists for six other postseason awards. Here are the finalists for all of those awards:

Most Valuable Player

Sixth Man

Defensive Player of the Year

Most Improved Player

Note: Sengun appeared in just 63 games but was eligible for award consideration based on the season-ending injury exception described in our glossary entry on the 65-game rule.

Coach of the Year

  • Mark Daigneault, Thunder
  • Chris Finch, Timberwolves
  • Jamahl Mosley, Magic

Rookie of the Year

Clutch Player of the Year

Northwest Notes: Thunder, Dieng, Murray, Blazers, Lofton

The Thunder‘s 57-25 record and No. 1 finish in the Western Conference represents an ahead-of-schedule arrival for a team that looked two years ago like it might be rebuilding for a few more seasons, writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. Still, Oklahoma City isn’t doing a victory lap after going from 24 wins in 2021/22 to 40 last season to 57 this year.

“When we wake up Tuesday morning, we’re 0-0,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said on Sunday. “It’s a new season. Everything that we did in the regular season doesn’t matter except opponent and seeding. … We’ll go into it with great respect for our opponents, but great respect for ourselves.”

While the Thunder prepare for their first playoff series since 2020, the team’s G League affiliate – the Oklahoma City Blue – won its first ever championship on Monday, closing out the Maine Celtics in Game 3 of their best-of-three series (story).

As Cato points out, the Thunder’s entire starting lineup consists of players aged 25 or younger, but not all of the team’s recent lottery picks are playing major roles at the NBA level. Ousmane Dieng, the 11th overall pick in 2022, played limited minutes in just 33 games for the Thunder this season, but he helped the Blue secure its NBAGL title on Monday, earning Finals MVP honors by putting up 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting to go along with six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks in the deciding game.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray explained why he wants to spend his entire career in Denver, how he feels about not having made an All-Star team, and why he thinks he and Nikola Jokic are the best duo in the NBA. “I think (other duos are) in a bigger market and people have more interest in LeBron and AD in L.A., or what Dame and Giannis could be, or what Luka and Kyrie could do,” Murray said. “If we’re talking about the best duos in getting the job done and how they play for each other and with each other, I think me and Jokic are undoubtedly number one.”
  • Bill Oram of The Oregonian (subscriber link) looks ahead at some of the difficult decisions facing the Trail Blazers this offseason, including whether the front office wants to push for a play-in spot in 2024/25 or rebuild slowly and seek another high draft pick. If Portland takes the latter route, the club may need to look into moving some veterans, including perhaps Anfernee Simons, Oram suggests. Blazers management will also have to make sure it’s on the same page as head coach Chauncey Billups, Oram adds, given that he has talked about wanting to get the club back to the playoffs next season.
  • Kenneth Lofton Jr.‘s play down the stretch was a bright spot for the Jazz, writes Riley Gisseman of The Salt Lake Tribune. Lofton averaged 16.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists off the bench in the final three games, making a strong case for a spot on next season’s roster. Lofton’s deal with Utah includes non-guaranteed salaries for two seasons after this one, so if he continues to show promise, the team is in position to retain him on the cheap.

Nikola Jokic, Jalen Brunson Named Players Of The Week

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has been named the Western Conference’s final Player of the Week for the 2023/24 season, while Knicks guard Jalen Brunson has won the award for the Eastern Conference, the NBA announced today (via Twitter).

It’s Jokic’s second Player of the Week win of ’23/24 — the first came all the way back in October. The Nuggets star put a bookend on what will likely be his third MVP season by averaging 26.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 3.0 steals in 35.5 minutes per game as Denver enjoyed a 3-1 week and secured the West’s No. 2 seed. Jokic shot an eye-popping 68.8% from the field, including 83.3% on three-pointers, for the week.

Brunson, who figures to earn MVP votes this spring as well, won his fourth Player of the Week award of the season, matching Luka Doncic for the most by any player in 2023/24.

In Brunson’s final four games of the regular season – all Knicks wins – he averaged 38.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 37.5 minutes per game, with a shooting line of .510/.500/.917. Since the week ran from April 8-14, those figures don’t include the 43-point game he had against Milwaukee on April 7.

Bradley Beal, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LeBron James, CJ McCollum, and Jokic’s teammate Jamal Murray were also nominated for the Western Conference award, according to the league (Twitter link). Brunson beat out fellow nominees Jarrett Allen, DeMar DeRozan, Tyler Herro, and Myles Turner in the East.

Mavericks Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Harrison, Kidd, More

During Wednesday’s matchup in Miami, which was a blowout win for Dallas, members of the Mavericks organization wore shirts saying “Pravi MVP,” which translates from Slovenian to English as real or true MVP, referencing the excellent season by Luka Doncic, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Doncic, who has made the All-NBA First Team each of the past four seasons, is a top contender for the MVP award. However, it’s “generally expected” that Nuggets center Nikola Jokic will claim the trophy for the third time in the past four seasons, Reynolds notes.

While he may not win his first MVP in 2023/24, Doncic’s coaches and teammates certainly think he deserves it.

He’s the real MVP. … I think his resume is better than anybody else’s resume,” forward P.J. Washington said. “I don’t feel like there’s a complete argument that anybody had a better season this year.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving earned a $1MM bonus on Wednesday for a combination of playing 50-plus games and the Mavs winning their 50th game, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus was considered unlikely since Dallas only won 38 games last season. As Marks observes, Irving’s cap hit for 2023/24 will now be $38.04MM, and his ’24/25 figure will be adjusted up to $41MM. Irving has been instrumental in the team’s success this season, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), who notes that Dallas is 39-19 when Irving plays, including 24-7 over his past 31 appearances.
  • In an interview with Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required), Mavs general manager Nico Harrison discussed a number of topics, including the job performance of head coach Jason Kidd and his staff. Harrison praised Kidd, who reportedly has one more year left on his contract and hopes to sign an extension with Dallas this offseason. “The coaches have done a great job,” Harrison told Townsend. “One, when you have two superstar players, first and foremost, getting those guys to play together at a high level and respect each other’s play and to play together, you always have to take a little bit off your game for the success of the team. To be able to do that is remarkable. Jason and his staff have done that at a high level. We’re not successful if that doesn’t happen.”
  • Regarding the trade-deadline acquisitions of Washington and center Daniel Gafford, Harrison said that while the two players were high on Dallas’ priority list, the front office was also working on multiple other deals at the time in case talks fell apart. He said he’s been pleased with how the two veterans have fit in thus far, according to Townsend. “I think if you go back to last year, the exit interview that we did, admittedly we didn’t do what we wanted to do,” Harrison said as part of a larger quote. “But we didn’t have the right players around those two guys (Doncic and Irving). We feel like we started that during the summer, getting longer, getting more athletic, getting better defensively. And then also in the draft with (Dereck) Lively. And then we just continue. The message hasn’t changed. The goal hasn’t changed. Now you do it with P.J., now you do it with Gafford. We’ve just continued with building it the same way that we talked about.”

Northwest Notes: Connelly, Murray, Jokic, McDaniels, Towns

Tim Connelly helped to build the Nuggets’ championship team. He has also been instrumental in turning the Timberwolves into one of the Western Conference’s top clubs. However, Minnesota’s president of basketball operations technically has the ability to move on to another organization, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported on FanDuel’s Run It Back program (video link).

The dispute between current Timberwolves majority owner Glen Taylor and minority owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore could cause Connelly to weigh his future in Minnesota.

“Tim Connelly has an opt-out in his contract after the season,” Charania said. “After year two, it was supposed to line up with this ownership transfer with Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore taking this team over.”

Connelly signed a five-year contract with the organization in 2022. Charania adds that Minnesota’s owners could rip up his current deal and give him an extension.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • In an interview with Altitude TV’s Katy Winge (Twitter link), Jamal Murray said he’d like to spend his entire career with the Nuggets. “I love Denver, I want to be here for the rest of my career,” he said. Murray’s current contract runs through next season. He can earn super-max contract eligibility if he makes an All-NBA team in 2024/25; he has missed too many games to qualify this season.
  • The Nuggets defeated the Timberwolves, 116-107, in a huge Western Conference showdown on Wednesday. Nikola Jokic likely locked up his third league MVP with a signature 41-point masterpiece, The Athletic’s Tony Jones notes. “I think we are on the right path,” Jokic said. “I think we are playing well. I like how everyone is locked in and focused, especially on the defensive end. I think we are at the point where everyone knows where to go, and everyone knows their job. We played really good defense tonight, especially in important moments. I really like the way we are playing.”
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is expected to return before the regular season ends. Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels said the team will get an “extra boost” when he’s back in the lineup. “We’ve just been trying to hold down the fort until he gets back,” McDaniels told Sportskeeda’s Mark Medina. “We’ve been doing pretty well. It shows how deep our team is. All of us can play. All of us are versatile. When he comes back, he will give us that extra boost. He will be another unicorn on our team. We’re going to love to have him back.”

Northwest Notes: Wolves, Anderson, Jokic, KCP, Blazers

The NBA’s league office hasn’t taken any public stance on the Timberwolves‘ ownership battle, but has kept up to date on the details of the situation and wasn’t caught off guard when longtime team owner Glen Taylor announced last week that he intended to retain his majority stake in the franchise, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Within a look at what might be next for the Timberwolves as Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez look to wrest majority control from Taylor, Windhorst shares a few new details on the standoff. Sources tell ESPN that the sales agreement between the two sides is about 50 pages long and features “numerous protections” for Taylor, so his side believes it’s on “firm legal ground” despite claims for the Lore-Rodriguez group that they met all the requirements.

Windhorst also hears from sources that Taylor – who has paid less than $2MM in luxury tax penalties since 2005 – remained very involved in operating the team as the Wolves made several significant financial commitments in recent years that project to take them well beyond the luxury tax line in 2024/25 and beyond. Last fall, for example, he was “haggling over details” in Jaden McDaniels‘ $131MM extension, Windhorst says.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Kyle Anderson has looked like “the Kyle of old” in recent weeks, according to head coach Chris Finch, which has helped key an offensive resurgence for the Timberwolves, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski details, Anderson has played more power forward during Karl-Anthony Towns‘ absence and often orchestrates the offense when he’s in the game. The veteran wing figures to play a key role in the postseason for Minnesota before becoming an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
  • Despite dealing with some pain in his right wrist and left hip as of late, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic isn’t looking to take any time off as the team attempts to secure the No. 1 seed in the West, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post. “My goal is to play every game, and that’s my mindset,” Jokic said on Tuesday after matching his season high with 42 points to hold off the Spurs. Denver currently holds the West’s top spot by a half-game over Minnesota and Oklahoma City.
  • Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette takes a look at Nuggets wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s quest to earn an All-Defensive nod for the first time in his 11th NBA season.
  • A 10-game losing streak has put the Trail Blazers (19-56) in position to possibly slip below San Antonio (18-58) and Charlotte (18-57) in the standings and finish as a bottom-three team, which would result in the best possible draft lottery odds, notes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian.

And-Ones: West, MVP Race, All-NBA, Comanche

NBA legend Jerry West is being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for a third time, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Previously enshrined as a player (1979) and as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team (2010), the 85-year-old has now been elected as a Hall of Fame contributor.

The latest induction into the Hall of Fame recognizes West’s work as a team executive, including general manager stints with the Lakers and Grizzlies, as well as time spent as a consultant for the Warriors and Clippers. West won eight championships in those roles, per ESPN, and won Executive of the Year awards in 1995 and 2004.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Northwest Notes: Zanik, Sensabaugh, Gobert, Jokic

Jazz general manager Justin Zanik underwent a physical last fall that revealed he’s suffering from kidney failure, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Doctors diagnosed Zanik with Polycystic Kidney Disease and determined that he only had 14% of his kidney left. PKD causes cysts to grow on the kidney, eventually leaving it unable to function. Zanik went through the process of finding a donor and will undergo a transplant on Tuesday.

“I’m a fixer by nature,” he said. “My job with the Jazz, my role with my family — I mean, I was a [player] agent for 15 years. I fixed a lot of s–t. I’m the one who’s supposed to help. I’m the one who’s supposed to take care of everything. I really didn’t know how to ask for help, but I had to get over it. I knew I had to get over it.”

Zanik will remain in the University of Utah’s hospital for several days once the procedure is complete, and doctors will need a few weeks to monitor how his body adjusts to the new kidney. He’ll recuperate for most of April, but he has told friends that he expects to be fully running the team again in time for draft day in June and the start of free agency in July.

The Jazz released a statement as Zanik prepares for Tuesday’s operation: “The Utah Jazz send our love and support to General Manager Justin Zanik, his wife Gina, and their family as Justin prepares for a kidney transplant to address polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a genetic disorder that affects kidney function. JZ is an instrumental part of our organization, and we look forward to his return in the coming weeks.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Jazz rookie Brice Sensabaugh had been struggling with his three-point shooting before going 5-of-10 from beyond the arc Sunday night, notes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. Sensabaugh said it’s been an adjustment getting used to the NBA’s longer three-point line. “It’s not crazy, but during the flow of the game, it’s not even the distance, but the line can mess with your head sometimes. It’s just like kind of a mental thing a little bit,” he said.
  • Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was upset after battling for a rebound with Chicago’s Alex Caruso on Sunday, tweets Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I had a knee injury a couple years ago on the same play and missed a month because someone ran into my knee,” Gobert said. “I hope they look at this, because if they don’t hold people accountable, I’m gonna hold them accountable myself.”
  • Nuggets center Nikola Jokic isn’t concerned about the inflammation that’s forcing him to play with tape on his right wrist, per Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. “I don’t know if rest can help me. In my opinion, it is an injury that I can play with,” Jokic said Sunday after posting 26 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists in Sunday’s win over Cleveland. “I feel it, but I can play with it. It kind of bothers me. So, I am kind of used to it.”