Peyton Watson

And-Ones: Zagars, Sophomores, Super-Max, Best Offseason Deals

World Cup standout Arturs Zagars has officially signed with Turkish club Fenerbahce and has been loaned to Lithuanian team BC Wolves, as Johnny Askounis of relays. A recent report suggested that was the likely outcome for Zagars, who attracted NBA interest based in part on his strong play for Latvia at this year’s World Cup.

Zagars averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 2.6 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game across his eight World Cup appearances, making 48.6% of his shots from the floor and 41.7% of his three-pointers. The 23-year-old, who spent last season playing in Lithuania, was named to the All-World Cup Second Team.

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

Western Notes: Doncic, Tenzer, Watson, McGee, Len, Spurs

Luka Doncic isn’t doing himself any favors with his constant complaining to the officials, Tim Cato of The Athletic writes. The Mavericks superstar was tossed from Slovenia’s quarterfinal loss to Canada in the FIBA World Cup. Doncic’s technical fouls in the NBA have risen in each of his five seasons. Cato notes. Doncic has publicly acknowledged over the years he needs to pipe down, but his actions haven’t reflected it. He’s a master at drawing contact but complaining about non-calls serves no useful purpose, as Cato writes.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • The Nuggets’ new G League general manager, Ben Tenzer, believes forward Peyton Watson will blossom in his second NBA season, he told Bennett Durando of the Denver Post. “(He) has all the potential in the world. I think it starts with his defense and his energy,” Tenzer said. “He’s such a unique player with his size and his ability to cover the court. His shot-blocking ability. I think we were able to see it a little bit when he played with the Nuggets toward the end of the season, how good he can be. So I think for him it starts with the defensive side. The offensive side will come because of his natural ability to be able to handle and attack the rim.”
  • Alex Len and JaVale McGee are expected to make the Kings’ opening night roster and compete for backup minutes at center, James Ham of tweets. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, considering they both have guaranteed contracts. That also means Neemias Queta and Nerlens Noel, who have partially guaranteed deals, will essentially be competing for the final roster spot, assuming Sacramento decides to carry 15 players.
  • The Spurs have 18 players on guaranteed or partially guaranteed deals. So who will be the odd men out? The Athletic’s John Hollinger and Kelly Iko explore that, plus other Spurs-related topics. Khem Birch and Charles Bassey appear to be the most vulnerable, according to Hollinger. If San Antonio is unable to deal one of its guards, then either Doug McDermott, Reggie Bullock or Cedi Osman could be bought out.

Northwest Notes: Edwards, Sarr, Waters, Brown, Watson, Key

Anthony Edwards has become the breakout star for USA Basketball this summer. For the Timberwolves to take the next step, Edwards needs to be their unquestioned leader, Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune opines. While he has remained deferential to Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, Edwards will be the player the Timberwolves turn to when they need a basket or a lift this upcoming season.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The two-way contracts signed by Thunder big man Olivier Sarr and wing Lindy Waters both cover only the 2023/24 season, Hoops Rumors has learned. Sarr and Waters will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2024, assuming they finish the season on those deals.
  • Moses Brown has a partial guarantee of $250K in the one-year contract he signed with the Trail Blazers this week, Spotrac contributor Keith Smith tweets. Brown’s guarantee increases to $500K if he’s on the opening night roster and would become fully guaranteed on the league-wide date in January. Brown’s contract is for the veteran’s minimum, so he’ll receive $2.165MM as a four-year veteran if he remains on the roster after the January deadline.
  • Forward Peyton Watson‘s development will be a key component to the Nuggets’ season, Harrison Wind of opines. Watson needs to emerge as a reliable reserve with the free agent loss of Jeff Green to the Rockets. Another potential factor for the second unit is two-way player Braxton Key, a defense-oriented wing that the organization believes could emerge as a reliable option.

Northwest Notes: George, Nuggets, Lillard, Holmgren

Rookie Jazz shooting guard Keyonte George, the No. 16 pick in this summer’s draft out of Baylor, injured his ankle midway through a Wednesday Summer League contest against the Nuggets, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News.

There is no official diagnosis of the ailment as of this writing, but there’s also no indication to suggest it will adversely impact his status for training camp in the fall.

“It’s a gut punch for us, but the absolute biggest gut punch for him, especially with how well he was playing,” Utah’s Summer League team head coach Evan Bradds said. “It’s terrible, it sucks. Whenever you see somebody go down it sucks no matter where you’re at, what you’re doing.”

Sources have informed Todd that George won’t be available for the rest of Summer League.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The reigning champion Nuggets‘ Summer League run has been a bit of mixed bag. The team has gone 0-3 thus far in Las Vegas, but the performance of Peyton Watson in particular has given president Calvin Booth hope that he can help replace the output of Bruce Brown, who left Denver in free agency, per Parker Gabriel of The Denver Post. “Really excited about Peyton Watson,” Booth said. “I think we have some guys that can come in and try to replace some of what Bruce did.”
  • As Damian Lillard trade chatter continues, Pelicans executive David Griffin weighed in on how the Trail Blazers can take advantage of their All-Star’s demand to be moved, as Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relays. The Heat are known to be Lillard’s preferred destination. “I want people to invent as many different scenarios as they can and put them out into the universe because it gives you leverage,” Griffin told Amin Elhassan and Justin Termine of SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter video link). “If there’s actually a chance that you would trade him somewhere other than Miami, you get a much better deal.”
  • A right foot surgery postponed Thunder lottery pick Chet Holmgren‘s NBA debut for an entire season. Ahead of 2023/24, the 7’1″ big man seems to be gearing up for an impactful rookie run, says Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

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: 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.”

Northwest Notes: Jackson, Watson, Green, Towns, Sexton

Nuggets coach Michael Malone strongly hinted at possible rotation changes for Game 5 against the Suns on Tuesday night. Malone mentioned that he might use Reggie Jackson as an extra ball-handler and Peyton Watson as a defender, Ryan Blackburn of Mile High Sports tweets. Blackburn notes that the Nuggets were -37 when the starters weren’t on the floor together over the past two games.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Veteran forward Jeff Green has a simpler solution for how the Nuggets can win the series, which is currently tied at 2-2. “It’s about pride. It’s about effort,” Green told Harrison Wind of the “And it’s about wanting to take on the challenge.” Denver has allowed 43 fast break points in the last two games.
  • Dealing Karl-Anthony Towns, if the Timberwolves choose to go that path, could be made easier if the Knicks get eliminated by the Heat, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune opines. New York seems like a logical landing spot and rumors are already flying about the Knicks having interest in the Timberwolves big man. Towns will make $36MM next season and the Knicks have a combination of starters with suitable salaries (such as Julius Randle and RJ Barrett) and extra draft picks that could entice the Minnesota front office.
  • Coming back from a serious knee injury, Collin Sexton saw his first season with the Jazz marred by hamstring strains. However, he showed improvement in his overall game compared to his time in Cleveland, particularly with his passing and decision-making, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Sexton shot a career-high 50.6% from the field and made 39.3% of his 3-point attempts. He averaged 14.3 points in 23.9 minutes while appearing in 48 games. Sexton inked a four-year, $71MM contract last summer in a sign-and-trade transaction.

Northwest Notes: Watson, NAW, Saric, Blazers

Nuggets rookie Peyton Watson didn’t play more than 10 minutes in an NBA game until March 31, but he averaged 22.4 MPG in Denver’s last six contests and his teammates were impressed by what they saw, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscriber link). More importantly, Watson quickly earned the confidence of head coach Michael Malone.

“If I have to use Peyton Watson in a playoff series, I will, if the situation calls upon it,” Malone said. “He’s shown me he can go out there against some really good players and teams and impact the game in a positive light.”

The 30th overall pick last June, Watson scored double-digit points in two of the Nuggets’ last six games and blocked three shots in two separate games. As Singer writes, the 20-year-old presumably won’t be part of Malone’s regular playoff rotation, but could be a fit in certain switchable, defensive-oriented lineups.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker was something of an afterthought in February’s three-team Mike Conley/D’Angelo Russell/Russell Westbrook blockbuster, but the Timberwolves made his development a priority, writes Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. As Krawczynski notes, that work paid off in Friday’s play-in game, when Alexander-Walker filled up the box score (12 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals, two blocks) and helped limit his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to a 5-of-19 night. Alexander-Walker will be eligible for restricted free agency this July.
  • Asked on Saturday about his impending free agency, Thunder forward Dario Saric said he really enjoyed his time in Oklahoma City and would like to return, per Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter links). Saric went on to use an unorthodox metaphor to praise the organization. You know, sometimes you can feel it,” he said of the Thunder. “Same like laptops. Some laptops are better than other ones. You know what I mean? Sometimes they have the same controls … but some of them are better, and that’s what I would say.”
  • This summer appears likely to be the Trail Blazers‘ last chance to make the right roster moves around Damian Lillard to steer the team toward contention, according to Bill Oram of The Oregonian. If that doesn’t happen, Oram writes, a breakup between Lillard and the Blazers could be around the corner.