Peyton Watson

Western Notes: Kuminga, Lakers, Wolves, Watson

At 20-24, the No. 12 seed in the West, the Warriors certainly aren’t where they hoped to be in the standings at this point in the 2023/24 season. However, one bright spot of late has been the play of third-year forward Jonathan Kuminga, says Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

As Slater writes, Kuminga has been highly efficient attacking the paint over the past seven games, scoring 20-plus each game in averaging 25.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals while shooting 61.9% from the field (32.0 minutes). Star guard Stephen Curry thinks Kuminga is turning a corner in his development.

(He has) clarity on how he can impact the game,” Curry said. “Defensive intensity, pressure, taking what the defense gives him on the offensive end. Whether it’s attacking driving lanes, finishing at the rim, getting transition buckets for us, and knocking down open shots. There’s just an element of aggressiveness. You don’t want him out there second-guessing anything.”

Playing Kuminga more and letting him learn from mistakes shows the team finally realized it needed to shake things up, especially on offense, according to Tim Kawakami of The Athletic, who notes that Andrew Wiggins has played well lately too with Draymond Green starting at center.

Kuminga’s prominent role is in stark contrast to the uneven minutes he received earlier this season, with a report just a few weeks ago suggesting the 21-year-old was losing faith in head coach Steve Kerr. However, Slater recently said Kuminga has felt better about his situation since he met with Kerr in the wake of that report.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Christian Wood sent out a tweet saying “lol” shortly before the Lakers announced their starting lineup on Tuesday featured Jaxson Hayes starting at center with Anthony Davis sidelined, but he said after the game it wasn’t related to basketball, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. “I meant to quote (tweet) something,” Wood said. “I thought I did and I just pressed send, and I couldn’t check my phone before because we have to go out (to the court), but it was an accident. … I looked at it just now. … It came off a certain type of way. I didn’t mean it that way.” After the loss to Atlanta, LeBron James also sent out a cryptic hourglass emoji, Buha adds. The trade deadline is next Thursday, and the Lakers are currently 24-25.
  • The Timberwolves have only advanced past the first round of the playoffs once in franchise history. How will they handle the pressure of being considered a title contender? ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explores that topic, writing that Karl-Anthony Towns‘ willingness to adjust his game has paid dividends thus far in 2023/24. “The winning helps. It’s good when you’re able to sacrifice to see the result you wanted and share the success,” Towns said. “We’re all making this happen. This is not just a singular effort. This is a team coming together and saying ‘We really want to do something special.’
  • Already an impressive defender in year two, Nuggets forward Peyton Watson says he’s looking to expand his game on the other end of the court, according to Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Watson has been taking far more mid-range shots lately, an area he’s comfortable in. “Coming in as a young player and trying to make a name for yourself and get a spot in the rotation, you’re not just coming in shooting of the dribble jumpers,” Watson told DNVR. “That’s not analytically the best shot, especially if you’re someone just coming in and trying to create his role. Now that I’ve created my role and people know what I’m going to do on the defensive end, it’s just been more about me expanding my game offensively, seeing what works, trial and error, and getting ready for when it counts in the playoffs.”

Northwest Notes: MPJ, Nuggets, Watson, Thunder, Reath

After scoring 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting in his first 16 minutes of action on Friday to help the Nuggets build an 18-point lead, Michael Porter Jr. attempted just three more field goals in his final 15 minutes as Denver’s lead slipped away and Orlando pulled out a 122-120 victory.

Asked after the game about his recent trend of disappearing from the Nuggets’ offense after getting off to hot starts, Porter suggested it’s an issue that affects the team more broadly rather than applying specifically to him, per Bennett Durando of The Denver Post.

“I think it’s something we’re collectively still trying to master. Like, continuing to find guys’ shots throughout the midst of the game,” Porter said. “Because sometimes we play different in the first quarter than we do in the fourth quarter. … And that’s a lot of teams. But Aaron (Gordon) for example: He got most of his shots probably in the first quarter. Didn’t really touch the ball in the third quarter or the fourth quarter much.

“.. It’s a tough balance. When you’ve got a lot of guys who are very capable, sometimes you go a long stretch without really touching the ball. So for me, I kind of realize if I’m gonna get some shot attempts up, it’s gonna have to come in the flow of the game, and I’m gonna have to really, at times, be aggressive and things like that.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Heading into Friday’s game, the Nuggets had the NBA’s eighth-best defensive rating, compared to the No. 25 ranking at the same time a year ago. In another story for The Denver Post, Durando explores why the team has been significantly better on that end of the court in the first half of this season, singling out second-year wing Peyton Watson as a key difference-maker. Watson wasn’t part of the rotation last season, but his 109.6 defensive rating this season is the best mark among Denver’s regulars.
  • Even without making any moves on the trade market, the Thunder – who rank fourth in offensive rating and sixth in defensive rating – already look like a legitimate contender, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman, who argues that the club certainly has the assets to make a deal but should be in no rush to do so before the “missing ingredient” on the roster becomes more apparent.
  • The Trail Blazers, who now have two openings on their 15-man roster, are a virtual lock to promote big man Duop Reath from his two-way deal to a standard contract sooner or later, tweets Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report. However, it’s unclear whether that move is in Portland’s short-term plans or if it will happen sometime after the trade deadline. The Blazers will have to make at least one roster addition by January 20, but that could just be a 10-day signing.

Western Notes: Watson, Lakers, Nance, Rose

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone made a late decision to start Peyton Watson in place of injured forward Aaron Gordon on Thursday and the second-year wing responded in a major way, scoring a career-high 20 points and making four three-pointers as Memphis gave him room on the perimeter, as Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post details.

“They didn’t guard him early but he stayed with it and he didn’t lose confidence,” Malone said. “That can mess with you, but I thought Peyton did a really good job. I think he knows we have faith and confidence in him, and let’s be honest, Peyton Watson knows he’s a huge part of our future.”

Bennett Durando of The Denver Post (Twitter link) referred to it as a “statement decision” by Malone to insert Watson into the starting five over Justin Holiday, who had started the previous four games that Gordon missed.

Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link) adds that the club had planned to approach that spot in the lineup on a game-by-game basis until Gordon gets healthy, but suggests Watson may have earned the role going forward with his performance on Thursday.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • After linking Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O’Neale to the Lakers in the offseason, Jovan Buha of The Athletic said this week in an episode of Hoops Tonight (YouTube link) that Los Angeles still has trade interest in the two Nets forwards. NetsDaily passes along Buha’s comments and explores whether a deal between the two teams is realistic.
  • Ankle, groin, and rib injuries sapped Larry Nance Jr. of much of his athleticism earlier in the season, but the Pelicans big man is now feeling as good as he has “in years,” he tells Christian Clark of Nance, who played on Thursday for the first time since November 27, pointed to a dunk over Walker Kessler as an example of the type of play he wasn’t making a month or two ago. “It just felt good to get back to who I am,” Nance said. “Earlier in the season, I would have got that drop-off and tried to throw up some B.S. hook or some floater. I can make it. But that’s not who I am. That’s not what this team needs from me.”
  • Grizzlies guard Derrick Rose is loving being back in Memphis after spending a single college season with the Memphis Tigers 16 years ago, writes Damichael Cole of The Commercial Appeal. Rose and his family had never bought a home in any of the cities he previously played in, but they did so in Memphis this year, with the 35-year-old hoping to stick around for the foreseeable future. “When I did leave (after college), I always wished that I stayed a little bit longer,” Rose said. “That’s crazy, like all the times we’ve had chances to purchase spots and our first purchase was in Memphis.”

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Officiating, Second Unit, KCP

While Bozidar Maljkovic — the president of Serbia’s Olympic committee — previously stated that Nuggets star Nikola Jokic would represent his home country at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, the reigning Finals MVP recently said he hasn’t decided yet if he’ll participate, as relays.

It’s far. Some people put words in my mouth that I said something that I didn’t. The head coach is the first to know [my commitment]. I always talk to the family and the team after the season,” Jokic told Aleksandar Zigic of RTS.

After Denver’s lengthy playoff run ended in its first championship, Jokic decided to sit out the World Cup over the summer. Despite missing the best player on the team, the Serbians took home the silver medal behind strong performances from Bogdan Bogdanovic and other teammates.

Here are a few more notes on the defending champions:

  • Jokic has been ejected from two games over the past month for arguing with officials about foul non-calls. The second incident occurred on Tuesday in Chicago, with Jokic immediately kicked out despite not having any technical fouls leading up to that point. When asked about how Jokic is officiated, head coach Michael Malone said he’s discussed it with the NBA, according to Ryan Blackburn of Mile High Sports (Twitter link). I’ve been contacting the league and having conversations about certain plays, certain games where we don’t think he’s getting the whistle he deserves,” Malone said as a part of a larger quote.
  • The team’s bench is trending in a positive direction after some up-and-down play to open 2023/24, writes Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports. Second-year players Christian Braun and Peyton Watson, plus rookie Julian Strawther, “have become the backbone” of Denver’s second unit, according to Wind, who takes a closer look at the play of Braun and Watson in particular.
  • Starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sat out Thursday’s victory over Brooklyn after being placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol and will be sidelined for Saturday’s contest against Oklahoma City as well, per Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter links). Caldwell-Pope is shooting 40.4% from three-point range and is frequently tasked with defending the opponent’s top perimeter scorer. He’s making $14.7MM this season and holds a $15.4MM player option for ’24/25.

Northwest Notes: Watson, Edwards, Milton, Jazz

A rotation player this season after logging limited minutes as a rookie, second-year Nuggets guard Peyton Watson has Deion Sanders’ portrait in his locker to remind of the type of defender he wants to be, writes Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette. Watson, who has earned praise from teammates Nikola Jokic and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for his defensive play and his energy, explained his thinking.

“I just thought it was the most admirable thing that teams would literally throw away from his side (first) through (third) downs. Then, on fourth down, (they) punt out of bounds so he couldn’t return it. Like, you can’t even let this guy get involved in the game,” Watson said. “I admire the mentality and how he approached the game.”

While minutes have fluctuated this fall for some of the Nuggets’ reserves, Watson has remained a part of head coach Michael Malone‘s regular second unit, averaging more than 21 minutes per night in his past six games.

“He can guard bigs. He can guard smalls. I like how he’s playing right now,” Malone said. “He’s helping impact the game in a positive manner right now, and it’s great to see for a young player, taking advantage of the opportunities that’s being given to him.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, who recently missed two games with a hip pointer and appeared to be favoring that hip in his return on Wednesday, exited Friday’s game after just three minutes (Twitter link). He’s undergoing further examination on Saturday and it remains unclear whether he’ll miss any additional time, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
  • The Shake Milton that scored 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting in Friday’s win over Memphis was the player the Timberwolves thought they were getting when they signed him in free agency this summer, according to Krawczynski, who suggests Minnesota will become an even more dangerous team if the guard’s Friday performance wasn’t a one-off. Head coach Chris Finch has been pushing the struggling Milton to be more confident and assertive, which was reflected in his play in Memphis, Krawczynski adds.
  • While Salt Lake City officials are working hard to keep the Jazz in the downtown area, the franchise has explored the possibility of building a new arena outside the city, including perhaps at the south end of Salt Lake County, according to Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune (subscription required). Larsen takes a deep dive into the story, examining the factors at play and clarifying that the team won’t be moving out of the Delta Center anytime soon.

Nuggets’ Michael Malone To Make Changes To Bench Rotation

The Nuggets concluded a 1-4 road trip by losing to the Rockets by 19 points on Friday, prompting coach Michael Malone to promise that changes to the rotation were on the way, as relayed by The Denver Post’s Bennett Durando.

I just told them,” Malone said. “Minutes, I’m gonna start playing different people. You just can’t go out there because you think you’re gonna play, and go out there and do nothing. You’ve gotta bring something to the party.

Denver’s bench was outscored 16-0 in the first half on Friday with Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Zeke Nnaji and Julian Strawther the headliners of the second unit. Braun had a good road trip, according to Durando, but Watson was a minus-24 and Strawther was a minus-36 during that stretch, while Nnaji was a minus-10 before Friday, a game in which he got pulled after one minute.

The Nuggets have put an emphasis on a two-timeline plan this offseason, as evidenced by using three draft picks this year and entrusting young players like Braun, Nnaji and Watson with heavy minutes. That plan is being put to the test with star guard Jamal Murray having been out since Nov. 4. Malone said he hopes Murray comes back “really, really soon,” according to Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter link).

One such change is seemingly going to be a minutes increase for Justin Holiday, according to Durando. Holiday only averages 8.2 minutes and has seen time in just six games, but he drew praise from Malone after Friday’s contest.

I thought Justin played pretty well,” Malone said. “So we’ll see. We’re going home. Very disappointing road trip. … That’s the challenge when you have so many young, unproven players off the bench. But we also have games to win, and that delicate balance is a tightrope. But we need to win, and I’m gonna play the guys that are gonna help us get a win.”

Even though Reggie Jackson hasn’t been able to replicate what Murray brought to the starting lineup, Malone continues to praise the guard, whose production helped offset the bench’s issues when Murray was healthy.

We’re playing lineups out there with no point guard,” Malone said. “We probably had quite a few minutes of that tonight. … Reggie, I think, has done a really good job in place of Jamal. But just like if Nikola goes down, we don’t have another Nikola Jokic. We don’t have another Jamal Murray.

Outside of turning to Holiday, Denver’s options off the bench are limited. Vlatko Cancar was expected to play a bigger role this year but is missing the season with an ACL injury he suffered in August. Denver also has rookies Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson under standard contracts but that might not solve the issue of giving too much responsibility to younger players.

Outside of that, the only other veteran who isn’t currently a part of the rotation is 35-year-old DeAndre Jordan. Two-way players Collin Gillespie, Jay Huff and Braxton Key could also be in line for minutes.

Northwest Notes: Alexander-Walker, KAT, Thunder, Watson

Multifaceted Timberwolves guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker finally seems to have created a unique niche with his third NBA team, writes Oren Weisfeld of Alexander-Walker’s versatile game has earned him plaudits from key Minnesota personnel.

“There was a lot of pressure on him when he came into the league, whether it be, you know, a lot of it was self-imposed,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said of the guard’s early years in New Orleans, where Finch served as an associate head coach. “He was trying too hard, trying to do too much, trying to prove everything, wanted it all at once.”

In 19.7 MPG off the bench for the 9-3 Timberwolves, Alexander-Walker is averaging 5.4 PPG, 2.4 APG, 1.8 RPG, 0.8 SPG and 0.8 BPG.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Though there has been much chatter swirling about the fit of star Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns alongside two other nominal centers, Rudy Gobert and Naz Reid, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic submits that Towns’ superlative offense makes him worth retaining. On Saturday evening, he led Minnesota’s successful 121-120 comeback against the Pelicans, scoring 29 points while shooting 10-of-11 from the field, dishing out nine dimes, grabbing six boards and topping it all off with the game-winner. It’s games like that one that make Towns such an important piece on a club with major postseason goals, according to Krawcyznski, who opines that the Wolves are on too much of a roll with Towns to trade him, for now.
  • Although Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault is trying to temper expectations for Oklahoma City, the club is already looking much improved this year, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Rookie center Chet Holmgren just turned in his best night yet, scoring 36 points while shooting 14-of-22 from the field, pulling down ten rebounds and dishing out five dimes. All-NBA point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, not to be outdone, chipped in 40 of his own. A clutch buzzer-beating triple from Holmgren propelled the Thunder to overtime against the Warriors on Saturday night, where the young team pulled out an impressive win. “We have a young team that will grow over time,” Daigneault said. “We don’t want to cap the potential of any of our players.” At 9-4, Oklahoma City might be arriving already.
  • Second-year Nuggets small forward Peyton Watson has earned regular rotation minutes this season. The UCLA product credits some tough love during his rookie season tenure with Denver’s NBAGL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold, for abetting his long-term development, writes Bennett Durando of The Denver Post.

Nuggets Notes: Jackson, Jokic, LaVine, Development, More

Nuggets guard Reggie Jackson, who joined the team in February of last season, has gotten accustomed to playing with two-time MVP Nikola Jokic by now, but it’s not an experience he’s taking for granted, he said earlier this week, per Ryan Blackburn of Mile High Sports (Twitter link).

“Just watching him control the game, watching how special he is, watching his mind just work over and over again,” Jackson said. “The way he works, just takes over the game physically but really mentally. It’s special.

“… Like I said, I refuse to take it for granted. Being his teammate, playing against him for many years… when you have something special, you have to enjoy it, because you never know how long you’re going to have it, and when it’s gone you will truly miss it. So, I’m just enjoying being his teammate, enjoying how easy he makes the game, enjoying playing as his teammate but also being able to watch him as we’re playing.”

Jackson re-signed with the Nuggets as a free agent over the summer, inking a new two-year, $10.25MM contract with the club.

Here are a few more items out of Denver:

  • In a mailbag for The Denver Post, Bennett Durando dismisses the idea of the Nuggets’ pursuing a trade for a third star, arguing that a splashy move like acquiring Zach LaVine would be “antithetical” to everything the franchise has done in recent years. Elsewhere in the mailbag, Durando answers questions about Michael Malone‘s potential Coach of the Year case and Denver’s defense so far this season.
  • The Nuggets are balancing title contention and player development out of necessity this season, according to Matt Brooks of, who takes a closer look at how the team has to lean on young players like Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, and Julian Strawther for regular minutes, sticking with them through their ups and downs. “If Julian has a bad game, I just can’t say, ‘Okay, I’m not playing him for the rest of the season,'” Malone said. “If Peyton doesn’t have a good game, I can’t (bench him). Those guys need to play this year.”
  • Winning the in-season tournament is “a goal” for the defending NBA champions, according to Michael Porter Jr. (Twitter links via Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports). The Nuggets are 2-0 in group play so far, with their third tournament game on tap Friday night in New Orleans. “The incentive is always nice,” Porter said. “No matter how much money you have. $500,000 is nice, especially for young guys who are on their rookie contract. We all have a collective goal to win, not really for the money, it’s just competing.”

Nuggets Exercise 2024/25 Option On Peyton Watson

The Nuggets have exercised their third-year team option on Peyton Watson, a league source tells Vinny Benedetto of The Denver Gazette (Twitter link). The move has no impact on Watson’s status for the upcoming season, but locks in his $2,413,560 salary for the 2024/25 season.

A 6’8″ wing who played one college season at UCLA, Watson was the final first-round pick (30th overall) in 2022. He appeared in 23 games (8.1 MPG) as a rookie for the Nuggets last season, averaging 3.3 PPG and 1.6 RPG. He also made five brief playoff appearances during Denver’s championship run in ’22/23.

Watson, 21, played more extensively at the G League level, suiting up for 19 games with Denver’s affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold.

The Nuggets are high on Watson, who is an outstanding athlete with a lot of defensive upside. He could be a rotation player in year two, and multiple outlets have cited the young forward as a possible under-the-radar contributor for Denver in ’23/24.

Denver will have to decide whether or not to pick up Watson’s fourth-year option — worth $4,356,476 — next October. The Nuggets picked up Christian Braun‘s third-year option on Tuesday, as expected.

The full list of decisions on 2024/25 rookie scale team options can be found right here.

And-Ones: Dybantsa, Weatherspoon, Breakout Candidates, More

A.J. Dybantsa, a 6’8″ wing from Massachusetts and one of the top high school prospects in the country, intends to reclassify to the 2025 recruiting class, as Jeff Borzello of writes. Dybantsa had previously been the No. 1 player in ESPN’s 2026 recruiting rankings. Now, he becomes the favorite to be selected first overall in the 2026 NBA draft, according to Borzello.

As Borzello explains, Dybantsa, Cooper Flagg, and Cameron Boozer are widely considered the best high school prospects in the country. When ESPN asked 20 college coaches and NBA evaluators to rank the trio this summer, Dybantsa earned seven first-place votes and placed second behind Flagg, who is the frontrunner to be the top pick in the 2025 draft.

“Dybantsa is just the most complete,” one coach told ESPN. “Scores at all three levels. Super athletic. He’s the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft whenever he goes.”

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

  • Former Pelicans assistant Teresa Weatherspoon will be the next head coach of the WNBA’s Chiacgo Sky, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). The former WNBA star was an assistant in New Orleans for four seasons before the team parted ways with her in June.
  • In John Schuhmann’s general manager poll, two players received more votes than Magic forward Franz Wagner for this season’s top breakout candidate. However, Wagner sits atop the list compiled by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, who spoke to 25 executives around the NBA and has shared the top nine vote-getters. Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Rockets guard Jalen Green round out Scotto’s top three.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic lists a dozen under-the-radar NBA players whom he expects to have a real impact this season, including Celtics wing Oshae Brissett, Nuggets forward Peyton Watson, Thunder guard Vasilije Micic, and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall.
  • The Capital City Go-Go have traded the returning rights to Isaiah Mucius to the Delaware Blue Coats along with a 2024 first-round pick and 2023 second-round pick in the G League draft. In exchange, the Sixers‘ G League affiliate has sent Michael Foster Jr.‘s returning rights to the Wizards‘ affiliate, the Go-Go announced today (via Twitter).