Torrey Craig

Northwest Notes: Blazers, Millsap, Murray, Harkless, Nuggets

The Trail Blazers are focused on executing their game plan more than using their emotion for Sunday’s Game 4 in Oklahoma City, Sekou Smith of NBA.com writes. 

Portland will look to take a 3-1 series lead in a hostile playoff environment and quiet the boisterous Thunder crowd, one of the league’s toughest arenas to win games in.

“We’ve just got to focus on us,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “We’ve got to be us and do what we do and all of the peripheral stuff … doesn’t have to do with us.”

The Blazers protected home court in Games 1 and 2, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead. Stealing Game 4 on Sunday would allow the team to wrap the series up in five games at their arena on Tuesday, but the mission will prove to be challenging.

“It’s going to be talk, it’s going to be fouls, it’s going to be all that stuff. All that stuff is going to be part of it. But it’s who can deal with that stuff and not be too emotional,” Lillard said on Saturday, one day after a crazy Game 3 atmosphere. “Who can be more even-keeled. Who can handle it more and still have the right mentality through all of those things. And we just stay within ourselves, play hard and we compete.

“And if something is brought to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on. And that’s all it was. Because we don’t go out there talking and acting no type of way. But like I said, if it comes to our doorstep, we’re going to open the door and see what’s going on.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets forward Paul Millsap opened up on “little brother” and teammate Jamal Murray, as detailed by Mike Singer of the Denver Post. “The main thing is just playing the game,” Millsap said of Murray. “Not getting focused on what people want him to do but just playing the game. Seeing him having 19 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds instead of focusing in on just scoring and trying to be going for 50 every single night. He’s actually playing the game now, and I’m super proud of him by how far he’s come.”
  • Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless was fined $15,000 for throwing his headband into the spectator stands during Game 3 of the team’s series against Oklahoma City, the league announced on Saturday. Harkless’ incident marks the fifth separate fine the NBA has issued since the weekend began.
  • Nuggets coach Mike Malone made a change to his starting lineup in Game 4 against San Antonio, starting Torrey Craig in place of Will Barton. The adjustment played a part in Denver stealing a road victory and regaining homecourt advantage, with Craig scoring 18 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in 37 minutes. “Torrey’s size and physicality, his hustle, like Torrey Craig was leaving it all on the floor, which I love,” Malone previously said after Game 3, as relayed by Mike Singer in a different story for the Denver Post. “And then Malik’s obviously shooting (well).  He’s been one of our best offensive players this whole series, shooting the ball very confidently. Attacking the basket and also playing pretty good defense. Both of those guys warrant more minutes, and I’m sure they’ll both get a great chance to play extended minutes [in Game 4].”

Decision Behind Game 4 Start For Torrey Craig

Mike Singer of The Denver Post, writing before the Nuggets Game 4 win over the Spurs, talked about Nuggets coach Michael Malone considering “all options” when it comes to making a starting lineup change ahead of Game 4.

“We’ll continue to look at it,” Malone said on Friday after Game 3. “All options are on the board. Obviously it’s never about any individual, it’s gotta be about what’s best for our team.”

As Singer noted beforehand, small forward Will Barton looked out of rhythm the first three games of the series, leading to Torrey Craig getting the start in Game 4. Through the first three games, Barton was 9 for 31 from the field.

Ultimately, the decision to go with Craig was in order to put more defensive pressure on the Spurs, allowing Craig and Gary Harris to match up with DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White.

Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Denver.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Layden, Wolves, Craig

The Trail Blazers may have injured guard C.J. McCollum back in their lineup tomorrow, tweets Jason Quick of The Athletic. McCollum is listed as probable for a second straight division showdown with the Nuggets. He hasn’t played since suffering a left knee strain on March 16.

The return of McCollum, who is second on the team in scoring at 21.3 PPG, comes at an opportune time for Portland, which is trying to hold onto home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. After last night’s loss to Denver, the Blazers stand at 50-29, just one game ahead of the fifth-place Jazz.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Timberwolves will decide the fate of GM Scott Layden after the season ends, with ESPN broadcaster Chauncey Billups and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth among the top candidates if Minnesota decides to make a change, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Wolves owner Glen Taylor was reportedly unhappy with Layden and former coach/executive Tom Thibodeau over the way they handled Jimmy Butler‘s trade request. Thibodeau was dismissed in early January.
  • A $9.2MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception will provide the Timberwolves with their best chance to improve this summer, writes Danny Leroux of The Athletic. All five starters will be under contract if Jeff Teague opts in to his $19MM salary, so Minnesota can use the MLE to try to fortify its reserves. Leroux suggests Marcus Morris, Tyreke Evans, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington and Terrence Ross as possible targets.
  • Torrey Craig has become the Nuggets‘ most disruptive force on defense, observes Kyle Fredrickson of The Denver Post. The second-year forward has increased his stats across the board this season and is a valuable part of the rotation heading into the playoffs. “I hate to see guys comfortable, just dribbling easy getting to their spots,” Craig said. “So I make sure they try to feel me all the time no matter what, coming off screens or bringing the ball down court. I just want to be a physical presence on them the whole time.”

Nuggets’ Will Barton To Miss At Least Six Weeks

OCTOBER 23: Barton has undergone successful surgery to repair core and hip muscle injuries, according to the Nuggets, who noted in a press release that the veteran swingman will be re-evaluated in six weeks.

OCTOBER 22: Nuggets swingman Will Barton will have surgery for an adductor muscle injury on Tuesday and is expected to miss 5-6 weeks, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears tweets. The injury is in the right hip area.

Barton was off to a solid beginning as the team’s starting small forward. He averaged 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 3.0 APG during the team’s first two games before he felt something pop during the second half against Phoenix on Saturday. He missed Denver’s victory over Golden State on Sunday.

Barton, 27, averaged career highs in points (15.7) and assists (4.1) last season.

It’s unlikely Denver will pursue trade options unless the timetable for Barton’s injury changes. With the 6’6” Barton on the shelf, Torrey CraigJuan Hernangomez and Malik Beasley will see an uptick in minutes.

The undrafted Craig, 27, broke into the league last season and started on Sunday. Hernangomez, a 2016 first-rounder, is a career 37.1% 3-point shooter. Beasley, another 2016 first-round pick, appeared in 62 games in reserve for Denver last season.

Western Notes: Capela, Durant, Leonard, Williams

Clint Capela‘s new five-year contract with the Rockets on Friday, initially reported to be worth $90MM, is technically guaranteed for $80MM with $10MM in incentives, Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports tweets. Those annual incentives include $1MM for reaching the Western Conference finals, $500K for finishing with a 30% defensive rebounding rate, and $500K for shooting at least 65% from the free throw line, according to Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision to take a one-plus-one contract with the Warriors kept his options open beyond the upcoming season, as he explained to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. Durant will make $30MM the first year with a $31.5MM player option for the 2019/20 season. “The [one-plus-one] was the perfect thing for me to do, to keep things open for me — financially and what I want to do,” he told Charania. “It’s just one of those things.”
  • The Celtics offered at least two of the first-round picks they own from other teams for Kawhi Leonard, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Those picks, as Dan Feldman of NBC Sports writes, include the higher of the Kings’ and 76ers’ pick next summer, unless it’s the top overall pick; the Grizzlies’ first-rounder, which is top-eight protected next summer and top-six protected in 2020; and the Clippers’ pick, which is lottery-protected the next two summers and then converts to a second-rounder. The Spurs instead decided to take another All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, in a package for Leonard. The way the Spurs organization treated Leonard may have had more to do with his departure than any issues with his teammates, Feldman notes in a separate piece, relaying reporting from Lowe and ESPN’s Michael C. Wright.
  • C.J. Williams is a perfect waiver claim candidate, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Williams, who was waived by the Clippers on Friday, is on a $1.4MM non-guaranteed contract with $125K in protection if he’s not waived by opening night, Marks continues. His $1.6MM salary in 2019/20 has a $200K guarantee if he’s not waived by the first game, Marks adds.
  • The Nuggets’ second unit will likely be led by Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles and Torrey Craig, Chris Dempsey of the team’s website predicts. Dempsey dispenses his views on recent developments involving the club in his latest mailbag.

Contract Details: Jokic, Payton, Craig, Bradley

While Nikola Jokic‘s new five-year deal with the Nuggets was reported as a maximum-salary contract, that’s not technically accurate. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter), the base value of Jokic’s new deal falls just short of the max, since it includes about $1MM per year in bonuses linked to team success.

As Lowe explains, about half of those annual bonuses can be earned if the Nuggets make the playoffs, while the other half can be earned if the club advances to the second round. Because Denver didn’t achieve either of those benchmarks in 2017/18, those bonuses are currently considered “unlikely” incentives and don’t count against the Nuggets’ cap.

In 2018/19, for instance, Jokic’s cap hit will be about $24.6MM rather than the maximum $25.5MM, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. However, if the Nuggets were to win a playoff series in 2019, Jokic would earn his first-year bonus and his second-year bonuses would subsequently be considered “likely,” causing his future cap hit to increase.

Here are several more specific details on newly-signed contracts from around the NBA, all via Pincus unless otherwise indicated:

  • Elfrid Payton, who was signed using most of the Pelicans‘ bi-annual exception, got a flat $3MM salary for 2018/19 (Twitter link).
  • As expected, the Nuggets used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Torrey Craig to his new two-year deal. Craig will earn a flat $2MM salary in each season, for a $4MM total (Twitter link).
  • Avery Bradley has a fully guaranteed $12MM salary in the first season of his two-year contract with the Clippers, but only $2MM of his $12.96MM salary for 2019/20 is guaranteed (Twitter link). The Clips will have to make a decision on Bradley’s second-year guarantee by July 3, 2019.
  • The Knicks gave second-round pick Mitchell Robinson guaranteed salaries of $1.5MM and $1.6MM in his first two years, with non-guaranteed minimum salaries in years three and four (Twitter link). The four-year deal, which has a team option in year four, should be worth just shy of $6.6MM in total.
  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk‘s three-year contract with the Lakers has a guaranteed first-year salary of $1,487,694, followed by non-guaranteed minimum salaries for years two and three (Twitter link). The third year is a team option.

Nuggets Sign Torrey Craig To Two-Year Deal

After playing on a two-way contract with the Nuggets last season, Torrey Craig will be promoted to the 15-man roster for the 2018/19 campaign. According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Craig has agreed to a two-year, $4MM contract with Denver. Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com first tweeted that the deal was done.

Craig, 27, appeared in 39 games for the Nuggets in 2017/18, averaging 4.2 PPG and 3.3 RPG in 16.1 minutes per contest. He also played 15 G League games for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, averaging an impressive 22.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 2.0 BPG with a .477/.386/.787 shooting line.

With his two-way deal expiring, Craig was tendered a qualifying offer last month by the Nuggets. That one-year offer was only for another two-way contract, but any other team could have signed the 6’6″ forward to an offer sheet. Denver decided not to take any chances, locking up Craig to a two-year standard contract that should assure him of a roster spot.

Assuming his new deal is indeed worth $4MM, Craig may have been signed using a portion of the Nuggets’ mid-level exception, since that figure exceeds what he could have received using the minimum salary exception or his Non-Bird rights.

With Craig out of the mix for one of Denver’s two-way slots, Monte Morris and Thomas Welsh appear likely to open the 2018/19 season as the Nuggets’ two-way players.

Two-Way QO Decisions: Walton, Cooke, Craig, More

Derrick Walton Jr. has received a qualifying offer from the Heat, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Walton, who had been on a two-way contract with the Heat, will thus be a restricted free agent next month. The undrafted 6’1” point guard out of Michigan appeared in 16 games with Miami last season.

As is the case for all two-way players who remain eligible to sign another two-way deal, the qualifying offer Walton received from the Heat will be a two-way contract offer with a $50K guarantee.

We have several other qualifying offer decisions involving two-way players to pass along:

  • The Pelicans will not make Charles Cooke a qualifying offer, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. Cooke, an undrafted 6’5” shooting guard out of Dayton, appeared in 13 games for the Pelicans.
  • The Nuggets made a qualifying offer to Torrey Craig, ensuring he’ll be a restricted free agent, Gina Mizell of the Denver Post writes.  The 6’6” Craig saw quite a bit of action with Denver last season, averaging 4.2 PP and 3.3 RPG in 16.1 MPG while making 39 appearances. The 27-year-old went undrafted in 2014, then played in Australia and New Zealand before the Nuggets signed him.
  • The Magic will not make a qualifying offer to Jamel Artis, Sportando tweets. The 6’7” Artis, who went undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 2017, saw action in 15 games and averaged 5.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG and 1.2 APG in 18.6 MPG. Artis will be on the Cavaliers‘ Summer League squad, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets.
  • The Kings have issued a qualifying offer to two-way player JaKarr Sampson, per RealGM’s transactions log. No QO is listed for Jack Cooley, Sacramento’s other two-way player, so it’s possible Cooley will reach the market as an unrestricted free agent.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

Northwest Notes: Jazz, Favors, Craig, Jenkins

As previously reported, IMG Academy guard Anfernee Simons is scheduled for a workout with the Jazz tomorrow. We now know the other prospects who will be joining him, thanks to an official release from the team.

In addition to Simons, the Jazz will host other potential first round selections Tulane swingman Melvin Frazier and French point guard Elie OkoboESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Frazier coming off the board to Atlanta at No. 34 in his latest mock draft, while he fittingly has Okobo being selected by Utah with the team’s first-round selection at No. 21 overall.

In addition to Okobo, Frazier, and Simons, the Jazz will also play host to workouts from Arizona guard Rawle Alkins and two seniors from the state of Ohio – Ohio State’s Jae’Sean Tate and Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division this evening:

  • Speaking of the Jazz, free-agent-to-be Derrick Favors may very well return to Utah, as he would reportedly prefer, but as opined by Frank Urbina of HoopsHype, three other potential landing spots include the WizardsBucks, and Warriors, all of whom could offer Favors their mid-level exception.
  • After spending the 2017/18 season on a two-way contract with the Nuggets, guard Torrey Craig is receiving interest from other NBA teams this offseason, per Sportando. Craig, 27, started five games for Denver this past season, averaging 4.2 points in 16.1 minutes per game.
  • Former NBA guard John Jenkins, who spent this season with the San Pablo Burgos of the Spanish Liga ACB, will attend a free-agent minicamp with the Trail Blazers, per Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Jenkins, 27, played 145 games in the NBA in five seasons from 2012 to 2017.

Northwest Notes: Exum, Nuggets, Wolves, Turner

Point guard Dante Exum has played in just 72 games since his rookie year, having had to deal with injuries in each of the last three seasons. He’s healthy now, and playing regular backup minutes for the Jazz, but he’s on track for restricted free agency this summer, and one general manager tells Sean Deveney of The Sporting News that it may be worth rolling the dice on Exum despite his injury history.

“I think you have to look at him as a physically gifted guy who is only 22 (he turns 23 in July) and has already gone through the huge NBA learning curve,” the GM said. “There are guys in this year’s draft who will be 22 but aren’t going to have the kind of knowledge of the league he has, and don’t have the physical gifts.”

According to Deveney, one front office executive estimated that a two-year deal in the $18-20MM range might be enough to pry Exum away from the Jazz. That would be a steep price for a fourth-year player who has yet to deliver on the promise he showed heading into the 2014 draft, but overpaying a restricted free agent is often necessary to avoid having his old team match.

“He’s a gamble,” that same executive told Deveney. “But $10MM a year is not as big a gamble as it once was. He could show something here.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest division:

  • With the G League’s regular season over, players on two-way contracts are no longer limited to 45 days of NBA service time. That’s good news for Nuggets two-way player Torrey Craig, who is free to travel with and play for the NBA squad, and hopes to make a strong impression down the stretch, per Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. “Just show them that I can be a consistent, impactful player on both ends of the court and just try to fit in wherever I can and play a role,” Craig said of his goals for the rest of the season.
  • The Nuggets had been hoping to get injured guard Gary Harris back on Friday, but he’s now doubtful for that game, and is aiming for a Sunday return, per head coach Mike Malone (Twitter link via Harrison Wind of BSNDenver.com).
  • In a mailbag for The Athletic, Jon Krawczynski examines Karl-Anthony Towns‘ future extension, Nemanja Bjelica‘s upcoming free agency, and more Timberwolves-related topics.
  • Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner was fined $10K for making an “inappropriate gesture” during Sunday’s game against Oklahoma City, the NBA announced in a press release.