Denver Nuggets

Malone Suspended; Jokic Fine Rescinded

The NBA has suspended Nuggets head coach Michael Malone for one game without pay for entering the court, halting play and making contact with a game official during yesterday’s loss to the Lakers, the league announced today in a press release. Malone will serve his suspension tonight when the Nuggets travel to Sacramento to face the Kings.

The NBA also announced in the same press release that the fine given to Nikola Jokic for being ejected from yesterday’s game has been rescinded. The league says that Jokic properly received a technical foul for his actions but that he should not have been ejected.

X-Rays Negative On Paul Millsap’s Wrist

X-ray results on Paul Millsap‘s injured wrist came back negative, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN (Twitter link). Although Millsap won’t play for the Nuggets tonight, the team can breathe a sigh of relief that those x-rays didn’t show a break.

Millsap left Sunday’s game against the Lakers with a left wrist injury that was diagnosed as a sprain. However, as Haynes notes, there was some concern that x-rays may reveal a fracture. The Nuggets big man avoided that worst-case scenario, but it’s not clear when he’ll get back on the court — he may still miss several games, depending on the severity of the sprain.

Millsap, 32, signed a three-year deal with Denver in the offseason and has played well for the club so far, averaging 15.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 3.0 APG in 16 games (all starts). While his numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, particularly for one of the NBA’s highest-paid players, Millsap has stabilized the Nuggets’ frontcourt defense, and has helped the club get off to a 9-7 start.

In Millsap’s absence, Kenneth Faried and/or Mason Plumlee could receive an increase in playing time. With Wilson Chandler listed as questionable for tonight’s game, Juan Hernangomez and Will Barton may also see expanded roles.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Nelson, Irving

The Nuggets were in discussions with the Suns about an Eric Bledsoe trade, but it appears their decision not to offer too much for a new starting point guard is paying dividends. Jamal Murray, who has been Denver’s starting point guard since the beginning of the season, is playing well and the team is encouraged by his development.

“I love the pace he’s playing with,” said coach Michael Malone after a recent game (via Christopher Dempsey of NBA.com). “He’s got to set the pace that we want to play at, he’s got to be aggressive and he’s got to play with confidence. And you’re seeing that a lot more consistently right now. He’s starting to become a consistent starting point guard in the NBA.”

The 2016 No. 7 overall pick spent much of his playing time at shooting guard during his rookie season, but this year, he’s seeing all of his minutes at the one.

Here’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Denver had a deal in place to trade Jameer Nelson to a lottery team for a protected second-rounder prior to the season, though the team could “not stomach” sending the 35-year-old to a bad team, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN. The Nuggets ended up waiving Nelson, a move that allowed the vet to pick his own suitor.
  • Malone would have liked to keep Nelson on the team, though he is supportive of the organization’s decision to let the veteran go, Lowe relays in the same piece. “It was tough to see Jameer go,” Malone says. “The players trusted him. I find value in veteran mentors. In our meetings, of course I brought up all the reasons it made sense to keep him. But you have to think big picture. It wasn’t like I was kicking and screaming. By the end, we were all on board.”
  • The Nuggets had exploratory discussions with the Cavs about Kyrie Irving prior to them dealing away the point guard, though talks never got that far, per Lowe (same piece). The scribe notes that Murray, Wilson Chandler, and a lightly-protected first-rounder would have intrigued Cleveland, but Murray was never on the table.

Nuggets Were Close To Eric Bledsoe Trade

Denver was in the “red zone” on a potential trade for Eric Bledsoe last month, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN. Complete details aren’t provided, but Lowe believes Phoenix would have received Emmanuel Mudiay and a first-round pick.

Negotiations with the Suns eventually fell apart and the Nuggets moved on, leaving them with an extremely young point guard duo in Mudiay and Jamal Murray.

“We chase every opportunity to improve ourselves,” said Denver GM Tim Connelly, who refused to comment directly on the Bledsoe talks. “We’ve had a lot of excellent players offered to us for our young talent. There’s a fine line between overvaluing your own players and being too aggressive chasing short-term results.”

The decision not to give up too much for Bledsoe is understandable, writes Lowe, who says he wouldn’t have made made the Nuggets title contenders this season or next. After that, he will be seeking a huge contract as a free agent in his 30s with a history of knee problems.

Lowe also notes that Denver had an opportunity to make a run at Kyrie Irving over the summer, but refused to include Murray in a potential deal. He believes a package of Murray, Wilson Chandler and a minimally protected first-rounder would have gotten the Cavaliers’ attention.

The experience issue at point guard was created just before the season started when the Nuggets elected to waive Jameer Nelson, who played 75 games last season and started 39. Denver worked out a deal to trade him to a lower-level team in exchange for a protected second-round pick, but pulled out because the front office didn’t want Nelson to be stuck on a team with no shot at the playoffs. He eventually signed with the Pelicans after clearing waivers.

“It was tough to see Jameer go,” coach Mike Malone said. “The players trusted him. I find value in veteran mentors. In our meetings, of course I brought up all the reasons it made sense to keep him. But you have to think big picture. It wasn’t like I was kicking and screaming. By the end, we were all on board.”

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Northwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re tackling the Northwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Northwest teams:

Portland Trail BlazersJusuf Nurkic vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $110,456,026
Projection: Over the cap

The Trail Blazers reduced their future commitments by trading Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn earlier this year, and Ed Davis will come off the books next summer, giving Portland a chance to avoid the luxury tax in 2018/19. However, their $110MM+ in guaranteed salaries for next season doesn’t include a contract for Jusuf Nurkic, who will be a restricted free agent. If they want to re-sign Nurkic and don’t dump another salary, the Blazers figure to return to tax territory.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $110,233,979
Projection: Over the cap

The Timberwolves’ salary commitments look a lot different now than they did a year ago. Gorgui Dieng‘s lucrative new extension went into effect this summer, and Andrew Wiggins‘ max deal will begin in 2018. Throw in substantial salaries for offseason acquisitions Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, and Taj Gibson, and Minnesota projects to be well over the cap for 2018/19. With a potential extension for Karl-Anthony Towns looming for 2019/20, the Wolves won’t have cap space for the foreseeable future if they intend to keep their current core group together.

Denver Nuggets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $89,903,848
Projection: Over the cap

The Nuggets’ guaranteed salaries for 2018/19 currently sit around $90MM, but even based on a $101MM cap projection, we shouldn’t expect the team to have any room. There are too many factors working against it.

For one, Denver will face a tough decision on Nikola Jokic — exercising his ultra-affordable $1.6MM team option would put him on track to become an unrestricted free agency in 2019, so the club may opt to decline that option and make him a restricted free agent. In that scenario, a new contract for Jokic would push the Nuggets over the cap.

Even if they simply pick up Jokic’s cheap option, the Nuggets will also have to consider player options for Kenneth Faried ($12.8MM) and Darrell Arthur ($7.5MM). Arthur is a good bet to exercise his option, and even though Faried hasn’t always loved his role in Denver, it’s possible he’ll pick up his too, since it features a pretty player-friendly salary.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $88,907,222
Projection: Over the cap

Carmelo Anthony‘s early termination option for 2018/19, worth nearly $28MM, is a major X factor for the Thunder, whose guaranteed team salary would increase from approximately $89MM to nearly $117MM if Anthony opts in. Taking into account Carmelo’s age, his production trends, and the current state of the free agent market, it makes sense for him to play out the final year of his current deal, so we’re penciling in Oklahoma City as a probable over-the-cap team.

Even if Anthony opts out and Paul George doesn’t re-sign, OKC could only get up to about $8.8MM in cap room. That’s barely more than the projected value of the mid-level exception, so even in that scenario, the Thunder may simply remain over the cap to avoid renouncing all their exceptions.

Utah Jazz
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $67,839,543
Projection: Up to approximately $28MM in cap room

Only six Jazz players have fully guaranteed salaries for 2018/19, while seven others have non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed salaries, or are restricted free agents. That gives Utah some flexibility if the team wants to maximize its cap room.

However, retaining Thabo Sefolosha for his reasonable non-guaranteed salary of $5.25MM would cut into the Jazz’s space, as would re-signing Rodney Hood and/or Dante Exum. Realistically, unless Utah decides to only hang onto those six fully guaranteed players and make major changes around them, we shouldn’t expect the club to enter July 2018 armed with a ton of cap room.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Millsap Getting Comfortable With Nuggets' Offense

  • Free agent addition Paul Millsap jokes that finally “knowing the plays” has led to the improvement in the Nuggets’ offense, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Millsap, who signed with Denver in July after four years in Atlanta, rates his current comfort level with the team’s approach at seven out of 10. “It’s a relief,” he said. “Your mind’s not all over the place. You’re not guessing or thinking. It’s second nature. You get out there and just play basketball. I dreamed of getting to this place, where I can just get out there and just play. I’m pretty much there.”

Cavaliers Have ‘Strong Interest’ In Greg Monroe

With a shortage of big men, the Cavaliers have turned their attention toward Greg Monroe and are considering an offer to the Suns, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.

The veteran power forward/center was shipped from Milwaukee to Phoenix this week as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The Suns reportedly don’t have any long-term plans for Monroe and would consider a buyout if they can’t move him in another deal.

The 27-year-old is in the final year of his contract with a $17.8MM salary. In addition to providing an inside presence, Monroe is a “team-first player,” according to Amico, who would be willing to sacrifice his stats for the chance to rejoin a contender.

Monroe appeared in just five games with the Bucks before the deal and had his minutes cut sharply to 15.8 per night. However, he is a proven scorer and rebounder who averaged 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 81 games last season, then raised those numbers to 13.2 and 7.3 in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers need inside help after losing starting center Tristan Thompson to a strained left calf in a November 1 game. He was projected to miss three to four weeks, which puts him out for most of the month.

It’s not clear what the Suns might ask in return for Monroe, but Iman Shumpert [$10,337,079] and Channing Frye [$7,420,912] provide an almost perfect salary match. Shumpert, who was on the trading block throughout the offseason, has a player option for next year worth slightly more than $11MM, while Frye, who spent three seasons with Phoenix early in his career, has an expiring deal.

Amico adds that the Spurs and Nuggets have also expressed interest in Monroe.

Will Barton Expanding Role, Skill Set In Contract Year

  • Will Barton has been taking on some point guard duties for the Nuggets this season in the wake of Jameer Nelson‘s release, per Christopher Dempsey of Nuggets.com. The timing is right for Barton to take on more responsibilities and a larger role, since he’s in a contract year — showing off an expanded skill-set should only increase his value on the open market next July.

Nuggets Recall Tyler Lydon From G League

  • The Nuggets have recalled rookie forward Tyler Lydon from the G League, according to the club (Twitter link). Since Denver doesn’t have its own G League squad, Lydon had been assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s affiliate.
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