Nuggets Rumors

Connelly Would “Love To See” Millsap Retire As Nugget

Paul Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly has expressed a desire to retain the big man, along with a hope that he’ll spend the rest of his career in Denver, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

“I would love to see Paul retire in a Nuggets jersey,” Connelly said on Wednesday. “What he brought to this team and this city has been pretty special. … I don’t think we could’ve asked for anything more in terms of where we are. He taught us so much about winning and how to get to this point.”

Millsap, who signed a three-year deal worth more than $90MM with the Nuggets back in 2017, has been a reliable presence in the frontcourt alongside star center Nikola Jokic. In 159 games (26.9 MPG) over those three seasons, he averaged 12.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 2.1 APG to go along with a .478/.381/.740 shooting line and his usual strong play on defense.

According to Singer, Millsap has yet to make any decisions regarding his free agency. The 35-year-old is still processing his 83-day stint in the Orlando bubble and plans to take his time as he considers his next move.

Singer suggests that this isn’t the first time Millsap has heard the refrain about the Nuggets wanting him to retire with the team, and that may be a factor in his decision. However, there will also be financial matters to consider.

The Nuggets hold Millsap’s Bird rights and can offer him any amount up to the max, but fellow free agent forward Jerami Grant will likely be the team’s first priority. If and when Grant signs a new deal, Denver’s maneuverability below the tax line will be a factor as the team mulls a potential offer for Millsap and other roster moves.

Singer notes that any offer from the Nuggets would reflect the fact that the Millsap wasn’t as effective in the playoffs as he was early in the season. While he played a part in helping Denver reach the Western Conference Finals, the big man’s production was down in the postseason (8.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, .398 FG%).

Leroux, Hollinger, Singer Preview Nuggets' Offseason

Jerami Grant Expected To Decline Player Option

Nuggets forward Jerami Grant is expected to decline his $9.3MM player option and become an unrestricted free agent, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.

Grant could command anywhere from $14-16MM on the open market and will likely have multiple interested suitors, Singer adds. The 26-year-old Syracuse product was a key cog in the Nuggets’ postseason run, averaging 11.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 34.4 minutes per game.

Grant hinted that he would likely opt out earlier this summer, acknowledging his improved play with the team. Although Denver could have strong competition for his services, both sides are clearly interested in reaching a new deal in free agency.

“I’m definitely not leaning towards picking up the player option,” Grant said on Yahoo Sports’ Posted Up podcast back in June, as relayed by Quenton S. Albertie of NuggLove). “Like you said, I feel like I definitely outplayed the $9MM that I’m making each year right now. But at the same time… I’d love to come to a conclusion or something like that with Denver, it just depends what we discuss and negotiate when the time comes.”

Denver acquired Grant in July of 2019 for a first-round pick, starting him in 16 of 19 playoff games this year. In addition to Grant, the Nuggets also have frontcourt players Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee set to reach unrestricted free agency.

When asked directly if he wanted to be part of the team in the future, Grant gave an honest response. “I’m definitely looking forward to it,” he said, as relayed by Singer. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Grant, an athletic 6’8″ forward, was drafted with the No. 39 pick in 2014 by Philadelphia. He holds career-averages of 9.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 24.5 minutes in six total seasons with the Sixers, Thunder and Nuggets.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Jerami Grant, Nuggets, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $27.3MM deal in 2018

The Nuggets are on the verge of elimination again despite the increased offensive production of Grant. He scored a playoff-high 26 points in Denver’s lone win against the Lakers in Game 3, then added 17 points in Game 4. The trust that coach Michael Malone has in Grant defensively against the Lakers’ jumbo lineups was apparent – he played a total of 77 minutes in those two games. Grant has a $9.35MM option on his contract for next season. Prior to the restart, Grant said he was likely to decline it and test the free agent waters. It’s doubtful he’s changed his mind.

Dwight Howard, Lakers, 34, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2019

Howard piled up more fouls than points in Games 2 and 3 against Denver. Instead of Howard losing playing time, coach Frank Vogel surprisingly decided to start him in Game 4. The former Defensive Player of the Year delivered a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) in 23 minutes. He’s a dinosaur by current NBA standards – an aging center who can’t stretch defenses. But every once awhile, Howard reminds everyone he can still be a factor. It’s easy to see the Lakers signing him to another short-term deal.

Dion Waiters, Lakers 28, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $500K deal in 2020

Waiters got a chance to revive his career when the Lakers signed him to a rest-of-the season contract in March. The opportunity was there for Waiters to crack the rotation in the postseason but ineffectiveness and a groin injury have rendered him a non-factor. He’s only appeared in five playoff games, totaling 10 points (no threes) in 38 minutes. Given his controversial history, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft will probably be scrounging for a veteran’s minimum deal.

Derrick Jones, Heat, 23, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $3.16MM deal in 2018

It’s been a rough restart for Jones. He had a bout with the coronavirus, then suffered a neck strain during a collision in the seeding games. He also dealt with an ankle injury during the opening round of the playoffs. His biggest problem now is he’s out of the rotation. The emergence of Tyler Herro and the presence of veterans Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala has limited him to a total of 30 unspectacular minutes against Boston. Jones will be an unrestricted free agent and he’ll draw some interest, but his price tag may have dropped this summer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Exploring The Parallels Between The Warriors And Nuggets

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Wednesday that Alex Caruso and Danny Green are listed as probable for Thursday’s Western Conference Finals Game 4 against the Nuggets, per Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic writes about the similarities between the 2013 Warriors and this season’s Nuggets team. For starters, Strauss points out how current Denver head coach Mike Malone was under then-head coach Mark Jackson in Golden State. He also explores how both teams built their rosters in the age of free agency and feature an unlikely superstar player.

Nuggets Notes: Murray, Malone, Jokic, Grant

The ultra-resilient Nuggets may have changed the course of the Western Conference Finals with a Game 3 victory as Jamal Murray continued to add to his playoff reputation, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Denver’s point guard had 28 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists and hit a pair of late 3-pointers to seal the win, and coach Michael Malone said Murray has reached a new level this season.

“Now I know every night what I’m getting from Jamal,” Malone said. “Last year, we knew what we were getting from Nikola (Jokic), but what kind of game would Jamal have. That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal.”

Murray is thriving in the Disney World environment, averaging 26.6 points, 6.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game since the postseason began. He told Sam Amick of The Athletic that he has a desire to “change the narrative” surrounding him and his team.

“The most important part (is) the energy I bring,” Murray said. “When I’m talking to my teammates, being the vocal leader, going up and down, pushing everyone, they tend to follow. It was fun to see them have a lot of fun today like they did.  We came up with the win. Hopefully we can keep that play up.”

There’s more on the Nuggets:

  • Dejan Milojevic, Jokic’s former coach in Serbia, always believed the big man would succeed in the NBA, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “There are many great players in the NBA league — superstars — but not many are making their teammates better,” Milojevic said. “That’s all that Nikola ever wanted. He enjoys passing more than scoring. That’s what separates him — the creativity.”
  • Jerami Grant, an unrestricted free agent this fall, has been making a difference for the Nuggets in the playoffs, observes Sean Keeler of The Denver Post. At 6’8″ with a 7’3″ wingspan, Grant has the versatility to guard several different types of opponents. He is affecting LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the conference finals, just like he bothered Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the previous series. “Jerami, he’s been great for us, and we ask a lot from him,” teammate Monte Morris said. “He starts guarding LeBron. We know how (tough) LeBron is. He’s exerting so much energy on defense, you know, it was good to see him get going on offense. It gave us a great boost and it was much needed.”
  • Can the Nuggets stop the Lakers from winning the NBA title? Cast your vote in our poll.

Poll: Will Lakers Win 2020 NBA Title?

When the NBA’s postseason began just over a month ago, the Lakers were coming off a shaky 3-5 showing in the summer seeding games, and had roughly the same odds as the Clippers and Bucks to win the 2020 NBA championship, according to most sportsbooks.

Five weeks later, the Clippers and Bucks have been eliminated from title contention, as have many of the teams viewed as second-tier title threats, such as Toronto, Philadelphia, and Houston. The Lakers hold a commanding 2-0 lead over the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, while neither the Heat nor the Celtics have looked especially dominant in the Eastern Finals.

In other words, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the Lakers find themselves in a great position to finish off an impressive playoff run and bring home the franchise’s first championship since 2010. The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag currently list the Lakers as -350 favorites, meaning you’d have to risk $350 in order to win just $100 for an L.A. title.

While the Lakers may be the overwhelming favorites for now, it’s a little early to pencil them in as the NBA’s 2020 champions. After all, the Nuggets were just a Davis buzzer-beater away from pulling even at one game apiece in the Western Finals — and even down 2-0, Denver is hardly about to roll over, having already overcome a pair of 3-1 deficits in these playoffs.

If the Lakers can put away the Nuggets, they’ll enter the NBA Finals as heavy favorites, but the Celtics and Heat shouldn’t be overlooked either. Boston dominated Joel Embiid and the Sixers before eliminating the defending-champion Raptors – who had the league’s second-best record this season – in perhaps the most hard-fought series of the postseason.

As for the Heat, Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s ankle injury helped them finish off Milwaukee, but they’d played better than the 56-17 Bucks even before Antetokounmpo got hurt. Knocking off the Pacers, Bucks, and Celtics would represent an impressive path to the Finals for Miami.

Either Eastern team will also benefit from playing in the Disney World bubble, where home-court advantage is essentially nonexistent and the Lakers’ regular-season edge wouldn’t give them an extra Finals game at Staples Center. Still, L.A. has shown so far that it doesn’t need the help that home-court advantage provides.

What do you think? Are you confident the Lakers will win the Finals and get LeBron his fourth ring, or will one of the other three teams still alive play spoiler and take this year’s crown?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Will Barton Unlikely To Return During Western Finals

Despite having previously expressed hope that he was nearing a return, Nuggets wing Will Barton is expected to remain sidelined for the rest of the Western Conference Finals, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

After initially accompanying his teammates on the Walt Disney World campus, Barton left Orlando in mid-August to rehab a nagging right knee injury in Miami. A report early in Denver’s second-round series vs. the Clippers indicated that Barton was doing “everything in his power” to make it back and hadn’t ruled out playing before the end of the Western Semifinals.

However, Barton remains on the shelf, with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly admitting last week that there’s still no timetable for the 29-year-old’s return. With Denver once again just a couple losses away from elimination, the door may be closing on the possibility of a Barton comeback this summer, though the club has shown in previous rounds that it’s capable of fighting back from a two-game deficit.

While the Nuggets have gotten by without Barton so far this summer, he was a valuable part of the team’s rotation during the regular season, averaging 15.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 3.7 APG on .450/.375/.767 shooting in 58 starts (33.0 MPG). Jerami Grant is currently occupying Barton’s spot in the starting lineup.

Northwest Notes: Murray, MPJ, Wolves, Thunder

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray has demonstrated his leadership abilities during the team’s playoff run this year, Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes.

Denver is currently trailing 0-1 against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and has bounced back from a 3-1 series deficit twice this postseason, something no other NBA franchise has ever done.

“Jamal has grown up, he has become more of a leader, more vocal,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “What he did in that Utah series was incredible with his play but also the emotional leadership that he showed for our team and that was contagious.

“He took his whole team with him, which you don’t see very often for such a young player.”

Murray has stepped up on both ends of the floor, averaging 26.7 points, 6.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in 15 playoff contests. He was a key cog in the team’s victories over the Jazz and Clippers in previous rounds, proving his worth at just 23 years old.

“This is something that you have to understand, take responsibility for,” Malone said. “You’ve got to be better. On the court, your preparation, your professionalism, your work ethic and your leadership. He’s taken all those things into account and tried to be better in every one of those areas, which is all you want.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Mike Singer of the Denver Post explores how Michael Porter Jr. has earned the respects of his coach, with the 22-year-old providing quality depth off the bench during the Nuggets’ postseason run. “In those games, the games that you talk about when he’s on the floor when so much is hanging in the balance, that’s invaluable for a young player,” Malone said as part of a larger quote. “I think what’s earned him those minutes is that he’s really bought in, grown and committed to the defensive end of the floor.”
  • The Timberwolves are hiring 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon in a draft preparation and player personnel consultant role, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Minnesota owns the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft, set to commence on November 18.
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman proposes three trade scenarios for the Thunder involving star point guard Chris Paul, who led the franchise to a 44-28 record this season and received All-NBA Second Team honors. Multiple teams are said to have interest in Paul, 35, though his contract ($41.35MM next season and $44.21MM player option in 2021-22) would make any potential deal challenging. It’s also unclear how motivated Oklahoma City is to move him.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the playoffs ongoing at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Daniel Theis, Celtics, 28, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2019

Heading into the playoffs, no one quite knew what the Celtics’ big man rotation would look like. There’s no doubt right now which center coach Brad Stevens trusts the most. Theis has played heavy minutes when he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble. He averaged 30.1 MPG in the seven-game series against the Raptors and was productive (10.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG) while keeping turnovers to a minimum (1.0). He’s averaged 33.5 MPG thus far against the Heat. Moreover, the Celtics’ staff trusts that Theis can switch onto a variety of players defensively. His $5MM salary for next season isn’t guaranteed but it’s hard to imagine Boston would let him go.

Marcus Morris, Clippers, 31, PF (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $15MM deal in 2019

Morris had an interesting and controversial journey through free agency last summer. He reneged a two-year agreement with San Antonio and signed a one-year, $15MM pact with the Knicks. When the Clippers acquired Morris at the trade deadline, he was viewed as potentially the final piece to a championship puzzle. The Clippers crashed and burned in part because Morris was a non-factor as the series against the Nuggets wore on. In the last two games, Morris averaged 6.0 PPG and shot 3-for-14 from the field. He was better at being an irritant than a difference-maker. It will be interesting to see if his price tag drops this offseason.

Serge Ibaka, Raptors, 31, PF/C (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $65MM deal in 2017

Ibaka had a strong postseason run while coming off the bench. He averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 22.8 MPG while making 51.1% of his 3-point attempts. Ibaka turns 31 on Friday but he’ll receive his biggest birthday gift in the coming months when the Raptors or some other suitor hands him a lucrative deal. ESPN’s Bobby Marks believes he will get full $9.3MM mid-level exception offers from playoff teams without cap space but that Toronto may offer a one-year deal at $18MM to keep him and preserve cap space for next summer.

Monte Morris, Nuggets, 25, PG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $4.66MM deal in 2018

When Malik Beasley was dealt to the Timberwolves in February, Morris became the clear-cut backup to Jamal Murray. He’s been a key piece off the bench during the Nuggets’ dream run to the Western Conference Finals. Morris averaged just 16.6 MPG against the Clippers but scored in double digits four times during the series. He’s also played smart and poised, making more steals (10) than turnovers (8) in 297 minutes during the first two playoff series. Morris has a $1.66MM non-guaranteed salary for next season. That seems like a very big bargain.

Meyers Leonard, Heat, 28, PF/C (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $41MM deal in 2016

The Heat have received significant contributions from a good chunk of their roster during their surprising carpet ride to the Eastern Conference Finals. Leonard hasn’t been among that group. Leonard, who made $11.3MM this season, was a starter until February when he suffered an ankle injury. He’s been relegated to cheerleading status during the restart, appearing in two seeding games and one postseason game. He was mainly a second-unit player in Portland before this season and he’ll have to compete for a rotation spot wherever he lands next season.