Denver Nuggets

Nuggets Notes: Jefferson, Malone, Chandler

With the Clippers riding a six-game winning streak, the Nuggets currently find themselves on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. At 23-22, Denver is just a half-game back of the Clips and Pelicans, and one game back of the Trail Blazers, so it’s hardly time to panic yet. Still, as Buddy Grizzard of Basketball Insiders writes, the Nuggets are one of a few teams treading water in the West right now.

Grouping Denver with the Pelicans and Blazers as middle-of-the-pack Western playoff contenders, Grizzard notes that the Nuggets’ late-game execution has been inconsistent with Paul Millsap on the shelf. Richard Jefferson attributes those struggles to the club’s overall youth: “I think guys are still learning. Most of the guys that are in these positions are in these positions for the first time. I think we’ll continue getting better as the season goes on.”

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Jefferson was brought in at the start of the season to provide veteran leadership for the Nuggets, but the veteran forward has taken on a role in the club’s rotation within the last week, as Gina Mizell of The Denver Post details. “People forget — and I have to remind myself, for that matter — R.J. last year in Cleveland, on a team that went to the Finals, was playing 20 minutes a night,” head coach Michael Malone said of Jefferson. “He still has something left, and I have to give him a chance to play.”
  • Speaking of Malone, he’s under pressure this season to prove that he’s a coach capable of guiding the Nuggets to a spot in the postseason, according to Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post.
  • After parting ways with Roc Nation last May, Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler has returned to his old agency, reports Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link). Chandler, who was being represented by Excel Sports for most of 2017, will be repped by Sam Permut with Roc Nation, says Amick. With a $12.8MM player option looming for 2018/19, Chandler will either be seeking a new team this summer or entering next season on an expiring contract.
  • Jamal Murray, who has been in the NBA’s concussion protocol this week, has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for the team’s Friday game against Phoenix, per Mizell.

Nuggets Recall Tyler Lydon From G League

  • Rookie forward Tyler Lydon has been recalled from the G League by the Nuggets, according to the team (Twitter link). Since Denver doesn’t have a G League affiliate of its own, Lydon had been playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He has averaged 13.4 PPG and 9.1 RPG in 14 G League games this season.

Nikola Mirotic, 15 Others Become Trade-Eligible

Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.

The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.

The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.

Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:

With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.

Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.

Jefferson To Be Part Of Nuggets' Rotation

  • Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has become the MVP for the Jazz in a difficult season, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. The 13th overall pick is leading all rookies in scoring at 18.8 points per game and has four 30-point performances already. Utah was focused primarily on Mitchell’s defensive prowess when it acquired him in a draft-night trade with the Nuggets, so the scoring has been a pleasant surprise. In his other midseason ratings, Sorensen picks Ricky Rubio as the team’s most disappointing player and Royce O’Neale as the most pleasant surprise.
  • The Nuggets plan to use veteran forward Richard Jefferson as part of their rotation for the rest of the season, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Coach Michael Malone said he wants to see “what we have” in the 37-year-old, who has been playing about eight minutes per night and is averaging 1.6 points through 13 games.

Kenneth Faried's Future In Denver Uncertain

While his days with the team have appeared numbered for a while now, Kenneth Faried‘s role with the Nuggets seems particularly tenuous now that he has failed to see action in 10 of the club’s past 12 games. A discussion piece at the Denver Post covers the Manimal’s future in Denver.

There are plenty of things that Faried does well when he’s active with the Nuggets. His energy level is contagious and he fares well in certain efficiency metrics given his ability to fill the stat sheet in limited minutes. Alas, defensive shortcomings, paired with the fact that Denver has plenty of other suitable forwards, have led to a lack of opportunity for the 28-year-old veteran.

A trade for Faried could be forthcoming, although such a revelation doesn’t exactly qualify as groundbreaking. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, Faried’s stock could be lower now than when he was first floated as a possible trade piece.

Paul Millsap On Track To Return Around All-Star Break

  • Paul Millsap has been out of the Nuggets‘ lineup since undergoing wrist surgery in late November, but he recently had his cast removed and is progressing toward a return, writes Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. According to Mizell, Millsap is on track to get back on the court around the time of the All-Star break next month.

Darrell Arthur Emerges As Team Leader

  • Forward Darrell Arthur has appeared in just five games this season for the Nuggets but he’s contributing as a leader, according to Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website. “What you have to love about him right now is he’s not playing, and he’s more than capable of helping us out,” coach Michael Malone told Dempsey. “But he’s a guy that right now from a numbers standpoint isn’t getting called on very often. He has not allowed that to detract from his leadership role and staying positive, staying engaged.” Arthur holds a $7.46MM player option on his contract for next season and his lack of playing time increases the possibility that he’ll stay put.

Home-Heavy Schedule Provides Hope

Shooting guard Troy Daniels is one of the players the Suns could move before the trade deadline, according to Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. Daniels is averaging 8.3 PPG off the bench this season while shooting 42.5% from long range. He is signed through next season for a very affordable $3.25MM but if rookie Davon Reed comes on strong this month, Daniels becomes expendable, Bordow continues. Veterans Tyson Chandler, Greg Monroe and Jared Dudley could also be moved during the next five weeks, Bordow adds.

In other Western Conference developments:

  • The Suns have been using Devin Booker at the point during crunch times situations, Bordow notes in the same piece. Interim coach Jay Triano believes Booker could eventually become a playmaker in the mold of James Harden.
  • A friendly schedule could boost the Nuggets over the two next months, as Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website points out. They play 17 of their next 25 games at home, where they have gone 12-4 this season. “Hopefully we can use January, which is a lot of home games, to kind of build and get ahead and not be two games over .500,” coach Michael Malone told Dempsey. “I’m pretty satisfied with where we are, but we have a lot of work to do.”
  • Gerald Green was surprised how much he was able to contribute after signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Rockets last week, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Green scored 18 points in 27 minutes off the bench on Friday in Washington, his first NBA game since a preseason stint with the Bucks. “I am very surprised about my wind,” he told Feigen. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I’m actually happy with myself about the work I’ve been putting in. That’s really been paying off.”

Malone Downplays Regrets Over Mitchell Trade

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone downplays the feeling that the franchise made a mistake dealing Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, to the Jazz, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets. “The only thing I can say is obviously we got (forward) Trey Lyles in that deal and Trey Lyles has been great for us,“ Malone told Woodyard. Mitchell doesn’t hold any grudges against Denver for trading him, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.

Plumlee Making Most Of His Playing Time

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