HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto and Nuggets beat writer Mike Singer share contract details on Nikola Jokic’s extension and injury updates on Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The duo also discussed how the end of the Tim Connelly era happened, what’s next for new general manager Calvin Booth, the signings of Bruce Brown, DeAndre Jordan, and more on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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1:55 Nikola Jokic’s max extension
Scotto: A lot of people around the league were expecting this to happen. Jokic, the back-to-back MVP, got a five-year max extension from the Nuggets, which includes a 15 percent trade kicker and a player option for the 2027-28 season.
Singer on how seamless the negotiations were: I saw Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke in Vegas, and I asked him that question. He said, “It’s an honor, honestly.” When the governor is eager to pay $270 million to a player, you know the negotiations were seamless. This was as easy of a negotiation as it gets.
Can we talk about how there was no drama? He signed up for five more years, ostensibly in a place where free agents don’t want to come, and he didn’t even bat an eyelash. There’s no Kevin Durant trade request. There’s no chatter about moving a guy like Donovan Mitchell on the Utah Jazz.
People around the Nuggets were pinching themselves that they were fortunate not to have to deal with some of the BS that other teams have to deal with. It’s a testament to who Joker is and the relationship they’ve built since he came over in 2015.
6:00 Jamal Murray injury update
Scotto: I saw Jamal Murray in Vegas at a New Balance event. He looked good physically, from what I could tell. He looked like he was in good basketball shape.
Singer: When they brought in their draft picks and Summer League team, Murray actually showed up to the gym in Denver and started playing in five-on-five runs with the guys. We’re obviously asking the coaches how Jamal looks? In April, the hesitation for him to return was not offensively. It was defensively. He was concerned about fighting around screens, getting dinged, diving for loose balls, and that half-second hesitancy that might still be there as a result of that ACL tear he had. The coaches said, that hesitancy isn’t there in making the dirty work plays. That’s a big difference. When he suits up in October, it’ll be 18 months since he tore his ACL in Golden State. I think he wasn’t mentally there in terms of a return this past April, which would’ve entailed a postseason run. He’ll have a full offseason and training camp. I’ve seen him throw down some pretty impressive dunks in practice gyms. He looks good.
Michael Malone talked about how he was going to ease him back. Maybe something like 20-25 minutes for the first few weeks and then ramp it up to 30-plus minutes as he gets settled in.
The trade that happened this offseason where they moved Monte Morris is a referendum on how confident they are in Murray returning. They’re not moving Monte if Jamal isn’t going to be able to provide them with 30-plus minutes a night in due time. In that trade, there’s a lot of gamble on Bones Hyland, who took some leaps last year as a rookie and is an electric scorer off that second unit.
9:40 Trading Will Barton and Monte Morris for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ish Smith
Scotto: To my understanding, Nikola Jokic was close with and very fond of Monte Morris, which was one reason I was a little bit surprised he was traded since he’s under control for the next two seasons for $18.9 million. Will Barton was in more rumors than a high schooler in the hallway for the past two years, so I wasn’t surprised to see him moved in the final year of his contract at $14.4 million.
Ish Smith has been a solid NBA backup point guard over the years, but he’s been a journeyman, and he’s in the final year of his deal. This move signaled to me Bones Hyland, the former Second Team All-Rookie guard, will have a chance for a bigger role with the Nuggets this season. I’m told he’s added six pounds of muscle so far this offseason, and he’s working out twice a day to get prepared for a larger role.
10:50 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope extension
Scotto: In talking with Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, he told HoopsHype, “KCP was eligible for the extension, and he loves the fit in Denver.” Paul and Nuggets GM Calvin Booth and the Kroenke ownership group are all very close, which helped make a deal happen quickly.
Singer: The Nuggets eyed KCP at the trade deadline. They wanted him and discussed various scenarios that could have potentially landed him in February. They re-visited that deal in the offseason, and it got out that the Wizards desperately needed a veteran point guard. That was Monte Morris. Other teams were curious about Bones Hyland and if he would be available.
If Morris was a free agent right now, he could’ve commanded a lot more than $9 million a year. He’s probably worth $14-15 million a year. The idea was they may have had to trade Morris inevitably over the next two years because Hyland was coming, and they weren’t going to pay Morris, especially as they dive into the luxury tax.
KCP was a guy they targeted. They wanted a two-way guard with championship experience who would improve their perimeter defense. They looked at Will Barton as a guy who could get you scoring in isolation, but doesn’t give you a lot defensively, is getting up there in age, and has a history of injuries.
16:45 Michael Porter Jr injury update
Singer: The Porter conversation is fascinating. They reached an early max extension with him, and they didn’t need to do that. Nine games into this year, he was effectively out and had back surgery. The question I always raise is, what would he have commanded in restricted free agency? Would another team have thrown a max offer at him after a third back surgery?
Tim Connelly is now in Minnesota, and that clearly didn’t hamper him or dog his reputation. He’s on to Minnesota and greener pastures. One of the reasons why Porter ultimately ended up getting that early extension was because of ownership’s affinity for him. The Kroenke’s have heavy ties to Missouri and have a lot of love for Porter.
I talked to Porter at Summer League. He said he’s feeling great. I wouldn’t expect him to say anything else. He’s had a lot of time off to recover from his third back surgery. There is a lot riding on his health.
23:10 Tim Connelly’s departure and the start of the Calvin Booth era
Scotto: Tim Connelly maximized the draft and helped Denver build a sustainable playoff team for years to come, but unfortunately, injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. have hurt them over the years. Porter Jr.’s extension looks questionable, now given his continued injury troubles.
Singer: People around the Nuggets were dumbfounded and stunned when Tim Connelly left. It was a weird and awkward transition. I reported he was not looking to leave. All he wanted was an extension here and to see this through as a team he helped build into a quasi-contender. Money talks. The offer came from Minnesota. He jumped at it, and the Nuggets decided not to match.
Booth said he never expected to be stewarding or guiding a team of this caliber for his first job. He expected it to be a rebuilding job. He’s had to make some ruthless and calculating decisions already. The first thing he did was move JaMychal Green. Then, he finally got off of Will Barton. Everybody knew Connelly was close to Barton and viewed him as a productive two-way player.
Tim was known for his relationships and fostering a really promising and encouraging culture that builds everybody up. From what I know about Booth, he’s an excellent talent evaluator that multiple people from inside and outside the Nuggets have told me. As a team builder, he’s a guy that I know for a fact has looked at the history of champions, and he’s asked what’s the recipe for success those teams used to win. Almost exclusively, those teams are elite defensive teams built around offensive fire hoses.
Scotto: I think Tim Connelly and Bradley Beal got two of the best deals this offseason. I was joking at Summer League, did Mark Bartelstein get Beal an ownership stake in the Washington Capitals as well?
Singer: Minnesota offered Connelly life-changing money at five years, $40 million, and an ownership stake. Had the Nuggets come up in some capacity or shown him love earlier because he was heading into a contract year this summer, I think Tim would’ve stayed. What that number would’ve been was maybe $5-6 million. Had the Nuggets gotten there, I think he would’ve been eager to stay, but that didn’t happen.
33:10 Bruce Brown and DeAndre Jordan signings
Scotto: Bruce Brown shot a career-high 40.4 percent from three-point range last season, and it’s the second time in recent years the Nuggets have signed a former Nets player since Jeff Green. Then, they go out and get another former Net, DeAndre Jordan. If you talk to any executive or scout that’s watched him several times over the past few seasons, he looks cooked… I think Jordan was the first guy to agree to a deal in free agency. I wouldn’t have had that on my Bingo card.
Singer: Jordan was their guy… The last few years have been a rotating door of big men cycling through Denver. They haven’t been able to find one who was content with the role. Mason Plumlee left Denver because his role wasn’t big enough because he was backing up the best big man in the NBA. They had Isaiah Hartenstein. Michael Malone didn’t play Hartenstein. They had JaVale McGee and traded for him and didn’t play him.
They signed DeMarcus Cousins, who was a productive center, but we know his reputation. Behind the scenes, I do think there was some friction, and would there be calm waters throughout an entire season? If there would be, they’d bring him back. If not, then they’d go address this hole.