Nuggets promote Wes Unseld Jr. to Associate Head Coach

The Denver Nuggets promoted Wes Unseld Jr. to Associate Head Coach today.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Wes as part of our organization,” stated Connelly. “He’s one of the most respected coaches in our league, and for good reason. He’s a tireless worker with a fantastic mind for the game. He’s been a vital part of our success and will make a fantastic head coach in the very near future.”

“Wes is extremely deserving of this promotion. He is one of the hardest working people I’ve come across in this league and he has been an integral part of my coaching staff since we both arrived in Denver in 2015,” said Nuggets Head Coach Michael Malone. “I’ve said many times over the years that Wes is ready and deserving of a head coaching position in the NBA and it’s only a matter of time until that day comes.”

Unseld Jr. begins his sixth season with the Nuggets coaching staff in his primary role of overseeing the defensive game plans.

Prior to joining the Nuggets, Unseld Jr. spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic (2012-2014) and spent the 2011-12 campaign as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors.

Prior to his time in Golden State, Unseld Jr. spent 13 seasons with the Washington Wizards organization, including six seasons as an assistant coach from 2005-11. He played a key role in player development for the Wizards, helping Washington to four consecutive playoff appearances from 2004-08.

Unseld Jr. began his NBA career in 1997, just four days after graduating from John Hopkins University, as a professional and college scout for Washington. He was promoted later that same year to advance scout. In addition to his nine-year tenure as advance pro scout for the Wizards, he also spent three seasons (1998-2000) as an advance scout for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and one season serving as assistant coach as well (1998).

A native of Maryland, Unseld Jr. played on the men’s basketball team at John Hopkins for three seasons.

Nuggets sign Monte Morris to contract extension

The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Monte Morris to a multi-year contract extension.

Morris’ contract extension is reportedly a three-year deal worth $27 million. Per the Denver Post, “the deal, which is fully guaranteed, offers incentives which could push it closer to $9.4 million annually, according to one source. The extension kicks in at the start of the 2021-22 season.”

Morris, listed at 6-foot-3, 185 lbs., averaged 9.0 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 22.4 minutes per game for the Nuggets last season.

And in 2018-19, Morris played all 82 games for the Nuggets, starting six of them, and averaged 10.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while shooting .414 from three-point range.

Over the last two seasons combined, Morris boasts the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA at 5.29.

Morris spent most of the 2017-18 season on a two-way contract with the Denver Nuggets. In 37 G League games for Rio Grande Valley Vipers, he put up 17.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists, while shooting 47.2% from the field.

The Nuggets drafted Morris late second round (51st overall) in 2017. He played four seasons of college hoops at Iowa State University.

Nuggets sign rookies Zeke Nnaji and R.J. Hampton

The Denver Nuggets have signed both Zeke Nnaji (22nd overall pick) and R.J. Hampton (24th overall pick) to their rookie contracts.

Nnaji (NAH-zjee), 6-11, 240, appeared in 32 games (all starts) for the University of Arizona, averaging 16.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks while shooting 57.0% from the field in his freshman campaign. He was named the 2019-20 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year while ranking ninth in the conference in scoring, fifth in rebounding and fourth in field goal percentage. He also recorded 14 double-doubles, marking the second most by a freshman in Arizona history.

Hampton, 6-6, 176, spent the 2019-20 season in Australia’s NBL with the New Zealand Breakers, after deciding to forego his freshman year of college. In 15 games, Hampton averaged 8.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 40.0% from the field in 20.6 minutes per game. The 19-year-old native of Dallas won gold medals with USA Basketball at the 2017 FIBA Under-16 Americas Championship and the 2018 FIBA U-17 Basketball World Cup. Hampton averaged 32.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 3.9 steals at Little Elm (Texas) High School in 2018-19. Denver acquired the rights to Hampton as a part of a four-team draft-night trade with New Orleans, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.

Facundo Campazzo signs with Nuggets in the NBA

The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Facundo Campazzo to a multiyear contract.

Campazzo, 5-11, 194, most recently appeared in 20 games (16 starts) for Real Madrid of the Spanish Liga ACB in 2020, averaging 10.2 points, 5.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 41.0% from the field in 24.1 minutes per game. The 29-year-old is a two-time Euroleague Champion (2015, 2018) and a three-time Liga ACB winner (2015, 2018, 2019) while also winning the Liga ACB finals MVP in 2019.

According to the Denver Post, “despite his 5-foot-11 frame, Campazzo’s a gifted passer known for his flash and creativity. The Argentinian guard has been with Real Madrid since 2014, where he was once teammates with Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic.”

The native of Cordoba, Argentina went undrafted in the 2013 NBA Draft and signed with Real Madrid in 2014. Over five seasons he appeared in 270 games (175 starts), averaging 8.6 points, 4.5 assists and 2.2 rebounds while shooting 41.9% from the field in 21.2 minutes. Campazzo has played in 63 games for the Argentine national team including eight games in the 2012 London Olympics and led them to a silver medal at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

More from the Post: “He’ll likely share backup point guard duties with Nuggets reserve Monte Morris, who’s made himself a vital part of the rotation.”

Nuggets sign guard Markus Howard to two-way contract

The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Markus Howard to a two-way contract.

Howard, 5-11, 180, went undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft after a prolific four-year career at Marquette University. In 29 games (all starts) as a senior in 2019-20, Howard led the nation in scoring, averaging 27.8 points per game, adding 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shooting 44.4% from the field and 41.2% from three in 33.2 minutes. He was unanimously named to the 2019-20 All-America First Team.

The Morristown, New Jersey, native set the Big East all-time scoring record with 1,587 points over his four-year career and ranks 21st on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list with 2,761 points. Howard also broke school records in scoring, free throws made (599) and three-pointers made (434). He scored 51 points vs. USC on November 29th, 2019 becoming the third major-conference player to record a 50-point game in three consecutive seasons, joining Wayman Tisdale and Pete Maravich.

Nuggets convert two-way contract of Bol Bol to standard NBA contract

The Denver Nuggets have converted the two-way contract of Bol Bol to a standard multi-year NBA contract, President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly announced today.

Bol Bol, who will remain a rookie for the 2020-21 season as he did not appear in an NBA game prior to the hiatus on March 11th, appeared in seven games for the Nuggets during the seeding games in the Orlando Bubble and averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting .500 from the field and .444 from beyond the arc.

The 21-year-old impressed in the Nuggets three scrimmage games prior to the Seeding Games in Orlando, posting averages of 13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. He also appeared in eight games for the Windy City Bulls of the G League in 2019-20, averaging 12.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 19.3 minutes.

Bol, 7-2, 220, was selected with the 44th overall pick by the Miami Heat in the 2019 NBA draft and was acquired by the Nuggets in a draft night trade. He appeared in nine games as a freshman for Oregon in 2018-19, averaging 21.0 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 29.8 minutes before a season-ending foot injury. Bol reached double figure scoring in every game and tallied four double-doubles.

The 19-year-old native of Khartoum, Sudan, is the son of former NBA great Manute Bol who played 10 seasons for the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat.

Nuggets sign Greg Whittington to two-way contract

The Denver Nuggets have signed forward Greg Whittington to a two-way contract.

Whittington, 6-8, 212, spent the 2019-20 season playing in Istanbul, Turkey for Galatasaray of the Turkish BSL. He appeared in 25 games (10 starts), averaging 12.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.12 steals while shooting 56.6% from the field and 50.7% from three in 25.8 minutes per game.

The 27-year-old went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft and spent the 2015-16 season playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA G League. In two seasons for the Skyforce, Whittington appeared in 36 games (32 starts) averaging 13.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.81 steals while shooting 44.2% from the field in 34.3 minutes. Whittington has spent the previous four seasons playing overseas in multiple countries, including Australia (Sydney Kings, 2016-17), Japan (Levanga Hokkaido, 2017-18), Israel (Hapoel Gilboa Galil, 2018-19) and Turkey (Galatasaray, 2019-20).

Whittington, a native of Columbia, Maryland spent two seasons at Georgetown University, where he averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 46 career games.

Four-team NBA trade sends Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to Pelicans, Jrue Holiday to Bucks

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has completed a four-team trade with the Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pelicans have acquired Steven Adams (via Oklahoma City) and Eric Bledsoe (via Milwaukee), as well as two future first round draft picks from Milwaukee and the right to swap two additional future first round picks with the Bucks.

In exchange, the Bucks have acquired Jrue Holiday and the draft rights to Sam Merrill, the 60th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (via New Orleans).

Also, the Nuggets have acquired the draft rights to R.J. Hampton, the 24th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft (via Milwaukee).

And the Thunder have acquired a future first round draft pick (via Denver), George Hill (via Milwaukee), Zylan Cheatham, Josh Gray, Darius Miller and Kenrich Williams (via New Orleans) as well as two second round draft picks from the Pelicans (2023 via Washington, 2024 via Charlotte).

“Jrue Holiday’s contributions to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, both on and off the floor, serve as shining examples to everyone in our Pelicans family,” stated Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. “They are a statement of what we want to represent and, frankly, what we have to live up to moving forward. He and his wife Lauren have worked tirelessly to affect the quality of life of those around them and we are honored to have been a part of their journey. We are also thankful for the positive impact that Darius, Kenrich, Josh and Zylan have had on our organization and we wish them nothing but success in their future efforts.”

Adams, 7-0, 265, has spent his entire seven-year career in Oklahoma City, appearing in 530 career regular season games with the Thunder, holding career averages of 9.8 points on .589 shooting from the field, 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. The New Zealand native appeared in 63 games in 2019-20, averaging 10.9 points on .592 shooting from the floor, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.1 blocks. Selected 12th overall out of the University of Pittsburgh in the 2013 NBA Draft, Adams ranks fifth all-time in OKC/Seattle franchise history in blocks (531) and first in field goal percentage.

Bledsoe, 6-1, 214, appeared in 61 regular season games for Milwaukee last season, averaging 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 0.9 steals. Selected 18th overall out of the University of Kentucky in the 2010 NBA Draft, Bledsoe has appeared in 631 career regular season games with the LA Clippers, Phoenix and Milwaukee, holding averages of 14.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.4 steals. The Birmingham, Alabama native is coming off back-to-back seasons with NBA All-Defensive Team honors after being named to the First Team in 2019 and Second Team in 2020.

“Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe are not only fiercely competitive and driven to succeed at the highest levels, they are proven winners with a team-first mentality,” Griffin added. “As we continue to build towards the sustainable success our ownership demands and our fans so richly deserve, we are grateful to be able to do so with such high-quality teammates and human beings.”

Holiday, who was originally acquired by New Orleans in 2013, has appeared in 415 regular season games in a Pelicans uniform, averaging 17.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.5 steals over the last seven seasons. Holiday leaves the franchise ranked fourth all-time in games played (415), minutes (13,913), and points (7,321), third in steals (638), second in assists (2,833) and the leader in three-point field goals made (628). While in New Orleans, Holiday helped lead the Pelicans to two playoff appearances in 2015 and 2018, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team in 2018 and Second Team in 2019, and was the recipient of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award this past season.

Cheatham, 6-5, 220, spent his rookie season as a two-way player for New Orleans after going undrafted out of Arizona State in 2019, appearing in four games with the Pelicans. Cheatham played in 34 games for the Erie BayHawks of the NBA G League last season, averaging 16.3 points on .530 shooting from the field, 11.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals.

Gray, 6-0, 180, was a two-way player for New Orleans last season, appearing in two games with the Pelicans. The LSU product appeared in 37 games with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA G League, averaging 22.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals.

Miller, 6-6, 225, missed the 2019-20 season after recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon. The University of Kentucky product has appeared in 253 career regular season games, all with New Orleans, holding averages of 6.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists. In 2018-19, Miller appeared in 69 games, posting averages of 8.2 points (career-high), 1.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists. In addition to his NBA experience, Miller has also played overseas in Germany, where he won three consecutive German League championships with Brose Bamberg from 2015-17.

Williams, 6-6, 210, appeared in 85 games for New Orleans from 2018-20, averaging 4.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists. In 2019-20, the TCU product appeared in 39 games for the Pelicans, averaging 3.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

Merrill, 6-5, 205, completed a four-year collegiate career at Utah State, appearing in 131 career games, averaging 16.8 points while shooting .420 from three-point range, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.0 steals. Most recently, Merrill appeared in 32 games during his 2019-20 senior campaign, averaging 19.7 points while shooting .410 from three-point range, 4.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists, while earning All-Mountain West First Team honors.

Jerami Grant leaving Nuggets as free agent to join Pistons

Forward Jerami Grant will reportedly be leaving the Nuggets as a free agent to join the Pistons. Via the Detroit News:

At 6-foot-8, Grant has the versatility to play either forward spot and looks to be the starting small forward alongside Blake Griffin. He’s expanded his 3-point production to about 39% in each of his last two seasons and he brings a defensive presence to guard either forward spot. Grant carved out a nice niche for himself with the Denver Nuggets, who made the same offer of three years and $60 million, but Grant opted for the Pistons in order to have an expanded role on offense. It’s the biggest financial commitment the Pistons made in free agency and they got a solid player who can be insurance in case Griffin is injured again.

One of the big questions is why the Pistons didn’t commit the same money to Christian Wood, who reached a deal with the Houston Rockets for three years and $41 million. One read on that is that Grant is a more proven commodity in his six seasons and although Grant’s numbers haven’t been as solid as Wood’s were last year in a smaller sample size, the Pistons were more comfortable spending that money on Grant’s potential in their building plan.

Some Nuggets 2020 NBA draft thoughts

The 2020 NBA draft is just 15 days away. Here’s the Denver Post with some thoughts:

After what Jamal Murray just did in Orlando, point guard is about the last place the Nuggets need to upgrade in this month’s draft.

Murray’s rise coupled with Monte Morris’ steady play as a backup gives Denver a backcourt tandem that only a handful of teams can rival. But this year’s draft process, the most prolonged in NBA history, could be wonky. It’s been months since teams were able to see live competition from prospects, and in-person evaluations have been limited.

Not to mention, the Nuggets could throw potential need right out the window with the No. 22 pick on Nov. 18. If an elite point guard somehow slipped to their range, the Nuggets aren’t above drafting talent and then sorting out the rest later. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that talent should be prioritized over fit if Denver stays at No. 22.

As for Nuggets free agency, the team’s key guards are all signed at least through next season. Same with star center Nikola Jokic. But forward Jerami Grant has the option to enter free agency, while the contracts of Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee are up.

Considering the Nuggets’ spot in the first round, they’re more likely to land a good backup guard in the draft than a starting forward. Those frontcourt holes will likely need to be filled in free agency.