Jerami Grant

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Report: Nuggets pull Trey Lyles’ qualifying offer

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The Nuggets traded a protected first-round pick to the Thunder for Jerami Grant.

We’re learning more about about how much that deal will cost Denver.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The protections on that pick look favorable to Oklahoma City. The Nuggets will likely send a low first-rounder, but in a deep Western Conference, there’s a chance Denver slips to the high end of that conveyable range. The Nuggets at least avoid massive downside risk in the unlikely event they get a high lottery pick.

Trading for Grant put the Nuggets’ team salary just $1,877,076 below the luxury-tax line. Lyles accepting his $4,485,665 qualifying offer would have put them into the tax. Denver, which hasn’t paid the luxury tax in nine years, apparently wouldn’t risk that. This is another indicator the Nuggets won’t use their mid-level exception to upgrade the roster either.

Lyles had a breakout season a couple years ago but regressed last season. The main reason: His 3-point percentage dropped from 38% to 26%.

The 23-year-old former lottery pick still has some potential as a stretch four. He belongs in the NBA. But he’s likely looking at minimum contracts, though maybe he gets offered slightly more somewhere.

He could still return to Denver. The Nuggets could sign him to a minimum contract, stay under out of the luxury tax and preserve his Bird Rights into next season. With a bounce-back year, Lyles would have a clearer path to a bigger contract in Denver than anywhere else.

But the Nuggets’ forward rotation is getting crowded with Paul Millsap, Grant, Juan Hernangomez and maybe eventually Michael Porter Jr. Denver also likes to use two-center lineups with Nikola Jokic and Mason Plumlee.

So, Lyles will likely get squeezed out.

We’ll see how he does as in unrestricted free agency. Restricted status could have cooled his market. But he might regret not accepting that qualifying offer while he had the chance. His minimum salary is just $1,737,145 – $ 2,748,520 less than the qualifying offer.

Report: After talking to him, Thunder open to trading Russell Westbrook

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When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant in 2016, the popular sentiment was they’d have to trade Russell Westbrook. Instead, Westbrook signed an extension with Oklahoma City and threw himself into leading the small-market franchise.

Now, with the Thunder trading Paul George to the Clippers for a package centered on draft picks, Westbrook’s future in Oklahoma City has again become a major topic of conversation.

This time, it doesn’t sound as if Westbrook will recommit to the Thunder.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Trading Westbrook won’t be easy. He’s due $171,139,920 over the next four years. Westbrook is also 30, reliant on his athleticism and already showing signs of decline.

But Westbrook remains a star and a big name. It takes only one team to covet him.

A team already stuck in a difficult situations – like the Heat, Pistons, Magic, Wizards or Hornets – could pool bad contracts to deal for Westbrook. He’d provide at least a short term jolt.

How much does Oklahoma City want for Westbrook, though? Given his age and salary concerns, would the Thunder just give him away if they could? Or are they holding out for at least some positive return?

Oklahoma City could still try to compete around Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Andre Roberson (if healthy). That’s a decent team with at least a chance of making the playoffs.

But as they trade George and Jerami Grant for draft picks, the Thunder are clearly headed in a different direction. Westbrook is apparently ready to spend the rest of his prime elsewhere rather than stick out a rebuild.

Report: Thunder trading Jerami Grant to Nuggets for first-rounder

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Raise the alert level on the Thunder trading Russell Westbrook.

This doesn’t prove anything about Westbrook. It doesn’t match the significance of Oklahoma City shipping Paul George to the Clippers.

But the Thunder are moving ahead in a teardown by trading Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for a draft pick.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Grant (due $9,346,153 next season and holding a player option for the same salary the following year) was too expensive for Oklahoma City’s liking. It’s impossible to evaluate the trade fully without knowing the protections, but getting a first-rounder looks nice for the Thunder given where they are in team-building.

Considering Oklahoma City must replace Grant on the roster and projecting that to be with a minimum-salary free agent, this trade puts the Thunder in line to save $29,710,941 in salary and luxury tax next season. The tax isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season, so there’s plenty of time for that number to change.

The Thunder are now just $3,695,790 into the tax (counting that minimum-salary free agent), and they face the repeater rate. I’d be shocked if they don’t avoid the tax entirely.

Oklahoma City’s spending limitations are Denver’s gains.

Grant can play all three frontcourt positions. He gives the Nuggets someone capable of defending bigger wings now and maybe replacing Paul Millsap as starting power forward down the road. Both are important as Denver looks to continue its ascension around Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.

The 25-year-old Grant has been up-and-down 3-point shooter in his career, but he has generally trended in the right direction. He made a career-high 39% of his 3s last season. If he maintains that, this will be an excellent addition. If not, the Nuggets will still welcome his defensive versatility and overall activity.

Denver has sat on the mid-level exception despite having the ability to use it in full and remain out of the tax. The Nuggets will use a trade exception to acquire Grant, leaving the mid-level exception available. But using it now would push Denver into the tax. Would ownership greenlight that?

The Nuggets are one of several teams that should believe they have a chance to win a title next season. Star talent is dispersed. This should be the time to spend, though the market for free agents worth the mid-level exception is shrinking fast.

One team no longer in the championship chase: Oklahoma City. The Thunder can can remain competitive with Westbrook, Danilo Gallinari (who’ll take Grant’s spot at starting power forward), Steven Adams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Andre Roberson (if healthy). But if immediate competitiveness were the goal, the Thunder wouldn’t have traded Grant for a draft pick. They clearly have other aims.

Russell Westbrook outduels Damian Lillard, Thunder pick up win to get back in series

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook called his play in Game 2 “unacceptable.”

It was more than acceptable in Game 3. He had 33 points and 11 assists and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-108 on Friday night to cut their series deficit to 2-1.

Paul George added 22 points, Jerami Grant had 18 and Dennis Schroder 17 for the Thunder. They will host Game 4 on Sunday night.

Damian Lillard scored 32 points, but he had just three in the fourth quarter after scoring 25 in the third.

C.J. McCollum had 21 and Enes Kanter added 19.

Oklahoma City closed the second quarter on a 10-1 run to take a 49-39 lead. Lillard was held to four points on 2 -or-6 shooting and the Trail Blazers shot 37.5% in the half.

George hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw in the opening minutes of the second half to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 55-43. Westbrook backed down Lillard, hit a bank shot and was fouled. Westbrook brought out his “rock the baby” celebration, then made the free throw to put Oklahoma City up by 15.

Lillard scored 23 points the rest of the quarter to help cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 86-82 at the end of the period. McCollum hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 89 early in the fourth.

Oklahoma City regained control, then kept it. Westbrook’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining put the Thunder up 10.

 

Jamal Murray scores 27, leads Nuggets past Thunder 115-105

Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — All season, Western Conference teams have been chasing Golden State.

Now they’re chasing Denver, too.

Jamal Murray scored 27 points, Nikola Jokic added 23 points and 16 rebounds, and Denver beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-105.

With Golden State’s loss to Minnesota, Denver is tied with the Warriors for the best record in the Western Conference.

The Nuggets huddled around Isaiah Thomas‘ phone to watch the conclusion of the Warriors-Timberwolves game.

“It’s fun,” Murray said. “It’s been a fun journey, especially when you are winning.”

The Nuggets won all four meetings with Oklahoma City, a potential playoff opponent, this season.

“It doesn’t mean much,” Denver forward/center Mason Plumlee said. “If we see them in the playoffs it will be a whole new matchup. They are a good team and we know that and we respect them and we are just looking forward to the next game.”

Murray made 11 of 20 shots and had nine assists without a turnover.

“I liked his poise, his leadership and his maturity,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “That’s not easy to do against that team and this building. They turn people over and they can make you look really bad in a heartbeat, but just Jamal’s control – he never got sped up, he was always in control, running his team and being vocal, and I was excited watching him play.”

Russell Westbrook had 27 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, and Paul George had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Thunder.

“I think it was good for the most part for spurts,” Westbrook said. “Not enough to be sustainable.”

Denver led 56-52 at halftime behind 13 points from Murray and 12 points and 12 rebounds by Jokic.

Oklahoma City’s Jerami Grant hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 68, but Denver responded with a 14-2 run and took an 86-75 lead into the fourth quarter.

Denver led 95-81 in the final period before Oklahoma City scored five quick points to force Denver to call timeout.

Westbrook went down hard to the ground after being fouled in the fourth quarter, and he got up and started jawing with the Nuggets bench. He scored six points in the next minute, but Murray hit a dagger 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes to play.

“They made some tough ones down the stretch,” Westbrook said. “That’s what the good teams do.”