Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Jazz, D’Antoni, Wolves, Bolmaro, Walker

The Nuggets‘ season was over long before they expected it to be, especially given the stellar play of star center Nikola Jokic, which was rewarded with an MVP award. But a devastating knee injury to point guard Jamal Murray, the team’s leading scorer in last year’s playoffs, in addition to some disappointing play from key contributors, left the team reeling after a four-game sweep at the hands of the Suns.

Now, there are questions that must be answered, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. One area of focus will be shoring up the Nuggets’ frontcourt, as Paul Millsap, JaMychal Green and JaVale McGee are all free agents. Singer also touches on how despite a disappointing end to his second year, Michael Porter Jr. is still very much a player worth keeping faith in, as he enters the first healthy offseason of his career.

Singer, along with Mark Kiszla and Matt Schubert of The Denver Post also answered a few of the most pressing questions facing the Nuggets, such as Aaron Gordon‘s future after his struggles stepping into a scoring role in the second round, potential areas of improvement for head coach Mike Malone, and Austin Rivers‘ impending free agency.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Like Denver, the Jazz‘s season also ended in ignominious fashion after they surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Clippers to lose in six games, culminating in a blown 25-point lead in Game Six. Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at where the Jazz can go from here. One area of focus will be finding another forward along with Royce O’Neale who can take the tough defensive matchups on the wing. There’s also the question of Mike Conley‘s free agency to consider, and the related question of whether the Jazz want to try to turn Donovan Mitchell into their full-time point guard. The roster isn’t far away, Jones says, but it still needs some work if Utah is to have any hope of taking the next step towards being a bona-fide contender.
  • Mike D’Antoni is getting a second interview with the Trail Blazers sometime this week, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Becky Hammon has already met with Blazers ownership for her second interview, and Chauncey Billups is set to do the same later in the week. Those three appear to be the finalists for the head coach job in Portland, though it’s possible other top candidates haven’t been reported yet.
  • The Timberwolves could be an interesting landing spot for Ben Simmons if the Sixers decide to trade him, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. With an elite-shooting big man in Karl-Anthony Towns and another high-level shot creator in last year’s number one pick Anthony Edwards, Simmons could focus on defense and passing, the way he has always wanted to. The question comes down to cost. The Wolves have D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, either of whom could hold some interest to the Sixers, but Sixers GM Daryl Morey may want to hold out for more.
  • The Timberwolves aren’t crying over lost picks, writes Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. “We prepared accordingly,” GM Gersson Rosas said pre-draft lottery, about the possibility of losing their first-round draft pick. “We drafted a player last year that has the opportunity to come this season in case there wasn’t a pick.” That’s a reference to Leandro Bolmaro, a very interesting point guard prospect recently named “Most Spectacular Player” of the Spanish league. Rosas also emphasized the added financial flexibility from not having to pay a high-end rookie-scale contract. “That’ll allow us to be more aggressive in terms of trades and free agency based on our financial position,” Rosas said.
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti hasn’t had a chance to meet with new addition Kemba Walker yet, as Walker has been out of the country, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Presti did say that he liked Walker’s fit with star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has grown used to playing with multiple lead guards — he spent much of the 2019/20 season playing alongside Chris Paul and Dennis Schröder.