Anthony Davis

Trade Rumors: Ntilikina, Kings, Rockets, Davis

Despite some recent chatter about teams with interest in second-year point guard Frank Ntilikina, Marc Stein of The New York Times gets the sense that the Knicks aren’t actively exploring the trade market for the 20-year-old. While New York will almost certainly be willing to field inquiries on Ntilikina, there’s a difference between listening and shopping, Stein observes.

While Ntilikina recently fell out of the Knicks’ rotation for three games and has struggled immensely on offense, he’s coming off one of the best games as a pro, as he scored a career-high 18 points in just 20 minutes on Sunday. If he can produce anywhere close to that level on a more consistent basis, he’ll likely secure his place as a long-term building block in New York.

Here are a few more trade-related rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • In a podcast discussion about the Kings, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested that Sacramento could actually be buyers, rather than sellers, at the trade deadline, since the team has exceeded expectations and doesn’t have its own first-round pick this year. “Sacramento is not incentivized to lose,” Windhorst said, per Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net. “If anything, Sacramento will be gunning to think they have a chance to make the playoffs. Sacramento is actually one of the teams I’ve heard is out there on the trade market looking to improve itself because they have no incentive to tank.”
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores a few potential trade options for the Rockets, arguing that the team needs wings and forwards with size and experience. O’Connor lists James Johnson, DeMarre Carroll, Markieff Morris, and Jeff Green as some veterans that could appeal to Houston.
  • With the Pelicans playing in Boston on Monday night, Anthony Davis trade speculation has been a popular subject so far this week. Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com explained why those whispers aren’t going away anytime soon, while Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry made light of the topic by joking with Celtics GM Danny Ainge about it, as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald relays. As for Davis, he once again dismissed that chatter, telling Bontemps that he’s just focused on getting New Orleans back into the playoffs and making a deeper run than last year.
  • In an excellent, Insider-only breakdown for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a team-by-team look at the trade market, identifying trade candidates, restrictions, and much more.

Southwest Notes: House, Davis, Grizzlies, Bzdelik

Just hours after signing with the Rockets on Monday, Danuel House was thrown into the fire, logging 28 minutes in the team’s overtime loss to Washington. While House only posted four points in his first game as a Rocket and the club couldn’t get a victory, the Houston native is excited to be playing for his hometown team, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“It’s huge,” House said of his new contract with the Rockets. “I didn’t want to break the news to my family quite yet. Going back home, I’m from Houston, it’s going to be huge. It’s an honor. Showing my little cousins and the people around me to never give up and continue to fight. Life can throw you down, but you have to be judged by how you stand up.”

Although House has now appeared in regular season games for three NBA teams since going undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2016, he has spent a good chunk of his professional career in the G League, playing last season and this year for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston’s NBAGL affiliate. This is the first time he has been under contract with the Rockets.

Here’s more from around the Southwest division:

  • Asked on Monday about how the Pelicans are dealing with Anthony Davis trade speculation, head coach Alvin Gentry suggested that he’s not even thinking about that, as Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald relays. “That’s what you guys talk about,” Gentry said of the Davis chatter. “We don’t talk about it. So he’s here. He’s playing on our team. We’re trying to win games. That’s the only thing that matters right now. It’s not anything that I’m going to have a say-so in or anything else, so we don’t bother about it.”
  • Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com takes an in-depth look at how the Grit ‘n’ Grind 2.0 philosophy is working out for the Grizzlies, who are managing to pile up wins despite ranking dead-last in the NBA in points per game.
  • Rockets assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik officially returned to the team on a full-time basis last Friday, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details. The return of Houston’s defensive specialist hasn’t exactly had an immediate impact — the Rockets have lost all three games since Bzdelik has been back on the bench, surrendering 122.7 PPG in Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Davis, Fultz, Free Agency

While Kyrie Irving is currently in his prime, the Celtics‘ All-Star point guard does not see himself playing at an advanced age, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes.

“Once I’m done with this, hopefully in my early to mid-30s, I’m done with this,” Irving said.

Irving, 26, is in the midst of another characteristically strong season for Boston. In 18 games, he’s averaging 21.9 PPG and 6.2 APG as the Celtics, currently, at 10-9, try to get on a consistent winning streak. However, as Irving reaches free agency this summer, he’s also looking toward his future in the game.

“I love basketball itself,” Irving said. “But everything that comes with it? It doesn’t really matter to me, in terms of my life. I enjoy the game, I enjoy being with my teammates, playing every single day. Being an NBA player, this is a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. I think everything else that comes with it doesn’t hold the same stature it once did.”

Check out more Atlantic Division notes:

  • While there exists a general belief that Pelicans’ All-Star Anthony Davis will end up with the Lakers down the road, the situation is a fluid one, Chris Sheridan of Get More Sports writes. Davis has reportedly expanded his personal list of preferred destinations to include the Knicks, Sixers, Celtics and Pelicans. And there are a number of indications that Boston could be the favorite, Sheridan adds.
  • As the controversy surrounding Markelle Fultz continues, including a new report he’d prefer to get a fresh start somewhere else, Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders looks at possible destinations. The Nets, Suns, Knicks and Heat are all teams that could have interest and a role for Fultz if the Sixers were to entertain offers.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday looks at the Knicks‘ standing as the team prepares to recruit free agents, detailing why the team may not be an attractive destination.

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2018/19

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on several players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Davis can’t yet sign a Designated Veteran Extension, but his All-NBA appearances over the last two seasons have ensured that he’ll qualify, even if he somehow doesn’t earn another All-NBA nod in 2018/19.

As of next July, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis a contract extension that tacks an additional five years onto his $27.09MM salary for 2019/20. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($118MM), that five-year extension would be worth a staggering $239.54MM.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2018/19:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2018/19 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. And even in this group, guys like Beal and Drummond are a real stretch — if they were to improbably make an All-NBA team, their clubs still probably wouldn’t put Designated Veteran Extension offers on the table, since they’re not bona fide superstars.

Thompson and Walker will both be unrestricted free agents in 2019, so if they meet the DVE criteria, they’d be eligible for five-year contracts with their respective teams worth up to a projected $221.27MM. Lillard and Green are still under contract for at least one more year beyond this season, but they’d qualify for super-max extensions if they meet the criteria — Lillard could get an extra four years, while Green could get five.

A team can only give Designated Veteran Extensions to two players, so the Warriors wouldn’t be able to offer both Thompson and Green super-max contracts, since Stephen Curry already has one. On the plus side, Kevin Durant won’t figure into this equation for Golden State, since he has 10+ years of experience. A deal starting at 35% of the cap for Durant wouldn’t count toward the Dubs’ super-max limit.

Finally, while Antetokounmpo can qualify for a super-max by earning All-NBA honors this season, he wouldn’t actually be able to sign such a deal until 2020, since he’ll only have six years of experience at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Essentially, he’d be in the same spot that Anthony Davis is in now.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract because they were traded:

Butler, Irving, and Leonard are probably more worthy of a super-max investment than most of the players in the above group, but they no longer qualify because they were traded while on their second contracts — Butler from the Bulls, Irving from the Cavaliers, and Leonard from the Spurs. They’ll need to reach 10 years of NBA experience before qualifying for a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics, Lakers, Others Monitoring Anthony Davis

Although Anthony Davis remains under contract with the Pelicans through at least 2020, rival NBA executives believe he could be up for grabs for a larger-market team before then, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Davis will be eligible for a five-year, super-max contract extension as of July 2019. If he passes on that extension – which some executives believe he might, per Haynes – the Pelicans could be forced to consider the possibility of trading the star big man before he gets the opportunity to opt out in 2020.

The Celtics, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Warriors are among the big-market teams that will be monitoring Davis’ situation this year and next, sources tell Haynes.

Whenever he has been asked about his future, Davis has dismissed the idea that he wants to play anywhere but New Orleans. However, as Haynes notes, Davis’ top priority is to win, so the Pelicans will be under pressure to continue building a roster that can help the former first overall pick achieve that goal.

[RELATED: Anthony Davis Hopeful DeMarcus Cousins Can Return To Pelicans]

“Of course, I know that in order to win games, a lot of pressure is going to be on me,” Davis said after a loss to the Warriors this week. “I don’t have a good game and we lose. So, I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win.

“But my teammates do a great job,” he continued. “Even the games I didn’t play, those guys have been battling night in and night out to get victories. … I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself, but I know it’s there.

While the speculation about Davis isn’t expected to subside, the five-time All-Star knows it comes with the territory, suggesting he’s tuning out the noise and focusing on what he can control on the court. He also tells Haynes that his teammates, who “do as much as possible to help me,” don’t view his contract situation as a distraction.

“Nah, my team doesn’t care. They cherish the moments that they have with me,” Davis said. “Every day we try to put in the work to be a great team. They hear it, I hear it. Everybody hears it. It’s hard not to. But we’re focused on what we have to do this year. We’re trying to beat teams like the Warriors and get to where they are. That’s our goal. That’s it.”

Anthony Davis Hopeful DeMarcus Cousins Can Return To Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t re-sign with the Pelicans when he reached free agency four months ago, but Anthony Davis remains hopeful that his old frontcourt partner will return to New Orleans at some point down the road, he said on Thursday.

“He will be a free agent next year,” Davis said of Cousins, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “Hopefully, down the line we can reconnect.”

As Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted this week, Cousins’ one-year deal with Golden State seems unlikely to lead to a longer-term arrangement, given the team’s cap limitations. However, the Pelicans would face challenges of their own if they want to bring back Cousins. New Orleans could theoretically create enough cap room to make an offer to the big man during 2019’s free agent period, but that would probably mean allowing both Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic to depart, unless Cousins is willing to take another discount.

There may be other roadblocks in the way of a reunion between the Pelicans and Cousins, who was bothered by having not received a formal offer from GM Dell Demps this past July. That relationship is in need of repair, sources tell ESPN. Still, Demps told Spears that he’s rooting for Cousins, while head coach Alvin Gentry referred to the ex-Pelican as “the best player at his position in the league.”

Of course, if Cousins were to consider returning to New Orleans, he’d certainly want assurances that Davis would be sticking around as well. The Pelicans’ All-NBA big man is under contract through 2019/20 and sounds committed to staying with the team at least through that season, if not longer.

“I got two years to ’20/21. I’m here and whatever happens after that happens,” Davis told Spears. “For me, right now it is about being the most dominant player in the league and helping this team win. … You hear all the rumors. You hear all the talk. But it’s not coming from me. I’m here to be a Pelican, help this team move forward and help this team win a championship.”

Lakers Notes: Davis, James, Williams

The Lakers secured LeBron James this summer, which has led to speculation about which elite talents can potentially be paired with the four-time Most Valuable Player. Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register looks at Pelicans’ superstar Anthony Davis, who tops the Lakers’ wish list, according to Heisler.

Speculation of Davis’ possible desire to eventually land in L.A. was fueled when he fired his longtime agent to hire Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who also represents James. For his part, the Chicago native downplayed the switch in representation means that he’s eyeing the Lakers. Instead, his focus is to be part of a winning culture.

“Winning definitely helps everything, helps with your legacy, helps be on the top of the list,” Davis said. “But going to the playoffs every three years doesn’t help my case.”

  • When the Lakers did sign James, the entire dynamic of the team’s on-court expectations changed. With a superstar of James’ caliber, expectations rise, attention is commanded, and every move is scrutinized. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports writes that the organization is still getting acclimated to the “LeBron Effect.” The team started 0-3 and it seemed that panic mode was all but the norm, but after two straight wins, that flurry of doubt has simmered, but with James around, this will be the culture to get used to.
  • Despite being waived by the Lakers, Johnathan Williams re-signed to a two-way pact and has made the most of his NBA opportunity. Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times look at Williams’ journey from college to the professional level and how he is fueled by the initial disappointment of being waived.
  • In our earlier edition of L.A. Notes, we looked at Lance Stephenson‘s early play for the Lakers, Luke Walton‘s fine and more.

NBA Execs Looking Ahead To 2019 Free Agency

Front office executives around the NBA, even on probable playoff teams, are already looking ahead to 2019’s free agent period, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, who notes that next summer’s group of star free-agents-to-be is generating plenty of early interest.

As Windhorst details, executives believe that many of the top players in 2019 free agency are viable candidates to change teams. In 2018, LeBron James signed with a new team, but most of the league’s other elite free agents, such as Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Paul George, re-signed with their current clubs. In 2019, Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, and DeMarcus Cousins are all viewed as at least decent bets to change teams, particularly since there will be so much cap room available around the NBA.

Teams are also keeping a close eye on Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving, per Windhorst. Davis can’t reach free agency until 2020, but will be eligible for a super-max extension in 2019. If the Pelicans struggle at all this season or if Davis doesn’t immediately sign that extension with New Orleans, potential trade suitors for the star big man will be calling the Pelicans.

As for Irving, he has verbally committed to re-signing with Boston, but nothing is set in stone yet — plus, the Celtics would likely be reluctant to put a five-year max offer on the table if the star point guard battles injuries again, which could change the equation.

Circling back to Durant and the Warriors, Windhorst also observes that many people around the league think 2018/19 will be the last season that the team’s current core remains together. Durant is considered more likely to leave than Klay Thompson, but execs also wonder about Draymond Green‘s future, Windhorst notes.

Green will be extension-eligible again next offseason in advance of his 2020 free agency, and could even qualify for a super-max extension if he earns All-NBA honors. The versatile big man has talked about having taken a discount on his last deal and suggested that he doesn’t intend to do so again this time around.

We’re still more than eight months away from the 2019 free agent period getting underway, but with so much cap room available and so many big-name free agents potentially in play, it figures to be the subject of a ton of speculation throughout the 2018/19 season.

Pelicans Notes: Davis, K. Williams, Payton

During a recent Q&A with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Pelicans big man Anthony Davis said he believes he’s the NBA’s best player. His head coach, Alvin Gentry, agreed with that assessment, telling reporters this week that there’s no one in the NBA that New Orleans would trade Davis for, as Andrew Lopez of NOLA.com writes.

“If you don’t want to call him the best, I call him the most valuable. Because if you can trade him for anybody then he is the most valuable guy in the league,” Gentry said, according to Lopez. “There’s no one in the league we would trade him for. … Not even Beyoncé. [If] we wouldn’t trade him for her, then he’s probably untouchable.”

Davis won’t be eligible for free agency in 2020, but this is crucial year for the franchise, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate, who argues that the outcome of the 2018/19 season will be viewed “entirely through the lens of Davis’ future.” As of July 2019, the Pelicans will have the opportunity to lock up Davis to a long-term contract that could make him the highest-paid player in NBA history, and New Orleans’ top priority over the next year will be to sell him on that extension, Kushner says.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • The Pelicans aren’t panicking after their 0-5 preseason, but there are a few issues – particularly on defense – that need to be addressed as the regular season gets underway, Kushner writes in a separate piece for The Advocate.
  • Most undrafted free agents who sign with NBA teams during the summer end up on two-way contracts or playing for G League affiliates. That makes Kenrich Williams a rarity, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Williams’ contract won’t be fully guaranteed until January 10, so his grip on a roster spot isn’t totally secure, but he’s on the Pelicans’ 15-man squad to start the season.
  • The Pelicans will be expecting a lot out of Elfrid Payton this season, as the young point guard will takes over Rajon Rondo‘s role as the starting point guard. However, the Louisiana native is happy to be home and is downplaying the pressure that comes with filling Rondo’s shoes, per Rod Walker of The Advocate. “The only pressure is the pressure I put on myself to be better than I was last year, to be better than I was yesterday,” Payton said. “Just doing my best to get the best out of everybody in here is the only pressure I put on myself.”

Lakers Notes: LeBron, A. Davis, Rondo

After signing one star player this summer, the Lakers‘ plan is to land another one within the next year or two. With that in mind, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com spoke to Kevin Love about LeBron James‘ ability to recruit a second star to Los Angeles, asking Love what he’d tell a top free agent who was considering joining LeBron and the Lakers. According to Love, a player in that scenario would have to be willing to “follow,” as he tells Windhorst.

“You have to be resilient. I had a lot of hard nights. There were dark times,” Love said. “But I always believed keep fighting, I was stubborn about it. And LeBron makes sure you have a chance to win every year. He’s gotten a lot of guys rings. You’re going to win at the highest level. We won and we bonded and we’re going to continue this brotherhood.”

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Much of the speculation about an eventual Anthony Davis trade has centered around the Celtics, but in a piece for Bleacher Report, Eric Pincus makes a case for why the Lakers should actually be viewed as the odds-on favorites to acquire the All-NBA big man. Of course, the Pelicans continue to have no interest in moving Davis to any team, so things would likely have to take a Jimmy Butler-esque turn in New Orleans for the team to even consider the possibility.
  • The offseason acquisition of Rajon Rondo didn’t necessarily fill a positional need, given Lonzo Ball‘s presence at the point, but Rondo is showing why the Lakers signed him, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register, pointing the veteran’s ability to be a leader and game-manager. “He knows how to manage a game,” head coach Luke Walton said earlier this week. “He’s been one of the best point guards in our game for years. And one of the smartest. So he knows what he’s doing.”
  • The Lakers’ game against the Warriors in Las Vegas on Wednesday night provided a glimpse of the NBA’s possible future in the city, writes Tim Dahlberg of The Associated Press. There are groups in the city with interest in bringing the NBA to Vegas on a permanent basis, and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson – honored at halftime – told the crowd, “I hope one day Las Vegas gets an NBA team.”