Brandon Ingram

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mavericks, Benson, Aldridge

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram, recently crowned the Most Improved Player for the 2019/20 season, made significant strides this season after his trade from the Lakers, per William Guillory of The Athletic.

Ingram specifically credits the time he logged watching game tape, both of himself with the Lakers and of the Pelicans’ offense, with his performative improvement. “When I wasn’t on the court, I just had to visualize things,” Ingram said during a media Zoom conversation Monday. “I had to watch film … It helped me out.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Following an exciting 2019/20 campaign that ended in a 4-2 loss to the Clippers, Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at the Mavericks‘ roster. Caplan assesses player performance this season and projects how players will fare next year, looking at everyone from All-Star Luka Doncic to crucial veteran role player Trey Burke.
  • After testing positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Pelicans (and Saints) owner Gayle Benson has been cleared to return to team activities by doctors, per Jeff Duncan of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • The Spurs apparently tried to shop big man LaMarcus Aldridge at this season’s trade deadline, though potential trade partners balked at San Antonio’s requested return haul, as we previously reported.

Brandon Ingram Wins Most Improved Player Award

Brandon Ingram has been named the league’s Most Improved Player, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets.

The Pelicans forward collected 42 first-place votes and 326 total points to edge Heat center Bam Adebayo, who picked up 38 first-place votes and 295 points. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (12 first-place votes, 101 points) finished a distant third. A global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters voted on the award.

The seeding games in Orlando were not considered when the voting was conducted.

From the beginning of the season through the stoppage of play on March 11, Ingram averaged 24.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 4.3 APG in 34.3 MPG in 56 games.  He was one of seven players to average at least 24.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.0 steals this season.

He will be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Ingram made 137 3-pointers in games played through March 11, which is more than he recorded in his first three seasons combined (127).

Ingram, who turns 23 on Sept. 2, was selected as a reserve for the 2020 NBA All-Star Game in his first season with New Orleans after being included in the blockbuster, multi-team deal that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. Ingram averaged 18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 3.0 APG in 33.8 MPG in 52 games with the Lakers last season.

The Raptors’ Pascal Siakam won the award last year and finished seventh in voting this season. The full voting results can be found right here.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Restart Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this off-season. With the seeding games winding down at the Orlando campus, it’s time to examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors.

Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers, 36, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.16MM deal in 2019
Remember when Anthony’s reps were practically begging teams to give their client one more chance to play in the league? Carmelo took advantage of his opportunity with the Trail Blazers, finally accepting his new status as a role player instead of being the No. 1 offensive option. He’s turned it up a notch in Orlando during the Blazers’ run to the play-in round. The slimmed-down Anthony has reached the 20-point mark four times in eight games and made 46.9% of his 3s, while also being a factor on the boards (6.9 RPG). He won’t have to lobby for another contract after this season, nor will he have to accept the veteran’s minimum again.

Brandon Ingram, Pelicans, 22, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $23.8MM deal in 2016
It’s not that Ingram was terrible in Orlando. It’s just that the Pelicans stunk up the joint and the stench clung to everyone involved. Following a breakout season which earned him an All-Star selection, Ingram was unable to carry his team into the play-in round. New Orleans’ poor performances left everyone wondering whether the roster should be reshaped, especially with the front office owning a boatload of draft picks. And Zion Williamson isn’t going anywhere. So while Ingram will still get rewarded handsomely in restricted free agency, is he worth franchise-player type money? There’s no guarantee now the Pels will match if he gets a giant offer sheet.

Cameron Payne, Suns, 26, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.17MM deal in 2020
Payne was on the free agent market this summer and was signed to fill an open roster spot prior to the restart. Phoenix didn’t bring him in simply for insurance. He appeared in all eight seeding games as a backup point guard, averaging 10.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG and 3.0 APG in 22.9 MPG. Though he signed a two-year contract, only $25K of that money for next season is guaranteed, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks recently noted. The way Payne performed in Orlando, he should have no trouble staying on the roster and earning the rest of his $1.977MM salary for 2020/21 as a second-unit player.

Tyler Johnson, Nets, 28, PG/SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $217K deal in 2020
Johnson signed a four-year, $50MM offer sheet with Brooklyn four summers ago but Miami chose to retain him. He finally wound up with the Nets in free agency and got just over $200K in a rest-of-the-season deal. No matter. Johnson was happy to get fresh start and it has shown during Brooklyn’s gritty performances in Orlando. He’s averaged 12.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 3.0 APG in 24.3 MPG and can now continue his push for another contract during the postseason. If the Nets don’t retain him, Johnson should easily find a home as a second-unit combo guard.

Jerian Grant, Wizards, 27, PG/SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $197K deal in 2020
Grant was signed as a substitute player in June after Davis Bertans opted out of the restart. Grant called it a “dream come true” to play for his hometown team, but he didn’t give the Wizards much incentive to re-sign him to an NBA contract. He appeared in six restart games, averaging 4.5 PPG and 1.5 APG in 13.3 MPG while shooting 25% from long range. Grant spent most of the season with the Wizards’ G League team and he may have to go that route again or look into overseas options.

Pelicans Rumors: Gentry, Ingram, Ball, Zion

With the Pelicans‘ 2019/20 season set to come to an end following Thursday’s seeding game against the Magic, the next big question the team must answer revolves around Alvin Gentry‘s future. The veteran head coach has now made the postseason just once in five years since arriving in New Orleans.

While the Pelicans have had to deal with some injuries over the course of those five years, the team had loftier expectations, especially considering Anthony Davis was on the roster for those first four years. Additionally, New Orleans appeared to be in prime position to compete for the final playoff spot in the West this summer, but has played underwhelming basketball during the restart, losing five of its seven games, including two to Sacramento.

Within a discussion about the Pelicans’ offseason, Sam Amick of The Athletic says he’d be “very surprised” if Gentry is back for the 2020/21 season, suggesting there are strong signs that head of basketball operations David Griffin would like to make a change. In Amick’s view, Tyronn Lue and even Mike D’Antoni could be candidates worth keeping an eye on if New Orleans decides to move on from Gentry.

Still, Amick and fellow Athletic reporter David Aldridge caution that finances could play a part in the Pelicans’ decision. Gentry is owed more than $5MM for the 2020/21 season, the final year of his current deal. Team ownership may be reluctant to pay off that contract and pay a new head coach next season, given the financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had.

Here’s more on Gentry and the Pelicans:

  • In an opinion column for NOLA.com, Scott Kushner makes the case for why the Pelicans should move on from Gentry, writing that the team’s “lethargic, uninspired” play during the restart served as “irrefutable evidence” that a new voice is needed.
  • Checking in on the Brandon Ingram situation in New Orleans, Shams Charania of The Athletic says that re-signing the young forward remains the plan for the Pelicans, who have remained in touch with agent Jeff Schwartz all season. Ingram is viewed as a likely maximum-salary player, Charania adds.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic has heard from sources at the NBA’s campus in Orlando that they expect “significant roster adjustments” for the Pelicans this offseason. Aldridge also hears that Lonzo Ball “looked like he’d checked out” during the restart.
  • Asked today about his offseason plans, Zion Williamson said he intends to work on his game and to “get his body where it needs to be,” tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Williamson didn’t offer additional specifics on where his body needs to be, indicating he needs to talk to the team about that.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Mills, McLemore, Johnson

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram said on Monday that New Orleans will number among his “top choices” in free agency during the 2020 offseason, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

Ingram, 22, will be a restricted free agent this summer. Considering his growth with the team, whatever offer is tendered to Ingram by another club would almost certainly be matched by the Pelicans. Ingram hailed his current NBA home as a “special place with a lot of really, really good people.”

A 2-4 showing thus far in the NBA’s Orlando campus has doomed the 30-40 Pelicans to miss the playoffs this season, but with Ingram and promising rookie Zion Williamson established as the team’s two cornerstones, they look to be an attractive destination for free agent players.

Here’s more out of the NBA’s Southwest Division:

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has addressed the fact that point guard Patty Mills has not played much during the NBA’s season restart in Orlando, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link).  “Might as well stay whole and take a rest,” Popovich said of Mills. “(He’s) kind of like a humming bird. He plays at such a high level of competitiveness, I’d rather have him whole for next season.”
  • Rockets guard Ben McLemore, who has had a stellar showing for Houston during the team’s Orlando tenure, has just rejoined Klutch Sports for representation, per Ben DuBose of USA Today. McLemore’s previous agent was Jarinn Akana of Dynasty Sports Management. McLemore is currently signed to a two-year veteran’s minimum contract with a team option for the 2020/21 season. Given his recent play, it seems probable that Houston will retain him.
  • Spurs rookie forward Keldon Johnson has started to come into his own during the NBA’s Orlando seeding games, according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Johnson, drafted with the No. 29 pick in 2019 out of Kentucky, has emerged as a rotation player for San Antonio during the season restart. He notched career highs of 24 points and 11 rebounds in a crucial victory over the Rockets today. “He’s a high energy guy,” Popovich said of the rookie. “Very physical. Very competitive. Very coachable.”

Pelicans Notes: Williamson, Gentry, Favors, Ball

The Pelicans were a huge disappointment during the restart and it raises some long-term questions about the roster, according to William Guillory of The Athletic.

Zion Williamson didn’t show improvement in his ball-handling or defense despite the hiatus to work on those aspects of his game, and his weight and lack of conditioning were also issues. The staff was cautious regarding the rookie’s minutes and even sat him out for a game during a back-to-back.

The offseason could be complicated by decisions regarding the futures of Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors with the franchise, Guillory adds.

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • The team’s poor finish has put Alvin Gentry firmly on the hot seat but he’d like to think the front office has faith in him, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets. Regarding the decision whether to retain him, Gentry replied: “That’s not in my job description. If it was, I wouldn’t fire myself.”
  • Favors said on Monday that he’d like to re-sign with the team, Guillory tweets. The 29-year-old big man heads into unrestricted free agency after averaging 9.0 PPG and 9.8 RPG this season. “Hopefully, they’ll have me back,” he said.
  • Ball was disappointed with his performance in Orlando but he’s generally pleased with how his first year in New Orleans unfolded, Mannix writes. “Overall, I think it was a positive experience,” Ball said. “I’m definitely looking forward to next year. I don’t think the whole season should be put on the bubble. Look at the whole year. We made a lot of growth … I’m proud of that.”
  • As we noted earlier, Williamson, Holiday and Ingram will sit out on Tuesday in what amounts to a meaningless game against Sacramento.

Giannis Antetokounmpo To Miss Monday’s Game

The Bucks and Raptors will face one another on Monday night in a possible Eastern Conference Finals preview, but the MVP frontrunner won’t be taking part in the game. Milwaukee announced in this afternoon’s injury report that Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t play against Toronto due to oral surgery.

It’s probably safe to assume the ailment wouldn’t sideline Antetokounmpo for an important playoff game, but with the Bucks and Raptors locked into the East’s Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, there’s no real need for the two teams to go all-out tonight.

It’s possible the Raptors will be without some of their key rotation players as well. Kyle Lowry (lower back soreness), Fred VanVleet (hyperextended right knee), and Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion) are all listed as questionable for the second end of a back-to-back set.

Here are a few more injury and availability updates from around the NBA:

  • Rockets star James Harden will sit out on Tuesday vs. San Antonio for rest purposes, tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. However, Houston will get two other guards back this week, per Feigen, who says that Russell Westbrook (quad) will return on Tuesday and Eric Gordon (ankle) will play on Wednesday vs. Indiana. Each player will suit up for one of two games in the back-to-back set.
  • The Pelicans have listed Jrue Holiday (right elbow contusion), Brandon Ingram (right knee soreness), and Zion Williamson (right knee soreness) as out for Tuesday’s game vs. Sacramento. Head coach Alvin Gentry said today that the three players are sitting out for “precautionary” reasons, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez (Twitter link). New Orleans was eliminated from playoff contention over the weekend.
  • It’s not an injury, but Suns center Deandre Ayton didn’t start this afternoon’s game vs. Oklahoma City because he missed his scheduled COVID-19 test on Sunday, tweets Gina Mizell. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links), Ayton was re-tested on Monday morning and received clearance to rejoin the team, arriving late to the game against the Thunder.

Southwest Notes: Ingram, Popovich, Doncic, Zion

Brandon Ingram had planned to be a Lakers star for a long time, but that changed when Anthony Davis became available last summer. Ingram was part of a package of young talent that was sent to the Pelicans for the star big man, but he has fond memories of his three seasons in Los Angeles, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register.

“I think it’s love from each end, because if it was a bad remark or a negative remark, maybe go back, re-tune something and get better at it,” he said of his relationship with Lakers fans. “If it was a good remark, then I thank them for knowing the game of basketball and the person that I am, and that I was gonna get better. So it’s all love from each side. I still got love for the Laker fans, I still got love for the Duke fans.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Gregg Popovich continues to stress player development even though his Spurs are in the middle of the battle for the eighth and ninth seeds in the Western Conference, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Veteran guard Patty Mills sat out Friday’s win over the Jazz to give time to Keldon Johnson, Quinndary Weatherspoon and Drew Eubanks, none of whom have playoff experience. “This is all about development, I’ve said that from the beginning,” Popovich said. “The young guys, they get evaluated, we see them playing together and we get to determine how valuable they are in terms of the guys we want to move forward with.”
  • The Grizzlies used a lineup change Friday to pick up their first win since arriving in Orlando, Vardon adds in the same story. Brandon Clarke had been replacing injured big man Jaren Jackson Jr., but coach Taylor Jenkins opted to go with Anthony Tolliver. Memphis outscored Oklahoma City by 21 points while Tolliver was on the court.
  • Three ESPN writers look at what to expect from Mavericks guard Luka Doncic as he gets ready for his first NBA playoff series.
  • Zion Williamson is expected to be ready to face the Spurs tomorrow in a crucial game in the playoff race, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times. Williamson missed Friday’s game, but the Pelicans didn’t list anyone on today’s injury report.

NBA Announces Finalists For 2019/20 Awards

The NBA has announced the finalists for several awards as the seeding games on the Orlando campus move forward and the postseason nears. It was announced in July that all awards for the 2019/20 season would be based on games up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play. Media members made their votes before the seeding games began on July 30.

NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Billy Donovan (Thunder)
  • Nick Nurse (Raptors)

The winners for the awards will be announced during the NBA playoffs after the seeding games period concludes on August 14.

Southwest Notes: Zion, J. Jackson, Belinelli, Cash

After playing limited minutes and sitting in crunch time during the Pelicans‘ first two games – both losses – Zion Williamson logged 25 minutes and was a key contributor down the stretch as New Orleans closed out a Monday win over Memphis. After the game, Williamson told ESPN’s Malika Andrews that he “felt alive again,” per Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“I ain’t gonna lie to you, it’s just different in a bad way when I’m on the bench in the fourth quarter, and there’s nothing I can do to help my team win,” Williamson said. “So I said I felt alive — it was just great to be out there doing whatever I can to help my team win.”

In addition to Williamson’s contributions, the Pelicans also got 24 points and some key late baskets from Brandon Ingram, while Josh Hart chipped in 15 points and Lonzo Ball was a game-best +15. The performances prompted head coach Alvin Gentry to praise his young core after the win.

“When you have two really young players (Williamson and Ingram) like that who stepped up for you, and Josh Hart, you know, Josh is a very young kid, too,” Gentry said. “I think if you look at it, we have a good, young nucleus of players along with some of the veteran guys we have.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explores the impact that losing Jaren Jackson Jr. will have on the Grizzlies‘ push to secure a playoff spot. As O’Connor writes, Memphis is well ahead of schedule in its rebuild and should be pleased with the season as a whole, but there’s a chance it will end on a “decidedly sour note.”
  • Speaking of Jackson, he’s staying at the Walt Disney World campus for now, according to Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins (Twitter link via ESPN’s Malika Andrews). However, Jackson may need to leave at some point for treatment and/or rehab work related to his meniscus tear, Jenkins acknowledged.
  • Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, who sprained his left ankle during the team’s first game of the restart last week, is active today after missing a pair of games, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at Pelicans VP of basketball operations and team development Swin Cash, who is the first Black woman to hold such a high-ranking basketball ops position for an NBA franchise.