Brandon Ingram

Southwest Notes: Wood, Ingram, Bane, Tripp

Of all the free agents who signed this offseason, no one had a more difficult path to a big-money deal than Christian Wood, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Wood went undrafted out of college, played for five NBA teams and was waived in China before breaking through last season with the Pistons.

“Coming back from China (in 2017) and going into the G League, I knew I had to step up,” Wood said. “I actually got cut from that China team. They said I wasn’t good enough at the time. That chip on my shoulder from me being undrafted and me being waived from there, I knew I had to change. It’s a journey I wouldn’t put anybody on. It’s a journey I learned a lot from to get to where I am now. I wouldn’t have asked for it to be any other way because it made me (get) to where I am now.”

Wood is reuniting with new Rockets head coach Stephen Silas, who was an assistant in Charlotte when Wood played there in 2016/17. He is looking forward to being part of Silas’ five-out offense, which requires big men who can shoot from the outside.

“I like to get out and run,” Wood said. “I know the Houston Rockets like to get out and run. The way James (Harden) and other guys play around him, I think I can be a great fit.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Brandon Ingram‘s new contract shows the Pelicans consider him as much a part of their future as Zion Williamson, notes William Guillory of The Athletic. Ingram signed the largest contract of the offseason, earning $158.25MM over the next five years.
  • Desmond Bane‘s deadly outside shot, along with his maturity and competitiveness, inspired the Grizzlies to trade up to the 30th pick, according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Bane averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 44.2% from beyond the arc last season at TCU. “He was a guy that kind of rose to the top because he fits so many things that we’re about here,” said Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins. “He’s a playmaker and he’s unselfish. Those are big things we talked about being a together and unselfish team.”
  • The Grizzlies signed Pacific guard Jahlil Tripp to a training camp contract, the team announced on Twitter. Tripp won Defensive Player of the Year honors last season in the West Coast Conference.

Pelicans, Brandon Ingram Agree To Five-Year Max Contract

The top restricted free agent of 2020 is officially off the board, as the Pelicans and forward Brandon Ingram have reached an agreement on a five-year, maximum-salary contract, agents Jeff Schwartz and Jordan Gertler tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The deal will be worth $158.25MM over five seasons.

Ingram, who was ranked No. 2 on our list of 2020’s top free agents, figures to sign the biggest free agent contract of the ’20 offseason, unless Anthony Davis opts for a long-term deal with the Lakers.

After being traded from Los Angeles to New Orleans as part of the package for Davis in 2019, Ingram – who was coming off a blood clot issue that prematurely ended his 2018/19 season – turned down a “more modest” extension offer from the Pelicans, per Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Ingram’s bet on himself paid off in a big way, as he morphed into the Pelicans’ go-to scorer in 2019/20, averaging 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 4.2 APG with a .463/.391/851 shooting line in 62 games (33.9 MPG). The 23-year-old also made an All-Star team for the first time in his career, setting himself up for a maximum-salary deal with New Orleans.

Although Ingram and the Pelicans took a few days to formally reach an agreement, this outcome was always expected — New Orleans would have matched any offer sheet the 6’7″ forward signed, so it made sense for the two sides to negotiate directly and take their time to get something done.

Ingram, whose new contract will run through 2025, represents one of the cornerstone pieces in the Pelicans’ rebuild, alongside Zion Williamson. A young core that also includes Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, Kira Lewis Jr., and Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be complemented in 2020/21 by newly-acquired veterans Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe, as well as sharpshooter J.J. Redick.

With Ingram back under contract, the Pelicans’ major offseason moves should be complete. The team has a tiny of bit of breathing room below the tax line and doesn’t plan to fill its 15th roster spot with another guaranteed contract for now, per Will Guillory of The Athletic.

Meanwhile, Ingram’s deal means that the only 2020 restricted free agent (besides two-way players) whose contract situation has yet to be resolved is Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s — the Kings have until the end of the day to decide whether or not to match his offer sheet with the Hawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Max Contracts Expected For Ingram, Tatum, Mitchell

Teams around the NBA are projecting Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell to agree to maximum-salary contracts with their respective teams not long after free agency opens, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Ingram, the top restricted free agent on the market this fall, made the All-Star team for the first time in 2020, averaging 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 4.2 APG as the Pelicans’ go-to scorer. His maximum salary for the coming season will be $27.3MM and he could earn up to $158.3MM if he signs a full five-year contract. A four-year max deal would be worth $122.2MM.

As for Tatum and Mitchell, neither player is a free agent this year, but both are eligible for rookie scale extensions that will go into effect in 2021/22. They’ve long been considered two of the most likely players from this year’s group of rookie-extension-eligible players to sign lucrative new contracts, so Stein’s report comes as no surprise.

The value of Tatum’s and Mitchell’s contracts will depend on how much the cap increases for the ’21/22 season. A 3% increase would result in a total value of at least $163MM over five years. That number could go a little higher if Rose Rule language is included in their new deals and they make an All-NBA team in 2021.

Stein adds that Anthony Davis is expected to be a max-salary player too, which is a given. A report earlier today indicated that Davis may take his time considering the length and structure of his contract before formally re-signing with the Lakers.

All-Star Brandon Ingram, Others Receive Qualifying Offers

Pelicans All-Star forward Brandon Ingram has become a restricted free agent after New Orleans extended him his $9.48MM qualifying offer, Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports tweets.

The No. 2 pick by the Lakers in 2016, Ingram was one of the key players moved in the mega-blockbuster summer 2019 trade that sent Anthony Davis from the Pelicans to Los Angeles. He was voted the Most Improved Player and received his first All-Star berth during his inaugural season with the Pelicans in 2019/20. He is widely considered one of the best free agents among the 2020 class.

The Pelicans also issued a qualifying offer to two-way player Zylan Cheatham, Smith noted in a separate tweet. The 6’5″ forward out of San Diego State and Arizona State saw his first NBA action in three games for New Orleans during this past season.

Listed below are a few more updates on two-way players being issued qualifying offers across the NBA. These offers are one-year, two-way deals with a $50K guarantee. While these players are free to accept their QOs, most will probably seek a standard contract with their current team or an offer sheet with a new club, if possible.

  • Two-way Raptors small forward Oshae Brissett was tendered a qualifying offer, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. The 6’7″ 21-year-old out of Syracuse appeared in 19 games for Toronto, and is now a two-way restricted free agent.
  • Timberwolves two-way players Kelan Martin and Jordan McLaughlin were both extended qualifying offers by Minnesota, making them two-way restricted free agents, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). Martin, a 6’5″ small forward out of Butler, appeared in 31 games with the Timberwolves, averaging 6.4 PPG and 3.1 RPG. McLaughlin, a 5’11” point guard out of USC, averaged 7.6 PPG and 4.2 APG across 30 games for Minnesota. He also exhibited a solid three-point stroke, knocking down 38.2% of his 2.5 three-point attempts.
  • The Knicks have made two-way point guard Jared Harper a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent, per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
  • 6’5″ Jazz two-way forward Jarrell Brantley has been given a qualifying offer by the Jazz, effectively making him a restricted free agent, per Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Brantley appeared in nine games for Utah.

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.