Elfrid Payton

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Southwest Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Southwest Division:

Maxi Kleber, 27, Mavericks, PF (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $2.19MM deal in 2017
Kleber has received increased playing time since the blockbuster Kristaps Porzingis deal with the Knicks. He’s averaging 10.2 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 25.7 MPG as a starter this month while making 36% of his 3-point attempts. Kleber would be a restricted free agent if Dallas extends a $1.82MM qualifying offer. With loads of cap space to spare, the Mavs have plenty of incentive to make that modest offer for a rotation player, even though he’d probably move back to the bench next season when Porzingis is ready to play again.

Kenneth Faried, Rockets, 29, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $917K deal in 2019
Clint Capela‘s return from a thumb injury this week will reduce the Manimal’s minutes. He’ll still play a valuable role for Houston, where he has revived his career after getting bought out by Brooklyn. After appearing in just 12 games with the Nets, Faried has averaged 15.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG and 1.0 BPG in 13 outings with the Rockets. It seems Faried has been in the league a long time, but he’s still just 29. In an era of stretch fours and fives, it’s questionable whether anyone views Faried as a starter going forward. He should still get a multi-year deal somewhere as a second-unit difference maker.

Justin Holiday, Grizzlies, 29, SF (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $9MM deal in 2017
Holiday was acquired from the Bulls when the Grizzlies still harbored hopes of making the playoffs. He didn’t move the needle at all before Memphis went into sell mode prior to the trade deadline. He’s averaged 8.2 PPG on 34.8% shooting (29.8% on 3-point tries) in 28.5 MPG with the Grizzlies. Holiday has posted below average PERs throughout his career, which doesn’t help his cause in the analytics era. Holiday has enough of a resume to land on someone’s bench next season but his days as a starter are likely over after this season.

Elfrid Payton, Pelicans, 25, PG (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2018
Payton inked a short-term, ‘show me’ contract after the former lottery pick flopped in Orlando and Phoenix. He was given the opportunity to replace free agent Rajon Rondo in the lineup but has spent a majority of the season in the trainer’s room. He’s appeared in just 19 games, with a right ankle sprain sidelining him for the last nine games heading into Friday’s action. The Pelicans lost six of the last eight games that he played. Payton will probably have to settle for another one-year deal this summer, this time in a backup role.

Dante Cunningham, Spurs, 31, SF (Down)– Signed to a one-year, $2.49MM deal in 2018
Cunningham has seen spot duty with the Spurs, averaging 15.9 MPG in 53 appearances. He’s managed to stay in the league for a decade, though he’s usually the No. 5 option at the offensive end. He accepts his limited role and provides some defense, so it’s possible he’ll squeeze out another veteran’s minimum deal with San Antonio or another playoff contender. But being on the wrong side of 30 means he’ll probably have to wait until late in the free agency period for an offer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Notes: Ball, Davis, Lakers, Demps

Although Lonzo Ball would reportedly resist a trade to New Orleans, the Pelicans see him as an important part of any potential deal for Anthony Davis, according to Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Sources tell her that Ball would become the starting point guard in New Orleans and would be given every opportunity to become a star.

Ball’s representatives had expressed concern that he might not have a clear role in a crowded Pelicans backcourt where Elfrid Payton is the starter at point guard and Jrue Holiday can also play that position. However, Holiday “doesn’t want to be a point guard” and prefers his current role, according to one source. It’s not clear whether the Pelicans intend to keep Payton or trade him to another team if they acquire Ball. He has an expiring $3MM contract and will be a free agent this summer.

There’s more Pelicans news to pass along:

  • The Lakers believe New Orleans is targeting Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac as the main components of a Davis trade, relays Sam Amick of The Athletic in an examination of the key players in the drama. However, he adds that L.A. should be prepared to give up Brandon Ingram if that’s what it takes to get a deal finalized before next week’s trade deadline. Sources also tell Amick that LeBron James has been visibly frustrated over the direction the Lakers’ season has taken since he was sidelined with a groin injury on Christmas Day. L.A. has fallen to ninth place in the West, which should increase the urgency to acquire Davis as soon as possible.
  • There has been speculation that the way the Davis situation has played out will eventually cost GM Dell Demps his job, but Justin Verrier of The Ringer points out that there’s no obvious candidate to replace him. In previous years, there was speculation that the Pelicans might ask Joe Dumars to take over, but Verrier suggests Dumars might have been responsible for those rumors. Many of Pelicans’ top executives also work for the NFL’s Saints and don’t have the basketball expertise to run a team. Former Hawks executive Danny Ferry has been serving as a consultant and could be next in line if Demps is dismissed. Verrier’s comments are part of a larger look at whether the NBA has a future in New Orleans.
  • Davis will talk to the media Friday afternoon for the first time since making his trade request, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Knicks Notes: Kanter, Davis, Robinson, Ball

Knicks fans have taken Enes Kanter‘s side in his dispute with coach David Fizdale over playing time, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Kanter has sat out the past four games despite reportedly being promised an expanded role in the wake of an injury to Luke Kornet. Fans at Madison Square Garden expressed their support by chanting Kanter’s name during Sunday’s loss to the Heat.

“[If] it was a road game, I understand,” Kanter said. “But it’s a home game, and the fans wanted to see me out here. And they were chanting. I felt bad I couldn’t go out there and help my teammates and the organization. You can’t go out there and help the fans because they’re paying so much money to come watch us. They want to see me out there.”

Fizdale can’t claim it’s because he’s giving more time to younger players, Berman notes, because 30-year-old Lance Thomas has moved into the starting lineup at power forward. Kanter is a prime candidate to be traded by next week’s deadline or bought out if nothing materializes.

“My agent is saying just keep your head up, stay strong and stay in shape and keep being a good teammate and I’ll handle the rest,” Kanter said. “I’m going to leave it to him.”

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks are expected to be aggressive in their efforts to land Pelicans star Anthony Davis, but the front office isn’t clear on what New Orleans wants in a potential deal, Berman reports in a separate story. New York has a wealth of future assets to offer, including a high lottery pick in this year’s draft and rookie center Mitchell Robinson, a Louisiana native whom the Pelicans have “always liked,” a source tells Berman. New Orleans didn’t have a first-round pick last summer, and Robinson had already been taken before its first selection at No. 52. However, an NBA talent evaluator says the only things the Pelicans would be interested in from the Knicks are Kristaps Porzingis and draft picks.
  • A trade of Davis to the Lakers could help the Knicks solve their problems at point guard, Berman adds in the same piece. Lonzo Ball reportedly doesn’t want to play in New Orleans and could be available if New York gets involved to make it a three-team deal. Berman states that the Knicks “loved” Ball coming out of college and might see him as a long-term answer. It’s also possible that the Pelicans could keep Ball and look to unload Elfrid Payton, whom New York GM Scott Perry drafted in Orlando and tried to acquire at last year’s trade deadline.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic wonders if the Knicks would be willing to surrender their first-round pick and rookie Kevin Knox to the Pelicans to make a deal work for Davis. He also speculates on other players who may be involved in a potential offer.

Lonzo Ball’s Camp Doesn’t Want Him In New Orleans

Lonzo Ball‘s camp would prefer that the second-year point guard be traded to a third team if talks between the Pelicans and Lakers heat up, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Los Angeles is one of the major players in the quest for Anthony Davis, whose desire to be traded became public on Monday.

Ball’s group would want him to go to a team that doesn’t already have an established point guard, Charania adds. New Orleans has Elfrid Payton and combo guard Jrue Holiday in starting roles.

The thinking among Ball’s people is curious, considering Payton isn’t on any list of elite point guards. The former Magic guard is averaging 9.8 PPG and 5.8 APG in 26.9 MPG.

If a deal was struck between the Pelicans and Lakers, Ball wouldn’t be able to play right away wherever he wound up. Ball suffered a high ankle sprain last week and will be sidelined 4-6 weeks.

Southwest Notes: J. Green, J. Jackson, Bickerstaff, Payton

Trading JaMychal Green is the easiest way to open more playing time for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., writes David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Jackson has played well in his first season, but his fourth-quarter minutes have been limited. Green, whose broken jaw early in the season opened the way for Jackson to enter the starting lineup, has quietly accepted a reserve role since returning and is among the most respected veterans in the Grizzlies‘ locker room.

However, Green has an expiring $7.87MM contract and doesn’t seem likely to stay in Memphis as a free agent, Cobb states. With Jackson clearly the team’s power forward of the future, the Grizzlies could pick up at least a draft pick in exchange for Green before the February 7 trade deadline.

Cobb offers a few other suggestions for expanding Jackson’s minutes if they decide to keep Green, including cutting back on playing time for Joakim Noah, who has a negative plus-minus rating in seven of his last eight games, and giving more rest to Marc Gasol, who is averaging 34.6 minutes per night.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The GrizzliesJ.B. Bickerstaff came to Houston as a head coach tonight for the first time since serving as the Rockets‘ interim coach in 2015/16, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Bickerstaff led the team to a 37-34 record that season, but wasn’t retained. “I was here for five years, was a part of some really good teams, got to work with a great coach and friend in Kevin McHale, learned from him every single day, was thrown in the fire a little bit at the interim,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no experience like the experience of being in that seat. My time here, though it ended kind of bumpy, was great for my career, great for me as a coach in learning. And I had some really good times with the people here as well.”
  • The Pelicans had Elfrid Payton in their starting lineup tonight for the first time in more than six weeks. The free agent addition broke his left pinky finger last month and hasn’t played since November 16. Coach Alvin Gentry plans to limit his minutes until he gets back into game shape, tweets Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com.
  • Jordan Greer of The Sporting News looks at six potential targets for the Rockets in their pursuit of wing depth.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Payton, Knight, Walker IV

Mavericks sensation Luka Doncic has drawn comparisons to a young LeBron James early in his rookie season, stuffing the stat sheet and impacting the game on both ends of the floor as the team’s lead player through 33 games.

Doncic, who was drafted by the Mavs with the No. 3 pick in June, has been a prime Rookie of the Year candidate with averages of 19 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.1 APG on 43% shooting from the field. The sudden comparisons to a player of James’ caliber have amazed the young star.

“I mean, it’s amazing,” Doncic said of the comparisons, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “You all know that he’s my idol, so it’s just amazing to be there.”

Doncic’s preferred team on draft night was the Mavericks, with agent Bill Duffy making a strong push to land his client in Dallas at the time, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Doncic has quickly become a household name at just 19 years old, working to become the next face of the Mavericks organization.

“He’s made a name for himself,” Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki said. “Any time you’re known by just your first name after just a few months in the league, that’s a great sign.”

Here are some other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton participated in parts of practice Thursday with a splint on his finger, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). Guillory also reports the Pelicans are hopeful Payton can return in the next week, with the 24-year-old rehabbing from a broken finger suffered in November.
  • Brandon Knight is still acclimating to his new situation with the Rockets, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle writes“He’s in a tough spot,” coach Mike D’Antoni said of Knight. “He hasn’t played in a year and a half. This is not an experimental league. We don’t really practice. He needs to play, and we’re not in a position to allow that.” Knight has appeared in six games with the Rockets this season.
  • Spurs rookie Lonnie Walker IV continues to have a positive mindset despite not making his season debut yet. Walker has traveled to the Spurs’ G League team and back several times this season, working to improve after tearing his meniscus in the preseason. “Everyone always has higher hopes,” Walker said, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “It’s your rookie season. You can’t compare yourself to other people. It’s a horse race. You’ve got to stay in your own lane. Sooner or later, I see that light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it’s now or next year or my third year, it’s only a matter of time until people understand who Lonnie Walker is. So I’m not (in) too much of a rush. Patience is key.”

Elfrid Payton Expected To Miss About Six Weeks

The Pelicans have confirmed in a press release that point guard Elfrid Payton will undergo surgery to repair his broken left pinky finger, and have provided a recovery timeline. According to the team, Payton is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks.

[RELATED: Elfrid Payton to undergo surgery on broken finger]

Payton, who signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the Pelicans over the offseason, looked like a bargain in the early going, helping lead his new team to four straight wins to open the season. In those four games, he averaged 14.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 7.0 APG with a .511/.429/.636 shooting line in 32.0 MPG.

However, Payton left his fifth game early with an ankle sprain, missed New Orleans’ next nine games, then played just eight minutes in his return to action before breaking his finger. The Pelicans are just 5-7 in the games that Payton has missed or departed early.

With Payton sidelined, Jrue Holiday will see more time at the point, with Ian Clark, Tim Frazier, and Frank Jackson also in the mix. The Pelicans have liked to play Holiday off the ball over the last couple years, so it will be interesting to see if the team makes an effort to add another ball-handler in Payton’s absence. New Orleans doesn’t currently have an open roster spot, though one of the club’s two-way slots is available.

If Payton is able to get back on the court exactly six weeks from today, he’d be on track to return on December 31 against Minnesota, having missed 21 more games.

Elfrid Payton To Have Surgery On Broken Pinky

Pelicans guard Elfrid Payton will have surgery next week after breaking his left pinky finger in Friday night’s game, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. A timetable for his return won’t be set until after the operation, adds Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the planned procedure today in a pre-game meeting with reporters.

Payton suffered the injury in the first quarter of his first game back in the lineup after returning from a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for nine games. He was diagnosed with a fractured finger and didn’t return.

Signed as a free agent over the summer, Payton has been limited to six games with the Pelicans, but has been productive when he has been on the court. Even with Friday’s brief action, he is averaging 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per night.

And-Ones: Ball Brothers, Payton, G. Green, Draft

Lonzo Ball‘s younger brothers are set to remain stateside after spending a portion of the 2017/18 season in Lithuania. Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) reported earlier this week that LiAngelo Ball has let G League teams know of his intent to sign a contract with the league. The NBAGL formally notifies its teams when a player enters the player pool, and as of this afternoon, there had been no official word on Ball, per Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link). Still, that should happen soon.

Meanwhile, LaMelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo and LiAngelo, told Franklyn Calle of Slam that he’ll play high school ball this season. LaMelo, who said that he’s “excited” to return to high school for his senior year, is enrolling at prep school Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio, according to Calle.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Elfrid Payton‘s one-year, $3MM contract with the Pelicans was hardly one of the summer’s major deals, but New Orleans has badly missed Payton while he has been sidelined with an ankle injury. Scott Kushner of The Advocate has the story on the point guard, who was injured during the Pelicans’ first loss of the season and has seen his team go 1-5 since then.
  • After being in camp with the Pelicans this fall, Garlon Green has signed with Russian club Khimki, according to an official announcement from the team (hat tip to Sportando). Green, the younger brother of Rockets swingman Gerald Green, was waived by New Orleans along with Jarrett Jack at the end of the preseason.
  • With the 2018/19 NCAA season underway, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today has published his first NBA mock draft for 2019. Meanwhile, Alberto De Roa of HoopsHype identifies several of the top international prospects who could declare for the 2019 draft.

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.”