Elfrid Payton

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Jackson, Johnson

The Pistons have “quietly explored” the trade market for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, two of their roster’s centerpieces, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reports in his latest piece, which is a deep dive into the situation in Detroit. According to Lowe, the Pistons came away disappointed with what teams might be willing to offer for Drummond or Jackson, reducing the likelihood of either player being moved in the next eight days.

Still, while a Drummond trade remains an “extreme long shot,” a deal involving Jackson isn’t entirely off the table. Lowe suggests the Timberwolves, Magic, and Pelicans are among the potential suitors for the veteran point guard, if Detroit is willing to settle for a modest return. Per Lowe, Jackson’s value has “cratered,” and a player like Ricky Rubio is one of the few solid starters the Pistons could get in any trade package. Lottery teams seeking a long-term solution at point guard are unwilling to move their first-round picks for Jackson, and Detroit isn’t ready to simply dump him for a collection of expiring contracts.

In his attempt to find a potential trade partner for a Jackson deal, Lowe identifies the Magic and Nuggets, pointing to players like Elfrid Payton and Emmanuel Mudiay as possible trade pieces. However, while Mudiay is believed to be available, Denver doesn’t appear to have interest in Jackson. Lowe notes that Orlando is an “intriguing” possibility, since GM Rob Hennigan was in Oklahoma City’s front office when the team drafted Jackson.

Here’s more from Lowe on Jackson, along with a few other intriguing Pistons-related tidbits:

  • The Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, but never engaged in serious talks, league sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, several Pistons players criticized Jackson during a December players-only meeting for his apparent lack of effort on defense. Drummond tells Lowe that the criticism “wasn’t cool,” since Jackson was coming off an injury and wasn’t yet 100%. However, both Drummond and Stan Van Gundy acknowledge that the team has struggled to adjust to Jackson’s presence on the court this year after finding a groove early in the season with Ish Smith handling the point.
  • According to Lowe, a fear that top free agents won’t come to Detroit has pushed the Pistons to acquire solid players on good contracts when they become available. Those players aren’t always a fit with Drummond and Van Gundy, which has contributed to some of the team’s roster issues.
  • Multiple teams, including the Spurs, made an effort to nab Stanley Johnson in a trade after Van Gundy publicly called out the second-year forward earlier in the season. Although the Pistons rebuffed those efforts, the team has been frustrated by Devin Booker‘s development in comparison to Johnson’s, since the draft room was “almost deadlocked” between those two players in 2015, says Lowe.
  • The Pistons are unlikely to make a major move until closer to the draft, since they want to make the playoffs and are reluctant to do anything that will adversely impact their odds of earning a postseason spot, says Lowe. The ESPN analyst notes that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency will be an interesting case to follow this offseason, since the Pistons may have to shed a salary – perhaps Tobias Harris‘ or Boban Marjanovic‘s – if they need to match a max offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope.

Lowe’s Latest: Bledsoe, Knight, Nuggets, Mudiay

Eric Bledsoe is enjoying the best season of his NBA career so far in 2016/17, putting up career-best marks in PPG (21.6), APG (6.2), and several other categories. As Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes, Bledsoe’s impressive season raises the question of whether the Suns should sell high on the veteran point guard or commit to him a part of the team’s long-term future.

Phoenix projects to have a top pick in a 2017 draft that will be loaded with point guards, and Bledsoe has undergone three knee surgeries already, so there’s a case to be made that the Suns would be wise to sell high on him. However, don’t count head coach Earl Watson among those who feels that way. “I can almost guarantee Devin [Booker] and Eric will be on the same team next year,” Watson said, per Lowe.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • As a parenthetical aside in his discussion of Bledsoe, Lowe writes that “nobody wants” Suns guard Brandon Knight. Knight has been mentioned more frequently than Bledsoe as a trade candidate, but if Phoenix hopes to secure a substantial return, it doesn’t sound like moving Knight will accomplish that.
  • The Nuggets are “quietly exploring” what sort of return they could get for a package of Emmanuel Mudiay and multiple picks, sources tell Lowe. The ESPN analyst isn’t sure the Suns would be a logical trade partner for Denver though, since Phoenix will have the opportunity to draft a point guard in the summer. Lowe adds that Denver is in no rush to move Mudiay.
  • The Suns would have to consider moving Bledsoe if the right team were to offer a “good wing or center, plus a high first-round pick,” according to Lowe. However, he adds that most teams are reluctant to move probable lottery picks at this time of year, when it’s still not clear where they’ll land in the draft.
  • Although there’s no indication that the two teams are discussing such a deal, and he acknowledges that there would be roadblocks, Lowe offers his favorite hypothetical Bledsoe deal, involving the Magic: Lowe’s proposal would see Nikola Vucevic, Mario Hezonja, and Orlando’s 2017 pick go to the Suns in exchange for Bledsoe and Alex Len. Per Lowe, the Magic front office remains “divided” on whether or not Elfrid Payton is the club’s long-term solution at point guard.

Eastern Notes: Draft, Knicks, Magic, Pacers

The Knicks‘ biggest need is a long-term answer at the point guard position and the upcoming draft should provide them an opportunity to pair Kristaps Porzingis with a playmaker, Chad Ford of ESPN.com writes. New York will likely pick in the bottom half of the lottery and Ford believes Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox, who is expected to go in that range, would be a great fit for the team. Fox is a fast, defensive-minded point guard and while he’s not the best shooter, his playmaking skills are “top-notch,” according to Ford.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • UCLA’s Lonzo Ball would fit nicely in Orlando, Ford opines in the same piece. The Magic currently have Elfrid Payton manning the point guard position and he’s having a nice season. However, if they draft Ball, he’d immediately have the highest ceiling of any player on the team, Ford adds.
  • The Wizards‘ bench unit has been key to their success lately, especially on the road, as J. Michael of Comcast Sportsnet details. Offseason addition Trey Burke has made 11 out of his last 17 shots from the field during the last four away games. He also has 10 assists over that stretch.
  • Al Jefferson is enjoying his role as a mentor with the Pacers, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Thirteen years in the league, I feel like I’m at the teaching point. I like that. I really do,” Jefferson said. The big man signed a two-year, $20MM deal with Indiana during the offseason.

Eastern Notes: Williams, Payton, Biyombo

The Nuggets are waiving Mo Williams for the second time in a week, but this time, the Sixers are not expected to claim him, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. Philadelphia is planning to keep Chasson Randle on the roster, so they don’t have a spot open for the retired point guard.

Williams’ contract holds value for the Nuggets and it would for the Sixers as well since both teams are under the salary floor, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors detailed earlier today. The point guard has already been paid over half of his salary, which is worth slightly under $2.2MM, but the whole amount would count toward a team’s salary cap. If the team doesn’t reach the salary floor, the transaction of waiving Williams would save the franchise roughly $1MM this season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic GM Rob Hennigan is “encouraged and excited” about the play of Elfrid Payton this season, as he tells Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. “I think especially over the last few weeks he appears to be gaining a level of aggressiveness and comfort at the position that I think bodes well for our team,” Hennigan said. “I think, like anyone on our team, our goal is to improve. Our goal is to get better. And we need to explore any means necessary to do that. But certainly with E.P.’s play and his work ethic and our belief in how good he can become he’s certainly an integral part of our team and very, very valuable to us.”
  • Hennigan said free agent addition Bismack Biyombo has brought the Magic exactly what they were looking for when they signed the big man, as Robbins passes along in the same piece. “I think Biz has brought to our team exactly what we anticipated: his toughness, his energy, his spirit, his ability to be a paint presence defensively. Like most of our players, we think his best basketball is still ahead of him based on his age and his work ethic,” Hennigan said.
  • Rookie center Willy Hernangomez is earning a larger role on the Knicks, Al Iannazzone of Newsday writes. “He’s got great knowledge of the game, understanding and feel,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He has no fear when he gets out there about who he’s playing against. When you have a guy who knows how to play the game, a lot of good things happen.”

Southeast Notes: Payton, Fournier, Waiters, White

Magic point guard Elfrid Payton may have played well enough to win his starting job back, according to John Denton of NBA.com. Payton was among three players demoted when coach Frank Vogel changed the starting lineup November 27th. But Payton has raised his scoring average, assist totals and shooting percentages since the move, and Vogel is thinking about making him a starter again. “He’s competing and it’s my job to figure out if it’s best to keep him where he is and where he’s having success or to move him back in the starting lineup,’’ Vogel said. “I’m sure that we’ll probably look at that [starting him] at some point. I’d like to see him do this over a consistent stretch and I still might keep him where he is because he’s having success there. It’s just one of the things that I’m monitoring game to game.’’

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have been without leading scorer Evan Fournier since Thursday because of a bruised right heel, Denton notes in the same story. Fournier has been trying ice, massages and stimulation to ease the pain on the heel, but he was forced to miss another game tonight. “It’s definitely getting better, but one of the bad things about the NBA is that when you have so many games and it takes a week or so, in that time you have three games,’’ he said.
  • Heat guard Dion Waiters may find his playing time limited when he returns from a groin injury, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel. Waiters’ isolation game was useful when the team was shorthanded, but Winderman states that ball movement is now being emphasized and the development of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson at the wing spots is key to the team’s future. Waiters is considered very likely to opt out of the second season of his contract, and Winderman believes Miami may trade him before he can make that decision.
  • The Heat should consider unloading Luke Babbitt or Derrick Williams to make room for a younger prospect at power forward, Winderman suggests in the same piece. One possibility is Okaro White, who was cut by Miami in training camp and currently plays for the team’s D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls.

Magic May Try To Trade Vucevic, Payton

The Magic would like to find a taker for center Nikola Vucevic, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Appearing on a podcast with Zach Lowe, Windhorst said Orlando is hoping to make major changes that may also include point guard Elfrid Payton.

After trading for power forward Serge Ibaka over the summer and signing center Bismack Biyombo, the Magic are off to a disappointing 14-18 start. Coach Frank Vogel made some lineup changes last month that included sending Vucevic to the bench. Vucevic, who protested the demotion, is now averaging 27.8 minutes per night, the fewest in his five years in Orlando. His scoring has dropped dramatically, from 18.2 points per game a year ago to 12.8 this season.

Vucevic signed a four-year extension in 2014 and still has two more seasons and $25MM left on his contract.

The Magic are also “down” on Payton, Windhorst adds. The third-year point guard lost his starting job to D.J. Augustin in the November shakeup. Payton is still on his rookie contract and is under team control through the 2017/18 season.

Windhorst says Payton caused a lot of friction between the Orlando front office, which traded two first-round picks to acquire him, and former coach Scott Skiles, who didn’t believe he was good enough to play. The reporter adds that the Magic could be a potential destination for Goran Dragic if the Heat decide to move him.

Kings Notes: Cousins, Casspi, Gay, Stauskas

Kings coach Dave Joerger has gone back to a bigger starting lineup in an effort to improve the team’s defense, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Kosta Koufos is back with the starters, being used at center with DeMarcus Cousins at power forward. Joerger briefly tried a small-ball starting lineup, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. “I’m trying to protect DeMarcus a little bit by letting Kosta take the hits on a bigger guy like [Washington Wizards center Marcin] Gortat,” Joerger said. “And defensively more pick-and-rolls and try to save [Cousins’] legs for the end.” 

There’s more news out of Sacramento:

  • Cousins continues to put up incredible numbers, averaging 28.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per night, but the Kings need more production from their complementary players, writes James Ham of CSNBayArea“We’ve just got to be better,” Omri Casspi said after Monday’s overtime loss at Washington. “Our bench guys and our role players have to do a better job of helping DeMarcus. It feels like he’s doing anything he can to win the game for us. We’ve just got to be better.”
  • Rudy Gay confirmed that he has left Octagon Basketball, tweets Sam Amick of USA Today. Gay, who has suggested that he won’t be re-signing with Sacramento after he becomes a free agent next summer, may be joining Roc Nation, an agency headed by rapper Jay Z (Twitter link). However, he told Jones that the change isn’t related to his impending free agency (Twitter link).
  • Nik Stauskas says it doesn’t bother him to hear that the Kings feel like they should have drafted someone else in 2014, Jones posts on Facebook. Owner Vivek Ranadive recently told Amick that he preferred Magic guard Elfrid Payton over Stauskas as the No. 8 pick. “Like I said, they did me a favor sending me here to Philadelphia,” Stauskas replied. “I’ve had a really good opportunity to play even though I hadn’t been performing though my first year with the Sixers. I’m thankful that the organization gave me an opportunity, they drafted me, but if they felt like the made a mistake by drafting me then they felt like they made a mistake. I can’t do anything about it now.”

Eastern Notes: Vucevic, Mirotic, Canaan, Pistons

Magic coach Frank Vogel shook up the starting lineup tonight with D.J. Augustin, Bismack Biyombo and Aaron Gordon replacing Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic and Jeff Green, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. The change was prompted by a three-game losing streak, but not much improved with an eight-point loss to the Bucks.

Vucevic promised to keep a professional attitude about the move, but he clearly isn’t endorsing it. “I spoke to Frank about it last night, and obviously I wasn’t happy with the decision they made,” the sixth-year center said to Zach Oliver of OPP Magic Blog. “I didn’t think there was a reason for me to go to the bench, but it’s coach’s decision. All I can do is control what I can control, which is when I’m on the court play to the best of my ability and help the team win. Stay professional and whatever is going on, I’ll keep giving my best and give them my full effort.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic hopes to stay in the NBA rather than return to Europe after his contract expires at the end of this season, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. The former Real Madrid star is wrapping up a three-year, $16.6MM deal. He calls Chicago “a great city” and says he wants to continue to take on the challenges that the NBA presents. “I think [the NBA] is the best place I can grow as a player,” Mirotic said. “I was very comfortable in Madrid. … That was a perfect place to stay and be in a comfort zone, to sign another five years. But that’s not who I am. I like the challenges. … And I came here to prove that I’m ready.”
  • A season and a half in Philadelphia has helped Bulls guard Isaiah Canaan appreciate the chance to be on a winning team, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. Canaan signed with Chicago over the summer after the Sixers declined to submit a qualifying offer. “I say it was a blessing for the opportunity, just to prove I can help a team out and show what I can bring,” Canaan said. “It was a humbling experience for me just to have to go through something like that and learn not to take anything for granted.”
  • A June meeting at a Tigers game between Pistons owner Tom Gores and the Ilitch family, which owns the Red Wings, led to the Pistons’ move downtown next season, relays Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

Magic Exercise 2017/18 Options On Gordon, Hezonja, Payton

The Magic have exercised three of their four available team options for 2017/18, announcing today (via Twitter) that Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, and Elfrid Payton are now locked in for that season. Gordon’s fourth-year option is worth $5.504MM, Hezonja’s third-year option is worth $4.078MM, and Payton’s fourth-year option is worth $3.332MM.

[RELATED: Full breakdown of decisions on 2017/18 team options]

C.J. Wilcox also has a team option for 2017/18 available on his rookie contract, but he wasn’t mentioned in the press release issued today by Orlando. That likely means that Wilcox’s option will be declined, but the club has a few more days to officially make that call. October 31 is the deadline for teams to exercise ’17/18 options on rookie contracts.

Gordon and Payton are expected to have significant roles in the Magic’s rotation this year after each player took a step forward in 2015/16. Gordon, averaging 23.9 minutes per contest, posted 9.2 PPG and 6.5 RPG, while Payton put up 10.7 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 3.6 RPG in 29.4 minutes per contest. As for Hezonja, he should have the opportunity to increase his role as well, since Orlando isn’t exactly loaded with shooters. In his rookie season, he shot 34.9% from three-point range in 79 games.

With their fourth-year options now exercised, Gordon and Payton will be eligible for extensions in 2017 and restricted free agency in 2018. Hezonja, one year behind them, has one more team option for 2018/19, which the Magic will have to make a decision on next fall.

Eastern Notes: Casey, Payton, Wittman

If the Raptors had failed to make it past the Pacers in the first round of the playoffs, coach Dwane Casey would have likely lost his job, league sources told Zach Lowe of ESPN.com. The other notable development in Toronto during the postseason is the stellar play of center Bismack Biyombo, who is likely pricing himself out of a return to the Raptors with the team only holding the big man’s Non-Bird rights, Lowe notes. Some rival executives are wondering if the team will try and trade center Jonas Valanciunas this offseason in order to create the necessary cap room to re-sign Biyombo, the scribe relays.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic point guard Elfrid Payton could be one of the players who will benefit most from the arrival of new coach Frank Vogel, and the young playmaker is pleased with the hire, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders relays. “I’m pretty excited,” Payton said of Vogel coaching the Magic. “I trust [GM] Rob [Hennigan], so whatever he’s with, I’m with. … Coach and I spoke briefly. Everybody [on the team] seems pretty excited about the hire.”
  • The Pistons could benefit by adding depth at point guard via the draft and potential targets for the team include Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt), Demetrius Jackson (Notre Dame) and Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), David Mayo of MLive opines. The top two point guards, Kris Dunn (Providence) and Jamal Murray (Kentucky), are expected to be off the board when Detroit selects at No. 18 overall. Mayo notes.
  • Former Wizards coach Randy Wittman relates well to veteran players, gets his roster to buy in defensively and has a career record that compares favorably to Vogel, new Kings coach Dave Joerger and new Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, J. Michael of CSNMid-Atlantic writes in his look at Wittman’s chances of landing another head coaching slot.
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