Elfrid Payton

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.”

Pelicans Notes: Okafor, Roster Decisions, Payton

The Pelicans only have 12 players on fully guaranteed contracts, leaving three potential openings on their 15-man regular season roster. However, it sounds like one of those three spots has already been claimed. According to Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link), Jahlil Okafor is a virtual lock to end up on the 15-man squad.

Okafor, who joined the Pelicans this summer after stints in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, injured his ankle last week, but head coach Alvin Gentry suggested that the ailment wouldn’t prevent him from making New Orleans’ roster. Kushner cautions that it’s not quite a done deal yet, but Okafor’s spot appears safe for now.

Here’s more from out of New Orleans:

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Jack, Payton, Randle

In a piece by Brett Martel of the Associated Press, Pelicans star power forward Anthony Davis dismissed the idea that his decision to hire Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul as new representation meant he was setting the stage for a departure from the Big Easy.

That being said, Davis can reach the free agent market in two years and has increasing leverage to control where he plays, so it’s understandable that Pelicans’ fans seemed to become a little paranoid when Davis made a change, especially after Chris Paul left New Orleans in his prime shortly after he changed agents.

“It was just for where I am right now in my career — what I’m trying to do — I thought the change was necessary,” Davis said Monday during media day. “That’s all it was… I’m (in New Orleans). I want to focus on winning this year with the squad that we have. We have a good squad.”

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • In some interesting but not so pressing news, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays that newly-acquired veteran point guard Jarrett Jack has interest in becoming a coach after he retires.
  • In a full article for The Athletic, Guillory asks whether free agent acquisition, point guard Elfrid Payton, can overtake Rajon Rondo‘s role with the team and excel in head coach Alvin Gentry‘s guard-friendly, up-tempo system.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com writes that Davis and fellow Kentucky alum Julius Randle are very excited to share the court together this season after mostly competing against each other in pick-up games all summer.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Pelicans, Anderson, Mavericks

Jimmy Butler may be the next star to be traded, but Anthony Davis won’t be joining him, according to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Appearing on a podcast with Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports, Bontemps said there’s a “zero percent chance” the Pelicans will part with Davis this season [hat tip to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype).

Next summer, Davis will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract that could become the richest deal in NBA history, Bontemps explains. It’s possible that a trade involving Davis could happen in a few years if he decides he’s not happy in New Orleans or doesn’t view the team as a contender, but Bontemps said he won’t go anywhere until he has that contract in hand.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • This Pelicans‘ roster turnover this summer may present the biggest challenges on defense, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. New Orleans got noticed for its fast pace last season, but one of the overlooked factors in its success was team defense, which was fourth best in the league after February 1 at 103.4 points per 100 possessions. Davis and Jrue Holiday were first-team All-Defense honorees, but newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, who both had negative defensive efficiency numbers last season, have to prove that they contribute at that end of the court.
  • The decision to gamble on former Spurs forward Kyle Anderson may help decide Chris Wallace’s future as GM of the Grizzlies, suggests Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Huge contracts for Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were already straining the team’s cap when Wallace decided to extend a four-year, $37.2MM offer sheet to Anderson. San Antonio elected not to match, so Anderson will be in Memphis’ training camp next week as its top free agent addition of the summer. It’s a huge risk based on Anderson’s career numbers, which included a career-high 7.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG last season. Giannotto states that the Grizzlies should look to replace Wallace if it doesn’t work out.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at some of the key figures in the Mavericks‘ workplace misconduct case, which resulted in a settlement that was announced today.

Pelicans Still In Need Of A Wing Player?

A bigger issue with the Pelicans this upcoming season may be the absence of a reliable player on the wing rather than the loss of Rajon Rondo or DeMarcus Cousins, as newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are capable of replicating their production, at least in part, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Kushner opines that nobody on the Pelicans’ roster is capable of being a solid “3-and-D” player, as Solomon Hill has struggled to recover from a torn hamstring and E’Twaun Moore, limited by his 6’4” frame, has been asked to play against players much taller than him and seemingly taken out of his comfort zone as a result.

“If it was up to me — it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay on the floor and help my team win — but I would like to say that maybe I hopefully could be playing a little bit more guard (this season),” Moore said. “Last year, I was more of a wing, but it worked out well for the team because we played so fast. But it would be kind of cool to be going back to being a guard again.”

So, the Pelicans will now hold a three-man competition between Troy Williams, Garlon Green, and Kenrich Williams in order to find someone who may be able to crack the team’s wing rotation this season.

The Pelicans could also be active around midseason, as they were when they acquired Cousins in 2017 and Nikola Mirotic last season. But for now, they’ll rely on MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Randle and Mirotic, which should be enough to keep them in the Western Conference playoff race.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Jackson Jr., Metu

The Pelicans added a pair of young building blocks in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton this summer and the new personnel could lead to an even faster pace of play, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

The addition of two athletic young players  – Randle is still just 23 years old while Payton is 24 – will serve the Pelicans well. Guillory writes that New Orleans led the league in pace after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury in January.

We want to play fast, we want to defend, we want to get out in transition,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said. “The other thing is these two guys are very unselfish players, which would fit great with our group.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

Contract Details: Jokic, Payton, Craig, Bradley

While Nikola Jokic‘s new five-year deal with the Nuggets was reported as a maximum-salary contract, that’s not technically accurate. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe (via Twitter), the base value of Jokic’s new deal falls just short of the max, since it includes about $1MM per year in bonuses linked to team success.

As Lowe explains, about half of those annual bonuses can be earned if the Nuggets make the playoffs, while the other half can be earned if the club advances to the second round. Because Denver didn’t achieve either of those benchmarks in 2017/18, those bonuses are currently considered “unlikely” incentives and don’t count against the Nuggets’ cap.

In 2018/19, for instance, Jokic’s cap hit will be about $24.6MM rather than the maximum $25.5MM, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. However, if the Nuggets were to win a playoff series in 2019, Jokic would earn his first-year bonus and his second-year bonuses would subsequently be considered “likely,” causing his future cap hit to increase.

Here are several more specific details on newly-signed contracts from around the NBA, all via Pincus unless otherwise indicated:

  • Elfrid Payton, who was signed using most of the Pelicans‘ bi-annual exception, got a flat $3MM salary for 2018/19 (Twitter link).
  • As expected, the Nuggets used a portion of their mid-level exception to sign Torrey Craig to his new two-year deal. Craig will earn a flat $2MM salary in each season, for a $4MM total (Twitter link).
  • Avery Bradley has a fully guaranteed $12MM salary in the first season of his two-year contract with the Clippers, but only $2MM of his $12.96MM salary for 2019/20 is guaranteed (Twitter link). The Clips will have to make a decision on Bradley’s second-year guarantee by July 3, 2019.
  • The Knicks gave second-round pick Mitchell Robinson guaranteed salaries of $1.5MM and $1.6MM in his first two years, with non-guaranteed minimum salaries in years three and four (Twitter link). The four-year deal, which has a team option in year four, should be worth just shy of $6.6MM in total.
  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk‘s three-year contract with the Lakers has a guaranteed first-year salary of $1,487,694, followed by non-guaranteed minimum salaries for years two and three (Twitter link). The third year is a team option.

Pelicans Notes: Jackson, Bluiett, Payton, Trades

Pelicans guard Frank Jackson sprained his left ankle during summer-league action and will be out 2-4 weeks, according to Scott Kushner of the Baton Rouge Advocate. It’s another injury setback for Jackson, an early second-round pick last June. He has yet to appear in an NBA game after undergoing three right foot surgeries. Jackson will make a guaranteed $1.38MM next season.

In other developments involving the Pelicans:

  • Rookie swingman Trevon Bluiett has shown a good shooting stroke in summer-league play, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Bluiett scored a combined 50 points on the team’s first two games while making 67% of his 3-point attempts (12-for-18). The Xavier product went undrafted and is trying to earn a roster spot. “He can really shoot, and I like all the shots he’s taking,” assistant coach Kevin Hanson told Guillory. “That’s the biggest thing: he’s got to be concerned about his shot selection. But he’s been good.”
  • Playing for his hometown team was an easy decision for point guard Elfrid Payton, Guillory writes in a separate story. Payton, the former Magic and Suns point man, signed a modest one-year, $2.7MM free agent deal to join a playoff contender. “The losing he went through was something different for him,” his college coach Bob Marlin told Guillory. “It’s hard when you’re a competitor and you get to a situation where you lose 50 or 60 games in a year and you’re not used to that.”
  • The team is likely to make a trade in the coming weeks, according to Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune. The current roster is solid but not enough to concern the top teams in the West, Duncan continues. The Pelicans would like to rid themselves of a bad contract (Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill) and improve the rotation, something that will aid their desire to retain Anthony Davis beyond the next two seasons, Duncan adds.

Pelicans Notes: Cousins, Rondo, Randle, Payton

The Pelicans made a two-year, $40MM offer to DeMarcus Cousins between his Achilles injury in January and the end of the season, Marc Stein of The New York Times states in his latest newsletter. Cousins rejected the offer, and New Orleans’ front office responded by taking it off the table.

Cousins committed to Golden State last night, taking the Warriors’ MLE of $5.3MM for next season. The Lakers had an opportunity to get Cousins for a similar price, Stein adds, but once they passed, it was an easy decision for him to join the Warriors.

The Pelicans hadn’t given up hope of retaining Cousins when free agency began, but the door closed when they signed Julius Randle for $18MM over two years. Stein notes that Anthony Davis played an aggressive role in recruiting Randle to New Orleans.

There’s more Pelicans news to pass along:

  • The trade with the Kings that brought Cousins to New Orleans will be remembered as a mistake, according to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. The Pelicans gave up two first-round picks in Buddy Hield and a 2017 selection that turned out to be Zach Collins. In exchange, they got just 65 games out of Cousins.
  • Rajon Rondo and Cousins both made shrewd business decisions, Duncan adds in the same story. The Lakers gave Rondo more money than the Pelicans were offering, along with the chance to team up with LeBron James. Cousins found a low-stress environment to rehab his injured Achilles while getting an excellent chance to win a ring. The Pelicans also showed they’re not ready to pay the luxury tax, with Randle and Elfrid Payton providing cheaper alternatives to Cousins and Rondo.
  • The free agent drama in New Orleans could be repeated next summer, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. The Pelicans took a little bit of the sting out of losing Cousins and Rondo by agreeing to deals with Randle and Payton. However, Randle can opt out after one season and Payton is only signed for a year. Nikola Mirotic, who fit well alongside Davis after arriving from the Bulls in a midseason trade, will also be a free agent.