Eric Bledsoe

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, White, Silas, Doncic

With the starting Pelicans backcourt tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball struggling to score, William Guillory of The Athletic suggests that swapping in sharpshooter J.J. Redick for Bledsoe could help unlock the club’s offense.

Redick could benefit by playing alongside new starting center Steven Adams, the best screener on the New Orleans roster. With Redick starting, All-Star small forward Brandon Ingram could become the club’s primary ball handler.

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

  • Newly-extended Spurs guard Derrick White has been activated by San Antonio, and thus will be available for the first time since his August surgery on the second toe of his left foot, per Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. The Spurs host the Lakers tomorrow night.
  • New Rockets head coach Stephen Silas is continuing to work Houston’s newly-available players into his game planning as they come back from COVID-19 health protocols, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic is hoping to get out of a bumpy offensive start to his third NBA season, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. He had one of worst scoring performances as a pro on Wednesday, scoring just 12 points against the Hornets in a 118-99 loss. “Obviously I’ve got to do way better,” Doncic said. “I can still prove so much, so I’ve got to work on those shots every day and if you work on it, they’re going to fall in eventually, so that’s my point of view.” Doncic has gone cold from long distance this season, connecting on just 9.5% of his 5.3 three-point attempts a night.

Southwest Notes: Bledsoe, Spurs, Caboclo, Richardson

Though new Pelicans starting point guard Eric Bledsoe faces a tall task in replacing fan favorite guard Jrue Holiday, he still will prove a dependable starter for a New Orleans team with a good chance to at least qualify for a play-in game, as William Guillory of the Athletic details.

“The same role (Holiday) had here, I’m kind of in. But at the same time, I’ve still got to play my game,” Bledsoe said. “(My role is) defense, helping guys get better … trying to be a leader and going out there to help them win games.”

Guillory expects Bledsoe, a two-time All-Defensive Team selection who relies on a killer first step to score, to help lead a supercharged backcourt alongside Lonzo Ball. That tandem scored a combined 34 points on a 10-of-21 shooting from the floor tonight in a 113-99 defeat of the Raptors.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Ahead of the Spurs‘ 2020/21 season, John Hollinger of the Athletic previewed the club’s outlook. Hollinger notes that 30-something veterans LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay could control the ball for extended stretches of possessions, though the advanced age and short-term contracts of most of those players are increasingly at odds with the timeline for the team’s younger prospects.
  • Rockets big man Bruno Caboclo agreed to push back the deadline for his 2020/21 salary to become fully guaranteed to February 27, 2021 (the league-wide deadline), according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (via Twitter). It had previously been scheduled to become guaranteed today.
  • Now on his third team in three seasons, new Mavericks swingman Josh Richardson will be expected to guard the opposing team’s toughest perimeter players, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News. Richardson has the length and speed to convincingly defend several positions.

More On Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Extension, Bucks

Following the Bucks‘ second-round postseason loss to Miami, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo made a conscious decision to play a more vocal role in upgrading the team’s roster, according to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Kevin Arnovitz.

During a fall lunch with Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, GM Jon Horst, and Giannis’ agent Alex Saratsis, Antetokounmpo named a number of players whom he thought would be good offseason targets for Milwaukee, including Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, per Windhorst and Arnovitz.

Beal wasn’t available, the Bucks never got close to a deal for Oladipo, and their efforts to sign-and-trade for Bogdanovic fell through. However, Milwaukee zeroed in on another player on Giannis’ list, Jrue Holiday, believing he’d be a natural fit in the team’s lineup.

According to ESPN’s duo, the Nuggets and Celtics were aggressive in attempting to acquire a top-10 pick in last month’s draft to flip for Holiday. The Hawks were also interested in moving the No. 6 pick in a deal for the Pelicans guard, but ultimately abandoned that plan due to uncertainty over whether he’d want to remain in Atlanta beyond 2021.

The Bucks didn’t have a top-10 pick in 2020 to offer for Holiday, but were willing to put plenty of future first-rounders on the table. According to Windhorst and Arnovitz, Milwaukee initially offered Eric Bledsoe, two first-round picks, and a pick swap (plus salary filler), then “reluctantly” added George Hill to the offer. The Pelicans countered by asking for one more first-rounder and one more pick swap.

Sources tell ESPN that the Bucks’ decision-makers knew that giving up two rotation players, three first-round picks, and two pick swaps was an overpay, especially since an extension for Holiday may cost in the neighborhood of $30MM per year.

However, the club badly wanted to upgrade its roster and to send a message to Antetokounmpo and decided to pull the trigger. If that deal ultimately helped convince Giannis to sign his super-max extension, the front office presumably feels the cost was worth it.

Here’s more on the Bucks and the Antetokounmpo extension:

  • The report from ESPN’s Windhorst and Arnovitz is worth checking out in full, as it’s packed with interesting nuggets about the process of extending Antetokounmpo. According to the ESPN duo, when the Lakers acquired Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City, Giannis wanted reassurance that Milwaukee had made a “valiant effort” to land Schroder.
  • As a trio of writers from The Athletic reported on Tuesday, Windhorst and Arnovitz confirm that the Bucks first formally made their extension pitch to Antetokounmpo on December 5. During that meeting, team ownership and management focused on the team’s commitment to building a champion, pointing to its aggressive pursuit of Holiday and its willingness to pay future luxury tax bills, per ESPN.
  • David Aldridge of The Athletic argues that the Antetokounmpo extension is good for the NBA, since it’s hard for fans in non-glamor markets to fully invest in their teams if they believe star players always have one foot out the door.
  • Joe Vardon of The Athletic throws some cold water on the news of Antetokounmpo’s extension, writing that the new deal offers the Bucks a temporary reprieve, but doesn’t guarantee the superstar forward will be with the franchise for the next five years. Jobs will be “on the line” in Milwaukee if the team doesn’t make the NBA Finals and win a title within the next couple years, says Vardon.

Southwest Notes: Vassell, DeRozan, Tucker, Pelicans, Redick, Bledsoe

Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan is helping to teach rookie Devin Vassell the nuances of the NBA game, Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express News writes. Vassell was selected with the 11th overall pick in the draft and also plays on the wing. “A lot of times, even in practice, he comes to me and asks questions,” DeRozan said. “That’s big for a young guy to to be able to come to our vets and just ask questions, ask what he is doing wrong, what he can do better.” Vassell had 12 points, six rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes during his preseason debut.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Seeking an extension, Rockets forward P.J. Tucker says he wants to go “where I am wanted,” Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Tucker promises to “do my job” even if the club doesn’t offer him an extension. Tucker, who will make approximately $7.97MM this season, will enter unrestricted free agency next summer.
  • The Pelicans’ acquisition of center Steven Adams from the Thunder and subsequent decision to give him an extension was a head-scratcher, John Hollinger of The Athletic opines. They could have instead acquired a better shooter in Al Horford or re-signed Derrick Favors. They also would have been better off holding onto George Hill, rather than dealing him in the same multi-team trade involving Denver and Oklahoma City, Hollinger contends. Hill is a better shooter than Eric Bledsoe and New Orleans also has enough depth at the point, Hollinger adds.
  • Bledsoe will have to pass a series of tests before he can rejoin the Pelicans, coach Stan Van Gundy told The Athletic’s Will Guillory and other media members (Twitter link). Bledsoe left the market due to a personal matter and missed a COVID-19 test. J.J. Redick was held out of the team’s preseason game on Monday due to contact tracing.

Pelicans Notes: Ball, Bledsoe, Adams, Holiday, Ingram, Williamson

The Pelicans won’t be choosing between Lonzo Ball and recently-acquired Eric Bledsoe as their starting point guard, according to executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin. New Orleans’ top executive envisions that they’ll form the starting backcourt, Andrew Lopez of ESPN tweets. The Pelicans had a similar setup last season, when Ball and Jrue Holiday shared ballhandling duties. The Pelicans acquired Bledsoe from the Bucks and center Steven Adams from the Thunder, along with draft picks, in a four-team deal that sent Holiday to Milwaukee.

New head coach Stan Van Gundy said that Griffin has prioritized toughness and competitiveness at a very high level, and Bledsoe and Adams fit that mold, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times Picayune tweets.

Griffin and Van Gundy dropped some interesting tidbits during their Monday press conference:

  • Griffin had pursued Adams for a very long time, according to Kushner (Twitter link). Griffin was impressed with Adams since meeting him prior to the 2013 draft. Adams, who was selected with the No. 12 pick that year, received a two-year, $35MM extension as part of the four-team deal.
  • The front office wanted to do right by Holiday by trading him to a title contender, Lopez notes (Twitter link). Griffin said Holiday’s career timeline to compete for a championship differed somewhat from the Pelicans’ timeline.
  • Brandon Ingram‘s five-year contract doesn’t include a player option, Lopez adds in another tweet, but there is a trade bonus. Ingram officially signed the $158.25MM contract on Monday.
  • Zion Williamson will not have any restrictions heading into training camp, according to Van Gundy. The coach anticipates the early days of camp will look different because they haven’t played as much pickup due to COVID-19 restrictions and a short offseason (Twitter link).
  • The team’s disappointing showing in the Orlando restart convinced Griffin the team needed more “elite competitors” and didn’t have “enough of a work ethic identity,” Kushner relays (Twitter link).

Bucks Rumors: Bogdanovic, Giannis, Oladipo, DiVincenzo, More

Bogdan Bogdanovic was considered Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s preferred target for the Bucks in free agency, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says that Thanasis Antetokounmpo had been in contact with Bogdanovic for months as the brothers attempted to lure the swingman to Milwaukee.

As Fischer explains, Giannis admires Bogdanovic’s “toughness and swagger” and considers him someone you could “go to war with in the postseason.” As a result, the Bucks pursued Bogdanovic aggressively, discussing sign-and-trade scenarios with the Kings in the hopes of effectively taking the RFA-to-be off the market before last Friday by agreeing to a deal with Sacramento.

Early discussions between the Kings and Bucks included Eric Bledsoe, according to Fischer, who points out that sending Bledsoe’s $16.9MM contract to Sacramento would have made it simple for Milwaukee to meet Bogdanovic’s asking price of $18MM per year. However, the Kings insisted on Donte DiVincenzo‘s inclusion on any deal and Bledsoe’s salary was required for Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday acquisition.

After they struck a deal for Holiday, the Bucks reached a tentative agreement with the Kings, but Bogdanovic’s camp insists it never discussed the particulars of a contract agreement with Milwaukee, per Fischer. Bogdanovic even phoned the Antetokounmpo brothers to reiterate that point, Fischer adds.

When at least one rival team filed a formal complaint about the fact that the Kings had seemingly lined up a deal for Bogdanovic days before the start of free agency, the NBA launched an investigation and essentially took Milwaukee off the table as a destination for the 28-year-old due to the risk that the league would block the deal, says Fischer.

Now, the Bucks will have to hope that their failed pursuit of Bogdanovic doesn’t cause Giannis to pass on their super-max offer. According to Fischer, the franchise had been very confident about the odds of reaching an agreement with Antetokounmpo, but there has been a “categorical step back in that confidence” since the Bogdanovic debacle. That doesn’t mean an agreement won’t be reached — just that the Bucks aren’t as sure about it as they once were.

Here’s more on the Bucks from Fischer’s article, which is packed with interesting details:

  • The Bucks and Pacers had conversations about a possible trade for Victor Oladipo, Fischer confirms, adding that a package of DiVincenzo, George Hill, and the No. 24 pick was discussed at one point. Like the Kings did, the Pacers insisted on DiVincenzo being included in any offer.
  • DiVincenzo ultimately remained in Milwaukee and the Bucks are still “bullish” on his potential, writes Fischer. They were willing to move him for Bogdanovic because the RFA was considered a “necessary target in line with Antetokounmpo’s wishes.”
  • Before the Bucks struck a deal for Holiday, the Hawks discussed a package that included the No. 6 pick, Kevin Huerter, and Dewayne Dedmon, says Fischer.

Four-Team Jrue Holiday, Steven Adams Trade Officially Complete

The Pelicans, Thunder, Bucks, and Nuggets have officially completed the four-team trade that will send Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee and Steven Adams to New Orleans, the Pelicans announced today in a press release.

In total, the mega-deal involves 10 players, five draft picks, and two future pick swaps. The trade breaks down as follows:

  • Bucks acquire Holiday and the draft rights to Sam Merrill (No. 60 pick; from Pelicans).
  • Pelicans acquire Adams, Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks’ 2025 first-round pick (unprotected), the Bucks’ 2027 first-round pick (unprotected), and the right to swap first-round picks with the Bucks in 2024 and 2026.
  • Thunder acquire George Hill, Darius MillerKenrich Williams (sign-and-trade), Josh Gray (sign-and-trade), Zylan Cheatham (sign-and-trade), the Nuggets’ 2023 first-round pick (top-14 protected), the Wizards’ 2023 second-round pick (from Pelicans), and the Hornets’ 2024 second-round pick (from Pelicans).
  • Nuggets acquire the draft rights to RJ Hampton (No. 24 pick; from Bucks).

The deal began when the Bucks and Pelicans reached an agreement on a trade sending Holiday to Milwaukee last week. From there, the Thunder got involved when New Orleans agreed to flip Hill to Oklahoma City in a trade for Adams.

A draft-night deal between the Nuggets and Pelicans that involved the Nuggets’ 2023 first-rounder and the Bucks’ No. 24 pick (sent to New Orleans as part of the original Holiday agreement) was folded in to make it a four-team trade when the Pels agreed to flip Denver’s ’23 pick to OKC as part of the Adams package.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad has pointed out (via Twitter), it’s an intricate, complex transaction that had to make use of a slew of CBA rules. The Pelicans, who are signing Adams to a two-year extension as part of the trade, needed to sign-and-trade Williams, Gray, and Cheatham to Oklahoma City and guarantee most or all of Miller’s $7MM salary in order to abide by salary-matching rules.

Meanwhile, Adams gets a trade bonus worth a little over $2MM as part of the deal, while the Thunder create the largest trade exception in NBA history, worth $27.5MM, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Unfortunately, as Nahmad observes (via Twitter), Oklahoma City will likely have to use that massive TPE immediately to accommodate the acquisition of Al Horford. Still, as John Hollinger of The Athletic writes, the Thunder should come out of their series of transactions with a handful of usable trade exceptions, including one worth $15.4MM.

A full breakdown of this offseason’s trades – including the ones not yet made official – can be found right here.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans To Trade Jrue Holiday To Bucks

NOVEMBER 17, 9:39am: ESPN’s Bobby Marks has the details on the picks headed to New Orleans in the trade, reporting (via Twitter) that in addition to this year’s No. 24 pick, the Bucks will also give up their unprotected first-rounders in 2025 and 2027. The Pelicans will have the right to swap first-rounders with Milwaukee in 2024 and 2026.

In order to ensure the 2025 and 2027 picks are freed up and don’t violate the Stepien rule, the Bucks are sending a future second-round pick to the Cavaliers, who were owed Milwaukee’s 2022 first-round pick. In exchange, the Cavs will agree to lift the top-10 protection on that first-rounder, ensuring it changes hands in ’22, per Marks (Twitter link).

Milwaukee will also receive the No. 60 pick in Wednesday’s draft as part of the deal, tweets Jonathan Givony of ESPN. That pick was originally the Bucks’ own, but was one of the second-rounders they sent to New Orleans in 2019 for Nikola Mirotic. Now they’ll have it back.

That pick will help the Bucks fill out their roster on the cheap, since a rookie drafted in the second round can likely to be signed to a minimum salary that will only count for $898,310 against the cap and tax.

There are conflicting reports on whether the Bucks will also receive the No. 42 pick in this year’s draft from New Orleans. Eric Nehm of The Athletic reported (via Twitter) that the pick is part of the deal, while Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link) has been told that Milwaukee is only receiving No. 60.


NOVEMBER 16, 10:33pm: The Bucks have reached a deal to acquire standout guard Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that New Orleans will receive Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and draft compensation in return.

That draft compensation is substantial — the Pelicans will receive three future first-round picks from Milwaukee, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). One of those three selections is this year’s No. 24 pick, tweets David Aldridge of The Athletic. New Orleans will also acquire a pair of future draft pick swaps in the deal, per Charania (Twitter link).

Holiday, 30, is coming off a 2019/20 season in which he averaged 19.1 PPG, 6.7 APG, 4.8 RPG, and 1.6 SPG with a shooting line of .455/.353/.709 in 61 games (34.7 MPG) for New Orleans. Although he didn’t earn a spot on one of this season’s All-Defensive teams, he has done so twice in the past and is widely considered one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders.

Acquiring Holiday is an all-in move for the Bucks and general manager Jon Horst, who are trying to convince two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign a super-max contract extension to remain with the team long-term. Antetokounmpo has repeatedly stated that he’s interesting in staying in Milwaukee as long as he believes the club is capable of winning a title.

[RELATED: Giannis Says He’s Not Looking To Leave Milwaukee]

Upgrading their backcourt by acquiring Holiday should make the Bucks – who have posted the league’s best regular season record in each of the last two seasons – an even more formidable title threat. However, the acquisition cost is significant, particularly given Holiday’s contract situation.

The 30-year-old’s deal will pay him $25.9MM in 2020/21 and includes a $26.8MM player option for ’21/22, meaning he can reach free agency a year from now. While Antetokounmpo and Holiday are both eligible to hit the open market and sign elsewhere in 2021, it sounds like the Bucks are betting heavily on their ability to lock up both players to new deals.

On that note, Marc Stein of The New York Times tweets that the last couple weeks have been “filled with chatter” about the possibility that Antetokounmpo will sign his super-max offer this offseason. Milwaukee’s willingness to give up so many future assets seems to reflect the team’s optimism, Stein observes.

Holiday’s age and contract situation prompted the Pelicans to explore the trade market in search of a deal this offseason, as president of basketball operations David Griffin looked to acquire pieces that better line up with the timeline of the club’s young core, led by Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

While the Pelicans were reportedly willing to hang onto Holiday if a favorable deal didn’t materialize, a return of three first-round picks and two pick swaps was too appealing to turn down. Having landed a substantial haul in last year’s Anthony Davis trade as well, New Orleans now has five extra first-round picks in future seasons, as well as three pick swaps.

It remains to be seen whether Bledsoe and Hill – both veterans in their 30s who probably aren’t part of the Pelicans’ long-term plans – will spend the season in New Orleans or if the team will look to flip one or both players in subsequent deals.

Bledsoe, a strong defender whose offensive limitations have hurt the Bucks in the last two postseasons, averaged 14.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 4.6 RPG on .475/.344/.790 shooting in 61 games (27.0 MPG) in 2019/20. He has three years and about $54MM left on his contract, though his 2022/23 salary ($19.4MM) is mostly non-guaranteed.

Hill, meanwhile, was a reliable rotation player in Milwaukee, averaging 9.4 PPG, 3.1 APG, and 3.0 RPG on .516/.460/.842 in 59 games (21.5 MPG) last season. The 34-year-old has a guaranteed $9.6MM salary in ’20/21 with a lightly guaranteed $10MM salary for ’21/22.

With Holiday off the market, teams like the Nuggets and Nets, who were linked to the veteran guard, will have to look elsewhere for a potential upgrade on the wing.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lakers Explored Trade For Eric Bledsoe

The Lakers looked into a trade for Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe prior to their agreed-upon deal for Dennis Schroder, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated tweets.

The Lakers are giving up the 28th pick in Wednesday’s draft and guard Danny Green to the Thunder in return for Schroder, who could be the defending champions’ lead point guard or sixth man.

Bledsoe could have filled the same role for the Lakers but he’s coming off a disappointing season and has multiple years left on his deal. Bledsoe will make nearly $17MM next season and $18.1MM in 2021/22. He has a non-guaranteed $19.4MM salary for the 2022/23 season, the final year of his extension.

Milwaukee has reportedly been trying to shed Bledsoe’s contract in order to upgrade its roster after its disappointing playoff performance. Bledsoe averaged 14.9 PPG, his lowest since the 2012/13 campaign, and 5.4 APG in 61 regular-season starts. He was then held to 11.7 PPG on 38.8% shooting during the playoffs.

O’Connor’s Latest: Bucks, Mavs, LaVine, Gordon, More

The Bucks are active in trade discussions and have offered point guard Eric Bledsoe to multiple teams, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. As the Bucks look to upgrade their roster around reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and standout forward Khris Middleton, it sounds like they’re focusing on two-way forwards with defensive versatility — according to O’Connor, the club is pursuing Rockets veterans Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker.

O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer includes plenty of interesting tidbits, including a couple we’ve already passed along. Here are a few more highlights:

  • Multiple teams, including the Mavericks, have contacted the Bulls this offseason to inquire on Zach LaVine‘s availability, says O’Connor. It’s not clear if Chicago would have any interest in moving its leading scorer.
  • League sources tell The Ringer that the Magic have made efforts to move up into the lottery by attaching Aaron Gordon to their No. 15 selection.
  • O’Connor writes that the Suns are “hoping” to use their No. 10 pick in a trade for Chris Paul. That would seemingly contradict an earlier report that suggested Phoenix probably wouldn’t that pick in an offer for the Thunder point guard.
  • Executives around the NBA are fairly confident that Deni Avdija won’t fall past Cleveland at No. 5, according to O’Connor, who is the latest to report that the Cavaliers are high on the Israeli wing.
  • There has been increasing buzz surrounding Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, with execs around the league increasingly believing that he’ll be a lottery pick, per O’Connor.
  • Oregon guard Payton Pritchard is receiving interest from multiple teams near the end of the first round, sources tell O’Connor. One of those sources thinks Pritchard may even have a promise.