James Ennis

Pistons Notes: Beilein, Stefanski, Casey, Bullock

Interviewing for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy was enough NBA experience for Michigan’s John Beilein, relays James Hawkins of The Detroit News. Beilein eventually pulled his name from consideration and agreed to a tentative extension with the Wolverines. He came away convinced that the college atmosphere is best for him.

“It was location, location, location,” Beilein explained in an interview on WBBL. “[Wife] Kathleen and I, we love it. … We wouldn’t really have to move. It was appealing to me and the interest was mutual to an extent, but they had some other great options and I had a great option. It didn’t work out, but I wanted to think it through. I don’t anticipate or plan on ever doing that again and I think people understand that. It’s not like I’ve been doing this every year.”

There’s more news out of Detroit:

  • Hiring Dwane Casey as head coach was the first step in what is shaping up to be an active summer, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Ed Stefanski, the new senior advisor to owner Tom Gores, is hoping to find a general manager in the next week or two. Stefanski could assume the lead role in the front office, either as president or GM, and hire someone younger he can mentor to eventually take over, Beard adds.
  • The team is expected to pick up its $2.5MM option on Reggie Bullock by the July 15 deadline, Beard notes in the same story. That will leave decisions on whether to fully guarantee a $1.8MM contract for Eric Moreland and a $1.6MM deal for Dwight Buycks.
  • The press conference to introduce Casey as head coach won’t take place until next week, Beard adds. The delay is believed to be a matter of coordinating schedules with Gores and some of the players. In the meantime, Casey is in Los Angeles to meet with several Pistons who conduct their offseason workouts there, such as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard.
  • Forward James Ennis, who is headed for free agency, has decided to change agents, according to HoopsHype (Twitter link). He will be represented by Scott Nichols of Rize Management.

Pistons Notes: Van Gundy, Ennis, Tolliver, Griffin

For all the coaching news that has been made since the season ended, things have remained quiet in Detroit, notes Ansar Khan of MLive. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy was scheduled to meet with owner Tom Gores this week in Los Angeles after missing the playoffs for the third time in his four years on the Pistons’ bench, but no update has come from those talks. Gores said he plans to evaluate Van Gundy’s coaching and front office roles separately, and there is speculation he could be asked to relinquish one or the other.

The delay may be a positive sign for Van Gunday, Khan wrote earlier this week, as teams tend to act quickly when making a coaching change to give themselves a shot at the best candidates on the market. Van Gundy, who has a 152-176 record in Detroit, has one season remaining on a five-year, $35MM contract.

There’s more tonight out of Detroit:

  • The Pistons like free agents James Ennis and Anthony Tolliver enough to try to bring both of them back next season, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com in a mailbag column. Ennis was a part-time starter after being acquired from the Grizzlies at the trade deadline and averaged 7.5 points in 27 games with Detroit. Tolliver, a veteran defensive specialist who signed with the Pistons last summer, can be had at or near the veteran’s minimum, Langlois adds, and Detroit’s front office will probably have time to evaluate its other moves before deciding whether to offer him a contract.
  • It’s still too early to gauge whether the Pistons gave up too much to acquire Blake Griffin, Langlois contends in the same piece. The price tag was Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a pair of draft picks. The Pistons were willing to accept Griffin’s injury risk on top of a massive, newly signed contract, but Langlois states the gamble will be worth it if he can stay relatively healthy.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Pistons target a point guard in this year’s draft, Langlois adds. Ish Smith will be a free agent next summer and Reggie Jackson is under contract for two more seasons, so that could quickly become a position of need. However, because its first-round pick went to the Clippers in the Griffin trade, Detroit’s only selection is at No. 42.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Detroit Pistons

The Pistons made it clear with their midseason blockbuster that they’re interested in competing in the Eastern Conference right away. While we won’t truly know the outcome of the Blake Griffin trade until the roster logs a full, reasonably healthy season together, there’s no denying that the franchise is committed to this core for better or worse.

With over $117MM already on the books for 2018/19, president Stan Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower have little room to get cute in free agency this summer. For that reason, the Pistons will have to rely primarily on in-house upgrades, and any reinforcements that do come from elsewhere will need to be modest.

James Ennis, SF, 28 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $6MM deal in 2016James Ennis of the Detroit Pistons
The Pistons brought Ennis aboard in one of their deadline-day deals, seemingly desperate to pad their core with solid veterans. While Ennis is typically a glue guy, capable of knocking down shots and contributing defensively, it’s hard to imagine that he showed enough during his half-season in Detroit to justify a raise — or even a similar contract to his current deal. The Pistons could benefit from having Ennis’ toughness on the perimeter as they look to establish themselves in the East, but they could probably seek out that skill-set on the cheap if they want to trim their overall payroll.

Jameer Nelson, PG, 36 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
One can’t fault Van Gundy for turning to a former pupil to help his current team take the next step, but the acquisition of Nelson has to be considered – by and large – a disappointment. The veteran point guard only played seven games during his time with the Pistons and was usurped on the depth chart by Dwight Buycks. With Reggie Jackson back in the fold for 2018/19, the team will already have three relatively capable options at the point, leaving little room for Nelson.

Anthony Tolliver, PF, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2017
It was a disappointing season for the Pistons, but one consistent presence that helped provide stability as the club dealt with injuries and personnel turnover was Tolliver. Fresh off the second-highest scoring year of his 10-year career, Tolliver will be an intriguing free agency option for contenders looking to add veteran leadership. He stepped up in 2017/18, showing that he’s more than just a solid locker-room presence, shooting 43.3% from beyond the arc while registering an offensive rating of 125. If the Pistons truly plan on breaking into the postseason picture next season, they’d be wise to bring the 32-year-old combo forward back, since he can fit into whatever role or position the team needs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Nelson, J.R. Smith, Pacers

The Bulls need to get more serious about tanking and start making moves to improve their lottery chances, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com argues. Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cameron Payne should receive a lot more playing time, while veterans like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday should have their minutes reduced, Friedell says. Holding out Zach LaVine on the second game of back-to-backs would also facilitate the cause, Friedell adds.

Also around the Central Division:

  • Small forward James Ennis and point guard Jameer Nelson have jumped right into the Pistons’ rotation after being acquired just before the trade deadline. Ennis, who was traded by the Grizzlies for forward Brice Johnson and a future second-round pick, has averaged 9.5 PPG and 17.5 MPG over the past two games. Nelson, who was traded by the Bulls for Willie Reed and future draft considerations, has averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in 19.5 MPG during his first two games with Detroit.
  • Nelson, 35, told Hoops Rumors and other reporters that he’d like to continue playing after this season. The Pistons point guard be an unrestricted free agent this summer.  “I never want to put a limit or a time frame on my career,” he said. “My body feels good, my mind is right. So I’ll just continue to work. My body and mind will tell me when it’s time for me to go. I think there will be a lot of teams that will need a guy like me next season.”
  • Pacers players lobbied GM Kevin Pritchard to stand pat during the trade deadline, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard was approached by six players, who told him they wanted to see what they could accomplish with the current mix. “They feel like they are overachieving and had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Pritchard said during a press conference. “They wanted to have the opportunity to finish this out and try to get into the playoffs. … That carried a lot of weight with me.”
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith held onto his roster spot and retained his starting job, but he admits he was sweating out the deadline, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. “My name was being thrown around a lot out there, so it was nerve-wracking for sure,” Smith said. “When you see six guys getting traded and there’s still more than an hour to the trade deadline, there’s no telling what can happen.” Smith is owed $30.3MM over the next two seasons, which made his contract difficult to move, McMenamin notes.

Pistons Acquire James Ennis From Grizzlies

8:05pm: The Pistons have officially acquired Ennis, the team announced tonight in a press release.

11:44am: The pick included in the deal is for 2022, according to Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Twitter link), who adds that the Pistons will use their Disabled Player Exception to accommodate Ennis.

11:29am: The Pistons have acquired James Ennis from the Grizzlies in exchange for Brice Johnson and a second-round pick, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. It’s the same package that Detroit had been rumored to send to New Orleans in exchange for Dante Cunningham.

After a couple of years as a journeyman, Ennis found a home in Memphis over the past two seasons, developing into a regular part of the rotation. The 27-year-old is averaging 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds through 45 games this season. He has an expiring contract worth a little more than $3MM.

Johnson, 23, was acquired from the Clippers last week in the deal that brought Blake Griffin to Detroit. A first-round pick in 2016, Johnson had yet to suit up for the Pistons and played just nine games in L.A. this season. He is still on his rookie contract and is making a little more than $1.33MM.

Because of the salary discrepancy, the Pistons will have to use either the Disabled Player Exception of $5.2MM they were awarded earlier this week or a $7MM trade exception to take on Ennis’s contract.

Southwest Notes: McLemore, Ennis, Randle

The Grizzlies are gauging trade interest in swingmen Ben McLemore and James Ennis, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders writes.

The Grizzlies signed McLemore over the offseason to a two-year, $10.7MM deal, presumably hoping that they would be able to tap into something in the former Kansas product that the Kings hoped to find when they drafted him seventh overall in 2013.

McLemore has played just 17.2 points per game this season, adding just 6.5 points per contest in what’s been his least effective NBA campaign since his rookie year.

Scotto adds that the Grizzlies are also dangling Ennis and his expiring $3MM deal, hoping to yield at least one second-round pick.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Pelicans are said to be interested in upgrades on the wing, but finding a logical trade scenario is easier said than done. William Guillory of the Times-Picayune writes that it may prove difficult to make the salaries match in a deal for supposedly available perimeter players like Kent Bazemore or Evan Fournier.
  • Rumors that the Mavs could be in pursuit of Texas native Julius Randle were shot down by Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News. His reason? Acquiring a good player ahead of the trade deadline this season is the last thing the presumably lottery-bound club should be doing.
  • Offseason Grizzlies addition Tyreke Evans has thrived this season, proving that, for now at least, he’s healthy and capable of being a prominent producer. As a result, his name has been floated as a possible trade piece, including in a recent media scrum with Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal.

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are in an interesting place as a franchise and how they fare over the course of the next few seasons will have an impact on the team’s lasting legacy.

With $160MM tied up in franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol (32 years old) and Mike Conley (30), the good-but-not-exactly-great club has little choice but to keep retooling its rotation with low-cost players capable of possibly contributing to a second-tier Western Conference squad. More importantly, the Grizzlies have to be ready to promptly move on if those experiments don’t pan out.

Memphis isn’t expected to have any cap space next season, so any progress or roster development will have to come from within. Here’s a look at the team’s players who will hit free agency this summer and which way their value is trending.

Mario Chalmers verticalMario Chalmers, PG, 32 (Up) – Signed to 1-year, $2.1MM deal in 2017
The Grizz brought Chalmers back on board after waiving him in the spring of 2016. After spending last season out of the NBA altogether recovering from an Achilles injury, the former Heat punching bag has stepped into a role as a backup point guard and spot starter. Chalmers lacks the ceiling of a younger prospect and doesn’t contribute consistently enough to qualify as a reliable go-to bench option, so don’t expect any teams to offer big money. Still, that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of landing slightly more than the veteran’s-minimum contract he signed for last summer. If he stays healthy, Chalmers could find other suitors around the league. But with little reliable point guard depth under contract, the Grizzlies may be among those most eager to sign him.

James Ennis, SF, 28 (Down) – Signed to 2-year, $5.9MM deal in 2016
Memphis isn’t afraid to give Ennis a sizable workload, as evidenced by the 23.5 minutes per game he saw last year (which has risen to 26.5 so far in 2017/18), but the small forward isn’t particularly effective with that time on the court. With so many other swingmen on the roster, three of whom were signed just last summer, it doesn’t make much sense for the Grizzlies to commit long-term to the gritty veteran.

Tyreke Evans, SG/SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to 1-year, $3.3MM deal in 2017
The Grizzlies got one of the biggest bargains of the summer when they signed Evans with their bi-annual exception. The biggest issue with Evans, however, is health — he played just 65 games over the course of the previous two seasons. That said, Evans has shown no signs of lingering ailments so far this season and has averaged a head-turning 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in just 28.2 minutes per contest. If Evans keeps up his trademark versatile play for a full season, he’ll yield plenty more on the open market than what Memphis will be able to cover with his Non-Bird rights.

Brandan Wright, PF/C, 30 (Down) – Signed to 3-year, $17.2MM deal in 2015
Having played in just 40 games over the course of the past two seasons – and having been traded twice mid-season the year before that – it’s hard to know what to expect out of Wright. While the big man was once a surprisingly productive reserve, he suddenly qualifies as a 30-year-old journeyman who has made six forgettable stops over the course of 10 NBA seasons. Wright has done an admirable job trying to fill holes in Memphis’ depleted 2017/18 rotation, averaging 13.8 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes, but given his spotty track record, don’t expect him to net more than the veteran’s minimum next summer.

Player ages as of July 1, 2018. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Grizzlies Waive Toney Douglas

The Grizzlies are waiving Toney Douglas, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who reports (via Twitter) that three of Memphis’ injured players are getting close to returning. Douglas was signed by the Grizzlies using a hardship exception, which allowed the team to add a 16th man to its roster since four players were sidelined for an extended period.

We had already heard that James Ennis, one of those four injured Grizzlies players, was nearing a return, but Wojnarowski says that two others – Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons – have also made significant progress (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, Conley could get back on the court as soon as this weekend, which would be a surprisingly fast turnaround. When the veteran point guard went down with a back injury, reports indicated he would be re-evaluated in a month and would likely miss at least six weeks — that was just over two weeks ago.

Up until his injury, Conley had been one of the NBA’s most valuable players, so there were some questions about how the Grizzlies would perform without him. Since he went down, however, Memphis has played some of its best ball of the season, putting up a 7-2 record, with wins against the Warriors and Cavaliers. The team’s only two losses in that stretch came against Cleveland and Toronto, the two top teams in the East.

While Douglas didn’t play a ton during his time with the Grizzlies, he saw 17.8 minutes per game in six contests, averaging 5.8 PPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.7 RPG. Assuming he’s officially waived today, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this weekend, while Memphis will carry a cap hit of just over $100K for him, per Bobby Marks of The Vertical (Twitter link).

Grizzlies Expect James Ennis Back Soon

Grizzlies forward James Ennis, who has been sidelined for three weeks by a Grade 2 right calf strain, should be ready to play in a few days, tweets Chris Haynes of ESPN.

Ennis was a participant in most of today’s practice and is showing substantial progress. His return may happen as soon as Friday’s game against the Kings, but seems more likely next week (Twitter link).

Memphis signed Ennis over the summer to a two-year, $6MM deal. He had started 13 games for the Grizzlies before suffering the injury last month and was averaging 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per night.