James Ennis

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.

Southwest Notes: Finney-Smith, Randolph, Grizzlies

Dorian Finney-Smith‘s contract with the Mavericks called for the partial guarantee on his minimum salary to increase to $200K if he remained with the team beyond December 5, as our schedule of guarantee dates shows. There has been no word about that deadline changing, and Dallas’ decision-makers are “pretty high” on Finney-Smith, as Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes, so it’s probably safe to assume he received that increased guarantee. The young forward will have his full $543K salary guaranteed if he remains under contract through January 10.

Here’s more from around the NBA’s Southwest division:

  • Asked again about the possibility of trading veterans and looking ahead to next season, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the team would probably know its direction within a month or so, but he isn’t ready to discuss it yet, per Sefko. “What’s the point of addressing this now?” Cuban said. “We’ll know when we know and it won’t be a surprise. If we’re not winning games, it’ll be one thing. If we’re winning a bunch of games … we’ll have a different attitude. It just depends on the circumstance.”
  • Zach Randolph, who has missed the last seven games following the death of his mother, has returned to the Grizzlies and is expected to suit up for the team tonight against Philadelphia, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com.
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal provided an injury update for a pair of Grizzlies players on Monday, tweeting that James Ennis and Chandler Parsons will be re-evaluated in a week to 10 days.
  • Check out our story from earlier today for the latest details on Donatas Motiejunas‘ situation with the Rockets.

Southwest Notes: Barnes, Spurs, Grizzlies, Rockets

The Mavericks don’t expect small forward Harrison Barnes to emerge as a superstar to replace Dirk Nowitzki but he’ll have a much bigger role with them than he did with the Warriors, Tim MacMahon of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes received a max four-year, $94MM contract this summer and will be featured much more offensively in Dallas, particularly with the free agent departure of Chandler Parsons. Coach Rick Carlisle told MacMahon that he met with Barnes about the outside expectations that come with signing a huge contract. “I talked to him this summer a lot about that,” Carlisle said. “The bottom line is it’s a challenge that he’s got to love taking on. The important thing is an elevation in responsibility comes at the right rate. You don’t just get a guy like this and throw him out there and tell him he’s got to score 20 a night. … We’ll get it to him in what I feel will be the correct doses and we’ll go from there.”
In other news around the Southwest Division:
  • The Spurs have waived big man Ryan Richards, according to the team’s website. They signed the 2010 second-round draft choice to a training camp contract earlier this month. He played with teams in Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain last season.
  • The Rockets have high expectations for center Clint Capela as Dwight Howard‘s replacement, Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com writes. The team signed Nene Hilario to back up and mentor Capela, who is expected to move into the starting lineup, Watkins continues. GM Daryl Morey told Watkins that Capela must become an impact player. “Clint is someone for us, to have the season we want to have — to get home court in the Western Conference and to make a deep playoff run and hopefully to go deeper than we’ve ever been in my career — Clint is going to have to take a big step forward,” Morey said. “It’s not an easy step, from playing 15 to 20 minutes against … often, but not always, the starting center to playing 25-plus minutes against front-line guys.”
  • New Grizzlies coach David Fizdale has big plans for small forward James Ennis, Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Ennis was re-signed by the club this offseason on a two-year, $6MM contract and Fizdale sees him as a valuable rotation piece, Tillery continues. “He’s what today’s NBA is. He’s a Swiss Army knife,” Fizdale told Tillery. “He can guard a lot of different people. I’ve got him in a good place and he’s taking advantage of that.”

Grizzlies Sign James Ennis To Two-Year Deal

JULY 13TH, 4:58pm: The signing is official, the team announced via press release.

JULY 3RD, 1:10am: The Grizzlies have reached an agreement with free agent small forward James Ennis on a two-year, $6MM contract, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter). It’ll be a fully guaranteed deal, according to Charania.

Ennis, who turned 26 on Friday, was eligible for restricted free agency this summer, but the Pelicans opted not to issue him a qualifying offer, despite his strong finish to the season. In nine games for New Orleans down the stretch, Ennis averaged 15.9 PPG, with an impressive .500/.480/.792 shooting line. He put up 29 and 28 points in his final two games of the year.

A second-round pick in 2013, Ennis made his NBA debut in 2014, and was a part-time player for the Heat in that 2014/15 season. His production in Miami, and in a 10-game stint in Memphis last season, was far more modest than those numbers he put up for the Pelicans.

The Pelicans, Mavericks, Clippers, Warriors, and Hawks were reportedly among the other teams to inquire on Ennis this week. But he’ll join the Grizzlies, who have already committed more than $250MM to Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons in free agency, as our tracker shows.