James Ennis

Rockets Sign Forward James Ennis

JULY 13, 6:57pm: The signing is official, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

JULY 11, 4:36pm: The Rockets will sign free agent forward James Ennis, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports, who reports (via Twitter) that Houston and Ennis have agreed to a two-year deal. The second year will be a player option, Charania adds.James Ennis of the Detroit Pistons

Ennis is a logical three-and-D addition for a Rockets team that has lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute on the wing so far this offseason. A career 35.9% shooter from three-point range, Ennis averaged 7.1 PPG and 3.1 RPG in 72 total games last year with the Grizzlies and Pistons.

Although Ennis was inconsistent from beyond the arc after arriving in Detroit in a deadline trade, the Pistons were said to have “significant interest” in re-signing him entering free agency. Upon officially hitting the market, Ennis reportedly drew interest from the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Rockets. The Kings also made a strong push for Ennis in recent days, per Charania, but Houston ultimately won out.

According to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle, the Rockets were able to secure Ennis for the veteran’s minimum, which means his deal will be worth about $3.47MM over two years. That would be a big win for Houston, as the team will still have its full taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.337MM) available to offer other free agents.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN.com though, Ennis’ two-year deal will be worth about $4MM, which would require a portion of the MLE unless some generous rounding is involved. We’ll await further clarification.

Having re-signed Chris Paul and Gerald Green, Houston’s main focus in free agency now will be retaining restricted free agent Clint Capela. However, as their deal with Ennis shows, the Rockets still have the flexibility to fill in other holes in their roster while they try to find common ground with Capela. The club is viewed as the frontrunner to land Carmelo Anthony when he reaches the open market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Timberwolves Eyeing Nick Young, Other Free Agents

4:06pm: Wolfson adds Jeff Green, Malcolm Delaney, and Treveon Graham to the list of free agents that the Timberwolves have inquired on so far (Twitter link).

12:15pm: The Timberwolves have interest in Nick Young among several other free agents, according to ESPN’s Darren Wolfson (Twitter link).

Young is coming off a down year in Golden State where he sported just a 10.0 player efficiency rating and scored just 7.3 points per game. It’s hard to envision the shooting guard surpassing the $5.19MM salary he received with the Warriors last season after floundering alongside the best supporting cast he’s ever played with.

Minnesota has the non-tax mid-level ($8.6MM) and the bi-annual ($3.4MM) at its disposal. However, with approximately $115MM already on the books, the team must be careful when handing out deals if it intends to stay below the luxury tax line. If a team uses its bi-annual exception or more than the taxpayer portion of its MLE, it becomes hard-capped for the season.

Dante Cunningham and James Ennis are among other free agents the Wolves are keeping an eye on, Wolfson adds. Lance Stephenson remains a possibility for one of the team’s five open roster spots. Minnesota is among the teams expected to have interest in the mercurial shooting guard once the first wave of free agents sign.

Other candidates for the team’s openings include Trevor Booker, Amir Johnson, Jabari Bird and Anthony Tolliver. Coach/executive Tom Thibodeau reportedly has spoken with Tolliver and team values the power forward’s lockerroom presence.

Sixers Notes: Ennis, Ilyasova, Bird, Milton

The Sixers have their eyes on free agent forward James Ennis, tweets ESPN’s Ian Begley, but landing him won’t be easy. Detroit owns Early Bird rights on Ennis and has made re-signing him a priority.

Ennis, 28, came to the Pistons at the trade deadline after beginning the season in Memphis. He was a part-time starter in Detroit and averaged 7.5 points per game. He earned a little more than $3MM this season.

The Rockets and Nets have also expressed interest in Ennis, according to Begley. The Pelicans would also like to sign him, but the growing interest may push him outside their price range, adds Scott Kushner of The Advocate (Twitter link). Ennis played nine games in New Orleans at the end of the 2015/16 season.

There’s more from Philadelphia on the first day of free agency:

  • The Sixers talked to veteran forward Ersan Ilyasova about a return before he signed a three-year, $21MM deal with the Bucks, according to Gery Woelful of The Racine Journal Times (Twitter link). The Lakers, Timberwolves and Raptors were other options for Ilyasova.
  • The Sixers are among the teams showing interest in Celtics shooting guard Jabari Bird, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who adds that the Wolves are also considering an offer. Bird was a two-way player for Boston this season, appearing in 13 NBA games and averaging 3.0 points in 8.0 minutes per night. He was a big scorer for the Celtics’ G League affiliate in Maine, posting a 19.3/5.8/2.7 line in 20 games. Boston submitted a qualifying offer this week, making Bird a restricted free agent.
  • Second-round pick Shake Milton will be held out of summer league play because of a stress fracture in his back, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team plans to re-evaluate him in three weeks. His injury occurred during pre-draft workouts.
  • Justin Anderson had surgery on his left leg due to recurring tibial stress syndrome, the team announced on its website. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks, then again in six to eight weeks. Anderson has spent the past season and a half in Philadelphia and appeared in 38 games this year.

Central Rumors: Hood, Cavs, Pistons, Pacers

While Rodney Hood saw his value slip over the course of the 2017/18 season, he remains a priority for the Cavaliers, according to Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, who hears from a source that Cleveland intends to keep the RFA guard. The Bulls view Hood as a potential Plan B if they lose Zach LaVine, but the Cavs plan on matching an offer sheet from Chicago or any other team, per Deveney.

According to Deveney’s source, both the Cavaliers and Hood are braced for the possibility of the four-year veteran accepting his qualifying offer if he doesn’t find a better deal. Playing out the one-year, $3.47MM contract would allow Hood to rebuild his value in advance of unrestricted free agency in 2019.

Here are a few more notes from around the Central division:

  • The Pistons will be an over-the-cap team this summer, and may not be able to spend their full mid-level exception due to their proximity to the tax line. As such, senior advisor Ed Stefanski says he expects Detroit to be in “the background” of free agency, per Kurt Mensching of The Detroit News. “I like where our team is right now,” Stefanski said. “We have more than enough to compete.”
  • While the Pistons may not aggressively pursue outside free agents, they’d like to bring back a couple of their own. Mensching notes in his article that Detroit has interest in re-signing Anthony Tolliver if the price is right, while a team source tells ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link) that the Pistons have “significant interest” in retaining James Ennis.
  • Victor Oladipo is bullish on the Pacers‘ outlook and sounds like he’d be willing to get involved in recruiting free agents to Indiana, writes Clifton Brown of The Indianapolis Star. However, Oladipo doesn’t expect to be involved in the front office’s decision-making process. “If they ask me, I guess I’ll give them my input,” Oladipo said with a smile. “But for the most part, I just focus on getting better.”

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.