Jeff Schwartz

Pelicans Notes: Melli, Ball, Ingram, Redick, Miller

The Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin was able to land Euro star Nicolo Melli by selling him on the team’s system and through a connection with Melli’s agent, Griffin told Jeff Duncan of The Athletic in a Q&A session. Melli joined New Orleans on a two-year, $8MM contract.

“It’s not like anybody discovered Melli. Everybody knew Melli. What was interesting is we were able to create a situation that attracted Melli. He had other opportunities to come to the NBA. He’s a player that, because he’s an elite defensive rebounder and floor spacer — I think he’s the leading rebounder in Europe since 2015 and he shoots 42 percent from 3 — that type of player is attractive to the NBA. What I think was significant for us was our situation spoke to him to because he saw his fit within Alvin Gentry’s system, and he’s represented by Sam Goldfeder of Excel Sports Management and Jeff Schwartz, whom I was really close to.”

We have more on the Pelicans:

  • Griffin received trade inquiries regarding the three rotation players he received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis blockbuster but didn’t get close to moving Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Brandon Ingram, Griffin indicated in the same story. “There was interest but nothing that really spoke to us to any degree. … We felt really fortunate that we were able to land the players we did, and it became really evident that we were fortunate because of the interest in them that was shown by several other teams basically immediately after the deal was announced. It was fascinating to go through the experience, but we didn’t acquire them to move them, so nothing was even close.”
  • Pelicans guard J.J. Redick will not participate in Team USA’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Unlike some players on the original 20-man roster who pulled out to concentrate on the next NBA season, Redick declined to be added to the roster due to family reasons as he transitions to a new city. Redick joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $26.5MM contract.
  • Forward Darius Miller‘s contract has an early July trigger date next summer, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. Miller will make $7.25MM in guaranteed money next season and is due $7MM in 2020/21 in the non-guaranteed portion of his contract. Miller was officially signed over the weekend.

DeMarcus Cousins Changes Agents

DeMarcus Cousins has changed agents, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times (Twitter link). The center will be represented by Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports.

Cousins is arguably the second-best free agent left unsigned but the market for him hasn’t exactly been robust. Adrian Wojnarowski recently said that it’s possible that the big man will not find a deal worth more than the $5.34MM contract he signed last offseason.

The Warriors inked Cousins to the taxpayer’s mid-level last season and if he signed on with a team this season on a similar deal, he’d see a slight raise. This year’s taxpayer’s mid-level exception is $5.718MM, while the non-taxpayer is $9.258MM.

Cousins could find a team will cap room, though there are not many clubs left with significant available space. The Lakers stand out as a feasible option should they miss out on Kawhi Leonard. Los Angeles has just over $32MM in cap room available.

The Clippers are another team that will have cap room available if they miss out on Leonard. The Knicks were linked to Cousins before free agency as a fallback option but New York opted to spend its budget on Bobby Portis, Julius Randle and an assortment of veterans.

Mavs Looking To Acquire DeAndre Jordan

JUNE 28, 1:42pm: Jordan is the Mavericks’ primary target as free agency approaches, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. According to MacMahon, if a trade agreement can’t be reached and the veteran center declines his option, Dallas plans to pursue him aggressively as a free agent. The interest between Jordan and the Mavs is mutual, sources tell MacMahon.

JUNE 27, 9:28pm: The Mavericks are engaged in talks with the Clippers to acquire center DeAndre Jordan this week, sources told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

This is a case of forgive and forget, as Jordan notoriously backed out on a free-agent deal with Dallas during the summer of 2015 to stay in L.A.

Jordan has a Friday night deadline to decide whether to exercise his $24.1MM player option for next season. If he opts in, Dallas can trade for him before free agency begins on Sunday. Swingman Wesley Matthews and his $18.6MM contract would likely be the centerpiece of any offer, according to Stein.

If Jordan opts out, Dallas could pursue him in free agency along with two other centers, unrestricted free agent DeMarcus Cousins and restricted free agent Clint Capela.

The Clippers have granted permission to Jordan and agent Jeff Schwartz to explore trade scenarios with other teams. It’s a similar scenario to All-Star guard Chris Paul opting in with the team and then getting traded to the Rockets last summer.

Dallas passed on drafting a big man last Thursday and instead made a deal with the Hawks for EuroLeague guard Luka Doncic.

Jokic’s Agent Advises Nuggets Not To Pick Up Option

Nikola Jokic’s agent told the Nuggets that picking up his option for next season would hinder their chances of locking him up long-term, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic tweets.

If Denver exercises its team option for 2018/19, Jokic would become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Currently, Jokic is arguably the biggest bargain in the league. He made $1.47MM this season and the team option is just $1.6MM.

If the Nuggets declines their option, Jokic will be a restricted free agent this summer and they’ll be able to match any offer. The team option deadline is June 29th.

Jokic is represented by Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management.

The Nuggets want to keep Jokic, but matching an offer sheet rather than paying him $1.6MM in 2018/19 would have major luxury-tax implications for next season unless they can dump some salary. Still, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly talked at season’s end about wanting to get Jokic’s signature on a long-term contract sooner rather than later, so the team and the center’s camp may be on the same page when it comes to that option decision.

Jokic had a breakout season in 2016/17 and continued to increase his production despite a stronger lineup around him. He averaged 18.5 PPG and 10.7 RPG in his third NBA season while connecting on 39.6% of his 3-point attempts.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Jordan, Parker

Not only does the return of Nikola Mirotic give the struggling Bulls an extra offensive weapon,  he provides a calm confidence that the young team can benefit from. Nick Friedell of ESPN writes that Mirotic has set the bar high upon his return, taking particular pleasure in the fact that the 5-20 team is 2-0 since he returned to the court.

Friedell adds that Mirotic has been playing particularly well alongside frontcourt teammate Bobby Portis. Together the pair who’s training camp skirmish made national headlines is rocking a 115.6 offensive rating with a 103.8 defensive rating. The pairing alone has yielded 59 of the Bulls’ 223 points over the last two games and they’ve only been on the floor together for 24 minutes.

The Bulls may be in the midst of a rebuild, not particularly committed to any specific player, but Mirotic has shown plenty of potential when asked to take on a large offensive role. From March 22 on last season, Mirotic averaged 17.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in just under 30 minutes per game.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The fact that DeAndre Jordan hired an agent with a close connection to Jason Kidd could give the Bucks an advantage in any trade negotiations with the Clippers, Ken Berger of Bleacher Report writes. Agent Jeff Schwartz represented Kidd for much of his playing career.
  • A big three on Saturday night could help Jae Crowder bust out of his shooting slump, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. The Cavaliers forward has struggled from long-range, particularly in the fourth quarter, and has ceded some minutes to reserve Jeff Green. “Y’all know I’ve been struggling. It feels good to finally see one go down, especially late in the game,” Crowder said. “I’ve made quite a few of those in my career, but I haven’t made them like I wanted to here. I just want to build off this win.”
  • If Jabari Parker‘s future with the Bucks is uncertain given his health, contract status and the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, one team that could be in play to acquire him is the Jazz. Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News details Parker’s connection to the The Church of Latterday Saints which has famously strong roots in Utah. Parker, it’s worth noting, had BYU in his top five potential colleges coming out of high school.