Julius Randle

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2018/19 Season

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com asking each of the league’s 30 GMs to answer an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. Unsurprisingly, the Warriors are once again viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorites to be the last team standing, with 26 of 30 GMs (87%) picking Golden State to win the NBA championship for the fourth time in five years.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more noteworthy ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • LeBron James (30%) and Kevin Durant (27%) are viewed as the frontrunners for the 2018/19 MVP award, but two younger players led the voting for the player GMs would most want to build a franchise around starting today. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (30%) and Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (23%) led the way in that category. Interestingly, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns didn’t receive a single vote this year after leading the way with 29% of the vote in 2017.
  • The Lakers‘ signing of James helped them earn 70% of the vote for the team that made the best overall moves this offseason. The Raptors, buoyed by their acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, finished second at 20%.
  • A ton of different signings and trade acquisitions received votes for the most underrated addition of the summer, with the Pacers‘ signing of Tyreke Evans barely leading the way with four votes. The Spurs‘ trade for DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls‘ signing of Jabari Parker, the Pelicans‘ addition of Julius Randle, and the Thunder‘s acquisition of Dennis Schroder received three votes apiece.
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ decision to join the Warriors (35%) was considered the most surprising move of the offseason, followed by the Spurs/Raptors blockbuster trade (29%) and Paul George remaining with the Thunder (19%).
  • While Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is the strong frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, GMs expect Suns center Deandre Ayton and Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. to be the best players five years from now. Meanwhile, the Clippers‘ selection of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at No. 11 was viewed by the most GMs as the steal of the draft.
  • The Sixers (47%) and Celtics (33%) dominated voting for the teams with the most promising young cores.

Southwest Notes: Anthony, Okafor, Randle, Grizzlies

Carmelo Anthony is looking to make the game fun again in his first season with the Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Anthony is set to enter his 16th professional season, with the 34-year-old having his vision set on winning an NBA championship.

“Just enjoy the game and play basketball … I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Anthony said. “I still know how to do it. I’ve just got to make it fun. The game just has to be fun.”

The Rockets are expected to be a championship contender this season, with the team featuring a deep bench, star center and All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and James Harden. The level of production Anthony gives will help determine how far the team gets in its journey.

“He’s a great basketball player, so we just try to make it optimal for him and us,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s always a little bit of a challenge, but if you had asked me the same question (last year) about James and Chris I would have said the same thing: ‘Well, it looks good. I’m excited.’ So same thing with him.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

Pelicans Notes: Davis, Jack, Payton, Randle

In a piece by Brett Martel of the Associated Press, Pelicans star power forward Anthony Davis dismissed the idea that his decision to hire Klutch Sports’ Rich Paul as new representation meant he was setting the stage for a departure from the Big Easy.

That being said, Davis can reach the free agent market in two years and has increasing leverage to control where he plays, so it’s understandable that Pelicans’ fans seemed to become a little paranoid when Davis made a change, especially after Chris Paul left New Orleans in his prime shortly after he changed agents.

“It was just for where I am right now in my career — what I’m trying to do — I thought the change was necessary,” Davis said Monday during media day. “That’s all it was… I’m (in New Orleans). I want to focus on winning this year with the squad that we have. We have a good squad.”

There’s more out of New Orleans:

  • In some interesting but not so pressing news, Will Guillory of The Athletic relays that newly-acquired veteran point guard Jarrett Jack has interest in becoming a coach after he retires.
  • In a full article for The Athletic, Guillory asks whether free agent acquisition, point guard Elfrid Payton, can overtake Rajon Rondo‘s role with the team and excel in head coach Alvin Gentry‘s guard-friendly, up-tempo system.
  • Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com writes that Davis and fellow Kentucky alum Julius Randle are very excited to share the court together this season after mostly competing against each other in pick-up games all summer.

Julius Randle Wants To Remain With Pelicans Long-Term

Julius Randle joined the Pelicans this offseason on a two-year deal, one that includes a player option on the second season. Although he can go elsewhere next summer, Randle reiterated that he doesn’t plan on leaving. He wants his move to New Orleans to be a “long-term thing,” Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link) relays.

The power forward will get a chance to play alongside Anthony Davis, a player whose skill set complements Randle nicely. Davis and Nikola Mirotic can both spread the floor, meaning that in most rotations, Randle should find space in the paint. Randle added that he’s in the “perfect situation for a basketball player.”

The Kentucky product played in 238 games for the Lakers after the team took him with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Los Angeles renounced his rights, creating the cap space necessary to sign LeBron James and several other players this past summer.

Randle had arguably his finest season in California during the 2017/18 campaign. He scored a career-high 16.1 points per contest and had a true shooting percentage of 60.6. His player efficiency rating was 19.9.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Pelicans, Anderson, Mavericks

Jimmy Butler may be the next star to be traded, but Anthony Davis won’t be joining him, according to Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. Appearing on a podcast with Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports, Bontemps said there’s a “zero percent chance” the Pelicans will part with Davis this season [hat tip to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype).

Next summer, Davis will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract that could become the richest deal in NBA history, Bontemps explains. It’s possible that a trade involving Davis could happen in a few years if he decides he’s not happy in New Orleans or doesn’t view the team as a contender, but Bontemps said he won’t go anywhere until he has that contract in hand.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • This Pelicans‘ roster turnover this summer may present the biggest challenges on defense, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate. New Orleans got noticed for its fast pace last season, but one of the overlooked factors in its success was team defense, which was fourth best in the league after February 1 at 103.4 points per 100 possessions. Davis and Jrue Holiday were first-team All-Defense honorees, but newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton, who both had negative defensive efficiency numbers last season, have to prove that they contribute at that end of the court.
  • The decision to gamble on former Spurs forward Kyle Anderson may help decide Chris Wallace’s future as GM of the Grizzlies, suggests Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Huge contracts for Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons were already straining the team’s cap when Wallace decided to extend a four-year, $37.2MM offer sheet to Anderson. San Antonio elected not to match, so Anderson will be in Memphis’ training camp next week as its top free agent addition of the summer. It’s a huge risk based on Anderson’s career numbers, which included a career-high 7.9 PPG and 5.4 RPG last season. Giannotto states that the Grizzlies should look to replace Wallace if it doesn’t work out.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News takes a look at some of the key figures in the Mavericks‘ workplace misconduct case, which resulted in a settlement that was announced today.

Western Notes: Anderson, Wallace, Kleber, Randle

Suns forward Ryan Anderson lowered his guaranteed salary to $15.4MM for the final year of his contract in 2019/2020 but it can be traded for the prior fully guaranteed value of $21.4MM, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post tweets. Anderson agreed to the reduction to facilitate the trade from the Rockets. However, since his contract was signed under the previous CBA, its trade value remains unchanged. The Suns will have until July 10, 2019 to decide whether they want to guarantee Anderson’s full salary for the final year of his contract or waive him, in which case they’d still have to pay the reduced guarantee.

In other news from around the Western Conference:

  • Shooting guard Tyrone Wallace can’t be traded by the Clippers without his consent as a result of Los Angeles matching his offer sheet, salary cap expert Albert Nahmad tweets. The restricted free agent signed a two-year, $2.9MM offer sheet with the Pelicans but the Clippers opted to match it on Wednesday despite a roster logjam. The Clippers are prohibited from trading Wallace to the Pelicans for one year, Nahmad adds.
  • Maxi Kleber needs to improve his long-range shooting to earn rotation minutes with the Mavericks during the upcoming season, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes. Kleber will be competing with Dwight Powell and Salah Mejri for playing time with DeAndre Jordan and Dirk Nowitzki guaranteed to play steady minutes. The 6’11” Kleber shot 31.3% from deep in his first season with the club.
  • Anthony Davis called Julius Randle three times after Randle hit the free agent market to ensure the former Laker would sign with the Pelicans, William Guillory of The Athletic reports. Randle had his rights renounced by the Lakers after LeBron James agreed to sign with Los Angeles and Randle quickly agreed to a two-year, $18MM deal with New Orleans. Randle had more lucrative deals on the table, Guillory adds, but Randle wants to remain with the franchise even though he has an opt-out next summer.

Pelicans Still In Need Of A Wing Player?

A bigger issue with the Pelicans this upcoming season may be the absence of a reliable player on the wing rather than the loss of Rajon Rondo or DeMarcus Cousins, as newcomers Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are capable of replicating their production, at least in part, writes Scott Kushner of The Advocate.

Kushner opines that nobody on the Pelicans’ roster is capable of being a solid “3-and-D” player, as Solomon Hill has struggled to recover from a torn hamstring and E’Twaun Moore, limited by his 6’4” frame, has been asked to play against players much taller than him and seemingly taken out of his comfort zone as a result.

“If it was up to me — it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay on the floor and help my team win — but I would like to say that maybe I hopefully could be playing a little bit more guard (this season),” Moore said. “Last year, I was more of a wing, but it worked out well for the team because we played so fast. But it would be kind of cool to be going back to being a guard again.”

So, the Pelicans will now hold a three-man competition between Troy Williams, Garlon Green, and Kenrich Williams in order to find someone who may be able to crack the team’s wing rotation this season.

The Pelicans could also be active around midseason, as they were when they acquired Cousins in 2017 and Nikola Mirotic last season. But for now, they’ll rely on MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Randle and Mirotic, which should be enough to keep them in the Western Conference playoff race.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Jackson Jr., Metu

The Pelicans added a pair of young building blocks in Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton this summer and the new personnel could lead to an even faster pace of play, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

The addition of two athletic young players  – Randle is still just 23 years old while Payton is 24 – will serve the Pelicans well. Guillory writes that New Orleans led the league in pace after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury in January.

We want to play fast, we want to defend, we want to get out in transition,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said. “The other thing is these two guys are very unselfish players, which would fit great with our group.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Lineup, Ball, Randle

While LeBron James is – of course – a lock to open the season in the Lakers‘ starting lineup, the team isn’t ready to pencil in the rest of its starting five quite yet, general manager Rob Pelinka said today. As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com (Twitter link) relays, Pelinka told reporters that the other four spots in the Lakers’ lineup will be up for grabs. That includes the point guard position, where Rajon Rondo and Lonzo Ball are expected to engage in open competition.

Here are a few more Lakers-related notes and updates:

  • Lonzo Ball and his management group are evaluating options for his injured knee, according to Pelinka (Twitter link via Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet). None of the options being considered would involve a long-term recovery though, so Pelinka expects the second-year point guard to be “100% available for training camp.”
  • Asked if the Lakers considered signing Julius Randle to a long-term deal this offseason, Pelinka pointed out that the team didn’t give multiple years to anyone except LeBron, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. “We did identify going into this offseason to keep cap flexibility going into 2019,” Pelinka said.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Ohm Youngmisuk pass along some Lakers contract details, with Lowe tweeting that James’ new four-year contract includes a 15% trade kicker, while Youngmisuk writes that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk‘s 2018/19 salary of $1.5MM is guaranteed, but his second and third years are non-guaranteed. It looks like L.A. gave Mykhailiuk a larger-than-usual first-year salary in exchange for allowing the team to maximize its 2019 flexibility.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and Lee Jenkins of SI.com both published excellent, in-depth looks at LeBron’s free agent decision. Each piece is packed with interesting tidbits and is worth checking out in full.

Pelicans Sign Julius Randle

JULY 9: The Pelicans have officially signed Randle, per the NBA’s transactions log. The team’s new deal with Ian Clark has also been finalized, according to the league’s list of official transactions.

JULY 2: The Pelicans have reached an agreement with Lakers free agent forward Julius Randle on a two-year, $18MM contract, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The second year will be a player option, Wojnarowski adds.

The acquisition of Randle would strongly suggest that the Pelicans are not confident in re-signing DeMarcus Cousins. At the very least, adding Randle would give them some insurance if Cousins signs elsewhere. Not only does New Orleans already have superstar Anthony Davis up front but also Nikola Mirotic, who was acquired from the Bulls and jumped into the starting lineup with Cousins sidelined by a season-ending Achilles injury.

Davis was instrumental in recruiting Randle to New Orleans, according to another Wojnarowski tweet. Randle had his rights renounced by Los Angeles per his request earlier on Monday, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Pelicans ironically lost free agent point guard Rajon Rondo to the Lakers shortly before the news of Randle’s agreement broke.

Randle’s opt-out will give him the opportunity to explore the free agent market once again next summer. Randle, a former seventh overall pick, averaged 16.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, and a .558 FG% in 26.7 minutes per game last season.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, may be poised to replace Cousins with Randle and Rondo with Elfrid Payton, who reached an agreement with the team on Sunday. The terms of the two deals strongly suggest that New Orleans will use its mid-level exception to sign Randle and its bi-annual exception to bring Payton aboard.

A two-year signing using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception would be worth about $17.7MM, which matches up with Randle’s reported $18MM agreement. The bi-annual exception is worth $3.382MM and would accommodate Payton’s reported $2.7MM salary.

Using either exception would hard-cap the Pelicans at $129.82MM for the 2018/19 league year, so while they could go over the cap to re-sign Cousins, their team salary would have to stay below that $129.82MM threshold. Taking into account Randle’s and Payton’s reported agreements, the Pelicans are at approximately $104MM in guaranteed salary for nine players. That total doesn’t include Cousins or non-guaranteed players like Darius Miller ($2.2MM).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.