Pelicans Rumors

Pelicans Finalizing Multiyear Deal With Didi Louzada

The Pelicans are finalizing a multiyear agreement with draft-and-stash guard/forward Didi Louzada, according to a report from ESPN’s Olgun Uluc and Andrew Lopez.

Louzada, who most recently played in Australia with the Sydney Kings, was acquired by New Orleans with the No. 35 pick in the 2019 NBA draft. He averaged 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 24.1 minutes in 20 contests with Sydney this season, shooting 39% from the field and 26% from behind the arc.

The 21-year-old Louzada stands at 6’5″ and can play the shooting guard and small forward positions. The Pelicans have until April 27 to sign another player after allowing Isaiah Thomas‘ 10-day contract expire on Monday, Uluc and Lopez note — teams are permitted to dip below the NBA’s required minimum of 14 players (not counting two-ways), but only for up to two weeks at a time.

The Pelicans haven’t touched their mid-level exception this year, so they’ll be able to use it to sign Louzada to a contract longer than two years. His cap hit for 2020/21 can be as low as the prorated rookie minimum, which is good news for a club looking to stay below the tax line.

New Orleans holds a 25-32 record, having put forth inconsistent defensive efforts this season. The club trails the No. 10 place Spurs by three games with roughly one month left in the season, losing a disappointing 122-112 game to New York on Sunday.

Pelicans Notes: Marshall, Ball, Hayes, Offseason

Pelicans wing Naji Marshall has emerged as a bright spot as the team deals with injuries, Christian Clark of writes. Marshall has given New Orleans production in the absences of Josh Hart (thumb), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (ankle) and Lonzo Ball (hip), doing so on a two-way contract.

“He’s putting it on the floor and making plays,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s taking advantage of his opportunity. I like that. He’s doing a good job there. And we’ll continue to see what he does the rest of the year.”

Marshall signed with New Orleans after going undrafted last year. The 23-year-old is averaging 5.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 16.9 minutes in 16 games this season, shooting 38% from the floor. He most recently added 16 points on Saturday against Washington and 14 points on Thursday against New York.

Here are some other notes out of New Orleans tonight:

Bulls Notes: Roster Turnover, LaVine, Markkanen, Ball

The Bulls were among the most active teams at the trade deadline, adding five new players to their roster, but so far the changes haven’t worked out the way they hoped, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. Chicago has gone just 3-7 since then while playing a difficult schedule that featured nine road games and seven against playoff contenders.

“Every night we have one category I would say we don’t perform well,” said center Daniel Theis, who was one of the new additions. “One night it’s turnovers that cost us a game. (Sunday), we didn’t get to the line a lot. (Monday), we didn’t shoot the ball well from 3. Now we’ve got to put together a complete game. If we play defense like (Monday) and we make our shots, we’re gonna win games.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Before the Bulls hosted Orlando tonight, Magic coach Steve Clifford talked to his former center, Nikola Vucevic, about the adjustment to a new team, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “He’s getting comfortable here (with Chicago),” Clifford said. “I think it’ll be a great place for him. He’s very upbeat, very excited about his teammates … loves (Bulls coach) Billy (Donovan).”
  • The decision to trade for Vucevic was a way for the Bulls’ front office to show Zach LaVine that they’re serious about winning, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. LaVine is widely expected to turn down an extension offer from Chicago in order to sign a more lucrative deal as a free agent, Blakely says.
  • The addition of Vucevic has cut into Lauri Markkanen‘s playing time and there’s reason to question whether he’ll return next season, Blakely adds. Vucevic and Markkanen both excel as scorers, but haven’t been effective as a defensive combo. “In the right kind of system, Markkanen could be a really good player,” an Eastern Conference executive told Blakely. “I don’t know if Chicago is it; it’s certainly not it if they think him and Vucevic can play together.” The Spurs may make a strong effort to sign Markkanen this summer, according to Blakely.
  • The Knicks are eyeing Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball in free agency and their main competition could come from the Bulls, sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post. Chicago was involved in trade talks regarding Ball at last month’s deadline.

Checking In On Traded 2021 First-Round Picks

It’s been nearly two months since we checked in on the status of 2021’s traded first-round picks, and there have been plenty of shifts in the NBA standings since then. Those changes have an impact on where in the draft certain traded picks will land, as well as whether or not some protected picks will change hands at all.

With just over a month left in the 2020/21 regular season, it’s worth revisiting the traded first-round picks for 2021. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here’s our latest look at which of those traded picks are most and least likely to change hands, and which ones are still up in the air:

Picks that will definitely change hands:

  • Knicks acquiring Mavericks‘ pick (unprotected).
  • Rockets acquiring Bucks‘ pick (top-nine protected swap).

The only unprotected traded pick for the 2021 draft, the Mavs’ selection currently projects to be the No. 21 overall pick. That would be a reasonably good outcome for the Knicks, but there’s even more upside here — since Dallas is currently the No. 7 seed in the West, a win in the play-in tournament may be necessary to secure a playoff spot.

The NBA has yet to clarify exactly how draft positioning will be affected by the play-in results, but presumably if the Mavs don’t clinch a postseason berth in the play-in, that pick would move into the lottery.

Meanwhile, the Rockets will acquire the Bucks’ pick, currently projected to land at No. 24 overall, in a swap for their own second-rounder (No. 32, for now).

Picks that definitely won’t change hands:

  • Grizzlies acquiring Jazz‘s pick (1-7 and 15-30 protection).
  • Pelicans acquiring Lakers‘ pick (8-30 protection).
  • Rockets acquiring Pistons‘ pick (top-16 protected).

The Jazz are definitely making the postseason and the Pistons definitely aren’t, so their picks (currently projected to be No. 30 and No. 4, respectively) won’t change hands.

The Grizzlies should at least be able to count on getting Utah’s first-rounder in 2022, when it will become top-six protected. It may be a while before the Rockets get a pick from Detroit though — that first-rounder remains heavily protected in 2022 (top-16), 2023 (top-18), and 2024 (top-18) before those protections start to loosen a little.

As for the Lakers‘ pick, it isn’t technically a lock yet — there’s theoretically a scenario in which L.A. misses the playoffs and then moves into the top four in the lottery, sending its pick to the Pelicans. But that’s an extreme long shot. The Lakers’ pick is at No. 23 for now.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Knicks have the ability to swap their own 2021 first-rounder for the Clippers‘ pick. At the moment though, New York’s pick would be No. 15 and L.A.’s would be No. 26, so that won’t happen.

Still up in the air:

  • Warriors acquiring Timberwolves‘ pick (top-three protected).
  • Magic acquiring Bulls‘ pick (top-four protected).
  • Thunder acquiring Warriors‘ pick (top-20 protected).

That Timberwolves pick will be a fascinating one to watch in the lottery. If Minnesota finishes with a bottom-three record, there will be a 40.1% chance it remains in the top three.

The Warriors will actually be rooting for the Wolves to finish with the NBA’s worst record, since in that scenario, there’s a 59.9% chance the pick lands at No. 4 or No. 5. If the Wolves instead have the third-worst record, the pick would be just as likely to land in the top three, but could slip as far as No. 6 or No. 7.

The Magic will have a good chance of landing the Bulls‘ pick, which currently projects to be the No. 10 overall selection. If Chicago remains in that spot, there would only be about a 14% chance of the pick moving up into the top four.

Golden State’s own pick, which currently projects to be No. 13, is unlikely to be sent to the Thunder unless the Warriors get hot late in the season. Assuming the Warriors’ first-rounder is protected, Oklahoma City would instead receive Minnesota’s second-round pick (currently No. 31).

Latest on the Rockets/Thunder/Heat/Blazers/Nets situation:

As a reminder, this series of trades and pick swaps is too convoluted to fit cleanly into any of the above sections. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. The Thunder will have the right to swap either their own first-round pick or the Heat’s first-round pick for the Rockets‘ first-round pick, but only if Houston’s pick doesn’t fall in the top four. In other words, if Houston gets a top-four pick, the Rockets will keep their own first-rounder; if not, the Thunder will get the two most favorable picks of their own, the Heat’s, and the Rockets’, and Houston will get the least favorable.
  2. Once the first step is complete, the Rockets will be left with at least one first-round pick, and almost certainly two, since they’re also owed the Trail Blazers‘ first-rounder (top-14 protected). They would then have the right to swap either of those picks for the Nets‘ first-rounder (unprotected).

As of today, the Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, giving them a 52.1% chance of having their pick land in its top-four protected range on lottery night. In that scenario, Houston would keep its first-rounder (tentatively No. 2) and would get the Trail Blazers’ pick at No. 22. The Thunder would keep their own pick (No. 6, pending lottery results) and receive the Heat’s first-rounder (No. 17), while the Nets would hang onto their own selection (No. 27).

On the other hand, if the Rockets’ pick falls outside of the top four, the Thunder would acquire it along with their own first-rounder, while Houston would get Miami’s pick at No. 17.

No matter how the rest of the season plays out, it’s safe to assume that lottery night on June 22 will have massive implications for the Timberwolves, Warriors, Rockets, and Thunder, and potentially for the Magic and Bulls as well.

While the Pistons, Cavaliers, and a handful of other lottery teams will also be invested in the results that night, the outcome won’t be quite as all-or-nothing for those clubs.

Pelicans Won’t Re-Sign Isaiah Thomas Immediately

The 10-day contract that Isaiah Thomas signed with the Pelicans has expired, and the team doesn’t plan to re-sign him to another deal right away, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No decision has been made on the long-term future for Thomas, Lopez adds, but the team has luxury tax concerns and may use the entire two weeks the league allows to re-add a 14th man (Twitter link). Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link) provides some additional details on how the Pelicans could eventually fill their two open roster spots before the end of the season while avoiding the tax.

Thomas made a positive impression on the Pelicans during his 10 days with the club, bringing veteran leadership and mentoring young players. However, recent injuries to Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker could affect what New Orleans decides to do with its roster (Twitter link).

Playing for the first time in more than a year, Thomas appeared in three games, averaging 7.7 points and 1.7 assists in 16 minutes per night. If the Pelicans decide to re-sign him, they can offer one more 10-day contract before having to decide whether to keep him for the rest of the season.

Dennis Schröder On Knicks’ Radar For Offseason

After being linked to a number of point guards leading up to the trade deadline, the Knicks ultimately didn’t address the position. However, they’re expected to revisit the point guard market in the offseason, and Lakers veteran Dennis Schröder is one player on their radar, writes Ian Begley of

Schröder is in the final year of his current contract and has reportedly turned down a four-year extension offer worth $80MM+ from the Lakers. That’s a strong indication that he’ll be seeking at least $20MM per year in free agency.

As Begley observes, the Knicks should be able to open up in excess of $50MM in cap room this summer, though it remains to be seen how aggressive the team would be with Schröder. The team will be considering other point guard options as well, including Lonzo Ball of the Pelicans, according to both Begley and Marc Berman of The New York Post.

Unlike Ball, who will be a restricted free agent, Schröder will be unrestricted, meaning the Knicks wouldn’t have to worry about their offer being matched if they get a commitment. However, the Lakers will likely be very motivated to re-sign their starting point guard — even if Schröder walks, the Lakers will be over the cap next season, meaning they wouldn’t be able to easily add a comparable replacement.

After a career year in Oklahoma City in 2019/20 (18.9 PPG on .469/.385/.839 shooting), Schröder’s numbers this season are more in line with his career rates. He has averaged 15.3 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 3.5 RPG with a .432/.338/.848 shooting line in 50 games (31.7 MPG) for the Lakers.

Pelicans Sign James Nunnally, Waive Will Magnay

11:35am: The Pelicans have officially signed Nunnally and cut Magnay, the team confirmed in a press release.

11:24am: The Pelicans will waive Magnay to make room for Nunnally, a source tells Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A 6’10” center from Australia, Magnay appeared in just one game for the Pelicans this season, going scoreless in three minutes. He also averaged 9.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1.5 BPG in 10 appearances (22.2 MPG) for the Erie BayHawks in the G League.

10:08am: The Pelicans intend to sign veteran wing James Nunnally to a two-way contract, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Nunnally, 30, made his NBA debut back in the 2013/14 season, but only played in 13 contests that season, then didn’t appear in an NBA game again until ’18/19. In total, he has played in 28 regular season games for four teams, having spent most of his professional career overseas in Europe and Asia.

Most recently, Nunnally played for Fenerbahce during the 2019/20 season. While he had a limited role for the Turkish club in EuroLeague play, he continued to knock down three-pointers at a high rate (.417 3PT%), something he has done throughout his international career.

The Pelicans don’t currently have an open two-way contract slot, but have an opening on their 15-man roster, even if they re-sign Isaiah Thomas to a second 10-day contract once his first deal expires tonight.

Naji Marshall has been a rotation player for the Pelicans as of late and seems unlikely to be waived, so if the team cuts a two-way player, Will Magnay is the more likely choice. New Orleans could also promote Marshall to the standard roster to open up a two-way spot for Nunnally, though the club doesn’t have much breathing room below the luxury tax line.

Zion Has Turned Into Point Forward

  • Isaiah Thomas is back in the NBA on a 10-day contract with the Pelicans and he claims his hip injuries are now a non-issue, Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes. “I’m 102%. I’m more than good,” Thomas said. “This is the best I ever felt since before I got injured. It’s not even a question no more.” In his first two appearances with New Orleans, Thomas has averaged 10.5 PPG and 2.5 APG in 22.o MPG.
  • Zion Williamson is increasingly serving as a point forward for the Pelicans and coach Stan Van Gundy believes that’s the role the All-Star will have going forward, according to William Guillory of The Athletic. Williamson piled up 37 points and eight assists against Philadelphia on Friday. “We want to get him more experience with that stuff going forward because I think that’s where his future is in this game. I really do,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve increased it throughout the year, giving him more and more opportunities. We’d like to get him more moving forward.”

Erie BayHawks Will Cease Operations

The Erie BayHawks of the NBA G League won’t return for the 2021/22 season, announcing today in a press release that they’ll cease operations in the coming weeks.

Technically, the franchise now known as the Erie BayHawks will be relocated by the Pelicans for the ’21/22 season to Birmingham, Alabama, where it will be rebranded.

That has happened to two iterations of the BayHawks in the past, as the original team became the Lakeland Magic in 2017 and the second version became the College Park Skyhawks in 2019. In each instance, an expansion team – also known as the BayHawks – continued to play in Erie, having established a new NBA affiliation.

However, the Pelicans turned down their 2021/22 option with Erie as they prepare to move their G League operations to Birmingham. As a result, the BayHawks don’t have an NBA partner lined up for next season, resulting in the decision to halt operations.

“We’ve made the determination that we will cease operations in the coming weeks due to not being unable to find another NBA partner, or other adequate opportunity, to keep G League basketball in Erie,” Erie Basketball Management president Owen McCormick said in a statement. “This result is merely a reflection of the changing landscape of the NBA as many teams prefer their G League affiliate be located nearby, and Erie simply is not positioned geographically to provide that.

“While we’re saddened by this for our fans and the Erie community, we are deeply appreciative of the tremendous support the BayHawks received over the past 13 years. The Erie region can be proud of the history the BayHawks made and the role that Erie played for the NBA during our years in the NBA Development League and NBA G League. We are truly grateful for the community’s amazing support and the fond memories made.”

Currently, the Suns and Trail Blazers are the only two NBA teams that don’t have a G League affiliate in place for the 2021/22 campaign. While it’s possible the BayHawks explored a partnership with one of those teams, neither Phoenix nor Portland is located anywhere close to Erie, Pennsylvania, so it wouldn’t have made for a convenient arrangement.

The BayHawks first entered the G League in 2008. Over the years, the team served as the NBAGL affiliate for the Cavaliers, Sixers, Raptors, Knicks, Magic, Hawks, and Pelicans. The Wizards also used Erie as its affiliate during the 2020/21 season, sharing operating costs with the Pels.

NBA May Be Next Stop For Sean Miller

Sean Miller will likely seek a job as an NBA assistant coach after being fired today as head coach at Arizona, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Miller received interest from at least one NBA team during the past offseason, sources tell Wojnarowski.

The Pelicans could be worth watching, according to freelance journalist Adam Zagoria, who points out that Miller and New Orleans head coach Stan Van Gundy have a long friendship (Twitter link).

Miller was dismissed after 12 years at Arizona, which included seven NCAA tournament bids and three appearances in the Elite Eight. His coaching tenure was muddied by scandal as the NCAA accused the school of five Level I violations, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN. They include two allegations of academic misconduct as well as a charge that Miller failed to demonstrate “that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance and monitored his staff.” The school gave itself a one-year postseason ban in response.

Arizona was considering a contract extension for Miller, sources tell Borzello, but didn’t believe it would receive approval from the board of regents because of the troubles with the NCAA.

Miller, 52, has been a head coach in the college ranks since 2004, but has no NBA experience.