New Orleans Pelicans

DeAndre Liggins Gets Second 10-Day Deal With Pelicans

The Pelicans have signed guard DeAndre Liggins to a second 10-day contract, the team announced on its website.

Liggins appeared in just one game for New Orleans during the first 10-day deal, scoring four points in 11 minutes. The team needs roster depth with Alexis AjincaFrank JacksonTony Allen and Solomon Hill all sidelined by injuries. The Pelicans were granted a $2.75MM disabled player exception on Wednesday.

Liggins played 31 games for the Bucks, averaging 1.8 points per night, before being waived earlier this month. He has been with seven teams since entering the league in the 2011/12 season.

Once Liggins’ second 10-day contract expires, the Pelicans will either have to release him or sign him for the rest of the season.

And-Ones: Predictions, Discipline, Prospects

In a debut installment of a new feature, Marc Stein of the New York Times made a number of predictions for the upcoming year in basketball. The scribe ventures a guess that this is the year the Trail Blazers blow up their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Stein writes that dealing one of the star guards would be the easiest way for the Blazers to balance their roster, something that could come in handy if the organization seeks to go in a new direction. Bear in mind, however, that Stein’s prediction applies to this year and not necessarily to this season.

Stein also makes a series of arguments that a pair of big names stay with their current teams, despite ongoing speculation to the contrary. The Times journalist says that LeBron James to the Lakers is no guarantee and that Cleveland stands a legitimate chance of retaining the King.

On a similar note, Stein reasons that DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely to find the market teeming with attractive salary offers this season and that he’ll end up staying put with the Pelicans.

There’s more from around the league:

  • One possible solution to curb the growing tension between NBA players and referees is to ramp up the discipline assigned to players who act hostile to officials. “The hammer has to drop from above,” one Western Conference team official told Ken Berger of Bleacher Report. “When you had David Stern and Rod Thorn there, none of this stuff was going on because they weren’t going to put up with it. I think we’ve gotten away from that. There’s something every night.
  • Four active front offices have made a dozen or more trade deadline deals over the course of their tenures, Bobby Marks of ESPN weighed in on them and the rest of the league’s executives in his latest for ESPN Insiders.
  • There has been plenty of movement among the DraftExpress team’s list of the top 100 NBA prospects. Jonathan Givony of ESPN recently broke down a number of NCAA players who’ve recently seen their values rise dramatically.

Seven Southwest Trade Candidates To Watch

The NBA trade deadline is just three weeks away, and there’s no shortage of players around the league who could change teams. Over the next week, we’re taking a closer look at some of those top trade candidates, breaking them down by division.

While our focus will be primarily on teams expected to be sellers at the deadline, our lists may also include some players on contenders who could be used as trade chips when those teams look to make upgrades.

We’re examining the Southwest Division today, so let’s dive in and identify seven players who could be on the move on or before February 8…

  1. Tyreke Evans verticalTyreke Evans, G (Grizzlies): After posting a career-worst 10.3 PPG and .405 FG% in 2016/17, Evans has bounced back in a major way this season. The former fourth overall pick has looked like a borderline All-Star, particularly since Mike Conley went down. In Conley’s absence, Evans has averaged an impressive 20.2 PPG, 5.7 APG, and 5.3 RPG, with a .445/.387/.773 shooting line. Throw in a very modest $3.29MM cap hit, and Evans is one of the more intriguing trade candidates on the market — even if he’ll just be a rental. The Grizzlies reportedly want a first-round pick in return for Evans, and I don’t think that’s out of the question, especially if the pick falls in the 20s, or if Memphis is willing to accept a less desirable contract in return. Last year, for instance, the Nets landed a first-round pick for Bojan Bogdanovic because they were willing to take on Andrew Nicholson.
  2. Ben McLemore, SG (Grizzlies): Memphis’ signing of McLemore was similar to the team’s move to land Evans. In each case, the Grizzlies were betting that they could get more out of a former top pick than his previous team(s) had. That bet paid off in Evans’ case, but the club hasn’t had as much luck with McLemore, whose 2017/18 debut was delayed after he underwent offseason foot surgery. While the Grizzlies are said to be gauging potential interest in the fifth-year guard, it’s hard to imagine teams clamoring to land him — McLemore has averaged just 6.3 PPG and has shot .411/.317/.789 in 24 games this season. Additionally, his contract, which will pay him $5.2MM this year and $5.46MM in 2018/19, isn’t quite team-friendly enough to be worth the gamble. If the former Kansas star is moved, the return won’t be significant.
  3. Marc Gasol, C (Grizzlies): Barring a second-half run reminiscent of the one made by the 2016/17 Heat, the 15-28 Grizzlies won’t make the playoffs this year. Gasol only has one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season, with a player option for 2019/20, so it would make sense for the Grizzlies to at least gauge the market to see what his value is. Still, Memphis has thus far been reluctant to discuss the possibility of moving Gasol — not only does the team have an eye on contending with its standout center next season, but it hasn’t thrown in the towel on this season. For now, we’ll take their word that Gasol isn’t going anywhere at the deadline, but of all the teams insisting they won’t trade their respective stars, the lottery-bound Grizzlies seem most likely to reconsider their position within the next three weeks.
  4. Nerlens Noel, C (Mavericks): Initially viewed as a steal, the Mavericks‘ 2017 deadline deal to acquire Noel hasn’t panned out like the team hoped. The former Sixer was good – but not great – down the stretch for the Mavs, then settled for signing his one-year qualifying offer in the summer after turning down a more lucrative multiyear deal. Given his performance and his ongoing health problems this season, it looks like Noel made a major mistake, and he and the Mavs don’t seem likely to make their union a long-term one. Currently sidelined with a thumb injury, Noel may be back in early February, which would give potential suitors a chance to get one more look at him before the February 8 deadline. He’s affordable ($4.19MM) and still very young (23 years old), so a team in need of an athletic frontcourt player may be willing to roll the dice, as long as Noel is willing to OK a trade — he has the ability to veto a move, since he’d lose his Bird rights if he’s dealt.
  5. Devin Harris, G (Mavericks): Harris’ 2017/18 numbers look a lot like the ones he posted in each of the previous five seasons. He’ll give you a little scoring punch off the bench, and a semi-reliable outside shot (his .354 3PT% this season is his best since 2011/12). He’ll never again be the 20-point scorer he was nearly a decade ago in New Jersey, but Harris could be a solid bench addition for teams lacking backcourt depth or battling injuries. He’s also inexpensive ($4.4MM) and will come off the cap this summer. Although there have been no reports linking Harris to other teams, it’s hard to believe the Mavericks wouldn’t move him if offered something of value.
  6. Alexis Ajinca, C (Pelicans): Ajinca is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season, so he certainly won’t be targeted by any teams looking for immediate upgrades. Instead, he’ll likely be dangled by the Pelicans for salary-matching purposes as they seek out upgrades of their own. With only one more guaranteed year on his contract after this season at a reasonable rate of $5.29MM, Ajinca isn’t the sort of albatross that Omer Asik is, so it’s plausible that the Pelicans could extract a decent player in a deal if they’re willing to attach a pick or two. For instance, if New Orleans liked Devin Harris (noted above), the team could offer Ajinca and a draft pick. Such a move would help the Pels financially both this year and next year, and would give them a useful rotation player; from the Mavericks‘ perspective, Ajinca could be waived and stretched with minimal impact on their cap, so it may be worth it if the draft pick was strong enough.
  7. Ryan Anderson, PF (Rockets): One of the most-discussed trade candidates of the 2017 offseason, Anderson no longer seems as likely to be dealt. Still, there are only six Rockets earning more than $4MM this season, and the other five – James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Trevor Ariza – likely aren’t going anywhere. So if the Rockets look to make a major splash on the trade market and want to acquire another highly-paid player, Anderson would be the logical outgoing piece. The bet here is that Houston hangs onto the veteran sharpshooter and revisits the idea of a major splash in the offseason.

Here are a few more potential Southwest trade candidates to monitor:

  • James Ennis, SF (Grizzlies): Like McLemore, Ennis is reportedly being dangled as the Grizzlies explore their trade options. Of the two, Ennis is having the better season (.500/.351/.884 shooting line) and has the more favorable cap hit ($3.03MM).
  • Omer Asik, C (Pelicans): The Pelicans would prefer to move Asik’s contract over Ajinca’s, but the terms are so unfavorable that New Orleans may simply have to eventually waive and stretch Asik.
  • J.J. Barea, PG (Mavericks): Mark Cuban is fond of Barea, and the veteran has another very affordable ($3.71MM) year on his contract after 2017/18, so I think he may stay put, even though he’d be one of the Mavericks‘ most valuable trade chips.
  • Wesley Matthews, G/F (Mavericks): Matthews has been as reliable as ever from three-point range (38.2%), but his $18.62MM player option for 2018/19 is a roadblock for a deal.
  • Tarik Black, C (Rockets): The Rockets probably need to keep Black around as insurance, given Nene‘s injury history, but if Nene is healthy, Black could become expendable.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Granted Disabled Player Exception

The league has awarded the Pelicans a $2.75MM disabled player exception because of the injury to Alexis Ajinca, Adrian Wojnarowski of tweets. Ajinca had surgery on his right knee back in October and is expected to miss the entire 2017/18 season.

While the exception gives the 23-20 Pelicans the ability to add another contributor, their financial situation will make them think long and hard about taking on additional salary. New Orleans is approximately $706K below the luxury tax and roughly $1.29MM below the hard cap, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks points out (ESPN Now link).

Disabled player exceptions are rarely used, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors notes in our glossary entry explaining them. However, it does give the team some flexibility should an advantageous deal present itself.

Woj: Nothing To Celtics/Anthony Davis Rumors

Anthony Davis‘ return to Boston on Tuesday night prompted another round of speculation about the possibility of the Celtics acquiring the Pelicans‘ star in a trade at some point. However, appearing today on Dan Le Batard’s show, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shot down that speculation, suggesting that there’s nothing to the rumors linking Davis to Boston (Twitter links via Jake Madison of Locked on Pels).

Anthony Davis‘ return to Boston on Tuesday night prompted another round of speculation about the possibility of the Celtics acquiring the Pelicans‘ star in a trade at some point. However, appearing today on Dan Le Batard’s show, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shot down that speculation, suggesting that there’s nothing to the rumors linking Davis to Boston (Twitter links via Jake Madison of Locked on Pels).

According to Wojnarowski, Davis still wants to make things work in New Orleans, and that feeling is certainly mutual. It would take a major change in direction for the franchise to consider moving Davis, according to Woj, who reiterates that the Pelicans still want to re-sign DeMarcus Cousins this summer to keep their star-studded frontcourt intact.

Mavs, Lakers To Pursue DeMarcus Cousins In Free Agency?

Not many NBA teams currently project to have maximum-salary cap room this offseason, but for those teams with space, DeMarcus Cousins figures to be a top target. Appearing on Nate Duncan’s Dunc’d On Podcast this week, Marc Stein of The New York Times identified the Mavericks and Lakers as two teams expected to push the Pelicans for Cousins, though he cautioned that New Orleans still looks like the frontrunner.

“I think most teams around the league believe that the Pelicans will re-sign Cousins unless he doesn’t want to stay there,” Stein said, according to RealGM. “I think the Pelicans are the clear favorites. Now, I would say there’s an expectation – and maybe it’s even speculation on the part of rival teams – but I’ve heard Dallas and the Lakers mentioned most frequently. Those are teams that are expected, whatever ‘expected’ means, to make a run at him.”

The Lakers figure to have enough room for at least one max player, if not two, but as Stein acknowledges, LeBron James and/or Paul George may rank higher than Cousins on L.A.’s list of potential targets. As for the Mavs, options for Wesley Matthews and Dirk Nowitzki would cut into their space significantly, but the team may still have enough flexibility to put a max offer on the table. Noting that there has been Cousins-related chatter for a while in Dallas, Stein suggests that a pursuit of the big man “would be a very Mark Cuban move.”

While it’s worth surveying the potential free agency landscape for Cousins, it’s probably still too early to get a real sense of which teams will pursue him most aggressively and where he could realistically land. The Pelicans’ success – or lack thereof – during the rest of the 2017/18 season figures to play a major part in the 27-year-old’s summer decision. New Orleans will also be able to offer more years and more money than any other team.

Cousins is currently in the midst of perhaps his best all-around season, averaging an impressive 25.5 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.6 BPG, and 1.5 SPG to go along with a .474/.356/.749 shooting line.

Nikola Mirotic, 15 Others Become Trade-Eligible

Today is January 15, which means that trade restrictions have lifted for most of the rest of the NBA’s 2017 offseason signees. While the majority of those ’17 free agents became trade-eligible on December 15, there was a small subset of free agent signees whose trade ineligibility lasted for another month.

The 16 players whose trade restrictions lift today meet a specific set of criteria: Not only did they re-sign with their previous teams this offseason, but they received raises of at least 20%, their salaries are worth more than the minimum, and their teams were over the cap, using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them.

The most notable name in this group is Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic. He’s not the best player on the list — Blake Griffin and Kyle Lowry would be among those vying for that honor. But Mirotic is the most likely player to be dealt out of the 16 guys becoming trade-eligible today. He has been linked to a handful of teams already, including the Jazz, Pistons, and Trail Blazers.

Here are the 16 players becoming trade-eligible today:

With three and a half weeks left until this season’s February 8 trade deadline, nearly all of the NBA’s players are now eligible to be dealt. The only players still ineligible to be moved are those who signed free agent contracts later than October 15, plus certain players who signed contract extensions in the offseason.

Hawks guard Isaiah Taylor (January 17), Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson (January 19), and Pelicans guard Jameer Nelson (January 22) are now the only remaining players who will become trade-eligible between today and February 8. For the full list of players who won’t become trade-eligible before this year’s deadline, click here.

Pelicans Sign Mike James To Two-Way Deal

JANUARY 14, 9:17am: The signing is official, according to the Real GM transactions log.

JANUARY 13, 1:34pm: The Pelicans will fill their remaining two-way slot by signing former Suns‘ point guard Mike James, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical. James will move into the opening created by the Pelicans earlier this week when they waived two-way player Jalen Jones.

James, the 27-year-old rookie who went undrafted in 2012, and was the first player in league history to have his two-way contract converted into a regular season contract, was waived by the Suns last month to make room on the roster for Isaiah Canaan.

Before being waived, James put up respectable numbers for the Suns, averaging 10.4 points and 3.8 assists in 20.9 minutes per game. He will likely get a shot at showing fans in New Orleans that his stint in Phoenix was not a fluke, as the Pelicans currently have four players sidelined with long-term injuries.

Kyler’s Latest: Fournier, Jordan, Mirotic

The NBA’s G League Showcase is playing out in Mississauga, Ontario this week and the event has brought a plethora of league executives under the same roof. With next month’s trade deadline looming, it’s inevitable that the celebration of the NBA’s affiliate league also doubles as an unofficial chance for teams to discuss possible deals.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has a number of updates from the Showcase, the highlights of which we’ll get into below. For a full breakdown of the trade chatter going down north of the border, check out the full feature here.

  • The Magic aren’t committing to the notion of “blowing the team up” but that’s the impression that teams on the other end of the phone seem to be getting. The club is supposedly going to be active ahead of the deadline and they want to make changes that help them shed salary. Kyler notes that guard Evan Fournier seems to be the player most teams have an interest in.
  • There remains a sense that DeAndre Jordan will be moved ahead of the deadline and the Bucks continue to be mentioned as the team most likely to make that happen. Kyler writes that a possible Jordan-to-Milwaukee deal could yield the Clippers John Henson, a young player and a draft pick. The Clips apparently like Malcolm Brogdon but his inclusion seems to be a non-starter.
  • The Jazz and Pistons are in pursuit of Nikola Mirotic and the deciding factor could possibly come down to Mirotic’s ability to veto a deal. Mirotic supposedly likes the idea of the Jazz and playing for Quin Snyder. At the end of the day, however, a Mirotic-to-Utah deal would likely require a first-round pick heading from the Jazz back to the Bulls, something Utah seems currently reluctant to part with.
  • Kyler notes that there’s belief that Joe Johnson will seek a buyout from the Jazz after the trade deadline if he isn’t dealt to a playoff-bound squad.
  • There isn’t any sense in NBA circles that Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins or Thunder forward Paul George could be move ahead of the deadline, although some teams may make an “11th hour run” at George.

Trading For A Wing Appealing But Not Easy

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