New Orleans Pelicans

Sam Mitchell Emerging As Assistant Coaching Candidate

The Pelicans are considering Sam Mitchell as an assistant coach on Alvin Gentrys staff, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports (Twitter link). Mitchell has previous head coaching experience, leading the Raptors before becoming the coach of the Wolves.

Knicks Target Tucker, Cunningham, Simmons

The Knicks are putting together their free agent shopping list with an eye toward players who can contribute on offense and defense, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

One of those players is Raptors small forward P.J. Tucker, who previously played for coach Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix. Hornacek describes Tucker as an intense defender and a leader in the locker room. He could also give the Knicks a 3-point threat, shooting 35.7 from long distance this season, including 40% after a midseason trade to Toronto.

Another target is Pelicans small forward Dante Cunningham, who was the top 3-point shooter in New Orleans this year at 39.2%. Cunningham is also a solid defender and helped the Pels to a 13-8 record when he played at least 28 minutes per game.

Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons has fans in the Knicks organization, but he will be in demand around the league. Simmons is a restricted free agent, so San Antonio can match any offer he receives.

New York will enter free agency with about $19MM to spend, although that number could change significantly if efforts to trade Carmelo Anthony are successful. In addition to adding talent this summer, the Knicks are hoping to retain shooting guard Justin Holiday, who played all 82 games and averaged 7.7 points per night in his first year with the team.

The Knicks may also reopen trade talks for Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, Begley adds. New York and Minnesota discussed a deal involving Rubio at the trade deadline, and Knicks officials might still be interested.

New York will be looking for more players in the mold of Courtney Lee, who was their lone success among last summer’s major moves. Lee, who is signed for three more seasons, believes the Knicks worked out many of their problems late in the season and are headed in the right direction. He also defended center Joakim Noah, who became a lightning rod for criticism after signing a four-year, $72MM contract.

“Joakim had a lot of injuries that people weren’t aware of during the season,” Lee said. “I know how tough he is and how prideful he is and I’m looking forward to him coming back 100 percent healthy and doing what he does for us on the court. I know he will come back strong and help lead for us.”

Pelicans Expected To Hire Chris Finch As Assistant

The Pelicans confirmed earlier this week that they won’t replace head coach Alvin Gentry, but it appears some changes are coming to Gentry’s coaching staff. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, New Orleans is close to hiring Nuggets associate head coach Chris Finch as an assistant.

Sources tell Stein that the Pelicans have gone after Finch in the hopes of adding his “offensive brainpower” to their bench. As Stein observes, Finch was partly responsible for Denver’s offensive improvement centered around big man Nikola Jokic, so the Pelicans are hoping adding the veteran coach will allow the club to take full advantage of Anthony Davis‘ and DeMarcus Cousins‘ talents.

Before he joined the Nuggets in 2016, Finch coached Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics in London and worked for the Rockets organization for the better part of a decade. He was hired as the head coach of Houston’s D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, in 2009, and then joined the Rockets as an assistant in 2011.

Finch was promoted to associate head coach by the Rockets in 2014, and retained that title when he was hired by the Nuggets last year. I would guess he’ll have a similar role in New Orleans if and when he and the Pelicans finalize his new deal.

No Paul George, Gordon Hayward On All-NBA Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-NBA teams for the 2016/17 season, and neither Paul George nor Gordon Hayward is among the 15 players honored. That’s big news for both players and their teams, since they’ll be ineligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, reducing the amount of money the Pacers and Jazz – respectively – could offer their star forwards in contract extensions this offseason.

Here are this year’s All-NBA teams:

All-NBA First Team

All-NBA Second Team

All-NBA Third Team

Based on this year’s All-NBA voting results, Wall is now eligible to sign a Designated Veteran Extension this summer, while Leonard is eligible to sign one next summer. Harden, Westbrook, and Curry are also eligible to sign DVEs this summer, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical notes (via Twitter).

Those Designated Veteran Extensions – which are dependent on a player making an All-NBA team in the year before he signs an extension, or in two of the previous three years – apply to players finishing up their rookie scale extensions. They allow a player re-signing with his own team to earn up to 35% of the salary cap, rather than just 30%. So, if we assume a $101MM salary cap for 2017/18, a player like Curry could sign a new Warriors contract with a starting salary of $35.35MM, instead of $30.3MM.

The Pacers and Jazz will still be able to offer George and Hayward larger and longer contracts than any other team, but the advantage won’t be as significant as it would have been if those players had earned All-NBA spots. Teams can offer their own Bird-rights free agents up to five years (instead of four) and 8% raises (instead of 5%).

Hayward figures to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, while George is expected to reach free agency in 2018. George could still become eligible for the DVE in ’18 if the Pacers hang onto him through next season and he earns All-NBA honors a year from now. However, there’s no guarantee that Indiana will be willing to take that risk.

As for the rest of the All-NBA votes, there weren’t any major surprises, particularly on the first two teams. Perhaps the biggest surprise, in a year which was dominated by four clear-cut MVP candidates, is that Harden was the only player who received 100 out of 100 possible First Team votes. Westbrook and James received 99 apiece, while Leonard received 96.

Note: Hoops Rumors readers voted last month on All-NBA teams, and our squads looked awfully close to the official ones, with a couple notable exceptions. You can check out the results of our voting right here.

Mavericks Interested In Jrue Holiday

The Mavericks are in position to potentially draft their point guard of the future in June, but the team is also keeping an eye on the free agent market as a way of upgrading the position. According to Ian Begley of ESPN.com, one veteran on Dallas’ radar is Jrue Holiday, who is viewed by members of the Mavs organization as a free agent target this summer.

Holiday, who will turn 27 next month, turned in another solid season for the Pelicans, averaging 15.4 PPG and 7.3 APG in 32.7 minutes per contest. New Orleans has expressed a desire to bring him back, and holds his Bird rights, allowing the club to go over the cap to re-sign him. The Pelicans can also offer Holiday more years and overall dollars than any other team, though it’s not clear if they’re prepared to go up to the max to get a deal done.

If the Mavs were to seriously pursue Holiday, it may require re-working Dirk Nowitzki‘s contract or making a trade. Currently, Dallas has about $60MM in guaranteed salary on its books for 2017/18, but that figure doesn’t include Nowitzki’s $25MM team option, which would significantly cut into the club’s cap room. If the German big man is willing to accept a lower salary, the Mavs could potentially create the space for a max salary, or at least something close to it.

In addition to the Mavs and Pelicans, the Knicks have been frequently cited as a probable suitor for Holiday this summer. New York and Dallas currently hold the eighth and ninth picks in this year’s draft, and point guard prospects like Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina may still be on the board at that point, so the draft results could have an impact on how seriously those teams pursue Holiday.

Teams looking to sign Holiday will likely be wary of his injury history — he has only averaged about 52 games per year since arriving in New Orleans in 2013. Still, 2016/17 was his healthiest season during that stretch. He missed some time in the fall to attend to a personal matter and then was nagged by a toe injury in December, but appeared in 67 games overall.

2017 NBA Draft Lottery Results

The Celtics will pick first overall in the 2017 NBA draft, having won Tuesday night’s lottery one night after they advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. The C’s, who exercised their rights to swap with the Nets, entered the lottery with the best odds (25.0%) to land that No. 1 overall pick.

The Lakers were the other big winners in the lottery, moving up to No. 2, ensuring that they’ll keep both this year’s pick and 2019’s first-rounder. Had Los Angeles’ pick fallen outside of the top three, it would have been sent to the Sixers, and the Lakers would’ve owed their unprotected 2019 first-rounder to Orlando. Instead, the Lakers will keep this year’s pick and 2019’s, and will send Philadelphia their unprotected 2018 first-round selection.

The Kings also moved up into the top three, but the Sixers will acquire that pick, exercising their right to swap with Sacramento. The Kings will pick at No. 5, which is where Philadelphia would have selected. Sacramento will also land the Pelicans’ selection at No. 10. That New Orleans selection was acquired by the Kings in February’s DeMarcus Cousins trade and was top-three protected.

The Suns are the night’s biggest losers, having moved from No. 2 in the lottery standings down to No. 4 overall. The Magic, Timberwolves, and Knicks each moved down one spot as well.

Here’s the full lottery order for the 2017 NBA draft:

  1. Boston Celtics (via Nets)
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Philadelphia 76ers (swapped with Kings)
  4. Phoenix Suns
  5. Sacramento Kings (swapped with Sixers)
  6. Orlando Magic
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves
  8. New York Knicks
  9. Dallas Mavericks
  10. Sacramento Kings (via Pelicans)
  11. Charlotte Hornets
  12. Detroit Pistons
  13. Denver Nuggets
  14. Miami Heat

Tonight’s lottery results are fascinating on a number of levels, but particularly so for two of the NBA’s most-storied franchises, the Celtics and Lakers. Boston is in position to either pick a player like point guard Markelle Fultz, considered by draft experts to be a future star, or to dangle that No. 1 overall pick in a trade for an established veteran star next month. The Celtics are coming off a season in which they earned the top seed in the East, and they also own the Nets’ unprotected first-round pick in 2018, so the franchise is extremely well-positioned for the future.

As for the Lakers, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief after hanging onto their 2017 first-rounder, and they’re in position to create a union that has been the subject of much speculation in recent weeks. UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball is widely viewed as the second-best prospect in this year’s draft, and he and his father LaVar have made no secret of the fact that Lonzo wants to play for the Lakers. Tonight’s lottery results make that a very real possibility.

The Kings are another winner tonight, having moved up from No. 8 to No. 5 and having also held onto the Pelicans’ pick at No. 10. Sacramento will be in a great position to pick two cornerstone pieces to kickstart the club’s rebuilding process.

Donatas Motiejunas Doubts He'll Return

  • Donatas Motiejunas is unlikely to re-sign with the Pelicans because of their frontcourt logjam, Lithuanian journalist Donatas Urbonas tweets. Motiejunas told Urbonas, ‘They don’t need me with already 4-5 big (men) on the roster for the next season.’ The 7-foot forward, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer, averaged 4.4 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 14.1 MPG over 34 games with the Pelicans.
  • Improving 3-point shooting is paramount for the Pelicans to make the playoffs next year, coach Alvin Gentry said on The Vertical podcast. Gentry’s comments were relayed in a story by Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate. The Twin Tower duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins won’t work unless the club acquires better perimeter shooters, according to Gentry. “We are going to have to upgrade there and the players that we have are going to have to show vast improvement over the summer,” Gentry said on the podcast. “If you’re going to play the two big guys that we have, obviously, there are going to be a lot of double-teaming. … in order to make that work, we’re going to have to be able to knock down perimeter shots.”

Pelicans Retaining Alvin Gentry, Dell Demps

4:46pm: Team owner Tom Benson has officially announced that Gentry and Demps will be retained, Kushner tweets.

10:38am: The Pelicans won’t be making any major changes at head coach or general manager this offseason, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate. League sources inform Kushner that coach Alvin Gentry and GM Dell Demps will both keep their jobs to begin the 2017/18 season.

Gentry and Demps were both already under contract for next year, but that didn’t necessarily assure their returns — Pelicans owner Tom Benson and executive VP of basketball operations Mickey Loomis were said in late April to be evaluating the team’s current leadership group. After a disappointing 2016/17 season that resulted in a 34-48 record – rather than the playoff spot the Pelicans had hoped for – Gentry and Demps were believed to be on the hot seat.

Gentry has coached the Pelicans for the last two full seasons, compiling a 64-100 record (.390) during that stretch. As for Demps, he has been New Orleans’ general manager since 2010, though the team’s front office structure is somewhat confusing — Loomis’ title suggests he ranks higher in the basketball operations department than Demps, but Loomis isn’t believed to be overly involved in personnel decisions, since – as the GM of the New Orleans Saints – he’s more of an NFL executive.

According to Kushner, the Pelicans’ in-seasons acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins played a significant part in the decision to retain Demps going forward. While Demps’ ability to land Cousins for a modest package was impressive, sources tell Kushner that the franchise also wants to provide some stability around Cousins as he enters the final year of his contract — overhauling the coaching staff and the front office wouldn’t provide that desired stability.

Although Gentry and Demps are safe for now, there will be plenty of pressure on the duo heading into 2017/18. According to Kushner, it’s “unlikely” that either Gentry or Demps can survive another sub-.500 season.

NBA Confirms Lottery Reps, Will Announce All-NBA Teams On Thursday

The NBA confirmed each team’s representatives today for this year’s draft lottery, which will take place on Tuesday night. As confirmed by the league (via Twitter), here are this year’s reps for lottery teams:

  1. Boston Celtics: Wyc Grousbeck (owner)
  2. Phoenix Suns: Devin Booker
  3. Los Angeles Lakers: Magic Johnson (president of basketball operations)
  4. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid
  5. Orlando Magic: Frank Vogel (head coach)
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins
  7. New York Knicks: Walt Frazier (MSG Network broadcaster)
  8. Sacramento Kings: Dave Joerger (head coach)
  9. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Finley (assistant VP of basketball operations)
  10. New Orleans Pelicans: Alvin Gentry (head coach)
  11. Charlotte Hornets: Rich Cho (GM)
  12. Detroit Pistons: Jeff Bower (GM)
  13. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris
  14. Miami Heat: Alonzo Mourning (VP of player programs)

Additionally, the NBA also announced that it will reveal several award winners and award finalists later this week. The league will unveil its three All-NBA teams on Thursday. Then, prior to the Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, the NBA will name its three finalists for each major award: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Most Improved Player, and Coach of the Year.

Those individual awards won’t be officially announced until June 26, during the NBA’s inaugural awards broadcast on TNT. However, the All-NBA announcement on Thursday will be an intriguing one. A team’s ability to offer a player a more lucrative Designated Veteran Extension hinges on whether or not he earns an All-NBA nod. So teams like the Pacers and Jazz will be watching very closely to see if Paul George and Gordon Hayward earn All-NBA spots and become eligible for those super-max extensions.

Cavaliers Notes: Lue, Brown, Blatt, Defense

A broken hand suffered by reserve center Edy Tavares has reinforced Tyronn Lue’s decision not to scrimmage during the Cavaliers’ long break, writes Marla Ridenour of The Akron Beacon Journal. Lue is working to keep the Cavs focused during a nine-day layoff as they await the winner of the Celtics-Wizards series. Lue admits the team is “itching to play” as he guides the players through walkthroughs, but he won’t consider scrimmages because of the injury risk. Point guard Kyrie Irving supports the decision. “An incident happened in practice where somebody got hit in the hand and it just wasn’t good,” Irving said. “I was about to come out and play five-on-five and the incident happened three seconds later as T-Lue comes out of the door. Naw, I’m not for scrimmaging right now until the game.”

There’s more news today as the wait continues in Cleveland:

  • Mike Brown and David Blatt have both prospered since being fired by the Cavaliers, notes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Brown took two years off after his dismissal, passing on chances to become a lead assistant with the Thunder and head coach at Nevada-Las Vegas. Last summer, he became the Warriors’ top assistant and has assumed head coaching duties with Steve Kerr sidelined for health reasons. Brown could wind up coaching against the Cavs in the NBA Finals. Blatt, who was fired midway through last year’s championship season, is the highest-paid coach in Europe, guiding Darussafaka Dogus in the Turkish League. He led the club to its first-ever Euroleague playoff berth.
  • After struggling on defense all season, the Cavaliers have improved on that end in the playoffs, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavs ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency during the season, but are fourth since the postseason began. Still, Lue jokes that he wishes the players could remember their defensive assignments as well as they remember their pre-game handshake routines.
  • The Cavaliers are among the teams showing interest in Arizona shooting guard Rawle Alkins, according to Sam Amico of Amicohoops. Cleveland doesn’t have a pick in this year’s draft, but could buy a late selection like it did last year to obtain Kay Felder. The Cavaliers, Thunder, Pelicans and Heat have all contacted Alkins’ high school coach to get more information, according to Adam Zagoria of Fanrag Sports (Twitter link).
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