New Orleans Pelicans

Notes, Reactions, Details On DeMarcus Cousins Deal

The designated veteran extension in the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement was intended to make it easier for teams to keep their superstar players, but as Nate Duncan tweets, the Kings‘ decision to trade DeMarcus Cousins exposes an unintended consequence of the new super-max deal. If a team is unsure about whether or not it wants to make that massive commitment to its star player – and feels it “has to” make that commitment if it keeps him – it could lead to a trade, as it did with the Kings and Cousins.

For most of this season, the Kings seemed prepared to offer Cousins that massive designated veteran extension this summer, but owner Vivek Ranadive began to have doubts in recent weeks, per Chris Mannix of The Vertical. According to both Mannix and Sam Amick of USA Today, Cousins’ recent one-game suspension, along with the Kings’ win over Boston in the game he missed, played a part in the team’s decision to move him.

According to Mannix, that win over the Celtics without their star center in the lineup had some members of the Kings’ organization “dreaming of what a free-flowing, post-Cousins offense could look like.” Now the team will get a chance to see what its offense looks like without Cousins on a full-time basis.

Here’s more on the NBA’s latest blockbuster deal:

  • One executive tells Mannix that his team would have taken Cousins only if the Kings were “giving him away.” A GM who spoke to Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com was even more bearish on Cousins, suggesting that “New Orleans was desperate” and “Sacramento is free” of the mercurial big man. Still, as Goodman notes, multiple league executives were still surprised at how little the Kings got for their star center.
  • Given the underwhelming nature of the trade package the Kings received, Kristian Winfield of SBNation.com wonders where the other offers for Cousins were. According to Mannix, a handful of teams, including the Magic and Celtics, expressed “nominal interest” in Cousins, though Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald tweets that Boston wasn’t one of the clubs actively engaged with Sacramento on Sunday.
  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com answers a few key questions about the Cousins blockbuster, noting that the 26-year-old is now eligible for approximately $30MM on a maximum salary extension. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projections for 2018/19, a designated veteran extension for Cousins with the Kings would’ve been worth about $209MM, while a five-year max contract with the Pelicans will be worth approximately $179MM.
  • Elsewhere at ESPN.com (Insider link), Kevin Pelton assigns the Pelicans a grade of A-minus for the deal, while the Kings get a D.
  • The Cousins deal has a significant impact on the Sixers, Derek Bodner writes at DerekBodner.com. In addition to holding swap rights on the Kings‘ 2017 first-round pick and holding the Kings’ 2019 first-rounder outright, the Sixers also now have one fewer suitor for Jahlil Okafor. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News reported late last night (via Twitter) that the Pelicans offered Tyreke Evans, their 2017 first-round pick, and another draft pick for Okafor earlier this month, though Ramona Shelburne of ESPN notes (via Twitter) that New Orleans asked for top-20 protection on the 2017 pick.

Kings Agree To Trade DeMarcus Cousins To Pelicans

After publicly vowing earlier this season that he wouldn’t be moved, the Kings have agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.DeMarcusCousins vertical

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders tweets that the deal consists of Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, New Orleans’ 2017 first-round pick (top-three protected), and Philadelphia’s 2017 second-round pick going to Sacramento, with Cousins and Omri Casspi heading to New Orleans. David Aldridge of TNT (Twitter link) initially reported that the Kings would also get a 2019 first-rounder, but he has since issued a correction, tweeting that New Orleans balked at the Kings’ request to include that pick.

Earlier this evening, news broke that the Kings and Pelicans had engaged in discussions about a possible Cousins deal. At the time, it was reported by Scotto that the standout center could potentially be shipped to New Orleans in exchange for a package involving Hield, a 2017 first-round pick and an additional first-round pick. Later, in an article published at The Vertical, Wojnarowski suggested that expiring contracts could also be involved.

Following the first report, Wojnarowski tweeted that Kings general manager Vlade Divac had formally presented what the front office believed to be the two best trade proposals to team owner Vivek Ranadive. Previously, despite concerns throughout the organization about Cousins’ temperament, Ranadive was intent on holding onto the franchise pillar, and Divac had publicly reiterated that stance.

For the Kings, it’s an abrupt about-face, and it’s fair to wonder if Divac’s public and private declarations that Cousins wouldn’t be moved will hurt his credibility with agents and players in the future, as Wojnarowski tweets.

Over the last several hours, other teams, including the Suns and Lakers, were linked to the Kings’ Cousins talks, though the discussions with New Orleans were viewed as the most serious. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter links), the Lakers balked at Sacramento’s asking price and opted against including Brandon Ingram in a package.

Ultimately, the Kings aren’t getting a massive haul in return for their All-NBA big man, though it’s worth noting that several pre-draft reports back in June indicated that the team was very high on Hield. Still, it’s surprising that the former Oklahoma sharpshooter and a draft pick that may not even end up in the lottery are the centerpieces of a Cousins deal. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report tweets there wasn’t much of a market for the All-Star big man, according to several executives.

The deal also isn’t necessarily great news for Cousins, who will now be ineligible to receive a Designated Veteran Extension this summer. The 26-year-old would have met the criteria for a new deal worth 35% of the cap if he remained in Sacramento, and there were indications in recent weeks that both sides were on board with the idea of getting something done. Now that he’s changing teams, Cousins will be eligible for a far more modest extension.

Cousins’ agent Jarinn Akana suggested earlier today that his client wasn’t likely to sign an extension this summer with any team that traded for him, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reported (Twitter links). However, that could have been a negotiating tactic — if teams were worried about their ability to re-sign Cousins, they may have been reluctant to trade for him, in which case he would’ve remained with the Kings and been eligible for a super-max deal. For what it’s worth, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets that the Pelicans are confident that they can ultimately lock up Cousins to a new contract. If New Orleans can’t extend Cousins prior to free agency, he’ll hit the open market in 2018.

In recent weeks, the Pelicans had been linked to centers such as Jahlil Okafor and Brook Lopez as they dangled a first-round pick in an effort to find a frontcourt partner for Anthony Davis. The team had reportedly been offering its 2018 pick, having been reluctant to move its first-rounder in 2017, given this year’s strong draft class. However, it makes sense that New Orleans was willing to change course for a player of Cousins’ caliber.

With Cousins and Davis in the frontcourt, the Pelicans will feature two of the league’s very best big men. Cousins, who was named to the All-NBA second team last year, has arguably been even better in 2016/17, averaging a career-high 27.8 PPG to go along with 10.7 RPG and 4.9 APG. His presence on the Pelicans’ roster may have an impact on Jrue Holiday‘s decision in free agency this summer. Holiday is on an expiring deal, but Davis has been lobbying the veteran point guard to re-sign with New Orleans.

This move will also have draft-related ramifications for the Sixers and Bulls. Chicago had been in line to receive Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2017 if it fell outside of the top 10. With Cousins no longer on their roster though, the Kings seem likely to slip in the standings, which is bad news for the Bulls. Chicago will receive a 2017 second-rounder from the Kings if Sacramento’s first-rounder falls in the top 10.

As for the Sixers, they’ll have the option to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings retain their selection. As our 2016/17 Reverse Standings show, Philadelphia currently has the league’s fifth-worst record, while the Kings rank 11th, but things are tight enough that those spots could flip quickly.

For the deal to become official, the Kings will have to remove at least one more player from their roster, via release or trade. The team is also considered likely to waive Galloway after acquiring him, per Wojnarowski (via Twitter). The third-year guard needed to be included in the swap for salary-matching purposes.

In other cap-related housekeeping notes, Evans’ deal includes a 15% trade kicker, which will add an extra $458K to his salary. The Pelicans will pay that trade bonus, though it will be charged to Sacramento’s cap. Each team will create a modest trade exception in the deal as well — the Kings’ TPE should be worth Casspi’s salary ($2.963MM), while the Pelicans’ TPE should be worth Hield’s salary ($3.517MM)

Luke Adams contributed to this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pelicans Looking To Trade Terrence Jones

With a deal in place to acquire DeMarcus Cousins, the Pelicans are looking to move one of their current frontcourt players, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com, who tweets that the club is seeking a trade partner for a deal involving Terrence Jones. Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots (Twitter link) hears from multiple sources that Jones has likely played his last game for New Orleans.

Jones inked a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the Pelicans last summer, and has had a decent bounce-back season in New Orleans. After averaging just 8.7 PPG and 4.2 RPG with a career-low .452 FG% during his final year in Houston, Jones has recorded 11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and a .473 FG% for the Pelicans in 2016/17.

Although Jones has played nearly 25 minutes per game for the Pelicans this season, there won’t be nearly as many minutes to go around with Cousins joining Anthony Davis in the club’s frontcourt, rendering Jones expendable. Even though the 25-year-old isn’t under team control beyond this season, his solid production and his affordability may make him attractive to other teams.

The Pelicans aren’t under any pressure to make any additional roster moves in the wake of their trade agreement for Cousins, since they’re sending out three players in that deal and only taking two back. However, all three players being traded by New Orleans – Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and Langston Galloway – are guards, so the team may seek a backcourt piece in exchange for Jones.

According to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.net, the Pelicans are also considering signing Canton Charge guard Quinn Cook to a 10-day contract. Cook was the D-League’s Rookie of the Year in 2015/16, and was named the MVP in the NBADL All-Star Game this past weekend. Amico notes that Cook previously received some interest from the Mavericks before Dallas decided to sign Yogi Ferrell.

Kings, Pelicans Discuss Cousins-Hield Swap

7:46 pm: In an article published Sunday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical says that Vivek Ranadive‘s stance on trading DeMarcus Cousins has “softened.” Previously the owner wanted to retain Cousins as a franchise pillar and, as recently as January 26, wouldn’t even entertain the prospect of making a deal.

More recently, Wojnarowski writes, Ranadive has been influenced by off-court incidents that call to question the big man’s temperament.

5:46 pm: Wojnarowski has tweeted that Cousins and agent Jarinn Akana have met with Vlade Divac and Kings’ ownership and have been reassured that Cousins is not being traded.

As was the case with the reported Cousins talks involving the Suns a few weeks ago, it seems these discussions were initiated by another team, rather than the Kings. As we noted at the time, it’s possible that not everybody in the Kings organization is on the same page with regard to a possible Cousins deal, which is why rumors keep popping up, only to be shot down.

“There’s just so much ambiguity about how the decision-making process works [in Sacramento] and what information actually gets back to whom,” one rival executive told Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com last month.

5:33 pm: Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee pumps the brakes on trade talks, saying that he has been told Cousins is not being traded, despite teams having inquired about his availability.

5:30 pm: It seems as though Jrue Holiday is not currently part of the outgoing Pelicans package, tweets Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate, but Kushner wouldn’t be surprised if they were willing to include him if push came to shove.

5:21 pm: Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders has added that the Pelicans are allegedly offering their 2017 first-round pick, Hield and an additional first-round pick. Meanwhile, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate adds context, saying that the Pelicans have felt pressure to improve and nearly everyone but Davis is on the table.

5:17 pm: According to Justin Verrier of ESPN, the Pelicans have made inquiries on Paul George as well, but the Cousins talks have progressed further.

5:12 pm: The Kings have recently discussed big man DeMarcus Cousins with the Pelicans, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. The center has been the subject of speculation on and off throughout the 2016/17 season. Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders echoes the sentiment, elaborating that a possible deal could involve Buddy Hield and multiple Pelicans first-round picks.

While Wojnarowski previously wrote in a separate tweet that the Kings have been actively engaged in trade talks regarding Cousins for the last few days, the latest implication that the Pelicans are interested makes sense. Less than two weeks ago it was made public that New Orleans was seeking a center to pair alongside Anthony Davis.

If Cousins were to join the Pelicans, he and Davis would instantly make one of the league’s most dynamic pairings, a frontcourt duo unparalleled in the league today.

Just last month it appeared as though the Kings and Cousins were on track to sign a max contract this summer. That deal, it’s estimated, could be for five years at just under $210MM. If such a trade were to transpire, however, Cousins would no longer be eligible for the Designated Veteran Extension, as Bobby Marks of The Vertical tweets.

Pels Put Together 'Nice Package' In Star Search; Gordon Recalls 'Dysfunctional' Tenure

While the pre-All-Star Game wave of speculation that DeMarcus Cousins could be headed to New Orleans has subsided, the Pelicans are serious about acquiring a star. According to Sam Amico of Amico Hoops, Pels general manager Dell Demps and company have put together a “really nice package in search of a star”. The scribe goes on to add that his source admires their aggressiveness.

Just 2.5 games out of the Western Conference’s eight-seed, the Pelicans are looking to support 23-year-old superstar Anthony Davis. Earlier this month it appeared as though the club was simply looking to add a center and were willing to dangle a 2018 first-round pick to get it. One name that surfaced as a possible fit was Sixers‘ sophomore Jahlil Okafor. While nothing transpired there, that doesn’t mean the club has stopped looking.

In fact, as we mentioned in the report on the rumored Cousins to New Orleans deal, ESPN’s Justin Verrier has linked the Pelicans to not only Cousins but to Pacers star Paul George as well.

  • One of the names linked to the Pelicans this month has been Jahlil Okafor but the Sixers big man doesn’t take it to heart. “I’ve said it before I’ll worry about what I can control and the rumors are going to continue to come out. And as far as I know I’m still a Sixer and I’m happy to be a Sixer,” Okafor tells Amos Morale III of the Times-Picayune.
  • Before winning the 2017 Three-Point Contest, Rockets guard Eric Gordon spoke about his time in New Orleans, referring to the Pelicans franchise as “dysfunctional”. “My role changed a lot,” he told Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune. “If I would have had the same freedom that I had (in Houston), it would have been a different result. It’s always been a little dysfunctional, not just for me… everybody.”

Anthony Davis Lobbying Jrue Holiday To Re-Sign With Pelicans

Anthony Davis reiterated this week that he has no plans to leave the Pelicans, and now that he’s settling in for a long-term stay in New Orleans, the former No. 1 overall pick is working on making sure one of his most talented teammates sticks around in a while. As ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, Davis said on Thursday that he intends to be “very involved” in trying to persuade Jrue Holiday to re-sign with the Pelicans this summer.

“I’m doing that right now,” Davis said. “I talk to Jrue all the time. He’ll make his own decisions, but of course we like him here. … We need him to continue to play well and then, at the end of the season, hopefully he decides to re-sign with us.”

Although the Pelicans have had a disappointing season overall, they’ve played much better when Holiday has been in the lineup, going 21-21 with him and 2-13 without him. A .500 record for the season would put New Orleans in playoff position in the Western Conference, but currently the club is vying with a handful of teams for the No. 8 seed.

Unlike Davis, who is under team control through at least the 2019/20 season, Holiday will have the opportunity to hit the open market this July, and could decide to join a new team at that point. While it’s a little early to identify a list of potential suitors for the veteran point guard, the Sixers are believed to be interested in reacquiring him, and Philadelphia should have a good chunk of cap room available in the offseason. Our list of 2017 free agents by position features several intriguing point guards, though marquee players like Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Kyle Lowry are considered very unlikely to change teams.

Holiday, 26, is enjoying one of this best seasons as a pro in 2016/17, shooting a career-high 46.8% from the field and 39.3% from three-point range. He’s also averaging 16.3 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 1.6 SPG in 42 games.

NBA D-League Assignments/Recalls: 2/15/17

After a quiet Tuesday in terms of D-League moves, we have a few assignments and recalls to pass along for Wednesday. Here’s the latest:

10:15pm:

  • The Raptors have recalled Bruno Caboclo from Raptors 905, the team announced in a tweet. The third-year forward has played just eight NBA games this season.
  • The Grizzlies have recalled guard Wade Baldwin, center Deyonta Davis and forward Jarell Martin from their affiliate in Iowa.
  • The Heat are sending Okaro White to their Sioux Falls affiliate so he will be eligible for the D-League All-Star Game, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel.

1:31pm:

  • The Pelicans have recalled rookie forward Cheick Diallo from the D-League, the team announced today in a press release. Diallo had been playing for Charlotte’s D-League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm, since New Orleans doesn’t have an affiliate of its own. He averaged 17. 0 PPG and 11.3 RPG in six games with the Swarm.
  • Rookies Chinanu Onuaku and Kyle Wiltjer have been recalled from the D-League by the Rockets, according to the team (Twitter link). The duo helped lead the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to a dramatic win on Tuesday, totaling 55 points and 16 rebounds between them.
  • The Pacers have recalled Rakeem Christmas from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team announced today in a press release. The D-League’s All-Star break is now underway, which is why Christmas and others are being recalled to their NBA teams today.

Lance Stephenson Injured; Roster Spot In Jeopardy

An injury could cost Lance Stephenson a roster spot for the second time this season, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Stephenson suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain Tuesday, which could sideline him for several weeks. The 10-day contract that he signed with Minnesota on February 8th will expire during the All-Star break, leaving the Timberwolves with a decision of whether they want to tie up a roster spot while he recovers.

“I don’t know, we’ll have to see how he responds,” Wolves coach/executive Tom Thibodeau said tonight when asked about Stephenson’s status. “I like the things he did when he was here.”

Stephenson appeared in four games for Minnesota, averaging 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in about 12 minutes per night.

The team didn’t offer any prognosis for Stephenson’s recovery, but Zgoda notes that a Grade 2 sprain usually involves a partial ligament tear, which involves rehab of three to four weeks and sometimes longer. He twisted his left ankle in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game with the Cavaliers and had to be helped off the court.

Stephenson suffered a similar fate in November when he had a severe groin injury while playing for the Pelicans. New Orleans felt it needed a healthy player, so the team waived Stephenson to sign Archie Goodwin. The move drew criticism from around the league, and Stephenson said that although he understood why the Pelicans did it, he thought it showed a lack of faith in him.

Anthony Davis: ‘I Don’t Plan On Leaving’ Pelicans

It has been another disappointing season so far for the Pelicans, who remain in the hunt for the No. 8 seed in the West but are currently just 22-34, 12th in the conference. Still, despite the fact that the team appears headed for its fourth losing season in five years since drafting Anthony Davis, the former No. 1 pick told reporters on Tuesday that he has no desire to leave New Orleans.

“I don’t plan on leaving, so make sure you write that down,” Davis said when asked about trade speculation, per Jeff Duncan of The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Davis’ stance, which he has expressed in the past, doesn’t come as a real shock. He’s in the first year of a long-term contract, which means he won’t be eligible for free agency until at least 2020, and the Pelicans have never expressed any desire to move him. If a star player wants a change of scenery, he could put pressure on his team by privately or publicly expressing his dissatisfaction, but Davis hasn’t done that. He suggested on Tuesday’s conference call that he remains confident in New Orleans’ ability to contend.

“We’ve got to find a way to keep fighting,” Davis said. “We have a team that is able to compete for the playoffs. We showed that a couple of times this year (in January wins against the Cavaliers and Spurs). We feel we are just as good as any other team in this league. We just need to find a way to stay a little more healthy and be a little more consistent.”

Even though they’re currently 12 games below .500, the Pelicans appear to be prepared to buy, rather than sell, at next week’s trade deadline. Recent reports have indicated that they’re eyeing players like Jahlil Okafor and Brook Lopez as they dangle their 2018 first-round pick in search of a center to complement Davis in the frontcourt. For his part, Davis says he’s not lobbying the team to make a move.

“That’s up to the front office,” Davis said. “Whatever the front office tries to do, they come to me and ask me my opinion. But right now I’m just trying to help the team win and do my job.”

Knicks, Lakers Top Forbes’ NBA Franchise Valuations

The Knicks have been one of the NBA’s most dysfunctional teams this season. On the court, the team has gone just 23-33, with $72MM man Joakim Noah failing to make a significant impact, and Jeff Hornacek and Phil Jackson not always on the same page when it came to the use of the triangle. Off the court, things have been even worse, with Jackson criticizing star forward Carmelo Anthony, and owner James Dolan at odds with former Knicks star Charles Oakley.

On the west coast, the Lakers haven’t been much better, racking up a 19-38 record, good for the No. 14 seed in the West. The team hasn’t made as many off-court headlines, but the structure of the front office is currently up in the air, with new advisor Magic Johnson publicly declaring that he wants to be the one calling the shots on roster decisions.

Despite the problems in New York and Los Angeles, the Knicks and Lakers remain the NBA’s two most valuable franchises, according to a report from Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes. The Knicks and Lakers are the only teams valued at more than $3 billion by Forbes.

Team valuations are up around the league, with the Warriors leading the way among this year’s increases — according to Forbes, the Dubs are 37% more valuable that they were at this time in 2016. In total, 18 teams have a valuation exceeding $1 billion, which is up from 13 teams last year and just three teams in 2015. The average NBA franchise is now worth $1.36 billion, according to the report.

Here’s the full list of NBA franchise valuations, per Forbes:

  1. New York Knicks: $3.3 billion
  2. Los Angeles Lakers: $3 billion
  3. Golden State Warriors: $2.6 billion
  4. Chicago Bulls: $2.5 billion
  5. Boston Celtics: $2.2 billion
  6. Los Angeles Clippers; $2 billion
  7. Brooklyn Nets: $1.8 billion
  8. Houston Rockets: $1.65 billion
  9. Dallas Mavericks: $1.45 billion
  10. Miami Heat: $1.35 billion
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.2 billion
  12. San Antonio Spurs: $1.175 billion
  13. Toronto Raptors: $1.125 billion
  14. Phoenix Suns: $1.1 billion
  15. Sacramento Kings: $1.075 billion
  16. Portland Trail Blazers: $1.05 billion
  17. Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.025 billion
  18. Washington Wizards: $1 billion
  19. Orlando Magic: $920MM
  20. Utah Jazz: $910MM
  21. Detroit Pistons: $900MM
  22. Denver Nuggets: $890MM
  23. Atlanta Hawks: $885MM
  24. Indiana Pacers: $880MM
  25. Philadelphia 76ers: $800MM
  26. Memphis Grizzlies: $790MM
  27. Milwaukee Bucks: $785MM
  28. Charlotte Hornets: $780MM
  29. Minnesota Timberwolves: $770MM
  30. New Orleans Pelicans: $750MM

For comparison’s sake, Forbes’ 2016 valuations can be found right here.

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