Pelicans Rumors

Remaining Offseason Questions: Southwest Division

NBA teams have now completed the brunt of their offseason work, with the draft and free agency practically distant memories. Still, with training camps more than a month away, most clubs around the league have at least one or two outstanding issues they’ve yet to address.

We’re in the midst of looking at all 30 NBA teams, separating them by division and checking in on the key outstanding question that each club still needs to answer before the 2018/19 regular season begins.

After focusing on the Atlantic, Central, and Southeast last week, we’re heading to the Western Conference this week, starting with the Southwest…

Dallas Mavericks
When will the investigation into allegations of misconduct in the Mavericks’ workplace wrap up?

It was way back in February that an SI.com report revealed a seemingly corrosive workplace culture in the Mavericks‘ business offices, prompting the team to hire outside counsel to look into the issue. Six months later, that investigation has yet to conclude.

The probe into alleged misconduct within the Mavs’ organization may not have any real impact on the on-court product in Dallas, and it didn’t scare away free agents this summer — the club landed DeAndre Jordan, one of the top players on the market. Still, Mark Cuban‘s organization needs to repair its image, so the Mavs figure to take steps to address the investigators’ findings once the outside firm has finished its work.

While there’s no specific timeline for the completion of the investigation, I’d be surprised if it’s not done by the time the Mavs play their first regular season game of 2018/19.

Houston Rockets
Will they be able to acquire another veteran wing player?

After coming within a game of the NBA Finals this spring, the Rockets are zeroed in on beating the Warriors in 2018/19. As they showed in the Western Conference Finals against Golden State, the best way to attack the defending champs is with a series of three-and-D wings who are capable of making corner threes after Chris Paul and James Harden break down the defense, and who can slow down the Dubs’ perimeter scorers on the other end of the court.

Houston lost two of those players – Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – this offseason, and while they brought in veterans like James Ennis and Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets really could use another reliable wing. They’re said to be in the market for a player who fits that bill, dangling Ryan Anderson and a draft pick in trade talks.

Given Anderson’s exorbitant salary, the Rockets have to target well-paid vets as they scour the trade market, so players like Kent Bazemore and J.R. Smith have been cited as potential targets. Nicolas Batum, DeMarre Carroll, Courtney Lee, Danilo Gallinari, Marvin Williams, and Wesley Matthews are among the other players who could appeal to Houston and who shouldn’t be untouchable.

Although a trade remains possible, the Rockets may have to strike within the next month or so, before training camps get underway. Teams will become more reluctant to shake up their rosters once they’ve brought players to camp.

Memphis Grizzlies
Who will be traded or released in order to finalize the 15-man roster?

The Grizzlies currently have 15 players with fully guaranteed salaries for the 2018/19 season. They also have a 16th player – Andrew Harrison – whose salary is non-guaranteed but who appears likely to make the regular season roster. In other words, Memphis may end up trading or waiving someone with a guaranteed contract.

Memphis will have until mid-October to make a roster decision, but based on the team’s offseason moves and the nature of certain players’ contracts, there aren’t many viable candidates to be cut.

Dakari Johnson, acquired in a financially motivated trade with the Magic, is the likeliest release candidate on the roster, but waiving him would leave the Grizzlies pretty thin at center behind Marc Gasol. The club would have to be confident that Jaren Jackson Jr. can contribute in his rookie season or that a forward like Ivan Rabb or JaMychal Green can slide to the five.

"<strongNew Orleans Pelicans
How many players do the Pelicans intend to carry to start the season?

As we noted on Sunday, the Pelicans have 12 players on fully guaranteed salaries. That leaves up to three spots on the club’s roster for the regular season, and there are several legit NBA players who figure to be in the mix for those spots.

A pair of Okafors will be seeking a place in the frontcourt rotation, with both Emeka Okafor and Jahlil Okafor on partially guaranteed deals. On the wing, Troy Williams and DeAndre Liggins will look to stick in New Orleans after bouncing from team to team in recent seasons.

If the Pelicans don’t make any other additions to their NBA roster this offseason, they could carry three of those players on their 15-man roster, leaving just one of the four on the outside looking in. However, if New Orleans prefers to retain a little roster flexibility, the team could enter the season with an open roster spot. That would likely mean carrying just one of the two Okafors, as well as one of Williams or Liggins. In that scenario, we could see some pretty fierce roster battles in training camp and the preseason.

San Antonio Spurs
Will Manu Ginobili be back for one more season?

Tim Duncan is gone. Tony Parker is gone. Kawhi Leonard is gone. But Manu Ginobili is still a Spur. Now, it’s just a question of whether or not the NBA’s second-oldest player wants to play out the final season of his current contract with the franchise.

If Ginobili was a free agent this offseason, the threat of retirement might loom a little larger, but at this point in the summer, I’d be a little surprised if the veteran guard decides he didn’t want to return for the second season of the two-year deal he inked last summer.

Assuming Ginobili is back – which seems like the safe bet for now – the Spurs’ roster for 2018/19 should essentially be set. The 41-year-old figures to announce his plans in the coming days or weeks.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alexey Shved Drew NBA Interest This Summer

Former NBA guard Alexey Shved received interest from multiple NBA teams this offseason, but decided to remain overseas for the time being, agent Obrad Fimic told Russian outlet Izvestia (translation via HoopsHype).

Shved, who played for the Timberwolves, Sixers, Rockets, and Knicks during his previous stint in the NBA from 2012 to 2015, has been a member of Russian club Khimki since returning to Europe three years ago. While the 29-year-old will remain with Khimki for the upcoming season, Fimic suggests that the Pelicans, Timberwolves, Grizzlies, and Suns all expressed interest in signing his client.

According to Fimic, Shved received a couple minimum-salary offers, and one offer that would’ve been in the $4MM range for 2018/19. However, the agent for the Russian guard believes the summer of 2019 may be a better time to revisit the possibility of a return to the NBA.

“Next year, Alexey will still be under contract with Khimki, but we’ll be carefully considering offers from the NBA,” Fimic said. “Everyone says the NBA teams will have more available money next summer. Therefore, the probability of his departure will increase.”

In 2017/18, Shved was the EuroLeague’s leading scorer, averaging 21.8 PPG, 5.2 APG, and 2.6 RPG in 34 EuroLeague contests. He also put up 23.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 2.3 RPG in 24 Russian League games.

NBA Teams With Most, Fewest Guaranteed Salaries

At this point in the NBA offseason, most teams are carrying 14 and 15 players on guaranteed salaries. The clubs with 14 guaranteed contracts on their books will likely either enter the season with an open roster spot or allow camp invitees to compete for that 15th-man role. Teams with 15 players already on guaranteed deals have their regular-season rosters all but set already.

Still, several teams around the NBA have more than 15 or fewer than 14 fully guaranteed salaries on their cap for now. Using our roster counts tool, here’s a look at those teams, with details on what they might be thinking as the 2018/19 season nears:

Fewer than 14 guaranteed contracts:

  • Houston Rockets (11 guaranteed contracts): In addition to their 11 fully guaranteed contracts, the Rockets also figure to hang onto Michael Carter-Williams, who has a significant partial guarantee. Second-round pick De’Anthony Melton is a good bet to sign a guaranteed contract at some point too. That would increase the Rockets’ roster count to 13, with Zhou Qi the most likely candidate for the 14th spot.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (12): While they only have 12 guaranteed salaries on their books for now, the Cavaliers figure to increase that count by two once they officially sign David Nwaba and bring back Rodney Hood.
  • Miami Heat (12): The Heat continue to wait on Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem to make decisions on whether or not they’ll continue their respective careers. They’ll be penciled in to the 13th and 14th spots if they elect to return.
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (12): Although he only has a partial guarantee, James Nunnally is a safe bet to make the Timberwolves’ roster as the 13th man. It’s not clear what the team intends to do with its last opening or two.
  • New Orleans Pelicans (12): Only 12 Pelicans have fully guaranteed salaries, but there are several legit NBA players – Emeka Okafor, DeAndre Liggins, Jahlil Okafor, and Troy Williams – vying for roster spots on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts. At least two of them figure to make the team.
  • Atlanta Hawks (13): The Hawks will increase their roster count to 15 guaranteed salaries once Vince Carter and Daniel Hamilton make their deals with Atlanta official.
  • Golden State Warriors (13): The Warriors plan to enter the season with 14 players under contract, leaving a spot open for flexibility. Their 14th man will likely be Patrick McCaw, who is still a restricted free agent for now.
  • Toronto Raptors (13): The Raptors may enter the season with a 14-man roster. Lorenzo Brown is currently the top candidate for that 14th spot, though Chris Boucher and others could provide competition.

More than 15 guaranteed contracts:

  • Sacramento Kings (16): When the Kings took advantage of their leftover cap room to sign Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell, it created a roster crunch. If the club doesn’t trade a player before the season begins, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore, and Deyonta Davis are among the release candidates on the roster — all four are on expiring contracts.
  • Los Angeles Clippers (15 + Patrick Beverley): The Clippers technically only have 15 players on guaranteed salaries, but Beverley, who is on a non-guaranteed deal, will probably make the team. Assuming he does, that will mean trading or releasing another player, perhaps Wesley Johnson or Jawun Evans.
  • Memphis Grizzlies (15 + Andrew Harrison): Like Beverley in L.A., Harrison is on a non-guaranteed salary, but may not be expendable. If he remains on Memphis’ roster, the Grizzlies may end up releasing Dakari Johnson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jahlil Okafor Discusses Freedom From 'Stressors'

  • In an Instagram post, Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor thanks Kevin Love for bringing mental health issues into the open last season. Okafor, who signed a partially guaranteed two-year deal earlier this month, displays a more toned body in the post, but states that he underwent a greater change on the inside. “I’ve learned how to identify and manage different stressors such as anxiety,” Okafor wrote. “Learning how to identify certain stressors has also allowed me to over come them. Often times because of my size and profession people may view me in a certain way, but in reality I deal with the same struggles as countless others.”

E'Twaun Moore Surprised By Rondo's Departure

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.

Jahlil Okafor's Contract Has Modest Guarantees

  • Only $50K of Jahlil Okafor‘s two-year contract with the Pelicans is guaranteed, Pincus reveals in another tweet. The second year is a team option but just a little over $54K is guaranteed even if it’s exercised, Pincus adds. The signing became official on Thursday.

Okafor Is A Low-Risk Addition

The signing of big man Jahlil Okafor is a low-risk, high-reward proposition for the PelicansScott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate opines. The former No. 3 overall pick was signed this week to a partially guaranteed two-year, $3.27MM contract, which includes a team option for the second year. That means Okafor can easily be cut loose if he doesn’t impress in training camp, Kushner notes. If he sticks, Okafor’s scoring ability could allow him to carve out a niche role off the bench behind starters Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic, Kushner adds.

NBA Teams With Hard Caps For 2018/19

The NBA salary cap is somewhat malleable, with various exceptions allowing every team to surpass the $101.869MM threshold once that room is used up. In some cases, teams blow past not only the cap limit, but the luxury-tax limit as well, with clubs like the Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Raptors, and Wizards going well beyond that tax line this year.

The NBA doesn’t have a “hard cap” by default, which allows those clubs to build significant payrolls without violating CBA rules. However, there are certain scenarios in which teams can be hard-capped.

When a club uses the bi-annual exception, acquires a player via sign-and-trade, or uses more than the taxpayer portion ($5.337MM) of the mid-level exception, that club will face a hard cap for the remainder of the league year.

When a team becomes hard-capped, it cannot exceed the “tax apron” at any point during the rest of the league year. The tax apron is set at a point approximately $6MM above the luxury tax line. For the 2018/19 league year, the tax apron – and hard cap for certain clubs – is set at $129.817MM.

So far this year, eight teams have imposed a hard cap on themselves by using the bi-annual exception, using the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, or acquiring a player via sign-and-trade. Listed below are those eight teams, along with how they created a hard cap.

Charlotte Hornets

Detroit Pistons

Los Angeles Clippers

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Used full mid-level exception ($8.641MM) to sign Kyle Anderson.

Milwaukee Bucks

New Orleans Pelicans

New York Knicks

San Antonio Spurs

Currently, none of the hard-capped teams listed above have team salaries within $5MM of the tax apron, so that hard cap shouldn’t be a real issue for most of these clubs during the 2018/19 league year. However, that could change if any of these teams – particularly the Hornets or Pistons – makes additional free agent signings or takes on extra money in a trade at some point.