- Fourth-year Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball has struggled to fit in on the hardwood during his second season with New Orleans, writes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. After failing to agree to terms on an extension by the deadline this season, Ball will be a restricted free agent this summer. Though he’s a savvy player and good defender, Ball’s jump shooting (just 38.7% from the floor) has limited his efficacy this season.
After the NBA’s transactions wire remained relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the 2020/21 season, teams have begun making moves with a little more frequency as of late.
While one recent transaction – the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn – was clearly a higher-impact move than the rest, a number of clubs have made smaller changes to their rosters by waiving players this week. The Raptors and Wizards cut big men Alex Len and Anzejs Pasecniks from their 15-man rosters, while the Sixers opened up a two-way slot by releasing Dakota Mathias.
As a result, there are now 12 teams across the NBA that have at least one open 15-man roster spot. One of those teams – the Trail Blazers – also has an open two-way contract slot, as do two others, leaving just 16 clubs who are carrying the maximum of 17 players.
With so many clubs facing roster shortages recently and the NBA and NBPA discussing the possibility of adding a third two-way slot to rosters for the rest of the season, it’s a little surprising that more teams aren’t making use of all 17 available spots, but it will likely just be a matter of time before those many of those openings get filled.
Here’s the current breakdown of teams with open roster spots:
Teams with an open 15-man roster spot:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Note: The Nets have three open roster spots and will need to fill at least two of them within two weeks of completing the Harden trade.
- Charlotte Hornets
- Los Angeles Clippers *
- Los Angeles Lakers *
- Milwaukee Bucks *
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Portland Trail Blazers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Toronto Raptors
- Utah Jazz
- Washington Wizards
Note: An asterisk (*) denotes that the team can’t currently sign a 15th man due to the hard cap.
Teams with an open two-way slot:
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Phoenix Suns
- Portland Trail Blazers
Lonzo Ball is listed as probable to play Tuesday against Utah after missing three games due to a knee injury, the team’s PR department tweets. Ball practiced in full on Monday, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Picayune Times writes. The Pelicans point guard said he “definitely” plans to play Tuesday, the first of two straight games against the Jazz. In nine games this season, he’s averaging 12.4 PPG and 4.4 APG.
We’re likely still a few weeks away from Forbes’ publication of its annual NBA franchise valuations, which are typically revealed during the first half of February. However, new sports-business website Sportico has gotten the jump on Forbes in 2021, trying its hand at projecting the values of all 30 NBA teams.
According to Peter J. Schwartz of Sportico, the average NBA franchise is worth nearly $2.4 billion. That projection dipped slightly as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, since teams around the league have missed out on anticipated revenues as a result of playing without fans. However, the fact that the NBA’s national revenues have remained relatively stable means Sportico’s projected valuations have only dipped about two percent.
In Sportico’s view, the Knicks ($5.42 billion), Warriors ($5.21 billion), and Lakers ($5.14 billion) are far and away the most valuable NBA franchises, followed by the Nets ($3.4 billion) at No. 4. The Pelicans ($1.35 billion), Grizzlies ($1.36 billion), and Timberwolves ($1.43 billion) are at the other end of the spectrum.
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- The NBA G League announced in December of 2019 that it would be expanding to Mexico City for 2020/21, but given the circumstances surrounding this season, the Capitanes franchise won’t be debuting now after all. While the league has been quiet about its plans for that Mexico-based franchise, the club is now expected to begin playing in the NBAGL in 2021/22, says Marc Stein of The New York Times.
- Although most coaches and general managers around the NBA support the idea of giving teams a third two-way contract slot – an idea being discussed by the league and the players’ union – some would have liked to see a different tweak made to the two-way rules, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “We are in support of (the proposal),” a Western Conference GM said. “But (we) might prefer to have current two-ways with unlimited game-day restrictions.” Players on two-way contracts are limited to being active for 50 of 72 games this season.
- In an interesting article for HoopsHype, Michael Scotto explores the “art of the smokescreen,” speaking to agents and team executives about why they might be motivated to leak information to reporters.
- Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy issued a brief injury update on Lonzo Ball, who’s currently dealing with bilateral knee tendinopathy. Though Ball didn’t practice on Saturday, Van Gundy is hopeful he can return relatively soon. “He says he feels a lot better,” Van Gundy said, as relayed by Jacob Rude of USA Today. “(He’s) really working hard on strengthening the muscles around that knee which seems to really help. I think he’s pretty optimistic about being able to come at full strength and pretty optimistic that’s (his return) is not in the distant, distant future. I think we’re talking more days to a week than we are weeks.”
Continued improvement and consistency from Nickeil Alexander-Walker could make it more feasible for the Pelicans to move Lonzo Ball down the road, Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes. Alexander-Walker, a first-round pick in 2019, erupted for a career-high 37 points against the Clippers on Wednesday.
“The big measure for young guys is not what happens when everything is rolling your way,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s what happens when you’re having a frustrating night.”
Second-year Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will be able to suit up tomorrow against the Lakers after having been placed into the league’s coronavirus protocols yesterday, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (via Twitter).
Williamson was held out of last night’s 111-106 loss to the Clippers as a precaution after returning an inconclusive coronavirus test result yesterday. A negative confirmatory test has cleared the 6’6″ 20-year-old for activity tomorrow night, Lopez adds in an additional tweet.
The Pelicans, coached by new addition Stan Van Gundy and boasting the impressive forward tandem of Williamson and All-Star wing Brandon Ingram, are currently the No. 13 seed in a hyper-competitive Western Conference atmosphere, with a 4-6 record. Across nine games this season, Williamson is averaging 21.9 PPG on 55.7% shooting from the field, 8.1 RPG and 1.3 APG.
5:42pm: Williamson’s absence tonight is related to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and the timing of the results of a second test, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. The Pelicans don’t view it as anything significant, Lopez adds.
It’s a tough break for Williamson, who has averaged 26.3 PPG over his last three games, and for the Pelicans, who have slipped below .500 (4-5) after losing all three of those contests.
The NBA isn’t providing many specifics this season on why certain players are entering the health and safety protocols or how long they’ll be sidelined, so we’ll have to wait for more details to find out whether Williamson’s absence will be a brief one or if it will cover a week or more. He may have registered a positive or inconclusive COVID-19 test or have been exposed to someone who tested positive.
While James Harden‘s offseason trade request has dominated NBA headlines for the last month or two, league sources question how willing Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is to deal the superstar guard this season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
With the likes of John Wall, Christian Wood, and even rookie Jae’Sean Tate playing well, front office executives around the NBA believe the Rockets are becoming more confident that Harden will be comfortable staying in Houston for the rest of the season, writes O’Connor. The former MVP still prefers to be traded, but if the Rockets can build upon their early promise and improve their 3-5 record, he may not push quite as hard for a deal.
Here’s more from O’Connor:
- Teams around the NBA are keeping close eye on the 2-8 Wizards in case Bradley Beal grows frustrated and decides he wants out. Both O’Connor and John Hollinger of The Athletic suggest there’s a case to be made that Beal could be even more appealing as a trade target than Harden. Beal is nearly four years younger than Harden and has “a more malleable game” that makes him a great fit in any system, O’Connor argues.
- The presumed top suitors for Harden, including the Nets and Sixers, would also have interest in Beal, league sources tell The Ringer. The 76ers are a threat to acquire any available star player if they’re willing to put Ben Simmons on the table, but people around the league are more skeptical about Brooklyn’s ability to land a star, says O’Connor.
- O’Connor asked 14 executives which under-the-radar teams could be candidates to acquire a star player via trade, and six named the Pelicans — rival execs don’t necessarily expect David Griffin to hoard New Orleans’ excess draft picks for years, given how good Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson already are. The Heat, Knicks, Mavericks, Nuggets, and Spurs also received votes.
- In case you missed it, O’Connor also said that Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is “firmly” on the hot seat, as we detailed earlier today.
1:13pm: The Mavericks may have had enough players to meet the required minimum tonight, but the league chose to postpone the game in order to continue contact tracing and “to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and other personnel,” VP of basketball communications Scott Tomlin told Caplan. The contact tracing process is ongoing, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.
11:45am: The NBA is postponing Monday’s game between the Mavericks and Pelicans due to issues related to COVID-19, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (via Twitter) that the Mavs don’t have the required minimum of eight players available.
It’s the fourth game this season that has been postponed, including the third in two days. The Sunday contest between the Heat and Celtics was also postponed, as was Tuesday’s game between the Celtics and Bulls. Before Sunday, all games since December 23 had been played.
Mavericks veterans Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson were self-isolating as of Friday, and Maxi Kleber joined that list over the weekend. Tim MacMahon of ESPN said on Sunday night (via Twitter) that Dallas wasn’t expected to lose any more players to contact tracing, but it seems that’s no longer the case.
According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), ongoing contact tracing will leave Dallas with fewer than eight players available tonight, despite the imminent return of Kristaps Porzingis. As MacMahon tweets, that suggests that at least five more Mavericks entered the protocols today.