Pelicans Rumors

Thibodeau On Butler Trade: “We Had To Be Patient”

In his first comments since the Jimmy Butler trade became official, Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau addressed the organization’s decision to deal its superstar.

Speaking to reporters, including ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Thibodeau said that Minnesota pondered several offers for Butler. The Timberwolves felt the return from Philadelphia was the best of the bunch and that’s when the decision was made.

“We knew we had to be patient,” Thibodeau said. “We felt we had a few offers that were good. So once we got offers to the point where we felt good about what the offers were, we thought this was the best one for us. So we executed.”

After nearly two months of trade rumors and drama, the Timberwolves dealt Butler and center Justin Patton to Philadelphia for a package of Robert CovingtonDario SaricJerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick.

As we relayed earlier today, Minnesota considered trade packages from the Rockets and Pelicans before accepting the Sixers’ offer. The Nets were also reportedly involved in discussions but were not a serious suitor for the four-time All-Star.

Details On Rockets’, Pelicans’ Trade Offers For Butler

A report over the weekend indicated that the Timberwolves had three trade offers on the table for Jimmy Butler before ultimately deciding to pull the trigger on a Sixers package headlined by Robert Covington and Dario Saric. In their latest report for The Athletic, Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic provide some details on the other two offers Minnesota was considering, which came from the Rockets and Pelicans.

According to Charania and Krawczynski, the Rockets – who had previously offered four first-round picks attached to Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss – adjusted their proposal to make it more appealing to Tom Thibodeau, who remains in win-now mode. Houston’s offer featured Eric Gordon, Nene, and two first-round picks, sources told The Athletic. It’s not clear what sort of protections would have been on those first-rounders, or whether any other pieces were involved.

As for the Pelicans, they weren’t mentioned often over the last couple months as a serious suitor for Butler, but they were engaged in talks with Minnesota at the end of the process. Charania and Krawczynski report that New Orleans’ package was headlined by Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick. Again, it’s unclear what other pieces would have been included in such a deal — Mirotic’s salary wouldn’t have been enough to match Butler’s on its own.

The full report from Charania and Krawczynski is excellent, providing a timeline of the Butler saga from mid-September right up until today. It’s worth checking out in full if you have a subscription to The Athletic.

Here are a few more highlights from the piece:

  • Friday’s game was viewed as a fork in the road for both the Timberwolves and Butler. We previously heard that Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden decided after that game that Butler had played his last game for the team — it sounds like Butler had made up his mind too. According to Charania and Krawczynski, the 29-year-old had decided to begin sitting out indefinitely after that game if Minnesota didn’t trade him.
  • Thibodeau subsequently told his staff after Friday’s game that they had to move Butler, sources tell The Athletic. In fact, the Timberwolves nearly held the All-NBA swingman out of Friday’s game because they already had traction on a potential deal.
  • The Heat‘s original offer for Butler included Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, and a draft pick, per Charania and Krawczynski. Miami later extended Winslow and put Josh Richardson into an offer. However, when a deal involving Richardson fell apart, the Heat pulled him off the table and never included him in another offer.

Timberwolves Engaged Pelicans Surrounding Butler Trade

  • According to Woj, the Timberwolves desperately tried to find other trade partners throughout the past week, including reaching out to the Pelicans and Wizards, to no avail. The Wolves actually had “extensive” discussions with the Pels, but New Orleans wouldn’t offer Jrue Holiday or multiple draft picks. Washington, meanwhile wouldn’t offer Bradley Beal, which comes as no surprise.

  • According to Woj, the Timberwolves desperately tried to find other trade partners throughout the past week, including reaching out to the Pelicans and Wizards, to no avail. The Wolves actually had “extensive” discussions with the Pels, but New Orleans wouldn’t offer Jrue Holiday or multiple draft picks. Washington, meanwhile wouldn’t offer Bradley Beal, which comes as no surprise.

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2018/19

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on several players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Davis can’t yet sign a Designated Veteran Extension, but his All-NBA appearances over the last two seasons have ensured that he’ll qualify, even if he somehow doesn’t earn another All-NBA nod in 2018/19.

As of next July, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis a contract extension that tacks an additional five years onto his $27.09MM salary for 2019/20. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($118MM), that five-year extension would be worth a staggering $239.54MM.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2018/19:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2018/19 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. And even in this group, guys like Beal and Drummond are a real stretch — if they were to improbably make an All-NBA team, their clubs still probably wouldn’t put Designated Veteran Extension offers on the table, since they’re not bona fide superstars.

Thompson and Walker will both be unrestricted free agents in 2019, so if they meet the DVE criteria, they’d be eligible for five-year contracts with their respective teams worth up to a projected $221.27MM. Lillard and Green are still under contract for at least one more year beyond this season, but they’d qualify for super-max extensions if they meet the criteria — Lillard could get an extra four years, while Green could get five.

A team can only give Designated Veteran Extensions to two players, so the Warriors wouldn’t be able to offer both Thompson and Green super-max contracts, since Stephen Curry already has one. On the plus side, Kevin Durant won’t figure into this equation for Golden State, since he has 10+ years of experience. A deal starting at 35% of the cap for Durant wouldn’t count toward the Dubs’ super-max limit.

Finally, while Antetokounmpo can qualify for a super-max by earning All-NBA honors this season, he wouldn’t actually be able to sign such a deal until 2020, since he’ll only have six years of experience at the end of the 2018/19 campaign. Essentially, he’d be in the same spot that Anthony Davis is in now.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract because they were traded:

Butler, Irving, and Leonard are probably more worthy of a super-max investment than most of the players in the above group, but they no longer qualify because they were traded while on their second contracts — Butler from the Bulls, Irving from the Cavaliers, and Leonard from the Spurs. They’ll need to reach 10 years of NBA experience before qualifying for a starting salary worth up to 35% of the cap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Celtics, Lakers, Others Monitoring Anthony Davis

Although Anthony Davis remains under contract with the Pelicans through at least 2020, rival NBA executives believe he could be up for grabs for a larger-market team before then, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Davis will be eligible for a five-year, super-max contract extension as of July 2019. If he passes on that extension – which some executives believe he might, per Haynes – the Pelicans could be forced to consider the possibility of trading the star big man before he gets the opportunity to opt out in 2020.

The Celtics, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Warriors are among the big-market teams that will be monitoring Davis’ situation this year and next, sources tell Haynes.

Whenever he has been asked about his future, Davis has dismissed the idea that he wants to play anywhere but New Orleans. However, as Haynes notes, Davis’ top priority is to win, so the Pelicans will be under pressure to continue building a roster that can help the former first overall pick achieve that goal.

[RELATED: Anthony Davis Hopeful DeMarcus Cousins Can Return To Pelicans]

“Of course, I know that in order to win games, a lot of pressure is going to be on me,” Davis said after a loss to the Warriors this week. “I don’t have a good game and we lose. So, I got to play almost perfect every night to give us a chance to win.

“But my teammates do a great job,” he continued. “Even the games I didn’t play, those guys have been battling night in and night out to get victories. … I don’t try to put too much pressure on myself, but I know it’s there.

While the speculation about Davis isn’t expected to subside, the five-time All-Star knows it comes with the territory, suggesting he’s tuning out the noise and focusing on what he can control on the court. He also tells Haynes that his teammates, who “do as much as possible to help me,” don’t view his contract situation as a distraction.

“Nah, my team doesn’t care. They cherish the moments that they have with me,” Davis said. “Every day we try to put in the work to be a great team. They hear it, I hear it. Everybody hears it. It’s hard not to. But we’re focused on what we have to do this year. We’re trying to beat teams like the Warriors and get to where they are. That’s our goal. That’s it.”

Anthony Davis Hopeful DeMarcus Cousins Can Return To Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t re-sign with the Pelicans when he reached free agency four months ago, but Anthony Davis remains hopeful that his old frontcourt partner will return to New Orleans at some point down the road, he said on Thursday.

“He will be a free agent next year,” Davis said of Cousins, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “Hopefully, down the line we can reconnect.”

As Warriors coach Steve Kerr admitted this week, Cousins’ one-year deal with Golden State seems unlikely to lead to a longer-term arrangement, given the team’s cap limitations. However, the Pelicans would face challenges of their own if they want to bring back Cousins. New Orleans could theoretically create enough cap room to make an offer to the big man during 2019’s free agent period, but that would probably mean allowing both Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic to depart, unless Cousins is willing to take another discount.

There may be other roadblocks in the way of a reunion between the Pelicans and Cousins, who was bothered by having not received a formal offer from GM Dell Demps this past July. That relationship is in need of repair, sources tell ESPN. Still, Demps told Spears that he’s rooting for Cousins, while head coach Alvin Gentry referred to the ex-Pelican as “the best player at his position in the league.”

Of course, if Cousins were to consider returning to New Orleans, he’d certainly want assurances that Davis would be sticking around as well. The Pelicans’ All-NBA big man is under contract through 2019/20 and sounds committed to staying with the team at least through that season, if not longer.

“I got two years to ’20/21. I’m here and whatever happens after that happens,” Davis told Spears. “For me, right now it is about being the most dominant player in the league and helping this team win. … You hear all the rumors. You hear all the talk. But it’s not coming from me. I’m here to be a Pelican, help this team move forward and help this team win a championship.”

Southwest Notes: Gentry, Morrow, Gasol, White

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry weighed in on the comments made by former NBA commissioner David Stern, labeling the importance of staying focused on the current team instead of outside noise. Stern ripped Pelicans GM Dell Demps this week, calling him a “lousy general manager.”

“For us, we worry about our team,” Gentry said, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). “We worry about our franchise. I’ve got a great working relationship with Dell. I think we’ve got a good team that we put out on the floor because of he and (president) Mickey (Loomis). That’s all I need to say. I think what has happened here is our franchise has a really bright future and that’s all that needs to be said.”

The Pelicans have started the 2018/19 season on a red-hot note, winning each of their three games in impressive fashion. Led by Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and a nice collection of young assets, New Orleans has designed its roster to compete for many years to come.

The Pelicans also released a statement on Stern’s comments, backing their general manager and claiming their excitement for playing under current NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Here are other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Free agent Anthony Morrow is interested in joining the Rockets if the team looks for additional shooting, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. “Absolutely,” Morrow said. Mike (D’Antoni) knows I love him, tell him to give me a call.”
  • Marc Gasol is dealing with neck soreness and is considered day-to-day, the Grizzlies said (Twitter link). Gasol suffered the injury on Wednesday against the Kings, with fears that he could miss extended time.
  • Despite having no timetable for a return, Spurs guard Derrick White continues to progress in his recovery from left heel pain that’s sidelined him since the preseason, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). “He’s progressing as they hoped,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

Pelicans Respond To Stern’s Comments On Demps

Earlier today, we shared snippets of a conversation between former NBA Commissioner David Stern and Chris Ballard of, wherein Stern spoke on numerous issues involving the NBA. Among them was his role in the Lakers’ near trade for Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in 2011. In elaborating on that deal and its eventual breakdown, Stern was quoted as saying:

“But Dell Demps (GM of the then Hornets and current Pelicans since 2010) is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”

Well, the Pelicans apparently weren’t willing to take those comments lying down, responding with a statement earlier tonight, which reads, in pertinent part:

“We are very disappointed to read the inappropriate and inaccurate comments from the former NBA Commissioner regarding the New Orleans Pelicans. Our organization has the utmost confidence in our General Manager, Dell Demps. He is part of our family, the NBA family… Our organization is excited and proud to be part of the NBA with the progressive and innovative leadership of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.”

Of course, Stern and Silver share a relationship stemming from Silver serving as Stern’s deputy commissioner for eight years. Stern even endorsed Silver to become his successor. Accordingly, it’s interesting that the Pelicans chose to use Silver to backhandedly cast aspersions on Stern. Silver and the NBA have yet to comment.

Poll: Which Team Will Stay Undefeated Longest?

Eight days into the NBA season, 25 teams have lost at least one game, leaving just five clubs unscathed. In the Eastern Conference, the Raptors (4-0), Bucks (3-0), and Pistons (3-0) remain undefeated, while, the Nuggets (4-0) and Pelicans (3-0) have yet to lose in the West.

All five of those teams were expected to be, at the very least, playoff contenders in 2018/19, but they’ve still exceeded expectations to some extent in the early part of the season.

The Raptors, Bucks, and Pistons all entered the season with new head coaches in place, but there has been no learning curve for those coaches so far. Kawhi Leonard and Blake Griffin have played like their old selves after battling injuries last season, helping Toronto and Detroit get off to fast starts, while Mike Budenholzer‘s offense in Milwaukee has the Bucks looking like a new team.

In the West, we knew that the Nuggets would be terrific on offense, but they’ve been better than advertised on the defensive end of the court, and that has played a big part in their hot start. As for the Pelicans, they still look like the team that made quick work of Portland in the first round of the playoffs last season, having not skipped a beat after losing Rajon Rondo and DeMarcus Cousins in free agency.

Here are the upcoming schedules for the NBA’s five remaining undefeated teams:

  • Toronto Raptors: vs. Min (10/24), vs. Dal (10/26), at Mil (10/29), vs. Phi (10/30), at Phx (11/2)
  • Milwaukee Bucks: vs. Phi (10/24), at Min (10/26), vs. Orl (10/27), vs. Tor (10/29), at Bos (11/1)
  • Detroit Pistons: vs. Cle (10/25), vs. Bos (10/27), at Bos (10/30), at Bkn (10/31), at Phi (11/3)
  • Denver Nuggets: at LAL (10/25), vs. NOP (10/29), at Chi (10/31), at Cle (11/1), vs. Uta (11/3)
  • New Orleans Pelicans: vs. Bkn (10/26), vs. Uta (10/27), at Den (10/29), at GSW (10/31), at Por (11/1)

All five clubs have tough matchups on tap, including some with each other — next Monday night should be especially interesting, as the Bucks host the Raptors while the Pelicans visit the Nuggets.

Based on what you’ve seen so far, as well as each team’s upcoming schedules, we want to know which team you believe will be the NBA’s last undefeated squad. Will it be the Raptors, Bucks, Pistons, Nuggets, or Pelicans that stays out of the loss column for the longest?

After placing your vote, head to the comment section below to weigh in on how long you expect each of these teams to keep winning and whether their hot starts have changed your views on them at all.

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Pelicans To Get G League Affiliate For 2019/20

OCTOBER 24: In their press release officially announcing their new G League affiliate, the Pelicans indicate that the club isn’t expected to begin play in Birmingham until 2022/23, meaning it will spend three seasons in Erie.

OCTOBER 23: The Pelicans will launch a G League affiliate that will begin play in the 2019/20 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, the new G League franchise will eventually play in Birmingham, Alabama, but will start in Erie, Pennsylvania, while arena renovations are completed in Birmingham.

Rumors of a potential G League affiliate for the Pelicans have persisted for multiple years now. Back in March 2017, we heard that New Orleans was expected to have an NBAGL team of its own in place for the 2018/19 season, but the club took longer than anticipated to finalize the location and the details.

Later in 2017, the Pelicans were said to be leaning toward Shreveport, Louisiana or Pensacola, Florida as the eventual home of their G League team, having apparently ruled out various cities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. However, Alabama will be the home of the new franchise after all, once Birmingham’s arena is ready to go.

Currently, Erie is home to the BayHawks, Atlanta’s G League affiliate. The Hawks, who took over the Erie squad in 2017/18, are spending one more year in Pennsylvania while work on their new G League arena in College Park, Georgia is completed. When the Hawks’ affiliate moves out of Erie at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, the Pelicans’ new expansion affiliate will be ready to move in.

[RELATED: NBA G League Affiliations For 2018/19 Season]

The Pelicans will become the 28th of 30 NBA teams with their own NBAGL affiliate. The Nuggets and Trail Blazers are the only other NBA clubs without G League teams of their own, though ESPN’s Jonathan Givony suggests (via Twitter) that the Nuggets may also look to have an affiliate in place for the 2019/20 season, perhaps in the northwest suburbs of Denver. If that happens, Portland would be the lone holdout.