- 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.
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.
The performance of Nuggets rookie guard Jamal Murray has made Emmanuel Mudiay expendable, writes Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. Veteran Jameer Nelson has become the starting point guard as Denver pushes for a playoff spot, and Kiszla sees Murray as a better backup to both Nelson and Gary Harris than Mudiay is. That leaves little playing time for last year’s first-round pick, who may now be more valuable to the Nuggets as a trade chip. Kiszla would like to see the Nuggets pursue Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, but admits that Denver doesn’t have the pieces to make that happen. He also mentions Atlanta’s Thabo Sefolosha as a target, but not in a one-for-one deal for Mudiay.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Tom Thibodeau’s new dual role as Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations leaves no time for a vacation during the All-Star break, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Zgoda lists seven possible targets for Minnesota before Thursday’s trade deadline: Chicago’s Taj Gibson, Orlando’s Bismack Biyombo, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler, Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert, Phoenix’s P.J. Tucker and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel.
- Lance Stephenson is looking at a two-week recovery from his Grade 2 ankle sprain, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News in Minneapolis. Stephenson’s 10-day contract expired this weekend, and it’s uncertain whether the Timberwolves will be interested in signing him again once he has recovered.
- The Jazz may add short-term salary to help them get above the cap floor, but they will be reluctant to take on long-term salary in any deal, writes Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News. Utah’s top priority this summer will be to re-sign Gordon Hayward, who will want a max contract with an annual salary in the $25MM to $30MM range. The Jazz also want to keep free agent point guard George Hill, who will demand about $20MM per season, and Rudy Gobert‘s extension will kick in next season, starting at more than $21.2MM next year. That ties up three players making more than $70MM, which limits Utah’s roster flexibility.
In a video interview, Wojnarowski says the teams have discussed a deal involving Butler, but talks haven’t progressed very far. He adds that Chicago officials have to to fully commit to the rebuilding process before they would be willing to give up Butler.
Wojnarowski says the trade would involve one of the Nets’ first-rounders — but probably not both — that Boston owns in the next two drafts. If the Bulls get this year’s pick, Wojnarowski states they can find a replacement for Derrick Rose, who was traded to the Knicks last summer. Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball are point guards mentioned as likely choices at the top of the draft.
Teaming Butler with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford would give the Celtics enough firepower to challenge Cleveland for supremacy in the East, Wojnarowski states, not just this season but for years to come.
Other highlights from the interview:
- The Clippers and Thunder are both potential landing spots for Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler. However, both teams are low on draft picks and may not have the assets that Denver would want in return.
- The Thunder were trying to acquire Kings forward Rudy Gay before a season-ending Achilles injury.
- The Wizards would like to add another wing player to their bench, with the Lakers‘ Lou Williams and the Nets‘ Bojan Bogdanovic as possibilities. Wojnarowski says Washington is willing to part with a draft pick to get veteran help.
- The Suns have been shopping P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight, hoping to get picks or young players in return.
- Chandler is one of several centers on the market, along with the Sixers‘ Jahlil Okafor, the Mavericks‘ Andrew Bogut, the Bucks‘ Greg Monroe and the Nets‘ Brook Lopez. However, there is limited interest in back-to-the basket centers. Wojnarowski speculates that one or two of them may be traded this week, but cautions that there aren’t enough buyers for all of them to be moved.
- Unless something changes, Carmelo Anthony will remain with the Knicks. New York management hasn’t presented him with any deals that would tempt him to waive his no-trade clause. Most of the teams that were interested in dealing for Anthony are now “looking in other directions,” but Wojnarowski thinks the Clippers might revisit their attempt to land Anthony this summer.
Okafor sat out last Saturday and didn’t accompany the team on a flight to Charlotte for Monday’s game. A trade appeared imminent at the time, but nothing happened and he rejoined the Sixers on Wednesday.
Aldridge says the deal that nearly took place involved Portland, although he doesn’t speculate on what Philadelphia would have received in return. The Blazers and Nuggets finalized a trade Monday that sent Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first-round draft pick to Portland in exchange for Mason Plumlee, a 2018 second-rounder and cash. Presumably, that deal ended the Blazers’ interest in Okafor.
Although a crowded frontcourt has kept the Sixers in the spotlight through the first four months of the NBA season, there are other concerns that the Philadelphia franchise will have to address heading forward. Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer decided to shine a light on some of the less discussed roster dynamics in a recent column.
One of the biggest questions that Sixers head coach Brett Brown will have to answer as the roster formally evolves from rebuilding project to actual Eastern Conference contender is what to do at the power forward spot. Currently the club starts veteran Ersan Ilyasova with rookie Dario Saric slotted in as his replacement off the bench. Saric’s play of late, however, has warranted more playing time. In nine February games, Saric has averaged 15.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Considering the progress that the Croatian has made, general manager Bryan Colangelo will need to determine whether he trusts Saric enough to let the 29-year-old Ilyasova and his expiring $8.4MM walk this summer. Another challenge the club’s brass will have to face is to truly assess the value of backup big man Richaun Holmes. Holmes has impressed, averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes, but it’s unclear whether the team would be comfortable with him as Philly’s primary backup center.
Another thing that the Sixers will have to address in the near future is adding perimeter offense. It’s imperative, Cooney writes, that the team add shooters who can open the floor for Joel Embiid and eventually Ben Simmons.
There’s more out of Philadelphia:
- Although nothing has transpired yet, there have been plenty of trade talks surrounding Jahlil Okafor. Although the second-year center’s name has come up in rumors all season long, he was held out of two games last week as the franchise engaged in discussions with “10 or 11 teams”. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Okafor grew up playing against Anthony Davis of the Pelicans and would be particularly interested in playing in his hometown for the Bulls. Both New Orleans and Chicago are among the teams with whom Philadelphia has discussed a possible trade.
- For what it’s worth, Joel Embiid believes that the Sixers could utilize all of their assets, including Jahlil Okafor. As Pompey writes in a separate Philadelphia Inquirer piece, Embiid suggested as much on Saturday. “We got a lot of talent, and I feel we can use everybody if we want to get to where we want to,” Embiid said.
- Once at the center of trade rumors, Sixers center Nerlens Noel has noticed a change in culture, writes Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. “It’s a lot more fun, a lot more enjoyable, and it honestly feels like a whole new culture,” Noel said. The big man is aware of the logjam at his position, however. “[Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and I] are all genuine, and we’re all young men who just want to play well in this league and see each other do well at the same time.”
Sixers center Joel Embiid claims he’s “more surprised than everybody else” how well this season has gone after he was sidelined two seasons by foot injuries. During the interview with ESPN Radio, Embiid admits he entertained thoughts of retiring during those lost seasons. “I was such in a dark place, I wanted to quit basketball,” Embiid said. “I just wanted to go back home and just leave everything behind.” Embiid pines for the Rookie of the Year award, saying it would be validation for the sacrifices he made to get back on the court. He’s hopeful of returning soon after the All-Star break after missing the last 11 games with what he describes as a left knee bone bruise, though he reportedly has a partial meniscus tear.
Although head coach Brett Brown indicated earlier this week that Ben Simmons‘ recovery is progressing at a deliberately slow and careful pace, the Sixers still expect to get their No. 1 pick on the court at some point this season.
“Our plan is to still see him on the court, playing games,” Brown told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman on Wednesday. “We just don’t know when. … I fully expect him to play this season. He thinks that, and he’s motivated to play.”
Of course, as Goodman notes, even though Simmons and Brown are on board with the 20-year-old making his NBA debut this season, that decision will ultimately be made by Sixers management. Despite some promising stretches this season, the Sixers aren’t currently close to a playoff spot, with a 21-35 record placing them 13th in the East. As such, it makes sense for the franchise to be careful with Simmons and Joel Embiid in the season’s final two months.
Let’s round up a few more Sixers notes…
- Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link) has been told that the Sixers remain active in trade talks on “almost anyone not named Embiid or Simmons.”
- Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo hasn’t looked all that good lately, having been evasive about the nature of Embiid’s knee injury and then not completing a Jahlil Okafor deal as the team held him out of the lineup for two games due to swirling trade rumors. In separate pieces, John Smallwood of The Philadelphia Daily News and John Gonzalez of The Ringer examine Colangelo’s recent performance.
- January was the Sixers’ best month in three years, but February has been dominated by off-court headlines so far, and Philadelphia fans deserve better, writes Mike Kern of The Philadelphia Daily News.
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:
- New York Knicks: $3.3 billion
- Los Angeles Lakers: $3 billion
- Golden State Warriors: $2.6 billion
- Chicago Bulls: $2.5 billion
- Boston Celtics: $2.2 billion
- Los Angeles Clippers; $2 billion
- Brooklyn Nets: $1.8 billion
- Houston Rockets: $1.65 billion
- Dallas Mavericks: $1.45 billion
- Miami Heat: $1.35 billion
- Cleveland Cavaliers: $1.2 billion
- San Antonio Spurs: $1.175 billion
- Toronto Raptors: $1.125 billion
- Phoenix Suns: $1.1 billion
- Sacramento Kings: $1.075 billion
- Portland Trail Blazers: $1.05 billion
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $1.025 billion
- Washington Wizards: $1 billion
- Orlando Magic: $920MM
- Utah Jazz: $910MM
- Detroit Pistons: $900MM
- Denver Nuggets: $890MM
- Atlanta Hawks: $885MM
- Indiana Pacers: $880MM
- Philadelphia 76ers: $800MM
- Memphis Grizzlies: $790MM
- Milwaukee Bucks: $785MM
- Charlotte Hornets: $780MM
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $770MM
- New Orleans Pelicans: $750MM
For comparison’s sake, Forbes’ 2016 valuations can be found right here.