Author: Kurt Helin

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves

Alex Ajinca re-signs with Pelicans for four years, reported $20.5 million

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Last season, coach Monte Williams preferred to put big man Omer Asik next to Anthony Davis.

But new coach Alvin Gentry may like reserve French big man Alex Ajinca in that role — the Pelicans were +10 per 48 minutes with an offensive rating of 111.9 (points per 100 possessions) in the 220 minutes those two were on the court together last season. Ajinca is more offensive minded and has a more versatile offensive game.

Which is why the Pelicans locked up Ajinca to a four-year contract. Ajinca himself confirmed the news on Twitter.

The money is is very, very reasonable, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Ajinca averaged 6.5 points a game on 55 percent shooting, but only played 14.1 minutes a contest for the Pelicans last season. Expect that number to go up, although defense will be the key (that is the side of the court the Pelicans need to improve upon).

New Orleans locked up Anthony Davis to a max contract just after free agency opened, and they are expected to try and re-sign Asik and Norris Cole as well. There have been rumblings they are interested in Robin Lopez, but he may be priced out of their range.

The Pelicans were never going to be big free agent players, they are betting on growth, and Alvin Gentry using the pieces they have better.

Report: Spurs reach deal to trade Tiago Splitter to Hawks, create cap space for LaMarcus Aldridge offer

Tiago Splitter, LaMarcus Aldridge
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You know it’s a wild start to free agency when the San Antonio Spurs — a franchise normally lurking in the background — are major players.

San Antonio has reached the framework of a deal that will send center Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks, something first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The Spurs are sending out his $8.5 million will not be taking back any salary in this deal — which, along with their other moves (such as signing Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and eventually re-signing Tim Duncan at a steep discount) will give them to cap space to offer LaMarcus Aldridge a max contract (they may or may not be able to keep Patty Mills). The Spurs were always considered the front-runner to land Aldridge (with the Lakers close, although their meeting with him may not have gone as well as they thought) and now San Antonio can offer the chance to return to his native Texas and walk right into a serious title contender.

And when Tim Duncan retires in a year, Aldridge will step into Duncan’s role in the offense.

As for the Hawks, there are moving parts here but this much becomes clear: They need to re-sign Paul Millsap. The Hawks have prioritized bringing Millsap back — he and Al Horford would make a great front court rotation — but Millsap is considering Orlando. With DeMarre Carroll choosing to play in Toronto, the Hawks need to land Millsap or they will have taken a healthy step back this summer.

Report: Cleveland Cavaliers reach out to veteran Tayshaun Prince

Indiana Pacers v Detroit Pistons
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The Cleveland Cavaliers need depth on the wing, and LeBron James would love to have a couple more veterans who know what it takes to win a title on the roster.

Enter Tayshaun Prince. The Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to him, reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In an effort to shore up wing depth, the Cleveland Cavaliers have reached out to the representatives of free agent small forward Tayshaun Prince, league sources informed Northeast Ohio Media Group….

At this juncture in the free-agency period, the Cavaliers have other matters to tend to before filling out their roster. Prince and the Cavaliers will resume dialogue at a later time, I’m told.

 

Prince is going to turn 36 in the middle of next season and he’s got 13 seasons under his belt, but for Stan Van Gundy late last season in Detroit he showed he could still be a relatively useful role player in limited minutes. (Prince started last season in Memphis, was traded to Boston and then was shipped on to Detroit.) Last season he averaged 7.5 points per game and shot 46 percent from three, plus his length makes him a passable defender still — he’s a below average player now but probably better than you’d think at this point in his career.

If this is a veteran minimum deal reached after the Cavaliers fill out the roster with guys who can play bigger minutes, that will work. As it stands, the Cavaliers backups at the three and four are Mike Miller (who barely saw the court in the playoffs until David Blatt had no choice) and rookies Cedi Osman, Sir’Dominic Pointer, and Rakeem Christmas. Prince can fit in with that group, but the Cavs might be looking for guys to go above all of them on the depth chart.

 

Report: Kings aggressively pursuing Rajon Rondo

Dallas Mavericks v New Orleans Pelicans
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Does putting Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl in close proximity to each other for an entire NBA season seem like a wise decision?

The Sacramento Kings seem to think so.

Sacramento made one of the first calls to Rajon Rondo and they have gone hard after the free agent point guard, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Rondo is very tight with the Kings’ Rudy Gay, who has vocally led his recruitment.

The Kings have looked for another point guard, one who can play the pick-and-roll and run Karl’s up-tempo offense. Rondo is a high IQ player, a gifted passer and a plus defender. His lack of a steady jump shot has held him back.

It’s not on-the-court Rondo that could be a real challenge. It’s the moody, competitive and combative Rondo off the court that seems an odd fit with the other big personalities in Sacramento. Rondo couldn’t get along with Doc Rivers in Boston (and everyone likes Doc). Then he melted down during the first round of the playoffs for the Dallas Mavericks and the franchise paid him to go away.

The real question is now many years (two or three is my guess) and how much money does Rondo get at this point. His value has taken a beating. Would the Kings give him $10 million a year? $8 million? $12 million? Or do they think they can get him on he cheap at $7 million or $8 million? At that price this is a good deal.

Report: Knicks make early push for Rockets’ point guard Patrick Beverley

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns
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You don’t need a traditional, ball-dominating point guard in the triangle offense, at least as Phil Jackson likes to see it run. What is required is more like what Knicks’ coach Derek Fisher did during his days on the court — play defense and knock down threes.

Someone like Patrick Beverley.

The Knicks are making a run at the Rockets’ point guard, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

A source told Sporting News at the opening of free agency that the Knicks have “major interest” in Beverley, and that the interest is mutual. The Knicks contacted Beverley shortly after free agency began.

The Knicks were not the only team interested, reports Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.

Beverley is a restricted free agent, meaning the Rockets have the right to match any offer. And they do want to keep him. Last season Beverley averaged 10.1 points and 3.4 assists per game but his season was cut short by a wrist injury.

To pry Beverley out of Houston would require the kind of head-turning offer that the Rockets felt they just couldn’t match. The Rockets are already paying Dwight Howard north of $22 million and James Harden more than $15 million, they don’t want to take on any huge long-term deals (GM Daryl Morey prizes flexibility).

The Knicks have the cash and could overpay now thinking the deal will not look as bad as the cap spikes by nearly $40 million over two years.