Associated Press

After Achilles tear, what’s next for DeMarcus Cousins? Pelicans?

6 Comments

The news was shocking β€” with less than 10 seconds remaining in New Orleans biggest win of the season (an upset of the Houston Rockets), All-Star big man DeMarcus Cousins went down with what is known to be a torn left Achilles. He is done for the season and surgery is next, followed by a rehab that will stretch all summer and possibly into the start of next season.

The first reaction around the league was an outpouring of support for Boogie (this is just a small sample).

This was quickly followed by the “what’s next” questions, which focused on two fronts: How does this impact the Pelicans’ pursuit of the playoffs this season? And what does this mean for Cousins free agency this summer?

After the win, fivethirtyeight.com had the 27-21 Pelicans as almost a lock to make the postseason, at 89 percent. The Pelicans have won four in a row and 8-of-10, though they have not been blowing teams out (+4.4 per 100 in that stretch), the Pelicans have a top-10 offense and defense in those games. Now the question is that cushion enough? They are just 3.5 games ahead of the ninth-seed Clippers, and it looks like the eighth seed in the West will need to be .500 or a little above to get in. Can the Pelicans go 15-19 to close out the season and finish 42-40 and have a real chance? It’s going to be close.

On the positive side, Anthony Davis is having another All-NBA season (maybe first team again) and the Pelicans are +6.9 per 100 possessions this season when Davis is on the court and Cousins is off. While that number is a skewed some by poor opponent three-point shooting, the fact is the Pelicans are still a good team with Davis on the court. The problem is Gentry was able to stagger Davis and Cousins so one of them was almost always on the court, and a lot of the data we have with both of them out comes from meaningless garbage time. The Pelicans bench needs to step up now, and that has not been their strength this season. The team should get Solomon Hill back from hamstring surgery next month and they will need him to find his footing fast and contribute as a big, because the Pelicans look like a thin team now.

What happens this summer gets more complicated.

The first question is will GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry still have their jobs. They needed to make the playoffs and show this team had the potential to do more than just slip in to keep their jobs. How this injury impacts the decisions by ownership and upper management remain to be seen. Every move the Pelicans make right now has to be viewed through the “will this help us keep Anthony Davis in a few years?” lens.

Before the injury, it was expected around the league that the Pelicans would max out (or near max out, if they could) Cousins to keep him. Teams such as the Mavericks and Lakers might come calling, but if the Pelicans went in big he would stay in a city where he likes it and the team is winning. Now all of that is off. It’s unknown if other teams will come calling for Cousins with serious offers.

The max for Cousins next season will likely be just north of $30 million a season (the final number will depend on the salary cap), with raises it would have been a five-year, $175 million deal with the Pelicans, and four-years, $130 if he left.

New Orleans now will likely want to get Cousins back now at a small discount, maybe both in terms of money and years. Cousins will most likely be a little bit less of a player after this β€” most guys who come back from an Achilles see a dip in production β€” but he is so unique and dominant he will still be an excellent player. The Pelicans have gone all-in on the Davis/Cousins combo and have been active in trade discussions (according to other teams) looking for shooting and good players to put around their stars. Even if a new front office comes in, the two bigs plan likely stays just because of how big a step back it would be if Cousins leaves. Could the Pelicans now get Cousins on a shorter deal that lines up more with Davis (a free agent in 2020)?

There are no easy answers here. The Pelicans may still make the playoffs, but whatever happens, Cousins will still be in demand. He’s still going to get paid. It likely will not still be the max offer he was expecting.

Cavaliers reportedly snap up Alfonzo McKinnie off waivers

Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Going into training camp, Alfonzo McKinnie was expected to be the starting small forward for the Warriors this season.

However, injuries along the front line β€” Willie Cauley-Stein is out for weeks still, plus Kevon Looney and rookie Alen Smailagic are banged up β€” and some strong play from Marquise Chriss meant he was going to make the Warriors roster. With the team being hard capped after signing D'Angelo Russell this summer, the Warriors had no choice but to cut McKinnie.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have snapped him up off waivers.

This is a good move by the Cavaliers, a low-risk pickup β€” McKinnie is on a minimum contract β€” that could get them a 3&D wing on a young team. He played in 72 games for the Warriors last regular season plus got playoff minutes, and shot 35.6 percent from three. He’s long and athletic and a player both the Raptors and Warriors liked but had to move on from because of other roster situations.

For the Warriors, they will have Glenn Robinson III starting at the three with Alec Burks behind him. They could have really used McKennie.

Report: Nets signing Taurean Prince to two-year, $29M extension

Zhong Zhi/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Nets traded two first-round picks to the Hawks to clear double-max(-ish) cap space for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

And get Taurean Prince.

Prince was an afterthought in his trade to Brooklyn, which signaled the Nets’ big summer. But Brooklyn acquired him for a reason and will pay to secure him longer.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Considering this information came from his agent, this is almost certainly the most favorable framing of terms. Maybe Prince got all $29 million guaranteed. But if there are any incentives, I bet that $29 million counts them as achieved.

The Nets are trying to build a championship contender. This deal gives them multiple avenues for uisng Prince.

His contract could help for salary-matching in a bigger trade. I can’t recall the rookie-scale extension so short, if there ever was one. Two years are not an especially long commitment. That hints at using this deal as a trade chip. So does Brooklyn extending Prince before he played a regular-season game there.

Of course, Prince has a track record from Atlanta. He’s a good outside shooter with the frame to defend well when engaged. Maybe the Nets really believe in his long-term potential. He fell out of favor with the Hawks only after they changed general managers.

The Nets needn’t decide on Prince’s long-term future now. They have paid for team control for the next three seasons (including this season, the final year of his rookie-scale contract). They can monitor how he plays – and what trades become available.

Pacers, Domantas Sabonis agree to four-year, $77 million extension

Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Indiana is going all-in on the idea of Domantas Sabonis playing the four next to Myles Turner at the five this season. The Pacers have put up the money, now we’re going to see if it can actually work.

After initial struggles to find common ground on a contract extension β€” leading to reports of the Pacers testing the trade waters for Sabonis β€” the two sides have come to terms on a four-year contract extension, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Pacers.

The exact figures here are still in flux.

How likely those bonuses are remains to be seen.

This is a pretty fair contract number, a little more than $19 million a year average for the man who came in second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting last season seems about right. Plus, if it doesn’t work out with Sabonis starting next to Turner, this is a very tradable contract and there would be interest in his services (he was harder to trade at his $3.5 million current salary and get anything of value to match that smaller number).

The Pacers hope it doesn’t come to that and Sabonis becomes part of one of the better, younger frontcourts in the league.

Sabonis is skilled and versatile on offense, a fantastic pick-and-roll or dribble hand-off guy who sets good screens then he rolls into open space. He’s strong around the basket and plays a crafty, high IQ game.

The concerns with Sabonis, and why some teams are not convinced he’s a starter, are twofold. First, he is not good defensively and is not a rim protector.

The second concern is that he does not space the floor (76.4 percent of his shots came within 10 feet of the basket last season, and he doesn’t make many beyond that range).

Indiana is betting on this core. They have inked big contracts with Turner (four-years, $72 million) and Malcolm Brogdon (four years, $85 million). Victor Oladipo will be coming up for an extension in a couple of years and, if he returns to pre-injury form, is a lock max player. Throw in this Sabonis contract and that is a lot of guaranteed money. Are these guys worth it?

We’ll find out soon enough, the Pacers have gone all-in with them

Report: Spurs signing Dejounte Murray to four-year, $64M extension

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

In 2018, a 21-year-old Dejounte Murray became the youngest player ever to make an All-Defensive team. The following fall, he showed progress on his outside shooting and distributing. Everything was coming together for the young Spurs point guard.

Then, disaster struck.

Just before last season, Murray tore his ACL. He missed the entire year.

Yet, he’ll still get a contract extension in San Antonio.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Given his injury, it’d be difficult for Murray to reject this deal. It’s life-changing money. What if he lost significant athleticism or fails to hit his stride next season? That’d be a grim way to enter restricted free agency next summer.

But what if Murray picks up where he left off? This could be a major steal for the Spurs.

Given the wide range of potential outcomes, this extension seems fair. However, there’s also a reasonable chance Murray significantly underperforms or overperforms this deal. (That’s why it’s fair.)

Murray is a stout defender and elite rebounder for a guard. He can push the pace and slash to the rim. But it’s tough for lead guards who don’t shoot well from the perimeter. Murray’s playmaking for others must also improve, especially if San Antonio eventually transitions from an isolation-heavy offense around DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Murray is just 23. It’s OK he’s not a finished product. The Spurs should know better than anyone how to feel about his progress since the injury. They probably deserve benefit of the doubt in evaluating his value.

Still, long-term fit questions linger with Derrick White. White stepped up in Murray’s absence last season, especially in the playoffs. But White is another subpar 3-point-shooting guard. Can they play together? White will be eligible for his own rookie-scale extension next offseason.

San Antonio is mainly focused on the present, and Murray and White will factor prominently this season. They’re still just supporting players for now, though.

Long term, Murray’s extension is a key step toward whatever comes next for the Spurs.