Getty Images

Report: Pelicans not interested in trading Jrue Holiday right now

Leave a comment

This sounds more like posturing than reality, but it’s interesting either way.

With the Pelicans exploring Anthony Davis trade options (a process that likely will drag out past the trade deadline and into the summer), there has come a second wave of trade talks with New Orleans: Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, and Jrue Holiday, in particular.

Saturday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski threw some cold water on the Holiday trade ideas.

No interest in getting out from under all that future money? Right. It’s not like they are going to stay competitive and make a playoff push.

No interest with what likely has been lowball offers from teams so far? That sounds more likely.

Mirotic is an expiring contract, Randle has a player option for $9.1 million next season he is not expected to pick up. It’s going to be easier to find a team willing to rent those players for a playoff run than to take on the future years and money of Holiday. That is more the kind of trade that happens in July.

This report strikes me more as a signal to potential trading partners that they need to do better.

Trading young star like Kristaps Porzingis such a Knicks move

17 Comments

As Knicks president, Phil Jackson built teams that went 17-65, 32-50 and 31-51. Jackson gave Joakim Noah a huge contract. Jackson offended the NBA’s best player, LeBron James, shortly before LeBron changed teams in free agency. Jackson reportedly floored multiple free agents with his unpreparedness in meetings, couldn’t get his computer to work during pitches, became unreachable to rival general managers even shortly before the trade deadline and fell asleep during a pre-draft workout.

But Jackson also drafted Kristaps Porzingis.

Whatever deserved criticism Jackson faced for his calamitous New York tenure was always weighed against that single wonderful transaction. That’s how good Porzingis was.

The 7-foot-3 big man wowed early with his putback dunks. With an excellent shooting stroke and mobility, he blossomed even further. His rim protecting made him a true two-way player. He even made the All-Star game last season, just his third year in the NBA.

Porzingis was the type of franchise player most teams only dream about. He was a young star in a league that gives teams plenty of contractual control over such players. When teams find a gem like that, they almost always hang on as tightly as they can. Remember, Knicks owner James Dolan fired Jackson, despite just opting into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, only once Jackson made such a big deal about shopping Porzingis.

But in a shocking turn, New York traded Porzingis to the Mavericks yesterday. It was just the fifth time since the NBA-ABA merger someone made an All-Star team then got traded within his first four seasons. The five:

  • Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks to Mavericks in 2019)
  • Jason Kidd (Mavericks to Suns in 1996)
  • Alonzo Mourning (Hornets to Heat in 1995)
  • Mike Mitchell (Cavaliers to Spurs in 1981)
  • Billy Knight (Pacers to Buffalo Braves in 1977)

At 23.5-years-old, Porzingis is the second-youngest established All-Star to change teams. The only one younger: Jrue Holiday, who was 23-years-and-1-month-old when traded from the 76ers to the Pelicans after his fourth season in 2013.

But as shocking as a deal like this is, it’s far less surprising New York was the team to make it.

Charlie Ward, who was drafted in 1994, was the last player to spend his first six seasons with the Knicks. Since, only David Lee (drafted in 2005) made it even his first five full seasons with New York. If not even Porzingis gets a multi-year contract after his rookie-scale deal, which Knick ever will?

New York just hasn’t shown sustained interest/ability in identifying, developing and retaining young talent. Even though that was Knicks president Steve Mills’ explicit plan only a year-and-a-half ago, he has already pivoted in a new direction. That’s how it goes in James Dolan’s franchise. Over and over and over.

It isn’t necessarily a mistake this time, though.

New York got a haul for Porzingis. The Knicks unloaded Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s and Courtney Lee‘s onerous contracts (opening a projected $73 million in cap space next summer) and got two future first-round picks (one guaranteed to be in the first round and one likely to convey), Dennis Smith Jr. (a promising young player) and DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews (productive veterans who could be flipped before the trade deadline).

The big question is what the Knicks do with all that cap space. They’ve chased quick fixes and failed many times under Dolan. But if they land Kevin Durant and/or Kyrie Irving this summer, the trade will have been a home run. If New York misses on star free agents, the trade looks far more ominous. Presumably, the Knicks have a better idea than I do about impending free agents’ interest. Cap room goes further in a market like New York. This risk makes more sense for the Knicks than it would most teams.

Either way, it’s not as if keeping Porzingis was a foolproof plan. He remains out while recovering from a torn ACL, a major injury – especially for someone so big. He has had multiple other injuries in his short career and shown signs of frailty.

Maybe, as he gets older and stronger, he’ll be fine. Maybe he just needs a team that will put less stress on his body.

But the injury risk with Porzingis appears real.

That was particularly concerning with him entering restricted free agency this summer. He could easily draw a max offer sheet projected to be worth $117 million over four years. Or worse, he could sign a qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.

Teams should trade young stars more often. Sometimes, a player’s value peaks early in his career. That could be the time to sell high.

But it’s difficult to tell when those cases are occurring. Amid uncertainty, NBA teams usually avoid risk.

If they kept Porzingis and his career stagnated due to injury or other reasons, the Knicks would largely get a pass. But if he flourishes in Dallas, New York will get shredded. Teams – unfairly, though understandably due to a lack of public information – are held accountable for the moves they make, not they moves they don’t make.

The Knicks are showing plenty of courage with this trade, but they’ve never been afraid to take big swings before. They’ve just usually struck out.

At least this was a pitch over the plate.

New York had to do something risky with Porzingis. Trading him for this return – as rare as it is to deal a player like him – seems reasonable. At least if the Knicks have an edge on top free agents next summer.

Report: Pelicans considering shutting down Anthony Davis for rest of season if they don’t trade him

10 Comments

Anthony Davis requested a trade when the team that might be willing and able to offer the best package for him – the Celtics – effectively can’t deal for him. Davis and Kyrie Irving are both designated rookie scale players, and a team can have only one of those acquired via trade at a time. Irving will sign a new contract this offseason, which will allow Boston to pair the two then.

In the meantime, the Pelicans are left in an awkward position – especially if they wait for the Celtics.

Davis doesn’t want to be in New Orleans. The Pelicans have said they’ll handle this on their own timeline, anyway. They removed Davis from their intro video for tonight’s loss to the Nuggets.

What if no team before the trade deadline bests the offer New Orleans expects from Boston? How will Davis and the Pelicans handle the rest of the season together?

Marc Stein of The York Times:

This would be such a shame. Davis is having one of the NBA’s top individual seasons. His injured finger should heal soon. A superstar being a healthy scratch for more than two months would be a black mark for the league.

It’d also be tough to assign a majority of the blame to any side.

Davis created this mess by requesting a trade, but that was his right. (Making the trade request public is what got him fined.) I don’t blame him for wanting to leave the Pelicans, who’ve consistently failed to build a winner around him. He gave the franchise his all for a long time.

New Orleans didn’t ask for the rule that effectively prevents trading him to the Celtics now. But if the Pelicans believe they’ll get the best offer from Boston, they should wait for it. That means protecting the asset. If Davis got hurt and teams lowered their offers, it could be catastrophic for New Orleans.

That said, the Pelicans are 5.5 games and five teams out of playoff position. They’re a huge longshot to reach the postseason, but they’re at least theoretically in the race. Isn’t trying more satisfying than throwing away the rest of the season? That’d offer hope of another longshot – convincing Davis to change his mind about leaving New Orleans. I’d be shocked if he would, but generational players like him are so hard to acquire. There’s value in chasing the slim chance of winning him over.

There’s also valuing in tanking for a higher draft pick, but that would require other trades before the deadline. With quality veterans like Jrue Holiday and Nikola Mirotic, the Pelicans aren’t positioned to bottom out completely.

Plus, remaining competitive would seemingly draw fans. Or would New Orleans fans resent watching Davis? Jimmy Butler was poorly received for his few games in Minnesota this year. Especially if Davis’ heart isn’t in it, the situation could devolve further. It’s a big unknown.

What’s more clear: Fans across the country want to see Davis play, not spend the rest of the season in exile. In the League Pass era, every game is available to a national audience. Would the league step in to prevent the Pelicans from shutting down Davis?

It’d be an ugly situation in many ways.

One exception: It’d benefit Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. Right now, Towns trails Davis, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic for the three All-NBA center spots. Towns would become favored for the third team if Davis misses the rest of the season. And if Towns makes an All-NBA team this season, his contract extension would be worth a projected $190 million, up from a projected $158 million, over the next five years.

Report: Pelicans covet Lonzo Ball, who’d prefer to join Bulls or Knicks in Anthony Davis trade

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
9 Comments

Lonzo Ball is one of the NBA’s most-polarizing players.

Some see a former No. 2 pick who can’t create his own shot, can’t shoot 3-pointers and is even worse on free throws and carries the distraction of his loudmouth dad.

Others see someone who excels at many little things like pushing the pace, possesses tremendous court vision, defends well and – at just 21 – is young enough to improve.

Perhaps, nobody’s evaluation of Ball matters more right now than the Pelicans’. With Anthony Davis requesting a trade, reportedly preferring the Lakers, Ball could be a key part of Los Angeles’ offer.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Although Lonzo Ball has no say in where he lands in a trade, his preference would be for the Lakers to find a third team such as Chicago or New York as a landing spot for the second-year point guard if he were part of a deal for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly.

According to sources, the Pelicans view Ball as a player who would become the starting point guard. They don’t see Jrue Holiday as a point guard because he “doesn’t want to be a point guard,” one source said.

The sources said the Pelicans would play Ball 35 minutes a night and make sure he “would fit” in with New Orleans so he could become a star.

I’m skeptical about New Orleans’ interest in Ball. It is certainly possible this is accurate. But, coming from Los Angeles, it could also be the Lakers’ spin. They obviously want Ball to be seen as in high demand and could misrepresent the Pelicans’ opinion.

As far as where Ball wants to play, his side keeps talking about it, but it remains largely irrelevant. He’s in just the second season of his four-year rookie-scale contract, and then he’ll head into restricted free agency. He holds nearly no leverage.

If Lakers/Pelicans trade talks progress, Lonzo Ball reportedly does not want to stay in New Orleans

8 Comments

The Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans are talking Anthony Davis trade. What will come of those talks is unknown — Davis’ camp is clearly trying to push him to Los Angeles and have given the Lakers a leg up in the race for him in how this was announced, but the Pelicans may not be enamored with the Laker offer that would involve some combination (or all) of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Ivica Zubac.

If those talks do progress, Ball doesn’t want to be stuck in New Orleans buried on the depth chart, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Two thoughts here.

First, Ball has zero say in this, ultimately. He’s on a rookie contract and if the Lakers want to trade him for Anthony Davis — or anyone else — they can.

Second, Ball doesn’t want to be stuck behind Elfrid Payton? Because Payton is the Pelicans’ starting point, but I don’t know that I’d call him “established.” Ball’s camp may be thinking Jrue Holiday starts at the point (and he has played the point 34 percent of his minutes this season), but Holiday is primarily the two guard on the Pelicans (62 percent of his minutes). Besides, if the Pelicans trade Davis you can bet they will be looking to move Holiday, Nikola Mirotic and other veterans on the roster to start the rebuild.

Sounds like Ball just doesn’t want to leave Los Angeles. Can’t blame him for that, but it’s not within his control.

The real question is not “does Ball want to go to New Orleans” but rather “does New Orleans want Ball?”