Sunday was relatively quiet in the NBA, especially when compared to Saturday. The Lakers managed to agree to a deal with the Pelicans that once completed will send Anthony Davis westward in exchange for Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and multiple first-round picks on Saturday, with more being learned about those picks on Sunday. New Orleans will receive the Lakers’ first round pick in this year’s draft (fourth overall), as well as the 2021 first and either the 2024 or 2025 first (Pelicans have the right to choose which).
The 2021 first is reverse protected; if it’s anywhere from first to eighth in the draft order the Pelicans will get the pick. If not then Los Angeles holds onto the pick, with New Orleans’ getting the 2022 first instead (and it’s unprotected). New Orleans will also have the option of swapping firsts with the Lakers in the 2023 NBA Draft. The Lakers gave up a lot in exchange for one of the NBA’s top talents, with the goal of immediately being a title contender. Now comes the task of filling out the roster around Davis, LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, and that’s where the timing of this deal will be key.
It was reported that the deal will be completed on July 6, a date that also marks the end of the free-agent moratorium. From June 30 to July 5 teams and free agents can agree to deals, but nothing can be signed until the 6th. Under this scenario the Lakers would have $23.7 million in available cap space, if Davis accepts his 15% trade bonus as expected according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The bad news for the Lakers: they could’ve had $32.5 million to work with, had the deal not been scheduled to be completed until July 30. However, while this would save Los Angeles some money it would also make things more complicated for New Orleans.
Waiting until July 30 to complete the deal would make it tougher for the Pelicans to entertain offers for the fourth overall pick, which some teams have reportedly inquired about in the aftermath of the Davis trade announcement. Also, New Orleans’ available money in free agency drops from $19 million to $15 million if the deal isn’t completed until July 30. Good luck getting the Pelicans brass to agree to this, especially when taking into consideration how contentious things got between the franchises in February.
Below is a look at some of the other news items from Sunday, beginning with Pelicans forward Julius Randle reportedly making a decision about his future.
Report: Julius Randle to decline option, go into free agency
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Randle has decided to decline his player option worth $9 million and become an unrestricted free agent come June 30. It’s a good time for the power forward to go into free agency, as he’s coming off of his best season as a pro. In 73 games Randle averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.9 three-pointers per game, shooting 52.4% from the field, 34.4% from three and 73.1% from the foul line. Randle started 49 of the 73 games in which he played, averaging 30.6 minutes per game, and while he still wouldn’t be labeled as a prolific perimeter shooter he did make strides in that area. His average of 2.7 three-points attempts was more than five times his average in 2017-18, when he attempted 0.5 triples per game with the Lakers.
Randle was a top-80 player in nine-category leagues this season, and he was ranked just outside of the top-50 in eight-category leagues. His name may not be mentioned with the elite free agents in this summer’s class, but Randle stands to make a considerable amount more than the $9 million that he could have with the decision to opt into the final year of his deal. Randle bet on himself in the summer of 2017, and that decision is going to pay off financially.
The NBA champion Toronto Raptors finally returned home on Sunday after having some fun in Las Vegas, meeting the media while also looking forward to Monday’s parade. NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is the team’s most noteworthy free agent, with the hope in Toronto being that the franchise has done enough to convince him that re-signing with the Raptors would be the best decision to make. Danny Green, who was also part of the trade that sent Leonard from San Antonio to Toronto, will also be an unrestricted free agent come June 30. During his press availability on Sunday Green said that he would love to be back in Toronto, but Leonard’s decision could have an impact on this.
Not only will Leonard’s decision impact Toronto, but it’s one that will have a domino effect on the entire NBA given his status as one of the game’s premier talents. As was the case this season, Leonard has the ability to turn a good team into a bona fide title contender immediately upon his arrival. As for Green, he’s a veteran 3-and-D option who has shown himself to be capable of shooting the ball better than he did for much of the postseason. During the regular season Green played in 80 games, averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 2.5 three-pointers per game with shooting percentages of 46.5% from the field, 45.5% from three and 84.1% from the foul line.
The 2018-19 season was the first in which he averaged double figures in scoring since 2014-15, when he averaged a career-best 11.7 points per game. The postseason was a struggle for Green however, as he averaged 6.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.5 blocks and 1.6 three-pointers per game with shooting splits of 34.2/32.8/91.3. Green was ranked just outside of the top-100 in eight-category leagues, and just inside of that threshold in nine-cat, during the regular season.
Kristaps Porzingis expected to be ready for training camp
Mavericks forward Kristaps Porzingis did not play at all this season, as he was recovering from a torn ACL suffered during the 2017-18 season as a member of the Knicks. Upon acquiring Porzingis from the Knicks the Mavericks made the decision to keep him on the bench and not rush his rehabilitation process, with the hope that he’ll be a full go when training camp begins in September. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said as much during an interview while attending Basketball Without Borders in Latvia.
“Right now it’s really about his health and getting him 100 percent healthy, 100 percent strong and preparing him for an entire NBA season,” Carlisle told LETA TV in Latvia. “He’s done an awful lot of work over the last two years since the injury.
“He’s worked really hard since coming to us in February, and so we feel like he’s going to be able to be 100 percent and be ready to go come training camp.”
When the trade was made in February there was excitement in Dallas regarding what the potential of Porzingis and Luka Doncic as the team begins the post-Dirk Nowitzki era. Before the torn ACL Porzingis had the look of a future star in the league, as he was averaging 22.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 2.4 blocks, 0.8 steals and 1.9 three-pointers per game with shooting splits of 43.9/39.5/79.3 in 48 games during the 2017-18 season. That was good enough to earn the “Unicorn” his first All-Star Game appearance, so the potential is clearly there. Dallas won’t take any chances with his health, and once Porzingis is at full strength it will be up to Carlisle to put him in the spots where he can be most successful.
Dejounte Murray (right ACL) is getting stronger
San Antonio won 48 games and reached the postseason despite the team’s expected starter at the point, Dejounte Murray, being lost for the season due to a torn ACL. The 2018 All-Defensive team selection has been working his way back to full strength, with his high school coach Mike Bethea telling the San Antonio Express-News earlier in the week that Murray is “feeling really good, feeling stronger.” In 2017-19 Murray averaged 8.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.4 blocks per game, shooting 44.3% from the field, 26.5% from three and 70.9% from the foul line. He isn’t the best perimeter shooter, but the combination of size and athleticism is why Murray is such a factor defensively.
Murray’s return would certainly help the Spurs, but it will also highlight the need for more perimeter shooting. This past season Gregg Popovich’s team did an excellent job of not only finding quality looks but also making sure that the right players attempted those shots. The Spurs ranked last in the NBA in three-point attempts per game (25.3), but the team’s three-point percentage of 39.2% led the league. Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan aren’t great perimeter shooters either, so how the San Antonio guard rotation shakes out (and how it impacts the team’s looks from three) will be something to keep an eye on during the preseason.
Salah Mejri working to expand his range
With many NBA teams placing an increased emphasis on spreading the floor offensively in recent years, we’ve seen some centers work hard to expand their games out beyond the three-point line. Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Brook Lopez are a couple, and Mavericks center Salah Mejri is looking to do the same. According to Dwain Price of Mavs.com, Mejri has been putting up as many as 500 three-pointers per day as he prepares for the 2019-20 season. After attempting a total of seven three-pointers in his first three NBA seasons, Mejri went 11-of-34 from beyond the arc this past season. The resulting percentage (32.4%) wasn’t great, but it’s not a bad starting point given how rarely he took three-pointers earlier in his career.
Mejri, who finished the season with averages of 3.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.3 steals and 0.3 three-pointers in 11.1 minutes per game, will be an unrestricted free agent come June 30. He’s hopeful that a return to Dallas will be in the cards, but it is anyone’s guess as to whether or not the Mavericks front office will look to continue this partnership.