Pelicans To Pick Up 2020/21 Options On Ball, Hart

The Pelicans are expected to exercise their team options for the 2020/21 season on Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. The moves will likely become official soon, Lopez adds.

Ball, who will turn 22 on Sunday, was one of the key pieces in the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles this summer. In two seasons with the Lakers, Ball averaged 10.0 PPG, 6.4 APG, and 6.2 RPG, but shot poorly (.380/.315/.437) and battled injuries, appearing in just 99 games.

He’ll get a chance at a fresh start in New Orleans this season, and the Pelicans are prepared to lock in his $11,003,782 cap hit for 2020/21. The move will make Ball eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2020 offseason. He’ll reach restricted free agency in 2021 if he doesn’t sign a new deal next year.

Hart also arrived in New Orleans as a result of the Davis trade. Like Ball, he was a first-round pick in 2017 and is entering his third season. He saw his shooting numbers dip to .407./.336/.688 last season after posting a .469/.396/.702 line as a rookie, but will be counted on to help the Pelicans space the floor. His fourth-year option for 2020/21 is worth $3,491,159.

We’re tracking all of this year’s rookie scale option decisions for ’20/21 right here.

Hoops Rumors Writers’ 2019/20 NBA Predictions

The NBA’s 2019/20 regular season will tip off on Tuesday night, as the defending-champion Raptors host the Pelicans in the early game and the Lakers “visit” the Clippers in the late game.

With opening night finally here, the Hoops Rumors writing team is weighing in with our predictions for the coming year.

Listed below are our picks for the Eastern and Western Conference standings, the major awards, and – of course – the eventual champions. Disagree with our takes? Head down to the comment section to weigh in with your own predictions!

Luke Adams:

East Eastern Finals
1 Sixers Sixers over Bucks
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Celtics Clippers over Rockets
4 Magic NBA Finals
5 Raptors Clippers over Sixers
6 Heat MVP
7 Nets Nikola Jokic
8 Pacers Rookie of the Year
West Ja Morant
1 Nuggets Defensive Player of the Year
2 Clippers Joel Embiid
3 Jazz Sixth Man of the Year
4 Rockets Spencer Dinwiddie
5 Lakers Most Improved Player
6 Spurs Jonathan Isaac
7 Blazers Coach of the Year
8 Warriors Steve Clifford

Chris Crouse:

East Eastern Finals
1 Sixers Sixers over Bucks
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Celtics Lakers over Rockets
4 Heat NBA Finals
5 Nets Sixers over Lakers
6 Pacers MVP
7 Raptors Ben Simmons
8 Bulls Rookie of the Year
West Zion Williamson
1 Jazz Defensive Player of the Year
2 Rockets Rudy Gobert
3 Clippers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Lakers Lou Williams
5 Nuggets Most Improved Player
6 Warriors Bam Adebayo
7 Blazers Coach of the Year
8 Spurs Quin Snyder

Dana Gauruder:

East Eastern Finals
1 Bucks Bucks over Sixers
2 Celtics Western Finals
3 Sixers Clippers over Nuggets
4 Heat NBA Finals
5 Pacers Bucks over Clippers
6 Pistons MVP
7 Nets Kawhi Leonard
8 Raptors Rookie of the Year
West Ja Morant
1 Lakers Defensive Player of the Year
2 Clippers Rudy Gobert
3 Nuggets Sixth Man of the Year
4 Rockets Derrick Rose
5 Blazers Most Improved Player
6 Jazz Bam Adebayo
7 Kings Coach of the Year
8 Spurs Erik Spoelstra

Arthur Hill:

East Eastern Finals
1 Sixers Sixers over Bucks
2 Bucks Western Finals
3 Celtics Clippers over Rockets
4 Raptors NBA Finals
5 Nets Clippers over Sixers
6 Heat MVP
7 Pacers Anthony Davis
8 Magic Rookie of the Year
West Zion Williamson
1 Clippers Defensive Player of the Year
2 Rockets Rudy Gobert
3 Lakers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Nuggets Lou Williams
5 Jazz Most Improved Player
6 Blazers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
7 Warriors Coach of the Year
8 Spurs Doc Rivers

Austin Kent:

East Eastern Finals
1 Bucks Bucks over Raptors
2 Raptors Western Finals
3 Sixers Rockets over Warriors
4 Pacers NBA Finals
5 Celtics Bucks over Rockets
6 Nets MVP
7 Heat Giannis Antetokounmpo
8 Pistons Rookie of the Year
West Darius Garland
1 Rockets Defensive Player of the Year
2 Nuggets Draymond Green
3 Clippers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Warriors Derrick Rose
5 Lakers Most Improved Player
6 Jazz Thomas Bryant
7 Blazers Coach of the Year
8 Mavericks Nick Nurse

JD Shaw:

East Eastern Finals
1 Bucks Sixers over Bucks
2 Sixers Western Finals
3 Nets Clippers over Lakers
4 Celtics NBA Finals
5 Heat Clippers over Sixers
6 Pacers MVP
7 Raptors Giannis Antetokounmpo
8 Bulls Rookie of the Year
West Zion Williamson
1 Clippers Defensive Player of the Year
2 Rockets Rudy Gobert
3 Lakers Sixth Man of the Year
4 Jazz Lou Williams
5 Nuggets Most Improved Player
6 Blazers Lauri Markkanen
7 Warriors Coach of the Year
8 Kings Doc Rivers

NBA Teams With Most, Least Roster Continuity

The NBA’s 2019 offseason featured even more player movement than usual, with new rookies entering the league, free agents changing teams, and a total of 43(!) trades being completed between the end of the 2018/19 season and 2019/20’s opening night.

That roster turnover is reflected in this season’s list of returning players for each team. Last fall, when we looked at the teams with the most and least roster continuity from year to year, a dozen teams were bringing back at least 11 players from their 2017/18 rosters, while only two clubs carried over fewer than eight players.

Heading into the 2019/20 season though, just four teams – the Magic, Nuggets, Spurs, and Mavericks – are bringing back at least 11 players from last year’s end-of-season rosters. Meanwhile, 11 clubs will carry over fewer than eight players from their 2018/19 rosters.

[RELATED: 2019/20 NBA Roster Counts]

Listed below are the number of returning players for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, from most to fewest. Bringing back a significant number of players doesn’t necessarily lead to regular season success, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few of the teams near the top of this list enjoy fast starts due to their players’ familiarity with each other, while teams near the bottom of the list may take some time to get used to their changes.

Here’s the returning-player count for each team:

  1. Orlando Magic: 13
  2. Denver Nuggets: 12
    San Antonio Spurs: 12
  3. Dallas Mavericks: 11
  4. Charlotte Hornets: 10
    Chicago Bulls: 10
    Cleveland Cavaliers: 10
    Houston Rockets: 10
    Miami Heat: 10
    Milwaukee Bucks: 10
    Sacramento Kings: 10
    Toronto Raptors: 10
  5. Detroit Pistons: 9
    Philadelphia 76ers: 9
  6. Los Angeles Clippers: 8
    Boston Celtics: 8
    Indiana Pacers: 8
    Oklahoma City Thunder: 8
    Portland Trail Blazers: 8
  7. Brooklyn Nets: 7
    Minnesota Timberwolves: 7
    New York Knicks: 7
    Utah Jazz: 7
  8. Atlanta Hawks: 6
    Golden State Warriors: 6
    Los Angeles Lakers: 6
    Memphis Grizzlies: 6
    New Orleans Pelicans: 6
    Phoenix Suns: 6
    Washington Wizards: 6

Kerr: Klay Thompson “Unlikely” To Play This Season

The Warriors have ruled out sharpshooter Klay Thompson until at least the All-Star break as he recovers from a torn ACL, and head coach Steve Kerr doesn’t sound like he’s counting on Thompson to return at that point. Speaking to Logan Murdock of NBC Sports Bay Area, Kerr said it’s “unlikely” that Thompson will play this season.

“You have to look at it realistically,” Kerr said. “I had an ACL [tear] in college, and I missed a whole season. Generally, an ACL for a basketball player is a full-year recovery, and if it’s a full year for Klay, that puts them out for the season.

“We’ve kind of left the door open in case the rehab goes perfectly and the doctors say he can go. But the reality is, on April 1, that’s the nine-month mark. … April versus nine months post-op for an ACL.”

Thompson’s recovery timeline could hinge in part on how the Warriors perform this season. If the team is in position to qualify for the postseason and Thompson makes good progress in his rehab, it’s easy to imagine him pushing to make it back by season’s end to participate in the playoffs. However, Kerr makes it clear that the Dubs will play it safe with their newly-extended star, preparing for the possibility that he won’t be back until 2020/21.

“We have to prepare our young guys to fill that role behind him,” Kerr said. “And when he gets back, whenever that is, hopefully these young guys now are developed and in the rotation and ready to really be contributors on a playoff team and we can get better.”

Kristaps Porzingis was the last NBA star to suffer a torn ACL. While every player’s body is different and the Knicks and Mavericks likely treated Porzingis’ 7’3″ frame with an abundance of caution during his rehab process, it’s worth noting that the big man sat out the entire 2018/19 season after tearing his ACL in early February 2018.

As Murdock points out, Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker were able to return a little earlier after suffering torn ACLs, but they were still out for 11 months and a year, respectively. An 11-month recovery timetable would sideline Thompson until mid-May, and Golden State’s season may well be over by that point.

Salaries For Kenrich Williams, Others To Become Guaranteed

There was never any real doubt that Kenrich Williams would make the Pelicans‘ regular season roster, but doing so will give him some financial security. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (via Twitter), Williams is one of three players who will have his salary for 2019/20 fully guaranteed today, barring any last-minute roster moves.

Williams, 24, emerged as a rotation player for the Pelicans last season, averaging 6.1 PPG and 4.8 RPG in 46 games (23.5 MPG). He’ll likely see regular minutes to start this season too, as New Orleans doesn’t have a ton of depth at the forward position now that Darius Miller is out for the season and Zion Williamson will miss six to eight weeks.

Williams’ $1,416,852 salary for ’19/20 had already been partially guaranteed for $200K, per Basketball Insiders’ contract data. After today, he’ll become the 14th Pelican with a fully guaranteed contract for this season, leaving Jahlil Okafor as the only player on a non-guaranteed deal.

[RELATED: 2019/20 Non-Guaranteed Contracts By Team]

Here are the other players who will receive salary guarantees if they remain under contract through today, per Marks:

  • Chris Boucher (Raptors): $125,000 partial guarantee increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231.
  • Malcolm Miller (Raptors): $150,000 partial guarantee increases to full guarantee of $1,588,231.
  • Ryan Anderson (Rockets): $250,000 partial guarantee increases to $500,000 partial guarantee (full salary is $2,564,753 with a $1,620,564 cap hit).

Atlantic Notes: Ntilikina, Miller, Brown, Tatum, Kurucs

The Knicks still haven’t settled on a starting point guard but Frank Ntilikina is “motivated” by the franchise’s decision to pick up his contract option for next season, as he told Marc Berman of the New York Post and other reporters. The Knicks took a cap hit of $6,176,578 to retain Ntilikina through the 2020/21 season. “It’s great here in New York to be part of this situation,” he said. “It’s motivation and a big excitement. It makes me willing to give even more on the court on a daily basis.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Malcolm Miller has made an NBA roster at the start of a season for the first time and he’s breathing a sigh of relief, Blake Murphy of The Athletic relays. The 26-year-old forward won a training camp battle for a spot on the Raptors’ roster. “Like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Like a huge exhale,” Miller said. “Two years of back and forth, but now it’s finally official. I feel like I’ve laid two years of groundwork, so I’m more than ready to attack it at full speed.”
  • Miller’s G League rights were traded to the Northern Arizona Suns along with the 21st pick in the G League draft for guard Jawun Evans, Murphy tweets. However, this won’t affect Miller’s status with the Raptors. They can still assign him to Raptors 905 despite not holding his G League rights because he’s on the 15-man roster.
  • The incentives on Jaylen Brown’s four-year extension include $8MM if he wins the MVP, Defensive Player of the Year award or makes one of three All-NBA teams, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. The Celtics and Brown reached an extension agreement on Monday. Another $4MM in more reachable incentives includes playing 65 or more games, the team winning 49 or more games and reaching the second round of the playoffs. As previously noted, the total guaranteed money in the deal is $103MM, but it could be worth up to $115MM.
  • The Celtics’ decision to give Brown a huge extension sends a clear signal that they’ll do the same for Jayson Tatum next year, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. That will give Boston a dynamic duo who will both be 23 years old or younger and have ample playoff experience, Blakely notes.
  • Nets forward Rodions Kurucs made a brief court appearance on Monday regarding a domestic assault charge, Andrew Denney of the New York Post reports. Kurucs was arrested in September over the June 27 incident in which he allegedly choked his ex-girlfriend. He was ordered back to court Nov. 19.

Eric Moreland Headed To China

Center Eric Moreland has agreed to a contract with the Chinese team Shanxi, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando.

Moreland spent the preseason with the Thunder, who waived him last week.

The 27-year-old Moreland spent time last season with the Suns and Raptors but only appeared in five games. He saw action in 67 games the previous season with the Pistons, backing up center Andre Drummond.

Overall, he has played a combined 83 games for the Kings, Pistons, Suns and Raptors over the past five years.

Spurs Sign Dejounte Murray To Four-Year Extension

9:00pm: Murray’s new contract includes $6MM in incentives and could max out at $70MM, tweets Charania.

4:08pm: The Spurs have officially signed Murray to an extension, the team confirmed in a press release.

3:38pm: Despite not appearing in a regular season game since the 2017/18 season, Dejounte Murray has agreed to a new long-term extension with the Spurs. Agent Rich Paul tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Murray is signing a four-year contract worth a fully guaranteed $64MM. It’ll go into effect for the 2020/21 season.

Murray, the 29th overall pick in the 2016 draft, averaged 8.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and 2.9 APG in 81 games (21.5 MPG) during the ’17/18 season, his second with the Spurs. He appeared to be primed for a breakout season last fall, but a torn ACL sidelined him for the entire ’18/19 campaign.

Once again healthy, Murray is looking to pick up where he left off before that injury. Although there are some questions about his jump shot – he converted just 18-of-57 three-pointers in his first two seasons – he’s a force on the defensive end, having become the youngest player ever to be named to the NBA’s All-Defense team in 2018. The Spurs view him as one of their cornerstone pieces for the years ahead.

Prior to Murray’s extension, the Spurs had approximately $54MM in salary on their books for the 2020/21 season. While we don’t yet know the structure of Murray’s deal, it’s safe to say it will push the team’s commitments up near $70MM.

It’s possible San Antonio will still have some cap flexibility next summer, but that team salary estimate doesn’t include DeMar DeRozan‘s player option ($27.7MM) or $17MM of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s partially guaranteed salary, so if the Spurs intend to bring one or both of those players back, they likely won’t be a real player in free agency.

Murray is the eighth player to reach a deal on a rookie scale extension this year and the 15th player in total to get an extension since July, as our tracker shows.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Kings Add Wenyen Gabriel To 15-Man Roster

8:29pm: The roster moves are official, according to a team press release.

6:56pm: Wenyen Gabriel will have his two-way contract converted to a standard contract as part of the Kings’ roster tinkering, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets.

An opening on the 15-man roster will be created by waiving forward Tyler Lydon. As previously reported, Sacramento has claimed undrafted swingman DaQuan Jeffries from the Magic.

Jeffries will take Gabriel’s previous spot on a two-way deal, according to Ham. Rookie guard Kyle Guy has the other two-way contract.

Gabriel, 21, averaged 6.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG as a sophomore in 2017/18 at Kentucky but was not drafted. He signed a two-way contract with Sacramento last July, but has yet to make his NBA debut, spending his rookie season with the Stockton Kings. He averaged 4.8 PPG and 2.5 RPG in 12.9 MPG during four preseason games this fall.

Clippers Sign Derrick Walton Jr. To One-Year Contract

The Clippers have signed point guard Derrick Walton Jr. to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to fill their last roster spot, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.

The Clippers waived forward Donte Grantham on Saturday, paving the way for Walton to make the opening-night roster. Walton’s $1.45MM deal won’t become fully guaranteed until January 10.

Walton signed a training camp deal with the Clippers in July. Walton spent a season with the Heat on a two-way contract in 2017/18 after going undrafted out of Michigan. He joined the Bulls for training camp last fall, but was waived before the regular season began and ended up playing overseas in 2018/19 for teams in Lithuania and Germany.

Walton averaged 7.0 PPG and 3.0 APG while playing in all five Clippers preseason games. He’ll back up Patrick Beverley and Terance Mann, though Lou Williams will also run the offense at times.