The Kings have agreed to sign-and-trade Tyreke Evans to the Pelicans in a three-team deal with the Blazers, according to multiple reports.
Evans, a restricted free agent this summer, will receive a four-year, $44 million contract from the Pelicans, who will send guard Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento and ship center Robin Lopez to Portland. Terms of the agreement were reported by ESPN.com and NBA.com. ESPN.com further reported that the Pelicans will send guard Terrel Harris to the Blazers; Yahoo! Sports reported that the Blazers will send 2013 second-round pick Jeff Withey to the Pelicans and a future second-round pick to the Kings.
The free-agent negotiating period opened on Monday. Contracts and trades can’t officially be consummated until July 10.
Evans, 23, averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season. The 2010 Rookie of the Year saw his playing time progressively cut in an increasingly-crowded Sacramento backcourt in his four seasons there. An athletic, slashing guard with limited range, Evans shot 47.8 percent overall and 33.8 percent from deep last season, both career-highs. Sacramento, operating under new ownership and with a new GM and coach, selected Kansas guard Ben McLemore with the No. 7 pick in last week's draft, suggesting that Evans wasn't part of their long-term plan.
Vasquez, 26, enjoyed a breakout 2012-13 season with the Pelicans, averaging 13.9 points, 9 assists and 4.3 rebounds in his first full-time starting gig. A candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, Vasquez became expendable when the Pelicans agreed to trade for Sixers All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday last week. Vasquez is entering the final year of his deal and will make $2.2 million.
Lopez, 25, also had the best season of his five-year career in 2012-13, averaging 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for the Pelicans. The twin brother of Nets All-Star center Brook Lopez, Robin played all 82 games last season, logging more than twice as many minutes as any of his previous four seasons, and posted a career-best PER of 18.9. Lopez is on the books for $5.1 million in 2013-14 and $5.3 million in 2014-15.
Harris, 25, was picked up by the Pelicans in March after he was released by the Heat in January. New Orleans signed him to a non-guaranteed contract for next season, leaving his future up in the air.
NEW ORLEANS -- Grade: B+
The Pelicans are looking more dynamic and more fun by the week. Evans plugs in as a super-sub reserve type behind a very nice starting backcourt that features Holiday and Eric Gordon, a forgotten man after missing most of the last two seasons with knee injuries. Throw in sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson and 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, as tantalizing a young prospect as there is in the league, and this is a developing League Pass favorite. This feels like a very good fit for Evans, who should thrive in a lead scoring role off the bench and double as a stand-in should Gordon's injury issues rear up again. He can do what he does best -- make plays -- without additional burdens; pencil him in as a strong early Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Defense will be the big bugaboo. With Lopez gone, the middle will be manned by Davis, career back-up Jason Smith and Withey. As a reminder, the Pelicans were the third-worst defense in the league last season and that was with Lopez, their most imposing interior defender. Asking a 20-year-old Davis, who dealt with multiple injuries last season, to log big minutes at the five is asking a lot, probably too much. Expecting Withey, 23, to plug some minutes isn't overly optimistic, but managed expectations are best there, as with any second-round pick. Ideally, the Pelicans look to address that hole as the rest of the summer unfolds; if they do, and assuming good health, this team could be a factor in a crowded field chasing the No. 8 seed.
Looking further down the road, the solid rookie extension for Holiday and Davis' budget-friendly rookie contract help keep New Orleans in a pretty flexible position to make the necessary tweaks around their core quintet. Evans might be receiving a million or two per year more than the ideal price in this deal but it's hard to see, given the other major pieces in place, how or why that will prove to be crippling.
SACRAMENTO -- Grade: C+
Here we have a great example of the danger of instant grades. Does anyone have a firm grasp on Sacramento's plan and the ability to put it in context at this very moment? It would seem unlikely, what with new ownership, new management, a new coach and a wild first week of free agency that saw a major offer to Andre Iguodala made and then immediately yanked back. If allowing Evans to walk nets Vasquez and sets up a re-engagement with Iguodala that leads to a signing, that's a sequence of events that just about anyone can get behind. If allowing Evans to walk nets Vasquez without a major, subsequent addition, the overriding sentiment is that Sacramento should have made more of their asset or found a way to keep Evans and move out other pieces to accommodate his return.
It's easy to see why New Orleans would deem Evans worth $11 million as a sixth man while, at the same time, Sacramento would be hesitant to commit the same money to him as a starter. That sounds strange and a bit backwards in logic, but the Kings are already paying Marcus Thornton and the future clearly belongs to McLemore. Tying up both money and minutes with Evans doesn't make much sense in that context.
Regardless of what happens next, Vasquez is a nice pull, especially compared to the standard haul for facilitating a sign-and-trade, which usually amounts to just a second-round pick or two. Despite his all-offense, no-defense game, Vasquez can function as a starting point guard immediately if needed, his contract number is super affordable, and his deal offers total flexibility as it expires next summer. No matter which direction the Kings go -- and, again, who knows where that will be -- getting a piece back helps and prevents this from being a disaster. Still, unless a home run move comes down the pike this summer, Evans' departure feels like one last product of the Maloofs' bumbling, a trade that had to be made because an ill-constructed roster left the new management team with no better, immediate alternative.
PORTLAND -- Grade: B
For the third time in less than six months, Blazers GM Neil Olshey pulled off his favorite new trick: taking a rotation player off of someone else's hands for not much more than the cost of absorbing the player's contract. Previously, he snagged Eric Maynor from the Thunder at the trade deadline and grabbed Thomas Robinson from the Rockets earlier this week. Characterizing these moves as "something for nothing" is overly simplistic. Maynor moved on to the Wizards this summer, making his acquisition a "nothing for nothing" deal. The Robinson trade involved taking on his 3.5 million contract for next season, which cut into Portland's ability to compete for this summer's most desirable starting center options, including San Antonio's Tiago Splitter.
Here, the Blazers settle for the mediocre Lopez, who fills the roster's most glaring need, a rim-protecting starting center, while playing on a reasonable contract. Compared to the available remaining free agent options -- Chris Kaman, Zaza Pachulia, etc. -- "signing" the 25-year-old Lopez to a two-year, $10.4 million deal is defensible. He's not particularly graceful or mobile, nor is he a very productive or instinctive rebounder, but Lopez will make for quite a long pairing next to LaMarcus Aldridge and the parade of uncontested dunks conceded by J.J. Hickson last year should be a thing of the past. The Pelicans finished with the third-worst defensive efficiency rating last season while the Blazers were tied for four-worst; whether Lopez can have a transformative effect on that end will be the question that defines this move. On the other end, Lopez can finish well enough around the basket to make teams pay for over-committing to Aldridge, which is all coach Terry Stotts really needs from a center in his free-flowing, jumper-heavy offense. Portland must hope that the injury concerns Lopez dealt with during his first four years in the league in Phoenix are behind him, as the only other available option at center is rising sophomore Meyers Leonard. With that in mind, parting with Withey is more costly than your typical trade throw-in. Olshey said last week that the Blazers must avoid getting left empty-handed in free agency, and this move does accomplish that goal, even if it doesn't approach the level of a marquee addition. Portland's big-picture task this summer was to add a center so talented that Aldridge would want to remain with the Blazers long-term; Lopez is not that guy, not by a long shot, and that could make for a wild, rumor-filled season.