Roster of the Future

[Bumping this to the front page from the FanPosts; great read from usnfish - R]

First an analysis of the current salary situation of your 2013-2014 New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans will have 11 players under contract to begin the 2013 season. This assumes that the team options are exercised for Robin Lopez ($5.12M), Lance Thomas ($0.88M), Darius Miller ($0.79M), and Brian Roberts ($0.79M). In addition the 11 player number assumes that the Pelicans use their draft pick, most likely to cost between $3.72M (picking @ #4) and $2.80 (picking @ #7). If the Pelicans do receive the fourth pick their total committed salary for those eleven players is $46.26 Million. There is a problem with that number. The salary floor, as per the new CBA, is 90% of the salary cap in 2013-14. If the salary cap is unchanged when the new NBA year begins July 1st the salary floor would be $52.2 Million. Thus requiring the Hornets to spend roughly $6 Million in additional salary. Let's take a look at that hypothetical roster.

Greivis Vasquez

Eric Gordon

Anthony Davis

Robin Lopez

Ryan Anderson

Jason Smith

Austin Rivers

Lance Thomas

Darius Miller

Brian Roberts

2013 First Round Draft Pick

Monty Williams recently stated that there will be changes to the roster coming this summer. I cannot imagine that the changes he and GM Dell Demps envision revolve around declining the options for Thomas, Miller and Roberts. Three players toward the end of the bench averaging the least amount of minutes per game.

It may involve an upgrade at small forward because I do not believe Monty Williams enjoys coaching or playing Aminu there. For evidence of this I refer to Aminu's roughly nine game benching during December and the exasperation on Coach Monty's face each and every time Aminu makes a mental error. I do not agree with this direction but can also point to the Hornets declining the last year of Aminu's rookie deal.

Ideally I hope the Pelicans do three specific things to improve their roster. First, jettison Robin Lopez and his extremely team friendly contract for anything of value. Robin Lopez is a below average rebounder; posting rebound numbers of 11.1/13.6/12.3 this season thus far. To compare All-Star Center Joakim Noah is posting a 11.8/22.2/17.0 line and our own Anthony "He Can't Be a Center" Davis is posting a 9.8/22.2/16.0 line. The defensive rebounding percentage (the middle) is the most concerning for Lopez. Defensive rebounds equal stops. In addition he is a liability on defense against the pick and roll, the recent Dallas game being the most painful example.

An excellent situation would be for the Pelicans to offer Larry Sanders (11.8/25.5/18.4) a contract that Milwaukee will not match (Sanders is a restricted free agent) considering Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and JJ Redick will all be free agents and sending Robin Lopez along in a sign and trade deal. The combination of Davis and Sanders would be devastating defensively. This is more of a personal pipedream but the Pelicans would have at least $11 million to spend just to reach the salary floor if they moved Robin Lopez.

Second is to draft a wing with their first round pick. Most mock drafts have the Pelicans selecting either Otto Porter or Alex Len. I cannot overstate how underwhelming picking a project big man will be. Alex Len is not a dominant big man in college. Scouts do not consider him to potentially be one in the NBA. If they did, he would be going #1 in all these mock drafts. Otto Porter or Victor Oladipo should be the first pick of the Pelican era. Porter is a long, multi-dimensional small forward with the range to score in the NBA. Oladipo is an amazing athlete and bulldog on the defensive end who is shooting 48% from the college three point line this year.

Third is to sign someone who can contribute now with the salary cap room available (this assumes the miracle of Larry Sanders does not occur). Chris Paul is not coming back, so stop yourself. There is room to make a max level signing (a la Josh Smith) but I do not think he would be a good fit or the kind of player Williams and Demps would desire to bring into the locker room, especially at $18+ Million a year. If Robin Lopez is moved (Step One in my plan) the Pelicans will have roughly $11 to $13 Million in free agent money that must be spent to reach the salary floor. The best options in my mind with that kind of money to spend would be Larry Sanders (mentioned above, is an excellent rebounder and defender and only 24 at the beginning of next season) or Paul Millsap.

The idea behind a Paul Millsap (who will be 28 to begin the 2013 season) is relatively simple on my part. Bringing in Millsap allows the Pelicans to spend the necessary money smartly on a David West to Indiana type of contract. Let's say 3 years/$30M. That number allows the Pelicans flexibility next year to pursue more talent, even a max level contract. Also Millsap helps move Davis to his ultimate position in the NBA (center) with a bruiser beside him and keeps Ryan Anderson as the primary scoring threat off the bench. The versatility Millsap has displayed will allow Coach Williams the flexibility to move him to small forward for some stretches in the game as a change up or as a crunch time lineup. Finally Millsap is a Coach Monty Williams kind of player if there ever was one in the league. He's a worker. He is never in the news for anything off the court negative or words being said in the locker room even during the end of the Deron Williams/Coach Sloan saga last winter. Paul Millsap is a consummate professional, originally from Louisiana (went to Grambling H.S. and Louisiana Tech) and the kind of player that the kids on this roster should learn from.

In addition to that signing I would sign Aminu if an appropriate deal could be reached.

Make those three moves and this is what the roster looks like.

Greivis Vasquez - 26

Eric Gordon - 24

Al-Farouq Aminu - 23

Paul Millsap - 28

Anthony Davis - 20

Ryan Anderson - 25

Otto Porter - 20

Jason Smith - 27

Austin Rivers - 21

Lance Thomas - 25

Darius Miller - 23

Brian Roberts - 27

That roster is not going to win the NBA Championship but it could challenge for the eight seed in the Western Conference. The average age of that roster is 24.08 to begin the 2013 season with Paul Millsap being the oldest at 28. Being one of the youngest teams in the league and challenging for playoff position is the definition of hope for any franchise. Combine that with maintaining a roster well under the salary cap and with the flexibility to take on an additional large contract the following summer and I cannot imagine a better scenario that doesn't involve a superstar suddenly deciding to come to New Orleans in the near future.

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