Part IV - Salary Cap Situation - Summer of 2014 and Beyond

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Moving Eric Gordon and other trade targets

If you missed it, catch up with Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Moving Gordon

First, to flesh out some additional options on Gordon destinations, lets examine the worst options, both of which are found in the Central Division. Chicago (Boozer) and Detroit (Smith) have power forwards who could be available for Gordon. Chicago would save nearly $2 Million in a Gordon for Boozer swap, while New Orleans would gain a year of guaranteed flexibility. For Chicago, they could hope for Gordon to not pick up his player option or that Thibodeau could get more out of EG. I like a deal for Boozer because it would be a contract year for him and force the franchise to consider Davis at center.

A deal of Gordon for Smith saves New Orleans immediate cap relief of over $1 Million this season and $2 Million next season. Detroit, on the other hand, opens up their crowded front court and lops off at least one year of guaranteed money. Again I could stomach this move if the franchise commits to Davis playing center. A starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Josh Smith, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis is interesting, if unconventional, but would be absolutely enormous.

More palatable trade partners (for the Pelican fan base) can be found in Milwaukee and Denver. Milwaukee currently has the best chance at the top pick in the draft. Should that come to pass, do they go after Wiggins or his teammate Joel Embiid? If they decide to go big, Larry Sanders is an obvious target to move. A trade of Gordon for both Sanders and O.J. Mayo works, although an additional sweetener (Pierre Jackson) may help the trade come to fruition. The Pelicans do take on salary in this move, but then fix the center position (as they are insistent Davis is a power forward) and add a shooting guard who can shoot. The resulting Holiday-Mayo-Evans-Davis-Sanders starting lineup, with Anderson coming off the bench, has promise and Mayo (27) plus Sanders (26) still fit the mold that Demps craves.

Denver is the final potential trade partner. Current Nuggets GM Tim Connelly was the assistant GM in New Orleans less than a year ago. The Nuggets have the rights to the New York Knicks first round pick, but they owe the lesser of their pick and the Knicks pick to Orlando. This is an additive effect: if either the Knicks or Nuggets win a top three spot in the lottery then Denver will keep that pick. The net effect is a 5.4% chance (as of March 19th) of landing in the top three and a heavy interest in both tanking and losses by the Knicks.

The Nuggets are also in salary cap hell with $64 Million in committed salary next year. That is before they sign their lottery pick this summer. The Pelicans could help with that, but it is going to come at great risk. The most obvious pieces to move for Denver are JaVale McGee (played just 5 games this season) and Danilo Gallinari (did not play this season recovering from ACL surgery). Trading either of them for Gordon fails to cut salary; trading both of them is a massive drain of talent. For purposes of this discussion, assume Denver ends up with a top three pick and drafts either Wiggins or Parker, requiring minutes to become available on the wing, specifically at small forward. The teams agreed to a trade of Eric Gordon and the rights to Pierre Jackson for Gallinari and Chandler.

Age 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017
Danilo Gallinari 26 $10,854,850 $11,559,225
Jrue Holiday 24 $10,404,495 $11,095,507 $11,786,518
Tyreke Evans 25 $11,265,416 $10,734,586 $10,203,755
Ryan Anderson 26 $8,491,500 $8,500,000
Wilson Chandler 27 $6,757,913 $7,171,662
Anthony Davis 21 $5,607,240 $7,070,730
MLE Big Man? ?? $5,305,000 $5,543,725 $5,782,450
Jason Smith 28 $2,500,000 $2,500,000
Austin Rivers 22 $2,439,840 $3,110,796
Anthony Morrow 29 $2,077,000 $2,097,315
Alexis Ajinca 26 $981,084
Luke Babbitt 25 $948,163
Jeff Withey 24 $816,482
Total $68,448,983 $69,383,546 $27,772,723

Please note that in all of these trade scenarios, the Pelicans would retain the ability to re-sign Jason Smith and Al-Farouq Aminu as well as offer the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception. To that purpose, I included many of those signings here, but did not include Aminu due to his overlap with both Gallinari and Chandler.

Is the Denver trade the longest shot proposed here? Absolutely. I can see many more reasons why Denver says no than why they would say yes. If Andrew Wiggins is on his way to the Nuggets their entire outlook may change. How high is Tim Connelly on Eric Gordon? Who knows.

Other Trade Targets

Demps in Part I referenced the need to improve the defense and size in the interior. There are two targets who might do just that, at wildly different price points. First is the often rumored Anderson-for-Asik swap. It is one of those trades floated in the media often, but does not seem to have the legs to get done. Anderson's injury, the need for his shooting in New Orleans and the large payment (if not cap hit) due to Asik all play into this potential trade. Both GMs have probably discussed it, with Morey and Demps pushing back asking for more assets in opposite directions.

In New Orleans favor (to either keep the deal straight up or get Houston to throw in something extra), you have Asik's relative low production this season and insanely low minutes. Omer Asik has not logged 20 or more minutes in a competitive (read within 15) game since November. That is a lot to pay (owed $14.89M next season while his cap hit is just $8.37M) for not a lot of minutes. For Houston, on the other hand, there is Ryan Anderson's injury. His recovery is ongoing and surgery may still be on the horizon. A firm answer on the direction of his treatment should be had before trades begin in earnest.

Staying in the division, Memphis also has a back up center in need of increased playing time. Kosta Koufos started 81 games last year for Denver, logged >22 minutes a game and poured in 8 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game. Since Marc Gasol returned from injury, Koufos has cracked 20 minutes just three times in 28 games. Now Koufos has a small guarantee of just $500k for next year (on a $3M contract), so Memphis could bring him back at that relatively low price point or waive him. Instead, the Pelicans could offer the rights to Pierre Jackson (this is becoming a theme). That trade, however, would need to be done into cap space and therefore eliminate both the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception. Adding salary to match instead would defeat the cost cutting purpose for Memphis. A long shot for sure, but someone to be on the look out for just in case.

One final trade target to consider is Washington Wizards wing Martell Webster. The Wizards have Trevor Ariza and Marvin Gortat hitting unrestricted free agency this summer. Resigning those two along with John Wall's five year extension kicking in will eliminate all available cap space. Moving either Webster (owed nearly $17M over the next three seasons) or rookie Otto Porter (owed nearly $14M over the next three seasons) would make sense if Washington were to bring back Ariza. Webster is a knockdown shooter while Porter (sporting a sub-Riversesque 4.1 PER) still has time to develop. Either might be available for the right price.

Tomorrow we will wrap up the series with a look at the long odds on the draft and the future.  Part V.

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