Yesterday's three team deal -- unofficial until next Wednesday, July 10 -- has drawn plenty of reaction from around the internet; here's the latest from casual observers, Sacramentans, and the Portlandese on the fates of Tyreke Evans, Jeff Withey, Robin Lopez, Greivis Vasquez, and Terrell Harris, as well as my reaction to the reactions.
Mike Prada for SBNation:
FOR THE PELICANS: I'm trying to figure out what just happened here.
The Pelicans, long thought to be a team that would take it slow, just dealt two high draft picks for Jrue Holiday and then spent its remaining cap space on Evans. Meanwhile, they still have Eric Gordon and don't appear ready to trade him because his value is very low right now. All three are ball-dominant scoring guards used to facilitating huge chunks of the offense. Their combined usage rate -- a metric that measures the percentage of possessions a player ends with a shot, drawn foul or turnover while he's on the floor -- is 78.3 so someone is going to have to shoot a lot less often for this to work.
The Pelicans would say that Evans is going to be their sixth man, a la Manu Ginobili, but that's a problematic comparison for a couple reasons. Having a dynamic scorer off the bench works better when contrasted with a low-usage, defense-first starter that doesn't necessarily need to play in crunch time. Thabo Sefolosha and Danny Green happily yielded minutes to James Harden and Manu Ginobili, for example. For Evans to play enough minutes to make a Harden/Manu-like impact, though, either he'll have to play a lot instead of Gordon or play alongside him. The latter risks making poor use of a highly-paid player and the former introduces the shot problem discussed above.
New Orleans also lost some useful pieces in the sign-and-trade. They're right to sell high on Vasquez, given that he's coming off an excellent season and is due a contract extension soon, but they'll miss Lopez after the big man put together an underrated season and has a very reasonable contract. Without Lopez, Anthony Davis may have to play center more often which isn't a great alternative against some of the league's bigger players. Lopez provided the Pelicans the flexibility to match up big (with Davis at power forward) or small (with Ryan Anderson at power forward and Davis in the middle) and now they're asking a lot of second-round pick Jeff Withey to duplicate that play.
And yet ... there's something kind of intriguing about this mix of players.
All three of these guards are still very young and have lots of room for growth. Evans, in particular, is starting to tap into some of the supplementary gifts he has and has become more than just a ball-dominant scorer. His perimeter jumper is improving, his off-ball game has taken major strides and his scoring efficiency went way up last year after going south for two years. People will scoff at the price of his new contract, but that's because they didn't pay much attention to the Kings last year. There's still a lot of room for Evans to grow, defensively in particular, especially now that he's escaped the disorganized Kings mess.
I'd also expect Holiday's usage to drop back down to its pre-2012 levels now that there's more talent around him and he's not playing for a coach that encourages long two-point jumpers. If that's the case, Holiday's passing instincts could look better and he'll also have more energy to ballhawk defensively like he did early in his career.
Finally, Dell Demps has left himself with a good amount of cap space and exceptions to fortify the rest of the roster, as At the Hive explains. Because Lopez was dealt away in the sign and trade, the Pelicans actually still have over $6 million in cap space along with the room exception for $2.6 million. Replacing Lopez using that money will be tricky, but finding a small forward and other bench pieces can certainly be done.
So ... maybe this is crazy enough to work. If Holiday scales back a bit and Evans continues his transformation into more of a role player, the Pelicans suddenly have three young, athletic guards alongside Davis so there's definitely a ton of upside here.
The very fact that we're phrasing this in terms of "crazy enough to work," though, is an indication that maybe it was unnecessary. I'm not sure this was the right time to take the risk Demps ended up taking.
I've seen a lot of people do this in their analysis -- cite Holiday's, Gordon's, and Evans' combined usage rates in 2013 as an indictment of the trade. Prada himself alludes later in his blurb to this being misleading, and it really, really is.
Holiday had a 26% usage rate last year because of the team he was on, not because he wanted it, not because he's that sort of player. Whether he'll hover in that range again isn't a question worth pondering for even a second. Gordon's in a similar place; he's a higher usage guy, definitely, but he was never a 30% usage guy before he arrived in New Orleans, a team severely lacking in scoring options. His natural level is, like Holiday's, about 5% lower than it was in 2013.
Usage rate isn't particularly useful when you attempt to transfer it wholescale across teams and across systems, and it isn't the greatest way of quantifying ball dominance here. I won't deny that Evans, Holiday, and Gordon are used to having the ball in their hands a ton, but at the same time, Evans has a 23% assist rate for his career (26% as a rookie), Holiday posted a 37% assist rate last year, and Gordon a 21% assist rate in his last year in Los Angeles. All three guys are used to creating for their teammates quite a bit, and that has to be factored in.
Kevin Pelton for ESPN:
New Orleans: C
New Orleans: Consider this part two of the Jrue Holiday deal. The Pelicans have again surrendered a rookie contract for a player making market value. This one isn't nearly so bad, since Vasquez is entering the last year of his
contract and has been rendered expendable by the arrival of Holiday and Evans, but it continues to show
that New Orleans values low-cost contracts less than the rest of the league.
The Pelicans are now more or less locked into a core of Holiday, Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and
Anthony Davis -- though Gordon will likely be on the market despite the notion that Evans goes to New
Orleans as a super sixth man -- but to put together that group, the Pelicans had to sacrifice cost-controlled
depth around it. Aside from Evans, the New Orleans bench consists of rookie disappointment Austin
Rivers, European find Brian Roberts (who has one year left on his minimum deal) and Jason Smith.
Is that group good enough to contend for a playoff spot next year? Probably, although defense is a major
issue; Lopez, the team's best interior defender, is a major loss. The Pelicans have committed to playing
Davis heavy minutes at center, where he struggled last season because he gave up so much strength to
The larger question is the upside of that group. If Davis becomes a star, perhaps it's a contender. But it's
going to be hard to improve much because New Orleans won't realistically have cap space the rest of the
Considering this part 2 of the Jrue Holiday deal actually makes the Holiday deal a good deal more palatable to me; the value of the 2014 pick New Orleans traded away is plummeting by the second, while Holiday's value, surrounded by more and more talent suddenly, continues to potentially increase.
I do agree with Pelton's contention that New Orleans may have gone too fast here, but that's more a philosophical issue than anything else. If the goal is to win-soon, whether through a Benson mandate or just Demps' overall approach, the way this team has been constructed this summer is beyond reproach to me. He's been flawless.
Matt Moore for CBS Sports:
New Orleans is clearly swinging for the fences right now. They just added Tyreke Evans, and have given no indications they plan to trade Eric Gordon. And they traded for Jrue Holiday at the draft. So they are looking at possibly putting Evans at small forward, and running out Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Ryan Anderson-Anthony Davis and then my head explodes.
Eric Gordon, now that the Pelicans have gotten his AAU buddy, Jrue Holiday, is way happier after months of dischord.
Marc Spears for Yahoo!:
The potential addition of Evans and New Orleans' draft night trade that landed Jrue Holiday have improved Eric Gordon's outlook on New Orleans.
"I'm all in with the Pelicans," said Gordon, who has been friends with Holiday and Evans since their AAU days. "It would be great if we can all play together. I would say we'd definitely have a chance to make the playoffs."
Ben Golliver for Sports Illustrated:
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.
I fall closer to Golliver here than anyone else, though I'm a bit more optimistic than him. I think the Vasquez/Lopez for Holiday/Withey is a very clear defensive win. Vasquez and Lopez combined to play some pretty awful pick and roll defense at times, and Holiday and Withey bring far more robust defensive resumes along with them. New Orleans does need to add a couple more players -- preferably a wing shooter/defender, and a big.
- - - - - - - - -
Expect a full trade analysis, combining the draft night deal with the three-way trade, from me when the trades become official next week.