On Sunday, the Pelicans released both Darius Miller and Patric Young. The move set off a firestorm of speculation among Pels fans as to what moves General Manager Dell Demps might make next to fill the vacated roster spots.
Adrian Wojnarowski (I had to copy/paste his last name) of Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday that the Pelicans have serious interest in former Minnesota PF Dante Cunningham. When "Woj" reports something, there is a 95% chance it happens, yet most people think that's not all Dell may have up his sleeve. Many are speculating that a trade is coming down the pike, and Ryan Anderson is the most likely target. I'm not a fan of trading him, but since there is so much speculation, I’ll indulge.
Ryan Anderson is considered a foundation piece by the Pelicans and I don't think they move him for a marginal nor transient player. I personally do not believe (or maybe just hope) they will trade Ryno, but if they do, I think it’s for a piece that they think can be a part of the foreseeable future for the franchise. There are a couple of good fits in the Western Conference (Golden State for instance); however, most of the teams I considered are doing too well to rock their boats.
In keeping with Dell's young veteran strategy, I think the Pels will go after Tobais Harris from the Orlando Magic. Almost certainly, two players will come back to the Pels, especially since they will need one more salary to make the trade legal. I envision either Ben Gordon or Channing Frye coming back with Harris.
In my opinion, the trade makes sense for both teams. For the Magic, Anderson fits perfectly with Nikola Vucevic who has already made a long term commitment with the organization. The Magic were not able to reach a contract agreement with Harris this summer, presumably because Harris wanted more than they would offer. The Magic could always just match whatever deals come in for Harris as he'll be a restricted free agent, but it's possible they just don't want to pay him that much. The Magic's GM is an OKC disciple, so he's no stranger to being too cheap to pay a talented player (see James Harden). If that is the case, then trading him for a valuable player like Ryan Anderson would make a lot of sense (much more sense than Jeremy Lamb did for Harden).
For the Pels, Harris fills a LOOOOONG standing need at the 3 and fills out the starting lineup (Asik, Davis, Harris, Evans, Holiday). Ben Gordon can provide a decent perimeter shooting off the bench and is on an expiring deal (team option for 2015). The Pels could decline Ben Gordon's option in the summer and have Eric Gordon provide bench depth when he returns next season. Frye would be more problematic, as he has three years remaining on his deal but Orlando might push the Pels to take that contract back to complete the deal. Theoretically, Frye could fill the vacancy at the stretch 4, albeit in a less dynamic role.
One criticism of this move would be that the Pelicans would be bringing in another player who is used to putting up a bunch of shots. It's a valid criticism; however, Harris would essentially be taking over the shots that formerly belonged to Eric Gordon. My philosophy, as it pertains to building a NBA basketball team, is to just keep acquiring talented players and Harris is just that. The puzzle is far from complete for the Pels, so having young players with value around the league can be beneficial in the long term. In addition, since Eric Gordon went down, the Pels have struggled to score, especially off the bench. In the three games after Eric Gordon's injury, the Pelicans have averaged 86.6 points per game, with 91 points being the high watermark. The point is they need another player that can put the ball in the bucket, badly!
The Pelicans will not fix their depth situation with an in-season trade. So, they may instead opt to use one of their most valuable assets to continue building for the future and worry about the bench in the off-season. If Monty staggers his lineup a bit, Harris could also help the reserves out. Normally I would think that a GM and coach on a relatively hot seat might pull a desperation deal, but I think the likelihood of that is pretty low with Benson's consigliere (Mickey Loomis) having final say.
In the end I actually think the Pels add a wing via a smaller deal involving Rivers, Ajinca, and/or Whitey, but if they decide to go big and break up the band, I think Tobias Harris is in play. If this is the case, I would be sad to see Anderson go, but happy that the Pelicans long standing hole at small forward would finally be filled with a player that would be a perfect fit in the Pels lineup. Only time will tell and Demps generally strikes bigger deals than what the fan base thinks is possible -- the Dr. Jrue Holiday trade for instance. Either way, the Pelicans lineup appears to be poised for change and it better work for Monty Williams and Dell Demps sake, their jobs probably depend on it.
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