What a long strange trip it has been the last nineteen days have been. On June 25th reports surfaced that the Pelicans were trading their 2015 First Round pick to Houston for Omer Asik. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, the trade simply could not work under those parameters, as discussed here. The great team over at The Dream Shake broke down what the trade meant for Houston and GM Daryl Morey. The Rockets were making room for a big fish. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or (eventually) Chris Bosh were on their wish list.
For New Orleans GM Dell Demps and his team in the front office, there was work to be done. At the time there was no reasonable way to work out a trade with Houston on a one-on-one basis. New Orleans did not have the necessary "cost free" contracts to send to the Rockets to balance the trade. Friday afternoon, thanks in large part to LeBron James deciding to go back to Cleveland earlier that day, Demps acquired Alonzo Gee for the Los Angeles Clippers 2016 Second Round pick (top-55 protected). Gee's $3 Million unguaranteed contract would come in handy.
Sunday afternoon the rest of the pieces were set in motion. Houston declined to match the 3 year, $46 Million offer sheet Chandler Parsons signed with the Dallas Mavericks. From that point on the news was fast and furious. First Washington and Houston agreed to a sign-and-trade for Trevor Ariza. Suddenly David Aldridge was reporting a potential three team trade. The Charlotte Hornets announced that Scotty Hopkins (and his $1,450,878 unguaranteed contract) had been traded to the Pelicans for cash considerations. At the last minute Omri Casspi was headed to the Crescent City.
Houston will not match the $46M Dallas offer sheet for Chandler Parsons, league source tells Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 13, 2014
Washington and Houston have agreed to a sign-and-trade for Trevor Ariza, league source tells Yahoo. Wizards get $8.5M trade exception.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 13, 2014
Wizards have engaged Rockets and Pelicans in three-team deal to facilitate Trevor Ariza going to the Rockets and Omer Asik going to NO.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 13, 2014
The #Hornets have traded Scotty Hopkins to the @PelicansNBA http://t.co/OB9kKFUW0H @NBA— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) July 13, 2014
Sources: Rockets, Pelicans, Wizards work out 3-team deal involving Ariza, Asik (via @ESPNSteinLine). http://t.co/OAJWkJKGjn— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 14, 2014
Focus, for a moment, on the timestamps of those tweets. Adrian Wojnarowski's initial report of Houston declining the Parsons offer sheet was at 4:55 pm. Just two hours and twenty one minutes later ESPN has a full story up on the complete three team trade. In the middle of that a completely separate trade occurred and no reporter even mentioned it, despite being critical to making the trade work. Speaking of critical components.
Melvin Ely - The Keystone
You may remember at the end of the season that Greg Stiemsma was shockingly released with just two games remaining. We were pretty bewildered here initially, but we decided to get to work and figure out why Dell Demps would release Stiemsma on April 14th and sign Melvin Ely. Others, notably Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune and famous for bashing "amateur fan blogs", wasted no time with his #HOTTAKES.
If, 80 games into a season, a team cuts an offseason free-agent signee and replaces him with a nomadic journeyman who has compiled an undistinguished NBA resume over the last 12 years, only one conclusion can be drawn: Someone made a serious miscalculation last summer.
It also plainly illustrates the need for a fresh, additional voice in personnel matters.
Just playing devil's advocate, there are a couple of folks out there with Louisiana, and New Orleans, connections who might be available for hire this summer: Joe Dumars and Avery Johnson.
Those of us who instead went into research mode, found other motivations.
What initially appeared to be a callous move to waive Stiemsma is instead Dell Demps just trying to add one more tool to his tool box this summer. One more trade chip he could use. Ely's second year as a 10 year vet is the above $1,448,490. We can then take this information to the CBA FAQ and find that Ely's contract alone can bring back $2,172,735, or 150% of his salary.
With that background information out of the way, now is the ideal time to jump back to Marc Stein's ESPN article outlining the trade. I would add emphasis, but what is the use of bolding an entire paragraph?
Without the late-season signing of Ely to his unguaranteed deal, New Orleans would have lacked the extra contract piece needed to make this deal happen. The Pelicans had to make the unpopular decision to waive center Greg Stiemsma to create a late-season roster spot for Ely, but that move was always done with the intent to plug Ely's contract into a significant trade to acquire a player of Asik's caliber.
Here is an outline of the major moves which allowed this trade to occurred to make this happen.
- April 14 - Waived Greg Stiemsma (opening a roster spot), signed Melvin Ely to a two year minimum contract. Second year of that contract is unguaranteed.
- June 25th - Agreed to basic framework of trading NOLA's 2015 First Round pick (unprotected 4-19) to Houston for Omer Asik.
- July 11th - Traded 2016 Second Round pick (top 55 protected) of Los Angeles Clippers to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Alonzo Gee.
- July 13th - Traded cash considerations to the Charlotte Hornets for Scotty Hopson.
- July 13th - Traded Melvin Ely to the Washington Wizards. Traded Alonzo Gee, Scotty Hopson, and the 2015 New Orleans First Round Draft Pick (unprotected 4-19) to the Houston Rockets. Received Omer Asik, Omri Casspi, and $1.5 Million from the Houston Rockets.
Outgoing or lost assets are the 2015 First Round Pick, the 2016 Los Angeles Clippers Second Round Pick, the Mid-Level Exception, the Bi-Annual Exception, and Bird Rights to Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith. Both exceptions were lost when the team dipped below the salary cap in order to trade for Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson. Aminu and Smith's Bird Rights had to be renounced in order to get beneath the salary cap.
Incoming or gained assets are Omer Asik, Omri Casspi, and the Room Exception. The Room Exception was gained once the team dipped below the salary cap and executed transactions from that position.
Salary Cap Update
It is important to note that as of yet the Pelicans have not added future salary. That most likely will change if Omer Asik works out as they will have his Bird Rights to re-sign him. Eric Gordon is currently the longest tenured Pelican. The average age of the roster (before adding 23 year olds Russ Smith and Patric Young) at 24.75 would be the seventh youngest roster last season. Adding those two drops the number to 24.5, which would tie the Utah Jazz for the third youngest team in the entire league.
Listed is the maximum available contract to be offered with the Room Exception, $5,586,940 over two years. Whether the Pelicans actually utilize the full value, especially with the second year, is anyone's guess. As it stands the team still has a question mark at small forward. The franchise continues to maintain Darius Miller's Early Bird Rights, allowing them to offer a contract up to $5,632,000 in the first season. If Miller returns it will be for a much smaller amount.
In terms of who Demps is targeting, we can do nothing but guess. As the team is now over the salary cap they cannot aggregate Omri Casspi's unguaranteed contract with anyone else for at least two months. This is explained in the CBA FAQ.
For two months after receiving the player in trade, if the trade aggregates the player's salary with the salaries of other players. However, the team is free to trade the player immediately, either by himself or without aggregating his salary with other salaries. This restriction applies only to teams over the salary cap. (Also see question number 88.)
Dell Demps took advantage of the loophole which allows teams to immediately trade players recently traded while under the cap. Now that is no longer the case. Casspi's contract will be fully guaranteed as of August 5th according to Sham Sports. A wing rotation of Casspi, Babbitt, and Miller does not inspire a lot of confidence. However, with Babbitt and Miller still in the fold the team does not have the lack of continuity which has haunted the franchise throughout the rebuild.
Grading the Off Season
Outside of swinging for the fences for a center, I did not expect an impressive off season from the Pelicans this summer. Just as the season ended I outlined how the Pelicans could offer a maximum of a $6.7 Million contract in free agency. Potential small forward targets Luol Deng and Marvin Williams both signed richer contracts, at $10 Million and $7 Million respectively. Bringing in Larry Sanders or Greg Monroe would have cost Ryan Anderson, while bringing in a B (Deng) or C (Marvin Williams) small forward option was, with hindsight, literally not financially feasible.
Instead Demps sent out the 2015 First Round pick and got an A+ center for what New Orleans needs. Somehow he accomplished this and only cost himself an additional future second round pick that was unlikely to be transferred and if necessary can be purchased outright. If the Pelicans so desire they could have ten returning players from the team last year. It is disappointing to lose Anthony Morrow, but the team can continue and learn from the leadership he provided.
New Orleans still could use more shooting on the wing. Remember, though, that they already have five above NBA average (36.0% last season) three point shooters on the roster: Ryan Anderson (40.9%), Eric Gordon (39.1%), Jrue Holiday (39.0%), Luke Babbitt (37.9%), and Austin Rivers (36.4%). Four of those five players are locks to be solid rotation players this coming season. Anthony Davis is also reported to be adding the corner three to his repertoire. Omri Casspi shot 37.1% from behind the arc when he teamed up with Tyreke Evans and Casspi has consistently attempted a large share of his shots from long range.
Still, at this point the grade is incomplete but trending strongly positive. Dell Demps has the ability to add not only a player with the Room Exception, but minimum contracts as well. You may remember one such minimum contract from last summer. Anthony Morrow.