It has been a busy day and a half but it appears that things are coalescing around a consistent framework as reported by Marc Stein (ESPN), Adrian Wojnarowski (Yahoo! Sports), and Jeff Zillgitt (USA Today). Initial reports said that John Salmons and Russ Smith would be headed out and Quincy Pondexter would return to New Orleans. Early on Saturday those reports shifted to include Austin Rivers instead of John Salmons and made no mention of Russ Smith.
Finally, late Saturday all three reporters appear to be on the same page with the added inclusion of a Memphis Second Round pick headed to the Crescent City. Here are all their most recent reports, ranging from dinner time to early evening on Saturday night.
Grizz poised to get Jeff Green/Russ Smith; Celts to get Tay Prince/Austin Rivers/Grizz first; Pelicans to get Quincy Pondexter/Grizz second— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 10, 2015
Yahoo Sources: After New Orleans changes deal terms, Memphis and Boston work to finalize deal centered on Jeff Green. http://t.co/eZClocCaT9— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 11, 2015
Salary Cap Situation
Have the Pelicans destroyed their future flexibility? No. Have they changed the equation this summer? Slightly. Let's take a look at the roster as it stands adding Quincy Pondexter and removing both Austin Rivers and Russ Smith. Every piece of data is here from 2014-15 through 2017-18. Cap hold for all players, even players I do not expect to be re-signed, are included.
Those cap holds, as explained at the CBA FAQ, are as follows.
Bird Rights: Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik - 150% of their previous salary (max for Gordon, the 2015 estimated max is used, it will be much, much higher)
Restricted Free Agents: Anthony Davis, Jeff Withey - Predetermined qualifying offer
Minimum Salary Guys: Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt, Jimmer Fredette, Dante Cunningham - 2 year minimum for 2015-16. The Pelicans have early Bird Rights for both Ajinca and Babbitt, allowing them to sign for a contract up to 175% of their previous salary ($1,716,897 in 2015-16) with 7.5% raises.
In order to re-sign Fredette or Cunningham above the minimum cap space or an exception must be used.
John Salmons: He is a non-Bird free agent but not a minimum contract either. His cap hold is 120% of his previous salary, so $2.4M.
Even removing all the additional cap holds for minimum guys and re-signing Omer Asik to a lower amount than his hold keeps the Pelicans over the salary cap. The Pelicans will not have more cap space than the Mid-Level Exception unless they find a way to trade Eric Gordon and receive no salary in return. If the Pelicans can do that (it will cost, at minimum, a first round pick) AND re-sign Asik to a number below his cap hold (let's be generous and estimate $10.5M) AND let Jeff Withey walk New Orleans will have cap space to offer a 4 year, $54.1M contract. Want to keep the restricted rights to Withey? That number drops to $51.1M.
So, the question for you. Is that enough flexibility? Should the Pelicans find a way to trade away Gordon's contract even if the cost is similar to what Houston did with Jeremy Lin last summer? In that trade Houston sent Lin (salary cap hit $8,374,646, actual amount paid $14,898,938) and the Rockets first round pick (lottery protected) to Los Angeles for a 32 year old European prospect who is never, ever coming to the NBA. It was a pure salary dump to open up maximum cap space for Chris Bosh.
Second, would you actually make such a move, trading the fourth consecutive first round draft pick for salary flexibility?
Third, who would you target with that cap room? The Knicks SB Nation blog, Posting and Toasting, has already moved onto the summer as their season goes up in smoke. Here is an excellent compendium on potential high level free agents to get you started.
That is a quick look at your options this summer. This is the "keep Withey" plan. I've estimated Asik's contract at 4 years, $42M and Anthony Davis signing a maximum extension this summer. Beyond that is up to you. Or, you could let Asik walk and see if Marc Gasol wants to come on down for the max. Put on your GM hat and take it for a ride.