Well, that was an exciting win for the Pelicans tonight. But, in the midst of the third quarter, as New Orleans continued to hold onto a steady yet not insurmountable lead, Adrian Wojnarowski was doing what he does best: dropping bombs.
Memphis and Boston still believe a Jeff Green trade would eventually be completed without New Orleans, but focus remains on three-team deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 10, 2015
In framework of proposed three-team trade, New Orleans' Russ Smith moves to Memphis, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) January 10, 2015
The second tweet there is critical to understanding what occurred. Memphis was looking to cut some salary as Green was coming in, pushing Quincy Pondexter out of the rotation. The Pelicans did not "help" the Grizzlies execute this trade. Their participation was voluntary, seeing an opportunity for a young vet on a long term deal crossing into the new television deal. Pondexter was going to be dealt somewhere in the league, Dell Demps, who originally traded Pondexter to Memphis for Greivis Vasquez, got his hand in first.
Again, I'm fine w/Pondexter. What I don't like. 25-10 Memphis gets Jeff Green 17-18 NOLA gets Quincy Pondexter Helping SW rival get better?— Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherMackel) January 10, 2015
This read of the trade is fundamentally incorrect. The Pelicans helped themselves get better, both in the near and long term, by gobbling up an asset for two non-contributors. What about the long term cap concerns?
Summer of 2015
This summer the Pelicans had zero cap space. None. Before trading for Q-Pon the Pelicans had $67.469M on their cap, and the salary cap is estimated to be $66.5M. This does not mean they do not have methods to add players, as they can both sign-and-trade (Pondexter's contract could facilitate) or utilize their available exceptions. Both the Mid-Level Exception (a four year contract worth up to $23.3M) and the Bi-Annual Exception (a two year contract worth up to $4.3M) can be used to add additional rotation players.
Let's look at the situation after this trade takes place. I trust that if Wojnarowski is reporting this much detail that it is going to get done.
Salary cap information from Sham Sports and Basketball Insiders
Dante Cunningham right now is the leading candidate for the Bi-Annual Exception. While I understand the concern among Pelican fans that he is going to be the next Anthony Morrow and price himself out of New Orleans, I believe those concerns are misplaced. Cunningham is still an effort/tweener forward who does not shoot threes. The market for that type of player is smaller than for Morrow's elite three point shooting.
Dell Demps probably has one other small move in his pocket. The roster now stands at 13 with two open spots. If I had to guess, the starting lineup tonight of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Dante Cunningham, Anthony Davis, and Omer Asik is going to stick until the team loses a couple more winnable games. As it stands, Tyreke Evans, Quincy Pondexter, Luke Babbitt, Ryan Anderson, and Alexis Ajinca are probably going to come off the bench. That won't happen until Pondexter is acclimated into the system, but you can see that the team has far more future invested in Q-Pon than either Austin Rivers or Jimmer Fredette. Evans as the point guard of the second unit is an upgrade.
This is a developing story and the details are likely to change between now and when the deal is finalized. It will probably change between the time I press publish and when you read this article. What we have is the general framework.
John Salmons and Russ Smith out; Quincy Pondexter in. The Pelicans didn't help Memphis, they helped themselves. Dell Demps didn't eliminate his flexibility this summer. In 2016 the difference between Russ Smith and Pondexter is about $2.8M. Pondexter has demonstrated he can contribute in the NBA, Russ Smith is still a major work in progress on that front. If Evans is moving to point guard with the reserve unit, the need for a backup point guard is eliminated.
Now we wait for Dell's next move.