The New Orleans Pelicans continue to flounder at the bottom of the standings. Many here and elsewhere are hypothetically trading away pieces of the roster in hopes of a turnaround or a full-scale demolition. We as fans almost always expect more for our own players than what the market is willing to pay. The first step to correcting this issue is to understand that it exists. Fans of Team X overvalue players on Team X. This is not something unique to New Orleans or the NBA in general.
The purpose here is two-fold, to discuss what a reasonable return is for each player on the roster as well as how likely the franchise is to trade that player. Age, contract, injury history, and fit within this roster all matter. Just as important, if another team would actually trade for that player is also weighed in these rankings. Omer Asik is not at the bottom with Anthony Davis because he is untouchable, he's at the bottom because his contract makes him one of the least likely to be traded.
Without further ado, the Pelicans trade probability rankings.
1: Ryan Anderson
Anderson is an expiring contract who is about to get significantly more expensive. He is the archetype stretch-four in a league that values space and shot creating. Teams are already calling to make their interest known. A relatively cheap contract, no long term commitment, and a skill set playoff contenders around this league covet. The question is less about if the Pelicans will trade Anderson and more what can they receive in the transaction.
That's where things get tricky. I don't think Anderson is fetching a lottery pick this year. Maybe the Mavericks' first round pick from the Boston Celtics. So is a mid first rounder and possibly a rotation player enough?
2 & 3: Toney Douglas and Luke Babbitt
Trade filler salaries to make the numbers match up. Both players have an unguaranteed contract for the 2016-17 season with a guarantee date of July 12th, making them potential trade chips through the free agency period as well. Douglas was on the inactive list as soon as the Pelicans reached 13 healthy bodies and Babbitt has rarely seen the court. Babbitt should have never cut his hair.
4: Ish Smith
Unlike Douglas and Babbitt, Smith is on a one year deal at the minimum. Some team in desperate need of a point guard might be convinced Ish Smith is a short term solution but I doubt it. Even the Philadelphia 76ers passed on bringing Smith in this fall.
5: Tyreke Evans
Issues here are two-fold; fit in the offensive system and value around the rest of the league. If the Pelicans continue to stay well outside of the playoff race the plug is going to be pulled. Alvin Gentry was just signed this summer and no player fails to fit in his system more than Evans. Tagging along, some GM out there is going to look at Tyreke Evans and think the same things Gentry did this summer. Their coach can "change" Evans and get him to operate in a more free-flowing offense.
Like Anderson, the hope of return is a role player and/or a mid-to-late first round pick in the 2016 draft. Finding a fit for Evans is more difficult due to his ball dominance.
6: Eric Gordon
Gordon would be higher on this list if not for the size of his contract and his spotty medical history. There are more than a handful of teams who would be interested in acquiring a capable deep threat on an expiring contract; Zach Lowe mentioned the Detroit Pistons as a possible landing space on Tuesday.
That player really shouldn't be a wing with Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson and Jodie Meeks to absorb 96 minutes, and depth issues at almost every other position. But with Meeks still recovering, expect the Pistons to sniff around available wings as trade season heats up -- perhaps using Brandon Jennings and a protected 2016 first-rounder as bait. This franchise is desperate to feel the playoffs again. Keep an eye on Eric Gordon once the Pelicans punt the season.
Return from here down is almost non-existent. Any salary large enough to match Gordon's is going to be a player who is either terribly under-performing (David Lee) or a really bad fit (Jeff Green) in their current location. The trade Lowe proposes above would be an excellent return, as Jennings is also an expiring contract.
7: Alexis Ajinca
Ajinca is on a pretty reasonable long term contract as big men go in the NBA. He hasn't been nearly as efficient as he was last season; the product of fewer offensive rebounds and many more jump shots. Players 7'2" with a pure shooting stroke are a rare breed and if Ajinca could get it together defensively he could dramatically increase his value to the Pelicans and potential trade partners around the league.
8: Alonzo Gee
Gee is the last of the possible salary filler trade pieces. He falls behind Douglas, Babbitt, and Smith because of his current place in the starting five and the player option he holds for the 2016-17 season. His contract is not by any means large going forward but the lack of team control diminishes his value. Combine that with the minutes he's playing and I doubt Gee is going anywhere.
9: Jrue Holiday
The remainder of this list I would be pretty shocked to see traded. Holiday's value within the organization is dramatically higher than what it is to the rest of the league. Only the Pelicans, Holiday, and his trainers really know how healthy Holiday is right now and how that projects for the future. As Dell Demps has demonstrated by overpaying for Omer Asik the initial investment weighs heavily for this franchise. The Pelicans traded two first round picks for Holiday and there is no way they will get back equal value.
Oh, and Holiday is actually playing really well now too.
10: Dante Cunningham
Cunningham is on a three year deal that is more valuable to the Pelicans, who need cheap rotation options, than the rest of the league. Additionally Cunningham has a player option in the third year. With the salary cap about to skyrocket Cunningham is likely to opt-out, but teams prefer control and player options take such control out of their hands.
11: Quincy Pondexter
Pondexter has yet to log a minute this season. He's under contract through 2018. NBA teams are not lining up for that commitment, even if his salary is a mere drop in the salary cap bucket. If Pondexter returns to the floor and produces like he did last season he still will not move up these rankings much; his value to the franchise will simply increase.
12: Kendrick Perkins
The other players above are more likely to be included as salary filler. Perkins is here to stay.
13: Norris Cole
One quirk of the CBA now hovers over Cole. Restricted free agents who sign their qualifying offer lose their Bird Rights if traded. Due to that, such players must provide consent to be traded. Cole will probably be willing to provide that consent but what team is trading for a point guard making over $3 million with a PER of just 4.6?
14: Omer Asik
It's the contract. If Asik continues to perform at a passable rate, as he has in December, he might move up a little in the rankings. Still, no team is hunting for a nearly extinct basketball commodity.
15: Anthony Davis
Look, no one has enough to trade for Anthony Davis. He is the cornerstone of this franchise. Dell Demps, or whoever the next GM is, will have one or even two more shots at building a team around AD before New Orleans even considers trading Davis.