Soon after the Pelicans acquired Quincy Pondexter, Dell Demps stated in the Black and Blue Report:
"We're trying to become a complete team. One of the things coming into the season, we wanted to acquire a more defensive presence at the center position and small forward. I think we have accomplished that now.
However, in the very next train of thought, Demps goes on to mention the Pelicans core.
Quincy instantly becomes a part of our core group. He's about the same age as our core guys. Anthony is 21 but um Ryan, Jrue, Tyreke, Omer, all those guys, are young veterans.
One name is notably absent: Eric Gordon. Perhaps it was an oversight to not mention the recently turned 26 year old, but considering all the trade talk over the years, one can't help but think there might be something here.
However, before we start pondering some scenarios, it needs to be mentioned there exists a large stumbling block in dealing Gordon. It's none other than Dell Demps himself.
- Demps demands asset(s) in return. In the past, Demps has been steadfast in his position that he wasn't going to deal Gordon in just a pure salary dump. If he didn't back then, he surely isn't going to now, not with the team battling for the playoffs for the first time in years. Thankfully, Gordon has been playing better, especially since returning from injury, but will other teams consider it enough to justify paying EG a ridiculous sum next season?
- Demps trade deadline activity is nearly non-existent. Think of all the deals Demps has completed during his tenure: Anderson, Asik, Jrue, Tyreke, Pondexter and the biggest, Chris Paul. They all occurred at other times of the year, except for one: old-time fan favorite Marcus Thornton for Carl Landry. That wasn't a big splash.
For what seems like this entire decade, the majority of rumors that have surrounded the Pelicans involved bringing back a shooting forward. This, despite the fact Demps has brought in Dante Cunningham and more recently Pondexter to fill the void. Just have a look at what Zach Lowe said yesterday:
The Pelicans will look for a small forward, but they’re not trading Ryan Anderson for some run-of-the-mill wing player — especially with Quincy Pondexter giving them solid minutes.
Considering the recent SF upgrades, Monty going with a Holiday-Gordon-Evans starting lineup at the start of the year, and that trio's success, I don't buy Demps is concentrating on solely a three. Rather, he's more than likely got an eye out (yet again) for underappreciated talent at probably any position outside of power forward.
In drafting Austin Rivers and trading for Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, the current decision-makers have seemed to show a preference for impact combo guards. Yesterday's article by Fish further proved this point. The Pelicans offensive philosophy isn't about ball movement. Rather, it's about creating opportunity through the dribble, either for the ball handler or for the recipient of the ball handler's first pass.
Perhaps, the most interesting thing is the fact that since Holiday's injury, Eric Gordon's stock has gone up. He has suddenly been displaying this cherished playmaking ability without the excessive turnovers, averaging nearly a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio for January and February. And one can't overlook his perimeter shooting -- it's been lethal.
For these reasons, Demps might be able to have some leverage for the first time in trade negotiations. I can understand that some of you may be thinking, but why trade him, now that he is useful? Very simply, his contract remains too burdensome, regardless of his on the court performance. This is especially true now that it appears salary cap smoothing isn't going to happen.
If the Pelicans don't find a way to move him, they'll largely be held ransom next season. From David's piece less than two weeks ago:
First let's take a look at where the Pelicans stand right now. They have no trade exceptions to accept players without sending salary back out. New Orleans has added the Memphis Grizzlies' second round pick as an asset in the trade which also netted Quincy Pondexter. I have not included Toney Douglas and his current 10-day contract.
There's not a whole lot there to move for Demps. Some combination of John Salmons and a big man going out could net between $4.3M (Withey) and $4.6M (Ajinca) in returning salary. If you believe the Pelicans most need a reserve point guard that could get you Mario Chalmers or Mo Willaims. Sending out just Salmons could return Jameer Nelson but would likely necessitate attaching the second round pick as well.
So what teams might be interested in adding a 15 million dollar average-ish shooting guard who has shown a glimmer in recent weeks and are willing to return some value (ie. no salary dump)?
1) It's no secret the Blazers are looking to bolster their roster as they've recently been tied to the Denver Nuggets. However, any deal for either Arron Afflalo or Wilson Chandler requires Portland to part with at least their first round pick. Are they willing to go down that road?
If not, Gordon could represent a nice short-term fit. One, Nicolas Batum has struggled with a bad wrist all season and his scoring has been way down. Two, Portland's bench is 3rd to last in points scored as C.J. McCollum continues to be a disappointment. Three, the Blazers need to prove to LaMarcus Aldridge that re-signing in Portland is the smart choice. Their team must have a good run in the postseason considering they've missed the playoffs in 2 of their past 3 seasons. For depth, the Blazers also add Singler and Withey, their former 39th overall selection of the 2013 NBA draft.
Meanwhile, with Brandon Jennings lost for the rest of this season, there doesn't exist any legitimate hope for a solid postseason run. To appease Josh Smith, Stan Van Gundy mishandled Greg Monroe months ago and it's likely he isn't interested in re-signing in Detroit even if it represents losing his Bird Rights (and thus a bigger payday). Instead of possibly losing Monroe for nothing, SVG happily jumps at the chance of reuniting with the ultimate floor spacer at the 4 in Anderson. Drummond would now have all the freedom that Dwight Howard once enjoyed.
The Pelicans cut salary off the books and get a season long look at Greg Monroe playing alongside Anthony Davis. Considering Monroe will lose his Bird Rights in any trade, he would be smart to seek a 1 year deal and then look to land a big payday in 2016. If the experiment works, Asik will be found a new home; if not, the Pelicans have a solid core of AD, Asik, Holiday and Evans with enviable cap space in 2016. To mitigate the loss of the outside shooting, New Orleans gets Jonas Jerebko to compete with Luke Babbitt as the team's small ball four, and more importantly, they get a chance to see if a change in scenery can help the once promising combo guard, McCollum, get his career on track.
2) In this deal, Denver agrees to part with several underperforming pieces for the future: T.J. Warren, Jeff Withey and at least several draft picks (including a first from PHX).
Phoenix doesn't risk losing Dragic for nothing, relieves the glut of high usage guards and lands the floor spacer Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas desperately need as Markieff Morris, although an emerging PF in the game, continues to show a lack of serviceable range.
Dell Demps finally gets his man, Goran Dragic, and along with Wilson Chandler, it gives the Pelicans an appealing starting lineup with Evans serving as the team's sixth man.
3) Since his age 25 season, Roy Hibbert's numbers have declined. They've bounced back some this season as compared to the prior season, but not enough to justify that salary. Omer Asik represents a chance for Indiana to maintain their defensive excellence, but at the cheaper price, bring Eric Gordon back to Indiana. Neither Rodney Stuckey nor C.J. Miles are of starter quality. With their superstar Paul George inching closer to a return, the Pacers don't necessarily want to suffocate George Hill (again) by bringing in another dominant high usage player. As we've seen in New Orleans, Gordon's best fit is as a team's third or fourth option.
Under Monty Williams, the Pelicans will never make the transition game a priority, thus Hibbert would fit well among our possession valued offense. Although his offense has slipped, it would still feel like a win after watching Asik bumble passes or get rejected at the rim all too often. Solomon Hill, who wouldn't have had much of a chance behind George, would get an opportunity in New Orleans and learn from fundamentally sound small forwards (Pondexter, Cunningham).
Unless an overwhelming offer comes about, more than likely, the Pelicans are going to be boring yet again around another trade deadline. Dell Demps has already shored up the greatest positions of need coming into this season and the organization seems intent on giving the present roster more games together.
However, were an offer to include Eric Gordon and assets would be guaranteed to come back in a deal to New Orleans, Demps would be forced to think long and hard about moving a player who was never originally a part of his vision. This will ring especially true if the Dealer doesn't have to sacrifice any on-the-court performance this season, as the number priority remains a playoff run.