I did not ask for much. I did not demand the playoffs. I did not request a winning record. All my heart desired was 29 healthy games for the Pelicans to actually evaluate the roster Dell Demps had built. If it crashed and burned fine, at least we as fans knew it wouldn't work. Moving on in the front office would be so much easier if we knew the plan did not work.
Pelican fans will not be so lucky. Jrue Holiday suffered another set back, reported first this morning by the Pelicans themselves. Holiday has already missed 16 games this season due to the injury after missing 48 last season.
The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that guard Jrue Holiday aggravated the stress reaction in his lower right leg Monday. He will be re-evaluated in three weeks by the team’s medical staff. A timetable for his return will be announced at a later date as more information is available.
As I researched in the off season, Jrue Holiday has not been injury prone throughout his career. However, this specific injury, a stress fracture to a lower extremity, has a high probability of reoccurrence. There is a difference between labeling a player injury prone and an injury reoccurring. One, labeling a player injury prone, has connotations of weakness of heart or spirit. The other, reoccurrence, instead speaks to the luck inherent in injury recovery. Oleh will have more discussion on this specific injury and what it means for Jrue Holiday and the training staff soon. I am going to dive into what this means for the Pelicans as the trade deadline approaches.
Some may feel comfortable speaking about the strength or mental fortitude of players they have never spoke to in person. I am not.
Do No Harm
More than anything, I think the Pelicans need to evaluate their position in the future as more valuable than the present. Like almost every NBA team, they currently have a forecast of significant cap space in the summer of 2016. Unlike all of those teams, New Orleans is also very likely to have the signature of a top three player in the NBA for another four plus years before the free agent bonanza kicks off. It is no coincidence that both Kevin Durant and LeBron James will be free agents in 2016.
There are two likely directions some could advocate for in the coming 22+ hours.
Dump Eric Gordon for Cap Space: This is a present move (summer of 2015) disguised as a future move. This summer is not the time to be in the free agent market. Tom Ziller explained this succinctly in The Hook yesterday. Read it? Good.
The players who do sign long term deals will be looking for top dollar as the remaining years of their contract will appear to be a discount. This, naturally, increases the cost of entry. Shedding the salary of even Eric Gordon is insufficient space alone to make the Pelicans a major player in this arena. Instead it would require moving Gordon AND either letting Omer Asik walk or trading Ryan Anderson as well.
The same folks advocating this direction often complain of a lack of depth. So their natural direction is to sacrifice multiple rotation players to pursue just one replacement. (Help, cognitive dissonance!) This decreases, not increases, the depth of the roster. Creating an even more top heavy structure dependent on injury luck. Yes, Greg Monroe (as an example) has been a shining beacon of injury avoidance.
So was Jrue Holiday.
There are no guarantees.
Trade Assets for Depth Now: This is even more shortsighted than moving Gordon for cap space. Yes, right now the Pelicans could use an upgrade at the point guard position for the next 29 games. Instead I would prefer the team extend Toney Douglas a contract through the end of the season and play him or Jimmer Fredette in the role until April.
Any trade of assets should return something with future use. Jameer Nelson just is not a long term fix of anything in New Orleans, just a stop gap. Moe Harkless, as I outlined yesterday, would be a different case. If the cost for Harkless turns into Salmons, a second round pick, and even Withey (as BenDerDonDat suggested) I think the Pelicans should consider pulling the trigger.
Instead of either of these choices I advocate for the Pelicans to stand pat. Teams want large expiring contract to make hay in the summer of 2016. New Orleans, in Eric Gordon, already has that. This team is not bad enough to even consider tanking to keep the pick. While there is less we can learn in the following 29 games without Jrue Holiday in the big picture a Monty Williams coached team has never thrown in the towel without important players. Just ask the Thunder or Rockets at the end of last season.
What should Dell Demps do? Let's hear your opinion in the poll below and the comments.