Oleh Kosel: Calling all shooters and/or athletes, Dell Demps wants you! (Now imagine a giant poster hanging off the Crescent City Connection side of the SKC center with Demps pointed finger following all passerbys with Alvin Gentry standing behind him nodding approvingly.) With a new head coach in place, the Pelicans are going to play fast, and a roster filled with these type of players will make his system run the best on both sides of the floor.
If Asik's next contract gets potentially too rich, Demps should prioritize looking elsewhere. Nearly a month ago, I wrote about alternatives at the center position. Kosta Koufos remains at the top of my list (although I still wouldn't mind Tiago Splitter in a trade), especially if New Orleans hangs onto Ryan Anderson next season. If Greg Monroe expresses a desire to come home to Louisiana, Demps should try and get creative with multiple trade partners for a sign and trade for Moose.
Among available wings, I'm high on the following players:
- Danny Green - If the Spurs land LaMarcus Aldridge or some other high profile free agent, Green could become a casualty. He's one of the best examples of a 3-and-D player, and he's in his prime. Signing him would be a huge step forward for next year's team, plus, his addition would give Demps the flexibility to trade Gordon and his expiring contract for another chip. Now, as to how this gets done, will at least require a sprinkling of fairy dust.
- Jae Crowder - New associate coach, Darren Erman, has worked with him and would probably welcome a tough nosed 3 who can guard the bigger small forwards in the league. If Boston makes some moves and loses the need or lacks the capital to re-sign him, Crowder may be had with some or all of the MLE. Fingers crossed!
- K.J. McDaniels - I admit I've got a mancrush on this kid, but he's potential dynamite as he oozes athleticism for days. With Trevor Ariza and Corey Brewer in Houston, retaining McDaniels will not be at the top of Daryl Morey's to-do list.
Back on May 24th, I wrote how strange it was to read the Pelicans were mentioned as an interested party in Goran Dragic. Well, Gentry was hired just 6 days later, so did Demps tip his cap? If the Dragon has any desire to play for his former coach, I would welcome Demps moving some combination of Evans/Gordon/Anderson to acquire him. Just please not Jrue Holiday because I'm holding out hope he's still going to become a very special player.
David Fisher: Making a big play in free agency is going to be incredibly difficult without moving a big piece. Either Tyreke Evans or Ryan Anderson must be dangled in a sign-and-trade scenario. Trading 'Reke or Ryno outright for sufficient cap space (i.e. with minimal guaranteed salary in return) will be a hard sell around the league. 3&D players and centers have become increasingly valuable in the past couple seasons. Even reserve centers looking to move into a starting role (Kosta Koufos) will come at a premium; possibly in excess of $10 Million a year.
In the end, I circle back to the Anderson for Greg Monroe sign-and-trade. The trade off in Monroe for Asik is a difficult leap in cost benefit analysis. Getting Monroe likely costs Anderson, more on the future cap, and significantly on defense. However, I think Monroe is a better defensive center than a power forward and I have great belief in what Darren Erman can craft on that side of the ball. He made Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk a passable pair on that end without anything resembling Anthony Davis to help.
Another potential sign-and-trade target is Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris. Harris is exceptional on the glass as a small forward and passable as a power forward in small ball lineups. Orlando has a glut of wings on their roster and could add another in the draft, making Harris expendable. If Dell Demps can sell Harris on a starting role at SF and the Magic on a sign-and-trade (Demps worked with Orlando GM Rob Hennigan in San Antonio and has already done one S&T in the form of Ryno) the Pelicans could solve one wing position long term.
Kevin Barrios: I'm going to preface this with the notion that I believe it is time we move on from Ryan Anderson. He plays the same position as our best player, is too up-and-down, is a selfish basketball player (not a selfish person), is injury prone and makes too much money for his production.
I know he will bounce back and put up great numbers at some point, but we need to improve in other positions where we don't already field an MVP candidate. I'd sell low just to get the cap space if needed, which would allow for some bigger free agent moves. However, I'll stick with more realistic targets. Also, with Evans, Holiday, Gordon, Cole and Pondexter we don't really need to add another guard to the rotation so I didn't even dig into that pool:
Small Forward -- This is arguably our area of biggest need, but if Gentry figures out how to use the three guard lineup effectively enough, maybe it isn't.
• Luke Babbitt: I bring Luke back because he is an elite shooter, plays with heart and within the team concept. He's your new, cheaper Ryan Anderson. He's not a great athlete so I'd work on bulking him up a little more (he actually seemed to add some muscle towards the end of the year) so he can fill that stretch four role and not get beat up in the post. I know this isn't a sexy move, but it should be cheap and gives us a true specialist.
• Khris Middleton: I've been big on Middleton for a while. I wanted us to target him this past off-season, but with his emergence, it may be harder to land him now. He's your prototypical position-less basketball player. He can play the 2-4 spots. He's long, is a decent defender, rebounds well, has good passing vision, can attack the rim and is a solid shooter from deep (41% from behind the arc). He's restricted, so I'm sure the Bucks will try to match most offers for him. However, they are a small market team with a lot of uncertainty with ownership and studs like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker to pay in the near future. Then, there's Michael-Carter Williams. They may have to let him slip away. He'd be a great pick up for the Pelicans, especially with Gentry's vision. He'd also add some more length on the perimeter.
• Jae Crowder: Here's another RFA that is likely to get matched unless the Celtics lure in a bigger FA. Crowder is a freak of an athlete. He's a super energy guy that can play the 3 and 4. He can defend 1-4. He's not a polished shooter, but he knows his role and doesn't force bad shots — evidenced by his 51% FG in the postseason.
Big Men -- We have questions at the 5 and in my mind we need a player to provide a low post presence off of the bench. All of our bigs are face-up guys, we need a banger. Here's some guys to provide depth behind AD and Asik or to replace Asik (also, I'd love to bring Ajinca back):
• Brandan Wright: Wright looked great until he was traded by Dallas for Rondo — a move that broke his and the Mavericks' games. The good news is that Alvin Gentry will run a very pre-Rondo-like Mavericks' offense with the Pelicans. Wright can return to form with his insane finishing percentage around the rim — some Visine for those Pels' fans with sore eyes from watching Asik's rim follies.
• Bismack Biyombo: I present Omer Asik Jr. with a slightly better finishing game and a better block percentage. Good news for the Asik haters is that he's still young and can maybe develop some semblance of offensive game. Plus, he should be cheaper.
• Thomas Robinson: Robinson was another darling of the AD draft, but something fell off. He always seems to play hard and is a high-character guy, but can't seem to stick anywhere. I believe he is a victim of being picked higher than he should have been. He is a good player, but not the instant impact guy he was projected to be. He could give us good minutes off of the bench and probably at a discount.
• Kyle O'Quinn: Quinn is restricted, but I'm sure Orlando will be busy trying to lock in Tobias Harris and this may allow Kyle to get snatched away at a decent clip. He's a very big-bodied player with nifty footwork and agility for his size. He's a good rebounder, plays defense, passes adequately out of the post and has a reliable 15' jumper to go with decent post moves. I really like his personality too, and I think he'd be a fan favorite here.
• Greg Monroe: This is contigent on not re-upping Asik and moving Anderson. Monroe isn't great at anything, but he's good at most. He's local, which is nice. I think he's a Spur waiting to happen, but he'd look good on his home team too.
Nico Bagio: Yesterday, I mentioned that a sign and trade of Omer Asik to Milwaukee could bring back an enviable small forward. Well, Khris Middleton was my target. He will be a main free agent target (especially considering they have Antetokoumpo and Parker in the mix), but perhaps Demps could work his magic and bring him to New Orleans.
Chris Cucchiara: Of course, I would like Dragic or DeAndre Jordan. However, I think that Jared Dudley could be realistic option since he had some of his best seasons under Gentry in Phoenix.
Jamile Dunn: I don't think there are a ton of great fits out there for the Pelicans that also fit under the cap this year; however, the cupboard isn't completely bare. If Dell Demps can pick up Mike Dunleavy or Gerald Green as a stop gap at the SF position (of course Kevin Durant will be filling that spot in 2016-2017), I believe that would be a decent upgrade and allow Quincy Pondexter to play more SG where he is a natural fit.
A wild card would be some kind of a sign and trade for a player like Tobias Harris. Not sure how new Orlando Magic Head Coach Scott Skiles feels about Harris, let alone if the situation will work considering their past history. If he's not in the plans, a sign and trade involving Ryan Anderson or Tyreke Evans is possible. To be clear, the sign and trade route in a remote possibility. I think Dell mostly stands pat and waits to make a big trade at the trade deadline or sign a major free agent next summer.
Peyton Fine: Judging by my answer several days ago, I think priority number 1 is Goran Dragic. He is so fast in the open floor, makes good decisions with the ball, and does not need the ball in his hands all the time to impact a game. He already has ties to Demps and Gentry. Yes, he has his defensive woes, but if you can pair him with Holiday after sending off Evans, I think you can hide him defensively. He just seems to be the fit to take this offense to the next level.
Priority 2 would be to find a really good defensive 3, particularly if two of our three main guards are Gordon and Dragic. I would not mind bringing back Al-Farouq Aminu. Dallas was four points better defensively with him on the floor, and he can guard three's effectively as well as small ball four's. Furthermore, in a faster offense, he is going to be called on to stretch the defense less and less, but run the floor more and more. This time around, the match just looks better.
Priority 3 is a spacer, just someone who can shoot. Bring back Luke Babbit. It would be cheap, and he already has a familiarity with the team. He may only see five minutes per night, but if he can knock down the three at nearly 50% again, he would be invaluable. At the very least, in a line-up that needs a shooting specialist, he is your man.
Kyle Gahagan: It would be so much fun to see DeAndre Jordan as a part of this team, and he's an obvious upgrade over Asik in almost every way. Besides scrappy points off of rebounds, Jordan adds a vertical factor on lobs, blocks, and rebounds. The old fashioned, prototypical center has had their value plummet recently, and I think the Pels should (and to some extent already have) follow suit. Frequent lobs up to AD and DJ? Yes, please. If salary constraints become a problem, who wouldn't mind bringing back Tyson Chandler for a similar role?
Quentin Haynes: I’ll have an article about one specific player in the near future, but the guy the Pelicans should be looking/calling about is Portland's Nicolas Batum. The worries about the Pelicans defense, at least for me, is largely because they don’t have that wing player who can help defensively. Pondexter for 82 games should help, but I want another, giving the Pelicans a triangle of wing defenders in Q-Pon, Holiday and in this case, Batum.
I also apply this to Jeremy Lamb. Lamb has proven nothing, but man, with the price of wing players these days, I wouldn’t mind calling OKC and seeing what it would take to land him. Same goes for Orlando’s Mo Harkless. The Pelicans have a top seven on the roster, what I would really like is to bring in some young talent and see if they can crack the rotation. I think Harkless and Lamb for fair prices, could fit the description.
As for free agents, the same usual suspects: Danny Green and DeMarre Caroll for defensive wing purposes and Kosta Koufos as a potential replacement for Asik.
Matty Robinson: Jimmer... we've already been down that road. Assuming the Pelicans re-sign Omer Asik and Demps brings Norris Cole back, the Pels most likely will need to look at cost-effective shooting wings and a cheap back-up center.