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2015 NBA Free Agency: The New Orleans Pelicans would be wise to pursue Jared Dudley

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Jared Dudley's renaissance in Milwaukee saw him emerge as a viable rotation player for an up-and-coming Eastern Conference playoff team. So can the New Orleans Pelicans pry him away and bolster its roster?

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After last month’s first round playoff series between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors, the one thing I wondered about was getting the Pelicans another wing player. It’s both a pricy and tricky acquisition — assuming the Pelicans re-sign Omer Asik to a comfortable contract (Four-year, $40 million works for both parties), the Pelicans will be operating with the full mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception, also known as BAE, to both bring back Alexis Ajinca - early bird rights, withstanding - and make an upgrade to the rotation.

In terms of archetype, New Orleans could really use a wing player between 6'6" to 6'8", who can offer the traditional three-and-D skill set. While he doesn’t fit that to a T, Pelicans fans who witnessed Paul Pierce play this off-season would like some of those traits from a player on the roster: good three-point shooting, size to both play small and offer size in traditional lineup and the of course, the big, late game makes.

However, I think Pierce will have better options, both from a financial standpoint and from a better basketball team. However, there’s another player out there that could fit that role: Milwaukee’s Jared Dudley.

Before even starting, consider the relationship with Alvin Gentry and Jared Dudley. Dudley was one of the few players who improved under Gentry during his tenure, evolving from a throw-in to a trade to a nice wing in the three-and-D mold. With the combination of Gentry’s up-tempo play and Steve Nash orchestrating the offense, Dudley had two seasons averaging over 10.0 points per game, four seasons with a true shooting percentage above 57 percent, and shot over 38 percent from beyond the arc in every season where their paths crossed.

What does have to do with New Orleans?

The Pelicans have two areas where an upgrade is needed. The first is help on the defensive end. The Pelicans finished the regular season in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency, 22nd in the league at 104.7 per 100 possessions. The jump in the second half of the season - 13rd in the league in defensive efficiency - certainly helped the Pelicans avoid a bottom-five showing in terms of defense.

The second area, and this is more from an personal want than an actual need, is from beyond the arc. The good thing? The Pelicans can hit from beyond the arc. Ryan Anderson is constantly above 40 percent from three, Jrue Holiday is an underrated three point shooter and Eric Gordon’s catch-and-shoot prowess was a huge upgrade when he returned from injury. As a team, the Pelicans finished fourth in the league at 37 percent from three.

New Orleans should attempt more threes. They have two really good shooters and should be looking to shoot those shots more often. The Pelicans finished 23rd in the league in percentage of three-point field goal attempted at 23.3 percent, and 19th percentage of points from three pointers at 21.6%. With the addition of Alvin Gentry at the helm, that's one of the things I expect to be improved next season. During his tenure in Phoenix, the Suns ranked in the upper half of the league in three pointers attempted.

Going back to Dudley, his skill set is perfect for what the Pelicans need in either a bench role or as a starting small forward. Last season, Dudley averaged 7.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists on shooting splits of .468/.385/.716 in his age-29 season. He also has that playoff experience you want, playing 29 playoff games in three seasons over his career.

Offensively, Dudley is a fine role player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands (13.5 USG% in 2014-15, 15.4 career USG%) to be effective. Last season, He had a true shooting percentage of 57.2%, playing a balanced game inside and outside. Inside the arc, Dudley shot 51 percent on two pointers. Outside the arc, he thrived as a catch and shoot player for the Bucks, hitting 44.5% on catch and shoot overall and 39.3% on the same shot, but beyond the arc.

Along with his ability to make available shots, Dudley is also a pretty smart, technical offensive player. His 1.8 assists per game offered the Milwaukee Bucks an additional passer on the floor last season, as they had Brandon Knight for most of the season, then transitioned to Michael Carter-Williams for the final chunk of the season. According to NBA’s play type statistics, Dudley finished with a 1.09 PPP (points per possessions) on cuts, finishing with a 55.6% field goal percentage on the play.

Defensively is where I have to take a slight pause on Dudley. I’m going more off of his reputation, where he was a fine defender during his Phoenix tenure. Last season, Dudley spent a bit more time at the power forward position, allowing him to defend in the post more, as the Milwaukee Bucks played more of their long-limbed defenders around him.

Overall, Dudley played more of his minutes at small forward, where he was still an effective player. Per 82games.com, he had a 14.7 PER last season at the small forward position and the Bucks, as a team had a 95.3 defensive rating with him there. The Bucks had a better winning percentage and defensive efficiency (66% win percentage and 87.5 D/100) with Dudley at the shooting guard position, while he had a 19.6 PER during his time at the power forward position.

How does he fit the Pelicans? As an additional wing to the rotation. The Pelicans have Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon as the starters at the point and shooting guard positions. The small forward position, as far as I’m concern, is open. Tyreke Evans would make for a dynamic sixth man in his career, but after his performance with Davis out last season, head coach Alvin Gentry could easily make him the starter.

If that’s the case, Dudley would be an excellent sixth man and leader in a Paul Pierce like role. You can even make the case that he should start over Quincy Pondexter Dudley could play some both wing positions and offer Gentry a player with some familiarity in his system, as well as another option on the perimeter that can space the floor and hold his own defensively.

How much would you pay Jared Dudley? I think the full mid-level for maybe three years is something that should be considered. The only problem? He’s very happy in Milwaukee: 80-90 percent happy in Milwaukee according to ProBasketballTalk. Considering that he turned his career around after a less than ideal season with the Clippers, one in which he revealed that was injured for most of it, I can see Dudley and Milwaukee coming together in a nice deal that allows him to play a role similar to the one he would play in New Orleans.

If Jared Dudley decides that it’s best to stay in Milwaukee, then, oh well. However, if he opts out to become an unrestricted free agent, the Pelicans should be one of the teams knocking on his door at 12:01, offering him a chance to join Anthony Davis and be somewhat of the veteran leader that the Pelicans could use next season.