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2015 NBA Free Agency: Tweener options for the Pelicans on Independence Day

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New Orleans lacks a tweener. Let's take a look at three options.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Dell Demps is missing something on this roster. Right now the New Orleans Pelicans stand at eight; Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Quincy Pondexter, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca. Norris Cole continues to sit on the market as a restricted free agent. The traditional method of thinking of players is by rigid (and useless) positions. By that measure the Pelicans have one point guard, two shooting guards, one small forward, two power forwards, and two centers.

Instead, I want to think of the roster in terms of roles. The Pelicans have two ball handlers (Holiday and Evans), two small wings (Gordon and Pondexter), two bigs (Asik and Ajinca), one stretch big (Anderson), and one Anthony Davis. This roster lacks big wings (think 6'7"+) and has no tweeners (are you a small forward or a power forward) whatsoever.

Big wings, especially those of the 3&D archetype, are incredibly expensive. Thicker guys like DeMarre Carroll (4/$60M) and Jae Crowder (5/$35M) get the job done without the height, but still credibly guard the small forward spot. Tweeners, however, remain readily available. These players are still relatively easily acquired, especially those who have yet to prove they can shoot behind the arc.

If Alvin Gentry wants to play small ball he needs options to play "power forward" alongside AD at center. Right now the only option is Ryan Anderson; his limitations on defense and rebounding have been well documented. Keeping Dante Cunningham, or bringing in a player with a similar skill set, would provide Gentry with at least one tweener this roster lacks.

Let's go through three remaining free agents Dell Demps might be targeting. Included are their rankings according to Tom Ziller's list for SB Nation.

Height Weight Wingspan Standing Reach
Dante Cunningham (UR) 6'8.25" 227 6'11" 8'10.5"
Darrell Arthur (65) 6'8.5" 216 6'10.75" 8'11"
Quincy Acy (106) 6'7.75" 224 7'2.75" 8'10.5"

Measurements from Draft Express

All three of these players measure up quite similarly, fitting nicely into the "not tall enough to be a traditional power forward, not a good enough shooter to be a small forward" mold. Each is quite fond of the mid-range jumper; attempting between 29.6% (Acy) and 56% (my word Cunningham) of their shots from 16 feet and out. Cunningham has been the most consistent shooter from that range in the group despite also being the worst free throw shooter.

Pelican fans don't need a book on Dante Cunningham. (If you do, check out his season review!) He's a great effort guy, a solid team defender, and takes far too many long twos. He's also the oldest (28) in this group and the least accomplished rebounder. That matters when reliving the epic collapse in game three against the Golden State Warriors.

Arthur doesn't jump out in the box score. Read a bit online, or chat with Matt Moore of CBS Sports, and you discover Arthur's defensive capabilities are extensive. The Denver Nuggets were atrocious on defense when Arthur sat (107.8) and elite when he was on the floor (98.7). Outside of Danilo Gallinari no other Nugget came close to Arthur's positive impact overall. Arthur suffered an achilles injury in December 2011 and has rounded back into form, although it took a long time.

Quincy Acy is the youngest in the group at just 24 years old. In three NBA seasons the man has already played for three different teams; Toronto Raptors (the terrible version), Sacramento Kings (the terrible version), and New York Knicks (the terrible version). Poor guy. What Acy does do is ferociously attack the glass on both ends. His 20.5% defensive rebound rate is superb. Youth, and a less than ideal environment, has also led to frequent turnovers. In this group of three Acy is by far the most aggressive, getting to the foul line nearly twice as often.

PER DReb% ORPM DRPM RPM
Dante Cunningham 8.9 12.8% -1.37 0.54 -0.83
Darrell Arthur 11.5 13.4% -2.08 3.91 1.83
Quincy Acy 11.9 20.5% -3.85 1.17 -2.68

The Pelicans have already been linked to both Dante Cunningham (obviously) and Quincy Acy (before free agency even began). Thus far there has been no reported interest between the Pelicans and Arthur. Arthur is a dicier gamble, he has not logged many minutes at small forward over his career while both Cunningham and Acy already have demonstrated some competence on the wing.

None of these players is an accomplished shooter behind the arc. Arthur has tried to incorporate the 3-pointer into his game, attempting 110 last season. He made just 23.6% of those shots. Cunningham has two career threes in almost 9.000 NBA minutes. Acy has slowly incorporated the extra distance and made 18 of 60 attempts (30%) with the Knicks in 2014-15.

Perfect players do not exist. Discussing players for the Mid-Level Exception or less bring in even more flaws. None of these three are flawless players whatsoever, but each has their own individual strengths to bring to the discussion beyond their similarities in size, shot selection, and the like. Cunningham bring familiarity with the rest of the roster. Arthur, as noted above by Brian Shaw, is a consummate professional and ticks a number of boxes beyond the box score itself. Thanks in large part to his age, length, and athleticism Acy is the "higher ceiling/potential" play.

If I had to guess at least one, if not two of these players (or a player in a similar mold) will be on the roster for training camp.