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NBA Trade Scenario: Keeping the top three Pelicans, blowing the rest up

From Behind the Bar: A rebuild on the fly roster shaping plan

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We were most recently witness to a moral victory in a loss to the ClippersPelicans played hard on the road, down it’s superstar, and in an early tip off. All of these things are usually recipes for disaster. If Alvin Gentry had made a few smarter personnel decisions, we may have been able to remove the moral from that sentence — seriously, where was Ajinca in the waning minutes and in overtime?

That being said, Holiday and Evans were a pretty formidable tandem when playing against a quality backcourt. There’s been a lot of debate recently about who is better between the two players, but we all need to start agreeing that both are two of the top three players on our roster. Both are on great contracts going into the new CBA. Both can play together well. We should stop trying to ship one of them off, and keep our top three players together in what was likely Dell Demps plan upon trading for both of them anyway. Here’s a series of moves that could build off of those core three players while providing some cap flexibility in the offseason.

Move 1: Anderson and Denver’s 2016 2nd Round Pick for Miles and Hill

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Let me preface this with by admitting that I’m not an Anderson fan although I cheer for him every game. I cheer for every Pelican. I want him to succeed. However, I want him to stop taking terrible shots. I want him to move the ball. I want him to realize that if he is double or triple teamed that someone else is wide open. I want him to have more court awareness so that he doesn’t regularly get stripped from behind while holding the ball out like a loaf of bread.

That being said, Anderson has the ability to kill an opponent when he gets hot. He’s had enough hot streaks that his overall stats make him look like a solid contributor. He’s way too up-and-down for my liking, but sometimes stats can hide that. Anderson is also on an expiring deal and is said to be able to command around 18-million a year this offseason. There is no way the Pelicans should even consider paying him that much. It’s time to turn this asset into a longterm piece.

The Pacers are on the cusp of being a real contender. C.J. Miles has been a nice roleplayer for them on a really good contract, so it should take a decent haul to pry him from Indiana. By adding Anderson to their roster they can move Paul George back to his natural position at the three, and they don’t lose the spacing that Miles provided as both Anderson and Miles are shooting above average from three (Miles is slightly better at 38%). The Pacers can roll out a starting five of Hill, Ellis, George, Anderson and Mahinmi which is a very solid unit. They also get a very high pick in the 2nd round.

For the Pelicans, they get rid of a ball stopper that is going to walk in the offseason anyway. They arguably get worse in the short run which would lead to better lottery odds; however more importantly, they gain an actual player that can play the three and not be a liability — better yet, he’s on a very cap friendly deal. The Pelicans also get to sniff around Solomon Hill to see if he has anything provide long term.

Move 2: Omer Asik and our 2017 1st Round Pick to the Suns (and the ability to swap picks in 2016, but only if absolutely necessary) to Phoenix for Markieff Morris. Phoenix also sends Tyson Chandler to Washington for Nene’s Expiring Contract.

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It’s hard to stomach sending away another first round pick to dump Omer Asik, but we also get back a potentially solid contributor. Markieff Morris comes with baggage, but he also comes with a super good contract that the Suns conned him into taking so that he could play along and live with his twin brother.

When Morris isn’t hating life, he’s a good player. He’s a good defender (as noted by Zach Lowe in a recent podcast — he’s one of the few players that has had great success against Draymond Green). He’s an unselfish player, who has shown the ability to pass out of the post. He would give the Pelicans a true post-up guy at the four, which is something that we don’t currently have on the roster. He can slide to the three for stretches if you want to go big. He’s a decent shooter. He doesn’t take a lot of bad shots. The main problem with him is locker room and off the court issues. The locker room issues were mainly created when the Suns front office seemingly betrayed his trust in the aforementioned trade. The off the court incident is a bar fight. While these things aren’t to be taken lightly, they aren’t the worst things we’ve seen from professional athletes. Gentry knows him. Alvin was his coach his rookie year, and it is said that they have a good relationship. Any team that saves him from his misery in Phoenix will likely get great effort and behaviour out of him.

For the Suns they gain a future 1st while in an obvious rebuild mode. They can dump the offseason mistake of signing Chandler for Asik and rid themselves of Morris’ ire. Asik is really on a four year deal like Chandler since the final year is a team option. He’s younger and makes almost 4 million less per season. They can also swap draft positions with the Pelicans in the upcoming draft, which could be crucial for a rebuild — but both picks are surely in the lottery.

The Wizards can improve up front. The John Wall/Tyson Chandler pick and roll could work well for a couple of years until Chandler completely falls apart. Washington just needs to realize that Kevin Durant isn’t going anywhere — at least in this offseason — to make this move.

Move 3: Norris Cole and Philly’s 2017 2nd round pick to Houston for K.J. McDaniels

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The trade machine won’t allow me to trade Cole yet, but I’m absolutely dying too. As much as he helped us last season, he’s killing us this year. Still, Houston is continually looking for someone to play point for them. Cole has a history of being at least an average point guard who can be a good perimeter defender — an area Houston needs help in when Patrick Beverley invariable misses more time due to injury.

The Rockets also get some of the Ish Smith trade haul to be used in a future trade more than likely. They ship out the 3-year deal of a player they aren’t playing, for an expiring contract of a player that will get solid minutes. This impacts them immediately while also helping them have more space and a tradeable asset to chase a bigger fish during the upcoming offseason.

For the Pelicans, we get an athletic stud of a perimeter defender who is on a very good contract. McDaniels is not a great offensive player, but he can possibly become an adequate shooter with coaching. (Can't deny the Pelicans are reaping the rewards of the tedious work with Tyreke Evans.) He is a good scorer in transition, he has a highlight reel dunk package and chase down block footage that rivals the film Heat in length. He’ll certainly provide excitement and energy.

Move 4: The Pelicans trade Eric Gordon to Milwaukee for O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez and Miles Plumlee.

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I’m pretty confused by the 2015-16 Bucks. They were a fun team to watch last season before they traded away Brandon Knight and added Greg Monroe. Now they lack any sense of identity. They fell too much in love with positional flexibility — now no one knows what guy fits best where.

This move doesn’t necessarily fix that for them, but it dumps two players they don’t want or can’t play due to injury (Plumlee and Vasquez) and they gain some more scoring and facilitating. Every piece of this trade is on an expiring deal so it’s not much of a gamble to audition these new parts for the upcoming season. They can also be used in sign-and-trades or to maintain bird rights on players they are willing to go over the cap for next season if necessary.

This is probably a tougher sell to the Bucks than it is to the Pelicans. O.J. Mayo is known for being a good locker room guy, an above average three point shooter, a player who can produce even with low usage and pretty good secondary facilitator. It’s all of these things that make me want to add him to the Pelicans’ bench mob. Plumlee helps fill out the five rotation this year as we’ve already sent Asik to the Suns.

Move 5: Dante Cunningham to Charlotte for Brian Roberts

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This move is mainly about clearing roster space for newly acquired pieces as well as dumping a multi-year contract. Roberts can be added to the point guard rotation or waived for roster space. Cunningham could intrigue the Hornets with his defense. Dante did a great job against Lebron James earlier this year and Charlotte could find themselves matched up with the Cavs this postseason. At any rate, he’s a good athlete and a solid defender on a cap-friendly deal.

Analyzing the Roster/Future:

Before firing up the trade machine the Pelicans were $9,819,630 over the cap. After these moves that number is reduced to $6,595,805 over, keeping them in pretty good shape heading into the offseason. We would end up with too many players on the roster so Dell and Gentry would have to make some cuts. I’d waive Vasquez and Roberts to get to 15, but I wouldn’t argue with replacing either of those players with Hill, Douglas, Babbitt, Plumlee or Gee if you wanted more depth at the point (keep in mind Vasquez is injured so he can’t give us anything on the court right now).

If we do cut Vasquez and Roberts, the rotations could look something like this (I’m listing the guards as point and shooting, but when it comes to Holiday and Evans I view them as a dual point guard backcourt. I’m also including players that will likely play multiple positions at every position they’ll play):

PG: Holiday/Evans/Douglas

SG: Evans/Pondexter/Mayo/McDaniels

SF: Miles/Pondexter/Morris/McDaniels/Gee/Hill/Babbitt

PF: Davis/Morris/Ajinca/Babbitt

C: Ajinca/Davis/Perkins/Plumlee

With this roster the Pelicans enter 2016-17 with Holiday, Evans, Pondexter, McDaniels, Miles, Gee, Babbitt, Davis, Morris and Ajinca under contract. Solomon Hill has a team option in the offseason. Of the expirings I’d like to see Mayo return, leaving the Pelicans roster at 11, and then 12 with our 2016 1st round pick.

It isn’t a perfect roster, but it does fix many of our issues. We get better shooting from the SF spot — especially when Pondexter returns. Markieff Morris gives us a more willing passer who provides more toughness, defense and improved post play as our 6th man. O.J. Mayo brings more leadership and selflessness to the guard rotation. Ajinca improves the starting lineup offensively and we cut a lot of the money tied up in the five spot with the hopes of adding an even better player there in the offseason.

We also get to have a lottery pick this season to add another young piece. McDaniels is also a young player with a lot of potential that could turn into a very nice piece for us. I’m not 100% certain what our cap space would be after all of this heading into free agency, but I could see this being a roster that could at least tempt Hassan Whiteside into taking a little less than another team is offering in order to complete a solid starting five.