The Pelicans are currently 13-28 and even though the final playoff spot is a mere 4 games away, I'm looking towards some of the free agency needs and potential additions for the Pelicans. There are several things that New Orleans needs to address. Will Dell Demps continue to steer the ship, or is a new captain needed? Should the Pelicans look to move Omer Asik's contract? (That will probably have to include draft pick compensation.)
Another area that the Pelicans need to examine is the backcourt. The term "3-and-D" has been a popular one, signifying guards (or wing players in today's lexicon) who can provide positive value from beyond the arc and on the perimeter defensively. It's a staple on both elite teams, good teams and teams on the rise. Last week's injury to Quincy Pondexter hurt the Pelicans for this season, as he was the only real player on the roster who fit the 3-and-D moniker.
It also hurts for the long-term. Over the last three seasons, Pondexter has played just 90 games. He came to New Orleans scorching the earth, knocking down 43.3 percent of his 171 threes attempted in 45 games. That, plus some much-needed help on the perimeter defensively gave Pondexter a spot in the rotation. However, if you remove his New Orleans stint, Pondexter knocked down just 23.3 percent of his threes in Memphis and 32.4 percent before that.
The unknown of whether Pondexter can A) stay healthy and B) do it over a larger sample with a larger amount of shots is worrisome. It's the reason why I think New Orleans will need to add two additional wings.
This doesn't mean New Orleans should get rid of Pondexter. He's on an excellent contract and in the event he does return healthy, he provides a solid wing player who can do things other players on the roster cannot. He's great without the ball on offense, often working for a shot near the rim, as well as readily available for catch-and-shoot plays. I also want to see a Jrue Holiday/Quincy Pondexter duo, as the combination of length could give an opposing backcourt some trouble.
Free agency offers a handful of options for New Orleans to consider -- both high priced and affordable -- but let's start with the ideal fit for New Orleans. After a down season and subsequent trade from the West to the East, Nicolas Batum turned the 2015-16 season into a renaissance for the Frenchmen. Batum is currently averaging 15.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists and ranks fifth among all shooting guards in ESPN's real plus-minus statistic. His ability to defend multiple positions, space the floor and distribute would be an excellent fit for New Orleans, as well as the rest of the league.
The bad news? Batum is going to get the max.
Two other players that make sense, Courtney Lee and Kent Bazemore, could also be enticing options for the Pelicans. Lee is 30 and might have a few good years of effectiveness remaining. Still, I think for New Orleans, he'd be a slight upgrade for New Orleans in Eric Gordon's absence, which would allow them to keep a floor spacer at the shooting guard position while developing another. As for Bazemore, he's a pet project for me. He's young (27 entering the 2016-17 season), he's gotten better each year and he would provide some ball-handling at the wing spot as well. He might be the guy to get a tad overpaid, but I think he'd be worth it.
There's also an undercurrent of guys who could be potential gems in the free agency class, too. Two Portland guys, Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless, have to be options. Crabbe has taken a step forward this season on the offensive end, averaging 11.2 points and knocking down 38.5 percent of his threes. Harkless, on the other hand, seems like someone looking for the right fit. He was buried in Orlando before a trade to Portland, but with another offseason acquisition in Al-Farouq Aminu already in place and producing, Harkless seems redundant.
And with three draft picks in this draft class, the Pelicans can explore this route with a pick or two. Michigan State's Denzel Valentine and Baylor's Tauren Prince fit the description in the first round while some long, undeveloped shooters (Florida's Devin Robinson, North Carolina's Justin Jackson and St. Joseph's DeAndre Bembry) loom if they want to go the development route.
Either way, whatever the plan is laid out for this offseason, adding at least one capable two-way wing player and another solid prospect in that regard, has to be in play. A combination of, say, Bazemore and Jackson, plus the return of Pondexter, would give Erman a couple long-limbed wing players who could immensely improve the defense on the perimeter, an area in need after reading Fish's morning article.