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Danger of doing nothing at the trade deadline for the Pelicans is great

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Not trading is also a choice. For the Pelicans and basketball in New Orleans, it could have dire consequences.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon have all been floating in trade rumors for the past two months. It all began in December when interest in a possible Anderson trade for Markieff Morris was reported. Then the New Orleans Pelicans were tied to Sacramento Kings forward Rudy GayDell Demps reportedly offered Eric Gordon and Alonzo Gee for Rudy Gay. Sacramento asked for Anderson for Rudy Gay, and that was also declined. Most recently, the Pelicans are listening to offers for Tyreke Evans.

If you read in-between the lines of what Dell Demps and Alvin Gentry have said regarding Ryan Anderson it feels like Ryno is going to be in the Crescent City beyond this season. In an interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, it sounds like Gentry really wants to keep Anderson around.

Yeah, but (he is consistently mentioned privately to reporters) by the other teams. Not by us, though. It's always the other team. We like Ryan on our team. He and AD really complement each other. He's playing some really good basketball for us. I wouldn't take a (complete) look at his numbers, because now everybody gameplans for him and he doesn't get all the shots that he used to get. But he's been playing good basketball for us, has been a good rebounder. We like him. Our guys like him on our team. And as I said, we have not made one (trade) call about him, but we've got a ton of calls that have come in about him.

Reportedly, the Pelicans have made offers of Eric Gordon, are gauging interest in Tyreke Evans, and a whole bunch of teams seemingly want Ryan Anderson. New Orleans likes Anderson; both Gentry and Demps have made comments that sound like the Pelicans want to keep Anderson on the roster beyond this season. Gordon appears to be expendable, but his injury makes trading him unlikely to return value. Evans might be on the market, or at least other teams might be calling about his availability.

Sounds to me like New Orleans is going to stand pat. Gordon probably won't be traded. Evans might be but I doubt it considering his recent troubles with a reoccurring knee injury. Anderson is going to be pushed hard to re-sign.

Bleak outlook

Let's imagine a world where the Pelicans scratch and claw their way into the playoffs and the eighth seed. They are summarily swept off the plane of basketball existence by the Golden State Warriors. But hey, they're a playoff team and so they can go into this new exploding cap with "playoff team" branded upon their chest to draw in free agents, right?

Pos Age 2016-2017
Anthony Davis PF/C 23 $24,970,000
Ryan Anderson (Cap Hold) PF 28 $12,750,000
Jrue Holiday PG 26 $11,286,518
Tyreke Evans SG 27 $10,203,755
Omer Asik C 30 $9,904,494
Alexis Ajinca C 28 $4,713,203
Quincy Pondexter SG/SF 28 $3,617,978
Dante Cunningham SF/PF 29 $2,978,250
2016 1st Round Pick (#15) $1,656,200
Cap Hold (x2) $1,086,942
Free Agent X (2016) $5,832,660
Room Exception $2,898,000
Total 28.00 $91,898,000
Salary Cap $89,000,000

Nope.

If the Pelicans try to create the largest possible amount of cap space by waiving the unguaranteed contracts of Luke Babbitt and Toney Douglas, get lucky with Alonzo Gee opting out of his player option, and renounce their Bird Rights to Eric Gordon they have a grand total of $5.8 million in cap space. That's it. A glorified mid-level exception when nearly the entire league has maximum space available.

$5.8 million isn't paying for a starter in this league next summer. It might pay for a glorified 8th or 9th man, more than likely, a project that has flamed out elsewhere. $5.8 million is loose change in a sofa in July 2016. At best.

That's not improving the Pelicans. There isn't even hope in that plan -- it is a bridge to nowhere and a probable ticket out of NOLA for Anthony Davis by 2020.

But it gets worse! Imagine this team does meander in the woods of NBA mediocrity until Anthony Davis is traded away or departs in free agency. Does the fan base have the stomach for tanking again in 2020? What about the franchise staying in New Orleans after the lease is up in 2024? Rebuilds take time and if the Pelicans have to press reset four years from now that might mark the end of the NBA in New Orleans, full stop. Ask Seattle what it's like to see the franchise draft two superstars while tanking only to be moved when the team takes flight.

Durant

Westbrook

Those images are not photoshopped at all. Two of the top five players in the league were drafted by the Seattle Supersonics, who no longer exist. Tom Benson will be in his 90's by 2020 so who knows who the owner will be by that time. Gayle Benson or Rita LeBlanc could look to cash out after Mr. Benson passes away. That new owner isn't going to be in New Orleans and the Smoothie King Center will be 21 years old.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect these dots. The Pelicans must begin building now to have a team that keeps Anthony Davis in a Pelicans uniform beyond his contract extension. Failure to do so might spell the end of the NBA in Louisiana.