The New Orleans Pelicans are going to make a playoff push. The Western Conference, normally an oak, with six or seven constant at the top of the conference, has finally turned the corner, opening the door for several teams at the bottom. At 18-28, the Pelicans are just three games out of the eighth seed in the West, currently held by the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pelicans, currently the 11th seed, sit behind Sacramento and Utah.
If the Pelicans are going to make a jump, they're going to need a trade. Something of a jolt for this rotation. With Quincy Pondexter out for the remainder of the regular season and Eric Gordon currently on the mend for the foreseeable future, the Pelicans are going to need someone on the perimeter who can provide some value. No disrespect to Bryce DeJean-Jones (who I like), Toney Douglas and Norris Cole, but that's not going to get it done.
I'm of the mind that the Pelicans don't need a massive, franchise-altering trade to make the playoffs. However, I do think they might have to give up a piece or two that they once considered core players. The obvious name in trade will be Alexis Ajinca. Big France was brought back on a decent contract, but with the Pelicans and their desire to push the pace, he's been a bit of a detriment and often seen taken bizarre long twos.
After Ajinca, we already know the Pelicans are interested in moving Eric Gordon's contract. Moving Gordon and possibly turning one big contracts into two smaller contracts would help New Orleans make that push in the second half of the season. Ryan Anderson is an expiring contract and while he'd be a nice fit next to AD long-term, I would move him right away and try to find the next Ryan Anderson for much cheaper.
I'd also move Tyreke Evans, but really, I have no clue who would trade for Evans at this point, not because he's bad, but because he has a nice, medium-sized contract while needing a role larger than that. Teams that need a slasher could inquire, but I don't see it.
And of course, we have to talk about the draft picks. The sweet nectar of potential pieces. The Pelicans already showed a propensity for moving draft picks in an effort to get better, so we have to, at least, consider the 2016 first round pick, 2017 first round pick and their second rounders - including their 2016 Denver second rounder and Philadelphia's 2017 second round pick.
Assuming that Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis are the untouchables, let's talk about what options the Pelicans should inquire about. For the sake of keeping it simple, I didn't include trades, just players they should target.
Robert Covington - PHI - I'm on record saying I don't want to move the 2016 first round pick, but if the Pelicans do decide to make that move, I think Covington would be an ideal candidate to give up the pick for. Covington is a good three-point shooter and provides the Pelicans with a solid defensive wing. At six-foot-nine, he can also dabble at the four. With two more years of team control for a combined $2 million, Covington would an excellent addition, albeit, an expensive one.
Brandon Knight - PHX - In Phoenix's massive blow up, perhaps the Pelicans aim higher and go for the troubled guard? Knight isn't a bad basketball player, yet, stuck in a bad spot. He's not good enough at operating an offense to be a full-time point guard, yet, not big enough and dynamic enough to play off the ball full-time. I feel like he'd be an excellent sixth man on a team like Toronto, you know? For the Pelicans, he'd certainly provide some value as a floor spacer and secondary ball-handler at times. However, his price tag might be out of New Orleans' range.
P.J. Tucker - PHX - The Suns are entering another phase in their basketball lives and it's time for them to turn pieces into assets. If that's the case, the Pelicans should look at swingman P.J. Tucker. I'm listing him first because he's probably the best get for the Pelicans if possible. Tucker can defend shooting guards and small forwards - albeit, not as good as he was doing when he arrived on the scene - while providing some floor spacing on offense. At $5.3 million owed for next season, Tucker, similar to Pondexter, could give them a cheap piece on the roster for at least the next year and a half.
Darrell Arthur - DEN - I like Darrell Arthur, too. Another slightly undersized big man who can space the floor, pass a little bit and has an additional year of control. The Nuggets are a fascinating team because they control the first round picks of Houston and Portland if they make the playoffs AND they have a roster full of young, intriguing players, so while DEN takes a step back and goes lottery bound, a call about Arthur to improve the bench depth isn't a bad call.
Jerryd Bayless - MIL - The Bucks, you guessed it, are on the outside looking in and probably move someone like Bayless. An expiring contract at the season's end, Bayless would give the Pelicans another ball-handler and shooter (41.4% on 4.5 attempts on a team with bad spacing) on the floor. Shouldn't cost too much in a trade and gives the Pelicans a much needed boost in the backcourt.
Nick Young - LAL - Sike.
Marco Belinelli - SAC - The Pelicans and Kings already had some trade discussions about Rudy Gay, but I would go back and call about Belinelli. Belinelli is averaging 10.7 points per game, but a woeful 51.2 True Shooting percentage - 38% from the floor is tough to stomach. Still, I would take a chance on Marco and see if he can have a bounceback in the second half.
Marvin Williams - CHA - I love Marvin Williams. He's going to be one of the free agents targets I list for the Pelicans this offseason. Why not attempt to acquire him now? If the Pelicans feel secure with BDJ, why not just add another big man to the fray? Williams is more of a small ball four these days, but he's doing it really well for Charlotte - 9.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 blocks and 36.5% shooting from beyond the arc. Gimme.
Hollis Thompson - PHI - If the Covington talks can't get off the ground, the Pelicans should, at least, inquire about Hollis Thompson. He's nothing special, but he might be a decent upgrade, in terms of swingman minutes. He isn't a great defensive player, but he can space the floor - hitting 39.8% on 201 attempts. Shouldn't cost too much for New Orleans to acquire, and gives them a long swingman who can hold down a rotation spot until Gordon returns.
Any other moves - big or small - you want to see the Pelicans inquire about?