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New Orleans Pelicans should look into signing Ray McCallum

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McCallum could be the low-risk, medium-reward type of signing that Dell is famous for making.

McCallum can be a low-risk, high-reward option for the Pelicans
McCallum can be a low-risk, high-reward option for the Pelicans
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Ray McCallum will be sitting on waivers sometime within the next 24 hours.

He was brought into the Spurs organization back in the offseason for nothing more than a 2016 secound round pick (which will probably slot into the 59th pick). It was almost universally called an excellent move by the Spurs because they had just lost Cory Joseph (a great bench option for Pop) and gained a replacement project without breaking the bank.

Fast forward 7 months later and the Spurs are waiving him for grandpa Andre Miller. Apparently, they don't think they have enough "grandpas" on their side.

For whatever the reason for the Spurs waiving McCallum, I think the Pelicans should claim McCallum off the waivers because he's the type of move that Dell's had a lot of success in the past. McCallum's RFA status (if claimed off the waivers) only adds more reason for Demps to jump in the pool and claim him.

McCallum is a 6'2" "point" guard who's actually better classified at this point as a wing player. He's played almost exclusively as a point guard (83% of his minutes over 3 seasons are as a PG, per Basketball Reference), but he's never been much of a facilitator. His adjusted assist to pass percentage (percentage of his passes that become assists, secondary assists or free throw assists) is well within "combo" guard territory:

Name GP MPG Passes/Game Adjusted Ast-Pass%
Ray McCallum 31 8.3 15.3 9.9
JR Smith 54 30.6 23.1 9.9
Patty Mills 59 20.4 37.1 9.9
Jeremy Lamb 48 20.3 19.2 10.0
E'Twaun Moore 46 20.3 21.5 10.1
Kemba Walker 57 36.1 68.7 10.1
JJ Redick 54 28.5 20.4 10.2
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 55 36.6 23.5 10.3
Rodney Hood 56 31.7 37.4 10.4

Those are all combo guards (including Kemba and Patty Mills) and are better suited playing off other player's penetration rather than being the main (or secondary) creator. He's been a complete disappointment for the Spurs organization that's known for their incredibly effective 'royal jelly'. From Pounding the Rock:

To me this move says less about Miller and more about McCallum. Sure, he's hardly played at all, and his opportunities have been sporadic, but he hasn't impressed at all in what few chances he's gotten. The former King hasn't shot it well from two or three, he didn't show much play-making chops, and his defense hasn't been as good as advertised. His advanced numbers were good in the three games he started in Parker's stead, but it sure seemed like PATFO found those performances lacking. They started Mills two of the past three games Parker missed, and that was something they clearly prefer not to do. The Wee Frenchman missed 28 games combined the past two seasons, and Mills started twice in 2013-14 and never last year.

That may well be true (considering they've probably watched more McCallum games than we do), but projects like McCallum rarely pan out in their first year. The Peli-Hornets have experience with this. Jason Smith, who before his career in New Orleans was practically a bench warmer, became a good backup center during and after his stint in the Big Easy.

The same can be said for Marco Belinelli, Greivis Vasquez, Gustavo Ayon, Brian Roberts and Alexis Ajinca. All of them were disappointments/nobodies before they became good/adequate role players in New Orleans.

Player Age (Acquisition) GP (Pre-NOLA) GP (Post-NOLA) MP (Pre) MP (Post) PER (Pre) PER (Post)
Jason Smith 24 132 332 13.4 18.9 10.7 13.4
Marco Belinelli 24 141 416 15.9 25.5 11.8 12
Greivis Vasquez 25 70 321 12.3 26.5 9.4 14.3
Gustavo Ayon 26 NA 135 NA 16.7 NA 14.7
Brian Roberts 27 NA 254 NA 18.3 NA 13.4
Alexis Ajinca 25 71 170 7.8 14.6 10.2 16.4
Ray McCallum 24 144 NA 18.0 NA 11.3 NA

[Note: Ayon is no longer playing in the NBA]

All of the players listed above eventually became good role players on other teams after leaving New Orleans. The Pelicans may not know if their development strategy for rookies work, considering most of the rookies the Pels have had in the Demps era, with Davis as the lone exception, were duds. But one thing they do know is that they know how to claim small reclamation projects. Considering Ray McCallum is one year removed from his best (albeit below average) season in Sacramento, his age (24), his salary (possible RFA rights if taken with the minimum deal) and the fact that the Spurs --THE SPURS -- liked him so much that they'd trade a future Ginobili (59th pick) for him gives me hope that McCallum still has a good NBA future ahead of him. With the Pelicans season hanging in the balance and the trade deadline being in the rear view mirror, they would be wise to take a low-risk, medium-reward opportunity or two.

The bigger question is -- who do the Pelicans let go? The Pelicans have a full roster (15 players). While they do have the Disabled Player Exception (according to @EricPincus and the fabulous Basketball Insiders page) that exception provides salary space, not roster space. An excerpt from Larry Coon's CBA FAQ:

This exception allows a team which is over the cap to replace a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season (it can also be granted in the event of a player's death). This exception is granted by the league, based on an application from the team and a determination by an NBA-designated physician that the player is substantially more likely than not to be unable to play through the following June 15.


Teams can apply for this exception from July 1 through January 15, and cannot apply after January 15. Once granted, the exception expires when a player is acquired, when the disabled player is traded or returns to the team, or on March 10 of that season, whichever comes first. This exception is granted on a season-by-season basis -- if the player will also be out the following season, the team needs to apply for this exception again the following season.

Which means -- who should the Pelicans waive?

Gentry is too in love with Cole to let him go, Babbitt is a cheap insurance policy in case Anderson leaves (well, until his hair grows back, at least). Ditto for Gee. Perk is too integral to the culture that they're building in NOLA and BDJ just signed a new contract.

Some have suggested Eric Gordon. That would allow him to sign with a contender but with what the front office and the players on the team have consistently said, this team isn't outright tanking and waiving Gordon would be a clear signal for that.

If the Pelicans ever do explore this option, my money is on Toney Douglas. I really do hope the Pelicans sign McCallum as he's a low-risk investment that could turn into a great investment (ala Ajinca) down the line. The Pelicans may not have the royal jelly quite like the Spurs, but their history dictates they aren't slouches in salvaging player's NBA career (the presence of a well-respected guard development coach in Robert Pack and another respected development coach in Darren Erman certainly help).