Now that the New Orleans Pelicans know where they will be picking in the NBA Draft, it is high time to dream up the best utilization of their various assets. Dell Demps has the 6th, 39th, and 40th picks on hand and a decent amount of salary cap space to make lopsided trades if the opportunity arises. As you can guess, given my penchant for building with the right date in mind (2018 for contention if you've forgotten), I would like to see the Pelicans acquire more draft assets, not less. In the process New Orleans can build a younger team that can grow around their superstar instead of desperately trying to skip steps.
Draft picks this year are incredibly valuable because it is expected that the rookie salary scale will increase with the upcoming CBA. This is as cheap as young talent is going to get. However, thanks to some teams having too many of those picks (and not enough roster space), it is possible that late first round picks are going to be on the market. The first step in my plan, as it was in February, is trading back in the draft.
Draft Night Trades and Picks
The Toronto Raptors have two first round picks, the 9th and 27th overall. I think a fair deal could be struck where the Pelicans send Masai Ujiri the 6th and 39th selections for those two picks. The possibility may increase if Jamal Murray, native to Canada, is available with the sixth pick. As a fan of Murray, it breaks my heart to possibly trade him away, but I have another prospect in mind with the ninth selection.
The second, more difficult trade, is sending Tyreke Evans to the Philadelphia 76ers with the 40th pick for the 26th selection. This gives the Sixers a bonafide NBA point guard to help their first overall selection along; important if they elect to pass on Ben Simmons for the less ball dominant Brandon Ingram. Is this trade a stretch? Probably. But that's why I'm calling a dream scenario! (Reality is coming, don't you worry.)
Now, on draft night the Pelicans select Denzel Valentine with the 9th pick, Dejounte Murray with the 26th pick, and Patrick McCaw with the 27th pick. Valentine (6'6", 210) and McCaw (6'7", 180) are both wings who can shoot and do some secondary distributing with the necessary length to defend at an NBA level. Murray (6'5", 170) is a huge, long point guard with a lot of developing to do but only about to turn 20 years old in September. New Orleans leaves draft night with three rookies in tow. Nice work!
I still think trying to extend Jrue Holiday now is a solid move for New Orleans. Locking in the core of this team makes sense and hopefully we'll witness this season that Holiday has put those leg problems behind him. Instead of having one year and $11.2M remaining on his contract, the Pelicans offer him a four year extension worth $89.6 million. Saying no to an additional $78.4 million would definitely give him something to think about.
Next up, and this hurts for me to write, but I suspect the Pelicans are going to go after Harrison Barnes. This is the only transaction in this scenario that I'm not completely sold on. However, Barnes is still very young (soon to turn 24) and has demonstrated the ability to work in an Alvin Gentry coached offense. The contract here is not technically his full max (four years, $92.7M) but should be close enough ($85.4M) to make the Golden State Warriors consider not matching.
As a bonus, the salaries of all three of the Pelicans hypothetical "big three" are in order of precedence within the franchise. Yes, that matters.
Doing all of this and re-signing Tim Frazier to his qualifying offer keeps the Pelicans below the salary cap but easily making the salary floor. (Hence the Holiday re-negotiate and extend offer.) In the process this roster grew signficantly younger. Three cheers for player development!
If the new CBA contains an amnesty clause, New Orleans (after using it on Omer Asik) could have Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Harrison Barnes, Alexis Ajinca, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Denzel Valentine, Dejounte Murray, Patrick McCaw, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and their own 2017 1st round pick under contract with over $25 million in cap space to use. The 2017 free agent class is absolutely bonkers and New Orleans could offer an excellent landing spot with a ready made team built for both growth and contention around a real superstar.
Do you smell that? It smells like hope. See how nice just a little patience could turn out?