When the clock strikes midnight on June 30th, the New Orleans Pelicans will have two big name free agents reach the market: Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
Despite several injuries and appearing in 47 games this past season, Eric Gordon was a fine shot creator, good at scoring from beyond the arc and totaling 15.2 points per game in all. The Pelicans should be able to replace a sizable portion of that production, but it remains to be seen whether the team will rely on Tyreke Evans, their 2016 first round draft pick or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Ryan Anderson came to New Orleans four seasons ago in a sign-and-trade for Gustavo Ayon. Since his arrival, Anderson has suffered hardships both on and off the floor, but he's remained a class act for the franchise through it all. Last season, he played in 66 games and finished with averages of 17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and a true shooting percentage of 54 percent.
I envision the Pelicans will attempt to re-sign Anderson, but entering free agency with a salary cap exceeding $90 million this offseason, New Orleans has a good chance of losing its best bench player. Anderson is a poor defensive player, but he has an impact on the glass, can create off the dribble, and can space the floor better than most. Those three abilities are expected to fetch a sizable payday for the eight-year veteran. Stan Van Gundy and the Detroit Pistons have already been attached to his name and there can be no doubt his hometown team, the Sacramento Kings, lies in wait as well.
If Anderson does move on in search of greener pastures, the Pelicans should set their sights on free agent forward Marvin Williams. Last season, he had a pretty odd year. Odd in the sense that Williams, pronounced as a bust early and often in his career, was really good. He averaged 11.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and knocked down 40 percent of his threes in 28 minutes per game. He also finished with a true shooting percentage of 58 percent , a three point attempt rate of 50 percent and a free throw attempt rate of 19 percent. Let's look below at all the players who reached those numbers last season:
I even cheated a bit, moving the shooting mark to just 55 percent. The point is Charlotte performed really well last season and while most of the credit is attributed to the arrivals of Jeremy Lin and Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams was a part of that success off the bench.
Along the same line of thinking with Gordon, the Pelicans won't replace all of Anderson's production on the offensive end next season with one player. However, I think New Orleans should opt to replace a sizable portion of Anderson's offensive value while receiving a clear upgrade on the defensive side of the ball. Williams could be that man. He was a part of the 9th best defense in Charlotte last year and was featured in some of their best defensive lineups.
And don't overlook Williams ability to make plays on the defensive end as the chart below suggests.
|Stats||Ryan Anderson||Marvin Williams|
Not to beat a dead horse, but all the statistics suggest that Williams is a better defender who makes more plays than Anderson. As a former athletic small forward, Williams has been able to evolve seamlessly with the league, taking his talents up a level to the power forward position. There, he's allowed to defend several small-ball fours, while being athletic enough to get past them, and now adds proficient three-point shooting to go along with it.
Don't ask Marvin Williams to produce the 18 points a night Anderson dropped in New Orleans; however, his ability to space the floor and defend make him a suitable replacement. Plus, as Williams enters his age-30 season, the Pelicans might be able to sign him slightly cheaper multi-year contract.
The Cauldron's Nate Duncan suggested on his most recent Dunc'd on Pod that Williams could be the recipient of a one-year deal worth $20 million if someone just wants the temporary shooting upgrade, but I envision something around $24-$26 million over two years. This would be great for the Pelicans, as it gives them the production without needing to break the bank or feel the pressure to invest in the downside of an NBA career.
On the hypothetical free agency board for the Pelicans, Williams ranks high on my list for his two-way ability and likely friendly contract number. What do you guys think?