Though the New Orleans Pelicans finished with a mediocre 30-52 record, there is always hope for a brighter tomorrow with Anthony Davis on the roster. However, chances are his job would be significantly easier were he not weighted down by several teammates. One such player standing front and center is Omer Asik.
Now that the NBA season has crowned a champion, it is officially the start of the off-season for all 30 teams. All locker rooms outside of Cleveland will look to improve on their recent campaigns in hopes of challenging the Cavaliers starting next October.
The Pelicans are surely looking forward to the NBA Draft later today after being awarded the sixth overall pick in last month's lottery. This could be the first time since 2012 that New Orleans decides to hold onto their first round pick. However, remember that it will all boil down to notorious dealer Dell Demps and what he has in mind -- in possibly his final off-season as the Pelicans general manager.
Let's take a look at how tonight's draft may go down:
- Demps holds onto the pick seeing as it will more than likely lead to Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray or Kris Dunn ending up on the roster and developing as a potential running mate with Davis.
- Demps does what he has done quite a few times in the past and trades the Pelicans' pick for a young veteran who possesses the requisite experience.
- Demps uses the pick as a way to rid the team of Omer Asik's contract.
Personally, I don't see either Hield or Dunn falling down to six; I believe the Celtics will take Hield third and the Timberwolves will draft Dunn fifth overall. The front office will pass on Murray because he isn't a good fit in New Orleans.
So if Hield and Dunn are off the board and barring an unknown draft day trade for a solid, young player that I approve of, I think the best course of action is for Demps to send out Asik and the sixth overall pick for a 2016-17 first round draft pick.
Though this may seem as yet another instance of Demps overlooking the benefits of adding rookie contracts to the roster, under these circumstances the Pelicans miss out on the two most favorable prospects anyways, they shed an atrocious contract, and instead of getting another overpaid, mediocre player they land an additional chance in next year's draft, supposedly a very good class.
Indulge me if you will, and let's say that I correctly predicted the first five picks in the draft and the Pelicans trade the sixth overall pick and Asik for a 2017 first rounder. That would clear up $9,904,494 in cap space as well as save roughly $3M that would have been spent on New Orleans draft pick. This comes after Davis missed out on an additional $4-5M this upcoming season, the NBA salary cap projection went up another $2M (to $94M), and tragically a player I looked forward to seeing develop, Bryce Dejean-Jones, passed away. Assuming that the Pelicans decline team options on Toney Douglas and Luke Babbitt, and Alonzo Gee declines his player option (seeing the salary cap jump and his value therefore rise) the Pelicans will have $53,632,189 in guaranteed contracts (Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca, Quincy Pondexter, and Dante Cunningham) or ~$40M in cap space.
Though $40M is an exciting amount of money, my hopes are not as high as my brother, who gave me the idea of the Asik trade above, and hopes the Pelicans sit on some of that money, develop their roster, and then attempt to sign Russell Westbrook next summer!
My hopes go as high as signing Hassan Whiteside, and although I doubt the occurrence of that as well, it's worth a shot. As I have said before, Jeff Green is the most legitimate option the Pelicans have at signing a small forward. Lo and behold, it might not be such a bad idea considering the hustle stats Oleh pointed out from the 2016 postseason. If the Pelicans can land Green at a reasonable $12-15M, that would leave the front office with over $25M. This remaining sum could be appropriated towards a max deal for a certain Miami Heat center, especially if Pat Riley decides to spend his money elsewhere.
If Whiteside is a no-go, the Pelicans could address another big area of need -- competent wingmen. As David recently said, we need a wing who can shoot, play defense, and add some much-needed experience to this roster. If we could land Jared Dudley for $7-10M, then I'm all in. Even after that, the Pelicans would still have ~$16.5M which could be put towards signing players like Evan Fournier, Allen Crabbe, resigning Ryan Anderson, etc. while maintaining next off-season's cap space. This scenario does not even include the possibility of the Pelicans moving on from Alexis Ajinca and/or Tyreke Evans -- which I believe is more than likely and could entail a return of an additional draft pick next off-season.
What do you think of my hypothetical off-season for the Pelicans? Should Demps stick with the draft pick even if Dunn and Hield are off the board? If Asik is moved who should be the big man signed/drafted to play alongside Anthony Davis? What free agents would you like to see the Pelicans sign? Let us know what you think in the comments and poll below!