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2016 Free Agency: Swinging for the fences by signing Christian Wood should come next for the Pelicans

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Time to shore up the depth on the front line. Why not go after a solid rebounding 20 year old with room to improve?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans were unable to trade away Tyreke Evans before their Tuesday deadline. Why they were unable to, is up to some debate. There are three possible reasons to explain Evans remaining on the Pelicans roster and unfortunately it is unlikely a real explanation will ever be delivered.

For Tyreke Evans' fans, it is clear that New Orleans could not get proper value in return for Evans or that Dell Demps was never serious about trading Evans for nothing. For his greatest detractors, Evans remains on the roster because potential deals required New Orleans to accept negative assets in return. Somewhere in between those two perspectives is the idea that Dell Demps was asking for too much and turned down decent although not spectacular potential transactions hunting for a better return. An example of this kind of behavior would be Ryan Anderson remaining on the team through the trade deadline then fetching $80 million in free agency.

An answer will not come. Dell Demps isn't going to discuss prior trade discussions or let the press into his thought process, that's not how this franchise functions. (That is not an endorsement of how this franchise functions.)

As I discussed days ago, with avenues for creating additional cap space exhausted Dell Demps turned to plan B; moving on from Luke Babbitt (via trade) and waiving the non-guaranteed contract of Toney Douglas. Those moves created enough cap space to sign all of the verbal agreements and gives a little cushion to sign Cheick Diallo and possibly a second free agent.

Cap Picture

Pos Age 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021
Anthony Davis PF/C 23 $22,116,750 $23,775,506 $25,434,263 $27,093,019 $28,751,775
Jrue Holiday PG 26 $11,286,518
Solomon Hill SF/PF 25 $11,241,218 $11,747,073 $12,252,928 $12,758,782
Tyreke Evans SG 27 $10,203,755
Omer Asik C 30 $9,904,494 $10,595,505 $11,286,516 $3,000,001
E'Twaun Moore PG/SG 27 $7,962,530 $8,320,844 $8,679,158 $9,037,472
Langston Galloway PG/SG 25 $4,890,000 $5,110,050
Alexis Ajinca C 28 $4,713,203 $5,036,798 $5,360,394
Quincy Pondexter SG/SF 28 $3,617,978 $3,853,931
Dante Cunningham SF/PF 29 $2,978,250 $3,106,500
Buddy Hield SG 23 $2,931,000 $3,062,900 $3,194,800 $4,051,006 $5,404,043
Cheick Diallo PF/C 20
Cap Space $2,297,304
Tim Frazier (Room Exception) PG 26 $2,000,000 $2,090,000
Total 25.92 $96,143,000 $76,699,107 $66,208,058 $55,940,280 $34,155,818
Salary Cap $94,143,000 $102,000,000 $108,000,000 $109,000,000 $114,000,000

Contracts in italics are my own updated estimates. All others from Basketball Insiders.

Depth Chart

Starter Reserve Deep Bench
PG Holiday Evans Frazier
SG Hield Moore Galloway
SF Hill Pondexter
PF Davis Cunningham
C Asik Ajinca Diallo

It becomes obvious looking at the depth chart that more big men are needed. Dante Cunningham, listed here as the reserve power forward, logged nearly 60% of his minutes at small forward last season. However, he was much better in his time at power forward. Cunningham averaged more points and rebounds per minute while posting a significantly higher (59.5% vs. 51.3%) true shooting percentage at power forward compared to small forward.

But, that comes with a caveat. Dante Cunningham is a terrible rebounder. Remember the Game 3 collapse against the Golden State Warriors when New Orleans could not gather a defensive rebound and surrendered a 20 point lead? Dante Cunningham at power forward. Ish Smith (5.4) and Tim Frazier (5.6) averaged more rebounds at point guard than Cunningham (4.5) pulled down per 36 minutes at power forward. An acceptable rate for a power forward is double that volume.

So, Dell Demps is going to go thrift store shopping again for a big man. He has whatever cap space he doesn't use to sign Cheick Diallo (so about $1.3 million?), the remainder of the room exception ($898k), and minimum contracts to offer a free agent. None of those values can be combined -- it is important to note. The largest contract Demps can offer is about $1.3 million after he signs Cheick Diallo. That's more than the minimum for players with six years or less experience in the NBA. Who should Demps target?

Keep developing young talent

Christian Wood has taken a unique path to the NBA. He left UNLV after his sophomore season and went undrafted. Then he got a short cup of coffee in the league (thank you Philadelphia 76ers) before going to work in the D-League. In 32 games with the Delaware 87ers, Wood averaged 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds a game while shooting 52.9% from the field and 70.7% at the foul line. While his shooting at the foul line gives some promise of eventual development, thus far he has yet to extend his range beyond the immediate area around the basket, as his shot chart from the D-League explains in detail.

Wood

On the plus side Christian Wood is just 20 years old. In six summer league games (the 76ers also played in the Utah summer league), Wood is averaging 15.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 17.7 minutes per game while shooting 56.4% from the field, 31.6% (6/19) from three, and 73% from the foul line. Wood has a massive frame: 6'10.5" in shoes with a 7'3.25" wingspan and 9'3.5" standing reach. He's already packing on the pounds and looks far thicker than the 216 pounds he weighed at the NBA combine.

Christian Wood, while playing for the Sixers summer league team, is also an unrestricted free agent. Even if Philadelphia wanted him on the roster, I cannot see how they would make room for another young big man with Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, and number one overall pick Ben Simmons all on rookie scale contracts already.

Is that the track Dell Demps will take? Probably not. Look for him to chase some "veteran voice" or NBA journeyman to add into the locker room replete with them already. But, after playing the entire summer safe why not swing for the fences and sign Christian Wood?