As a third quarter meltdown in Toronto gives way to an overtime heartbreaker on a ridiculously tough Kyle Lowry jumper over a perfectly positioned Solomon Hill, our noses dip below the waves of short-term positive thinking and our lungs fill with the salty sad reality that the Pelicans are a capsized ship. We thrash furiously through the murky water looking for anything to cling to. Anything to offer hope for the future. We start to cut weight to more easily tread at sea level and at least achieve some sense of mediocrity. A chance to survive. A hope for a better life.
I have already thrown out one lifeline to Dell Demps — that his fake Twitter account at least seems to be onboard with — by cashing in the two biggest trade assets in New Orleans: Jrue Holiday and the 2017 1st round pick.
In my opinion, and in Kevin Pelton’s as Oleh noted recently, Tim Frazier is likely the next best asset. I’m a big believer in Tim Frazier, as I exclaimed in my season preview, but if the team is intent on bringing Holiday back, Frazier can be used to help offset other probable losses. Frazier gets beat on for his defense (even I’m guilty of it), but really his technique and awareness aren’t the problem as he’s a more heady defender than he gets credit for. He’s just too small. Frazier gets destroyed on screens, and cannot switch onto bigger players — a big component of Erman’s defense.
However, this league is desperate for playmakers — ask LeBron James — and that is what Frazier brings in unlimited soup, salad and breadstick promotions. He’s also on a great contract that has him making only $2 million next season. That contract and his elite playmaking skills can be used to fetch draft picks from teams with large salaries without taking any bad contracts back, or to dump some of our own bad contracts to grab some players that are under contract for multiple seasons that could help.
Here’s a few ideas.
Same Corner, New Boy
The Pelicans send Tim Frazier, Quincy Pondexter and the worst of their 2nd round picks to the Pistons for Marcus Morris.
Why New Orleans Does It:
As Oleh explained earlier this week, it is very likely that we will lose one or both of Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. Dante Cunningham also has a player option this offseason that he will likely decline as he can surely fetch more than the $3 million he is set to make now that he’s proven to be a solid three point shooter. This leaves the Pelicans with the tragic reserve big situation we’ve all known and loathed — Alexis Ajinca and Omer Asik. Cheick Diallo offers us hope for the future, but we still need another quality player to slot next to Anthony Davis.
Marcus Morris is in that same tweener mold as Dante though he is an inch taller and just slightly bulkier. He’s not the defender that Cunningham can be when DC is on his game, but if he isn’t a better offensive player he’s at least a more aggressive offensive player — Morris takes 8.5 more attempts per 100 possessions. This has him resembling Terrence Jones in his aggressiveness, but Morris is a much better 3-point shooter than Jones. For the season, Morris is just below average (32.6%) from deep, but in his three previous seasons he has shot at or over 36%, and he is a blazing 45.9% from the corner this year.
Morris can carry the Cunningham torch in the, “Corner Boys” smallball Davis/Cunningham/Hill lineup that has looked serviceable this year for seasons to come, or at least until Diallo is ready for a large role. He’s on a great contract that tops out at just under $5.4 million in 2018-19. Filling the PF spot with that kind of salary may make it possible to retain either D-Mo or Jones, creating a pretty nice big man rotation. This also opens up a roster spot in case the Pelicans want to bring Lance Stephenson back, or take a flyer on a D-Leaguer.
Why Detroit Does It:
I’ve noticed a common theme among the the Pistons’ writers I follow: a thirst for playmaking. Reggie Jackson is a solid starting point guard, but he isn’t a dynamic playmaker. Ish Smith has been a shadow of his New Orleans/Philadelphia season self. They need a player with a create-first mentality to help set up the glut of guys who can’t create for themselves. Tim Frazier is not only a dynamic passer with great court vision, he also embraces his role as a setup man. With Jackson signed through 2019-20 and Smith through 2018-19 it may seem like too many point guards, but I could see Frazier and Jackson playing together for stretches and with his contract being so minimal it would be worth seeing if this improves their cellar dwelling offense.
The Pistons would also receive the medical question mark of Quincy Pondexter who may have to retire or could possibly bounce back and become that valuable 3 and D wing that provided some extra playmaking for the Pelicans in their lone playoff run. If not, his contract is friendly enough that they can keep him around for his locker room presence or waive him with very little dead money on their cap. And while I’m certain there is a faction of Pistons’ fans and management that value Morris for all of the reasons I listed above, they do have a lot of guys that can take his minutes and that second round pick can be useful for further roster shaping.
3rd Wheels to the Ground
The Pelicans get in on the Carmelo Anthony to the Clippers trade and come away with additional ex-Rockets insurance. Tim Frazier goes to the Clippers, Pondexter goes to the Knicks with our worst 2nd round pick. The Knicks get Rivers, Redick and other filler and whatever other picks they need from LA and we all hope they both fail miserably thereafter.
Why New Orleans Does It:
This move is all about restocking the bigs for next season. Kyle O’Quinn did little to endear himself to Pelicans’ fans with his recent hard foul on Anthony Davis, but he’s a player I’ve long coveted. He would allow Davis to play the four more often, and he would certainly sure up the Pelicans’ rebounding woes; this season he is posting a very good 20.1 TRB% with a strong 26 DRB%.
Additionally, O’Quinn finishes well around the rim, but can also hit the mid-range jumper — he’s currently shooting 46% from outside of 16’. He’s gritty and a decent defender, posting a 3.3 Defensive Box Plus/Minus on a pretty bad Knicks’ team. O’Quinn is also a nice playmaker out of the post. His assist percentages over the last couple of years are pretty similar to noted playmaking big man Andrew Bogut — though I’m sure Bogut comparisons won’t sell you on a player following that Dell/Gentry snake oil charade with Asik.
Marreese Speights would have been a great addition to this team this offseason. He’s nasty like that Millie Jackson “Back to the S--t!” album cover or a Peaches’ lyrics sheet. He’s the enforcer and screen-setter this team needs, but he can also space the floor for AD and our bevy of guards to operate in with his 40.2% from deep shooting. Like Cunningham, Speights has a player option on a contract that he will definitely hit the eject button on, which would leave the Pelicans without his bird rights. However, like with the Pistons’ trade scenario earlier, O’Quinn’s contract is such that it can allow one of these three non-bird bigs to probably re-sign. Three chances to strike out are better than two I suppose.
Why Everyone Else Does It:
Seeing as we are third wheeling here, there isn’t much to go over. Everyone knows why the Clippers want Melo and why the Knicks have to send him there. In this move Doc loses his son to a fake hippy stepdad, but he replaces him with a cheap playmaker to fill in when CP breaks down or just needs rest. New York gets an additional pick from us and salary filler to go along with whatever compensation they have already worked out with the Clippers. Then we all get to watch the world burn.
The Pelicans send Langston Galloway, Alexis Ajinca, Tim Frazier and 2 second round picks and a pick swap option in the first round of the 2017 draft to the Magic for Serge Ibaka.
Why New Orleans Does It:
Because Dell Demps thinks he is getting fired.
This is a very big gamble as Ibaka was once a very good player, but he’s not been that guy the last couple of seasons. However, like Marlo Stanfield, his name still rings out. He could be that big fish Dell needs to hook to save himself. And look, Serge could possibly return to form — and it isn’t like he’s bad now, it’s just that his branding makes him seem better than he’s played.
Ibaka was once the league’s premier shot-blocking machine. He averages 2.4 blocks a game over his career, but in 2011-12 he sent back 3.7 per contest. That’s dwindled down to 1.6 this season, but on reputation alone and playing alongside Anthony Davis, he can surely make drivers hesitant to challenge him at the rim.
I haven’t watched many Magic games this season, but Serge has shown that he has a solid post game and that an offense can run through him for stretches. His numbers show that he’s still an effective scorer inside and remains solid in the mid-range all the way out past the three-point arc where he is converting 38.4%.
My main concern with Serge, outside of his seemingly downward sloping defensive impact, is that he isn’t a great rebounder. At his size to go along with his athleticism, Ibaka should be posting a TRB% that is considerably higher than his current 12.4%. This signing is also a gamble because you are giving away two 2nd round picks and potentially falling back in the draft for a player that could decide to sign elsewhere in the coming offseason. However, the Pelicans would have his bird rights and the scary ability to quite possibly overpay a declining player. Still, if Ibaka is onboard and Jrue is retained having a core of Davis, Holiday and Ibaka with solid role players like Moore and Hill and a potentially lethal scorer in Hield might not be a bad base to jump from.
The Pelicans also shed Ajinca’s contract in this move which is an added bonus though it probably cost us one of those 2nd rounders to do so.
Why Orlando Does It:
The Magic have to trade Ibaka because he’s not going to stay in Orlando past his contract and they need to fix the blunder of giving away Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Additionally, they don’t seem sold on Elfrid Payton, and DJ Augustin and CJ Watson are below average playmakers. Orlando’s offense sits just above Philly and an old shoe and some dirty diapers floating in mystery moisture in efficiency. Some of this is due to Evan Fournier’s injuries, but it mostly has to do with a roster that can’t score and lacks playmakers to ease that burden. Frazier can be that creator, and Galloway can be the shooter they need to climb their way out of the sewers. They also get to potentially improve their draft position and gain a couple of picks to sweeten deals or add more youth.
Finding the Hot Hand
The Pelicans send Tim Frazier and a 2nd round pick to the Jazz for Trey Lyles.
Why New Orleans Does It:
In case you didn’t read my first trade proposal of the season, I’m a big believer in Trey Lyles being a very good scoring power forward option for the Pelicans. Here’s some of my take from that piece:
Lyles has great size at 6’-10” and 235 lbs, with a near 7’-4” wingspan and a 9’ standing reach. He’s also only 21 years-old and owed under $3m over the next two years with a team option in 2018/19 for just over $3m. At this point in his career Lyles is purely an offensive player at the four. His lack of lateral quickness has limited his effectiveness on that end. However, in a rotation with Anthony Davis, Donatas Motiejunas, Cheick Diallo and even Omer Asik (and being teamed up with solid perimeter defenders like Hill, Galloway and Moore) he should have help picking up the slack. While Lyles is relatively slow and not particularly explosive, he does run with a fluid stride and shows very good footwork on the offensive end, which can perhaps be developed into some defensive footwork tools improving his ability to stay in front of his man in isolation defense where he can then use his reach to clog passing lanes and defend jumpers.
There’s no guarantee that Trey can be a great three point shooter, but he has a jumper that has potential to make him a very serviceable stretch four. His shot has good form and a high release point and despite being dreadful from deep in his lone year of college — hitting just 4 of 39 attempts for 13.8% — he converted 49 of 128 attempts for 38.3% and 44.3% from the corner in his rookie season. This year his outside shooting has dropped to 33.3%, but he has already converting on 45 attempts. With the drastic increase in number of attempts, we have a better picture of what to expect from him going forward.
However, Lyles isn’t just potentially a stretch — he is a very good post player with an array of moves and soft touch around the rim. He also has a good face-up game and has shown high offensive IQ with his off ball cuts and passing out of the post. Lyles also sets solid screens for teammates, which is a severely lacking skill on the current Pelicans roster. While Lyles is lacking foot speed he does have a nice handle for a big man, which he uses well attacking his man off the dribble effectively whether going left or right. He has some nice spin-moves in his toolbox and has great touch on floaters and layups at the rim. He’s also shooting just under 80% from the line this season. In short, Trey has the offensive game that Terrence Jones thinks that he has.
Why Utah Does It:
Utah is a media darling team right now, and for good reason. They are well coached and have a nice collection of players that can fill multiple roles and also step up when a teammate goes down. However, when George Hill goes down or needs a breather, they are relying on Shelvin Mack, Dante Exum and Raul Neto the run the offense. That isn’t ideal. Also, you must consider that Hill and Mack become free agents this offseason as does Gordon Hayward if he exercises his player option as is expected. Hayward will likely fetch the max and with Rudy Gobert’s extension kicking in at $21+ million next season the Jazz may suddenly find themselves digging for change. Tim Frazier helps them immediately this season, providing playmaking on their second unit, but he could also step into the starting role on an incredible deal if the Jazz decide they can’t afford both Hayward and Hill. The Jazz also get a 2nd round pick to sweeten the deal.
Appeasing the King
The Pelicans send Tim Frazier and Alexis Ajinca to the Cavaliers for Channing Frye.
Why New Orleans Does It:
Alvin Gentry is always trying to fit someone into that Channing Frye role, who better than the actual Channing Frye? Also, New Orleans gets to shed Ajinca’s contract in the process while keeping a quality locker room veteran — that also happens to be shooting 42.5% from deep — on the roster for at least another year, offering some protection against possible departures by Cunningham, Jones and Motiejunas.
Why Cleveland Does it:
LeBron has publicly declared with expletives their need for a playmaker off of the bench. While they are currently fielding a who’s who of washed up playmakers — with the exception of LBJ nemesis Lance Stephenson who is not washed up — none of those options offer the playmaking ability that Tim Frazier does. Losing Frye will hurt them, but Ajinca can score and they still have LeBron, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Chris Anderson available to get bigman minutes. They also still have shooters to pick up the slack.