The New Orleans Pelicans have been linked to a number of trade rumors over the past week or so, namely for Jahlil Okafor or Brook Lopez, yet there potentially sits a much more appealing offensive-minded starting center on the market in my opinion: Nikola Vucevic.
After the Orlando Magic signed Bismack Biyombo and traded for Serge Ibaka during the last off-season, the writing has seemingly been on the wall for months regarding Vucevic’s future, but today’s trade of Ibaka to the Toronto Raptors for Terrence Ross and a future draft pick may signal Rob Henigan is ready to slam down his gavel a few more times and sell off the rest of his unwanted pieces.
Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask, but if Vucevic is still available, the Pelicans need to pounce with a legitimate offer because he would represent the best option at center.
I’m sorry, but Okafor looks like a ticking time bomb — either he winds up being as large of a disappointment as all the models predict, or worse, the shady Philly front office unloads their second injury-just-waiting-to-happen player and his knee explodes inside Dell Demps’ office.
Brook Lopez, while a more appealing target based on production, is simply too expensive for smart shoppers. The Brooklyn Nets have stated repeatedly that they will not deal Lopez for anything less than a couple of first round picks.
The Nets, as ESPN.com reported in late December, continue to demand two first-round draft picks if they are to part with center Brook Lopez before the deadline.
That’s just too high of a price to pay for a 29-year-old center who has had multiple foot issues in the past, especially for a buyer that is far from being a deep perennial playoff contender. The Pelicans simply cannot allow themselves to go down a path of mortgaging too much of the future on a player of Lopez’s caliber and history.
Enter Vucevic, perhaps the only logical choice.
It’s old news that Anthony Davis covets the power forward position and the front office has been looking to appease the superstar by dealing for a center the isn’t nearly as large of a liability on the floor as the current cast. Thanks to AD’s skillset, the ideal candidate doesn’t need to be a highly sought after two-way player — hence one of the major reasons for pursuing Okafor. He only would have to be able to hold his own offensively and offer another certifiable characteristic; in Vucevic’s case that would be rebounding, with the added bonus of a real passing touch.
Nikola’s defensive rebounding percentage currently ranks 7th among all NBA players who have appeared in 750 or more minutes this season, and he’s fared well in the category through the course of his career. However, an interesting new wrinkle has developed in his game over the last few seasons that makes him such an interesting trade candidate: playmaking.
First, check out this perfectly placed assist by Vucevic on a give and go with Evan Fournier against the Philadelphia 76ers last week.
Next, Vucevic shows nice vision to go along with excellent passing skills on this pass to Fournier under the basket from the same game.
Can anyone recall Alexis Ajinca or Omer Asik displaying similar pinpoint passing with any type of consistency, maybe ever? And Davis, for all of his wonderful abilities, isn’t there yet either. No, this type of additional playmaking on the floor is something Alvin Gentry has craved since arriving in New Orleans, and even better, it’s from the center position — a position of need.
One would think Vucevic should command a high asking price, but according to one rumored trade proposal earlier in the season, I don’t believe that to be the case. Reported by Marc Stein last month, the Magic had supposedly offered Vucevic and a first round pick for Goran Dragic, but the Miami Heat declined.
In case you missed the big bold letters, Orlando is desperate for a point guard. Elfrid Payton doesn’t appear to be in their future plans for much longer, not with C.J. Watson earning starts over the 2014 first round pick multiple times of late.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, that must mean the Pelicans must include Jrue Holiday in any trade negotiations. While I’m sure the two teams would invariably explore that route, I’m not advocating New Orleans move their second best player, not if the return isn’t significantly sweet enough. Rather, the Pelicans should be able to utilize a third team, perhaps even a fourth, to provide the Magic the point guard they so furiously seek.
I’m sorry to do this, gang, but I must leave you in suspense — time constraints! However, be sure to check back soon as I’ll go into the details either later tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.