A few days after ridiculing the odds of attracting Chris Paul, let’s switch gears and ponder some realistic targets for the New Orleans Pelicans in the event Jrue Holiday does indeed decide to sign elsewhere this offseason.
First things first, lower your expectations. No matter how infuriating Holiday was at times during the 2016-17 campaign, realize he’s a legitimate two-way player, something I can’t say about any of the replacements on my list. Despite his faults, Holiday is going to have a lot of suitors lined up at the door when free agency begins and rightly so.
If forced to pick a team with the necessary cap space, though, I think it’s a no-brainer the Philadelphia 76ers should be considered the favorites to acquire Holiday as they showed their cards at the last trade deadline. Jrue’s familiarity with the city is certainly a positive in the equation, but the two much larger factors at play are money and fit.
According to Basketball Insiders, the 76ers have a hair over $50 million dollars in guaranteed salary on the books for next season. With the salary cap expected to be around $102 million, they’re going to be strutting around in July like a Kardashian on Rodeo drive, throwing money at the shiniest and most attainable piece of merchandise. There is little doubt in my mind Bryan Colangelo will offer Holiday one of the highest salaries, maybe even the maximum — a starting salary of $30.6 million for next season.
While this type of spending doesn’t make sense for a lot of teams, it’s completely understandable for Philly. Not only are they carrying the fattest money clip but Holiday is a perfect fit. The 76ers have been desperate for an above average point guard since he left town, but now they’re ready to start winning again. They finally have their franchise player in Joel Embiid, and with Ben Simmons expected to handle a ton of ball-handling duties, Holiday would only be asked to fill in all the holes, a role he appears best suited for.
Once Holiday’s salary starts creeping well above the $20 million dollar mark, I think the Pelicans need to strongly consider alternatives. Before the DeMarcus Cousins trade, throwing an obscene amount of money at Holiday made more sense because New Orleans always has to make sure of having something next to Anthony Davis that remotely resembles a second star. Otherwise, the current front office faces grounds for immediate dismissal as they elected to forgo developing most of their own talent from repeated NBA drafts years ago and would be stuck with names like Buddy Hield, E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill to show for all their efforts.
No, with the arrival of Boogie, the Pelicans have reached a nice floor from a personnel standpoint and consequently must be more prudent with the spending of contract dollars on the supporting cast. Fortunately, there is hope to believe New Orleans is considering on doing just that based on couple of recent tweets by Michael McNamara.
Wasn't given an exact number, but it sounds like the Pels are comfortable with anything around 22 mil as a starting point. Not much more— Michael McNamara (@SilverAndMac) April 25, 2017
I say that number because the person said, "We think he deserves more than Ryno. But hard to give him more than Anthony."— Michael McNamara (@SilverAndMac) April 25, 2017
I’ve maintained for some time now that the Pelicans need to limit spending beyond $20-22 million, and if it’s slipped your mind, Nico estimated Holiday’s worth beautifully early last month. His article concluded with offering an amount well below the $20 million threshold.
So, if Holiday and the Pelicans fail to come to terms, who should they seek to replace him with in free agency?
“Dimes” is my favorite candidate and I’m sure it’s because I’m a little biased. For those who do not remember, Collison started his career in New Orleans and both he and Marcus Thornton quickly earned a couple of relevant nicknames: Dimes and Buckets.
Collison probably wouldn’t mind returning to New Orleans either after creating fond memories during his rookie season. He was Chris Paul’s backup, but after CP3 went down with injury, he started 37 games and posted a great line of 18.8 points, 9.1 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
On top of his history with the franchise, Collison already boasts plenty of experience under Alvin Gentry, as they were both on the 2013-14 Clippers team, and of playing alongside Cousins in Sacramento this past year. The best part, though, is that many pundits undervalue Collison so he could be signed to a smart contract that New Orleans should be seeking.
Given his size, Collins was always destined to have trouble defensively, but his offense has been incredibly consistent from year to year. His three-point percentage has fluctuated in a tight range of 37.3% and 41.7% the last four seasons. He combines solid playmaking and scoring abilities and is precisely the type of player Dell Demps needs to pair with Davis and Cousins. While a Chris Paul would be heavenly, the Pelicans could more than get by with Collison’s production. Have a look at how Paul and Collison once fared alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
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For those wondering, Paul and Collison shared the floor for only 429 minutes during their lone year together with the Clippers, a season where they boasted the best offense in the league. To this day, I wonder if those Clippers had retained Gentry, Collison and Matt Barnes, would they have enjoyed a lot more success than their team’s more recent roster variations.
Anyways, moving on, I’m sure the Pelicans had hopes of morphing Tim Frazier into a cheaper version of Collison after his surprising level of play last season. However, things failed to go as smoothly here in 2016-17 so they have to look elsewhere. Why not go and get the real thing, especially if ownership is planning to give the front office and coaching staff another season?
Imagine having Gentry’s offense ran by a point guard who has spent the last three years with the Golden State Warriors. To further whet your appetite, he’s a pass-first point guard and isn’t going to break the bank. And best of all, Darren Erman, he is renowned for being an excellent defender!
The defensive versatility of Shaun Livingston encapsulated. Guards 4 guys, denies post entry to big, and then closes out to contest 3PT line pic.twitter.com/JaGMdS1dtP— Will Winston (@Will_Winston) March 10, 2017
If you presumed Livingston, pat yourself on the back because I’ve rarely seen his name mentioned as a desirable free agent. In order for him to remain with the Warriors beyond this summer, a lot of things are going to have to go right by the Bay. I’m sorry, but I don’t expect Kevin Durant to play the role of Mr. Nice Guy. After spurning Oklahoma City, he’s not going to agree to anything less than his absolute maximum. Therefore, yeah, I expect a domino effect of roster carnage and Shaun to be a casualty.
With Livingston, the Pelicans wouldn’t miss a beat defensively and on the other side of the floor, his long range shot could be easily managed. He’s very good from the midrange area and he loves backing down smaller opponents on the block. For a team fielding Davis and Cousins, it shouldn’t be that difficult to keep defenses honest on the perimeter. Besides, if the team still plans to play a lot of uptempo, having a superior half-court general shouldn’t be a priority.
Some may be concerned about him turning 32 years of age next season, but remember his career isn’t littered with a lot of minutes. Thanks to a devastating knee injury and often times being pigeonholed into a backup role, Livingston should have enough left in the tank with where he can split point guard duties with another heady player or two.
At first glance, Milos seems completely unrealistic. The Brooklyn Nets are considered the favorites thanks to the ownership by Mikhail Prokhorov, and teams like the Nuggets and Sixers and known to be in hot pursuit. Yet, I don’t feel it’s smart to entirely dismiss Dell Demps strong track record in Europe. You can be sure Demps and his wide net have closely followed Teodosic’s career and the familiarity that’s likely been built along with being able to present two stars in Davis and Cousins could swing one of the most creative passers in basketball to join the Pelicans.
However, if New Orleans can’t beat out Prokhorov’s Nets, the lure of a former coach (Ettinore Messina) in San Antonio or Teodosic simply wants to land in a city where he is guaranteed every chance to be a star, then perhaps the Pelicans could be primed to pounce on what gets left in Milos’ wake.
If the Nets score Teodosic, Jeremy Lin could become more obtainable. Remember, the Pelicans were known to be in hot pursuit of the player who once took New York by storm with Mike D’Antoni standing on the sidelines. If the Spurs get Milos, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where they also re-sign Patty Mills, especially if Pau Gasol decides to stick around.
Look, the whole point of this article is to show the Pelicans will have options should Jrue Holiday opt for greener pastures. Darren Collison, Shaun Livingston and Milos Teodosic are but three names and we haven’t even talked about potential trade scenarios.
While it would be nice to have a top-flight point guard going forward, it may not be in the cards. Moreover, don’t wish too hard for such a result. Gambling too high on Holiday where he has little to no chance in providing a good return of investment could wind up the most crippling outcome in trying to cement the point guard position. The Pelicans don’t need to go that route with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins already in tow. Hey, never, ever, forget the lesson of Omer Asik!