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The Pelicans could be approaching the final hour on Dante Cunningham

New Orleans faces a tough choice. What should they do?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If Dell Demps can't make a trade to free up the necessary space on the cap sheet, should the New Orleans Pelicans stretch and waive Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca to re-sign Dante Cunningham? Why or why not?

Kevin: Dante is a really vital piece to finishing the construction of this iteration of the Pelicans. In one fell swoop, New Orleans could add depth at the three, have that 3rd big they can trust, preserve a higher degree of chemistry, and enjoy another reliable and versatile defender from last year’s improved defense while maintaining the requisite spacing and having a proven off the ball cutter to keep Chris Finch's offense flowing.

Honestly, this is where Jrue Holiday's contract is killing us.

Houston Rockets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Had Holiday taken approximately $20 million per year — which is still more than his perceived market value — New Orleans wouldn't be right up against the hard cap and would have the space to bring Cunningham back. Now Dell is forced to either utilize the stretch provision on Asik or attach assets to his, Ajinca's or Pondexter's contracts to further improve the roster.

I'm a Dell supporter, but his inability to get a steal or even a perceived market value contract for starters/top-7 players in his rotations have put him in this spot, especially when two of those signings have flamed out so dramatically. If a pick swap and 2nd could move Ajinca or Pondexter, I'd be inclined to do so in order to bring back Dante. Ajinca would be optimal as his contract is longer, he's more disgruntled and if Quincy can get healthy he could help this team.

Jamile: Almost regardless of Cunningham, the Pelicans need to stretch Asik. Ajinca's contract or potential buyout would be much more team friendly, but unlike Asik the Pelicans can actually use Ajinca. Unless the front office makes a separate deal for another big, moving Ajinca would give the team only one veteran back up big, assuming Cunningham is retained. This is fine if the team either has a contingency plan or is convinced Cheick Diallo is ready to contribute big minutes, but that would be asking a lot of the sophomore pro. Regardless, it is time for Demps to just admit the mistake and eat the sunk cost that is Omer Asik's contract.

Oh yeah, and they should totally bring Dante back!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Preston: I would save the stretch and waive provision for the 2018 offseason. I will let the other more knowledgeable guys handle the math, but as important as Dante Cunningham is to the Pelicans 2017 season, the Pelicans need every little bit of cap flexibility going forward more. Keeping Asik on the books allows the Pelicans a little bit of breathing room next offseason when they only have one more season plus a partial guarantee to waive versus doing it now. In addition, the Pelicans may be able to reach an injury settlement with him, should his flu-like symptoms continue.

In similar fashion, packaging Ajinca with an asset for cap relief is the better scenario for me. While teams should be leary to pick up his $5 million or so final year, some combination of some picks and or players should be able to make it a bit more palatable.

David: Waiving Omer Asik costs the Pelicans roughly $3.5M a year for the next seven years. Alexis Ajinca is more manageable, about $2M a year over the following five years. I would rather New Orleans hold onto both of them and see if their options improve closer to the trade deadline, or even next summer when Ajinca's contract becomes an expiring.

Zachary: Yes absolutely. Simply put, I think Cunningham would provide infinitely more value for New Orleans than Asik and Ajinca combined. Especially Asik who is about as unplayable as any player is these days. It's well past time to move on from him.

Oleh: Several weeks ago, I broke down the Pelicans options regarding Cunningham and believed the most realistic scenario in re-signing the versatile forward involved the unloading of contract deadweight, say Asik’s or Ajinca’s.

Now, I’m far less certain about Dell Demps pursuing this outcome.

Utilizing the stretch provision to remove salary from the books for the upcoming season vanishes as soon as the calendar flips to September. Plus, hopes of attaching salary to facilitate a Kyrie Irving or Carmelo Anthony deal seem smaller than ever with talks quieting down across the league.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With each passing day, Cunningham’s best hope to stay with the Pelicans is increasingly to either accept a 1-year veteran minimum or force Dell Demps to waive Jordan Crawford so as to pocket additional dollars. The first route is far from ideal for Dante while the other, for the Pelicans.

For the first time during this free agency period, I dislike Cunningham’s chances of returning to New Orleans.

Brett: It seems Omer Asik is dead weight. While he missed games last year, evidence suggested Asik was not healthy. It also seems safe to assume his best playing days (in Chicago, to be frank) are well behind him. Dante Cunningham, meanwhile, could be a valuable wing player with his defense and three-point shooting. If it comes to waiving either Alexis Ajinca or Asik, the safe bet is that Omer Asik goes.

Travis: At this point, Asik and Ajinca are the two bunyons on your big toe that you just can't get rid of. But at this point, I'd be willing to lop off the whole foot to get rid of both. The traditional center position is a dying breed and every NBA team has too many.

The Asik sickness complicates things, but maybe in favor of the Pelicans franchise. It seems to me that they should be able to stretch him and let him do whatever it takes to get better. Ajinca might be more useful, and his salary isn't a massive burden, but if this team wants to compete at the highest levels, it's hard to see him producing in crunch time in, say, the second round of the playoffs.

Another point: we have got to stop acting like Dante Cunningham is the next coming star. I just think it's a bad look to shuffle deck chairs to reward such an average player.