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Depth in a Time of Insomnia, Part I: Trades to try and save Pelicans season from DeMarcus Cousins injury and bench woes

Even when I can’t sleep, I can dream. Here’s some sleeplessness infused trade machine fun. Hate away. Or let me know what works and what doesn’t.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

I suffer from several afflictions: constant sinus pain, broken down ex-skateboarder knees, memory issues, but two of my biggest problems go hand-in-hand — my NBA addiction and my insomnia. They often fuel each other in watching several day old games on League Pass (when it isn’t buffering), to reading every article written about the Pelicans, to building my own iteration of the Pels on NBA2K, and every offseason and as every trade deadline approaches, countless hours spent on ESPN’s Trade Machine both keep me occupied when I can’t sleep, and keeping my mind so active that I can’t sleep would I could have.

After recording our latest, “The Bird Calls Podcast” with Oleh and Preston (please, rate, review and subscribe to us!) I dove into the trade machine — as well as NBA2k — to fix what ails us. Here are the results in no particular order. Hate and/or love away (I left that DeMarre Carroll trade off because it has already been discussed to death — and I didn’t dream it up — but if you are interested in my thoughts on it go listen to our last podcast).

Trade 1: A Two-Part Deal That Fills 3 Holes

The Jazz are said to have interest in acquiring Nikola Mirotic to be the successor to the tired Derrick Favors experiment. There’s been a rumored deal involving Alec Burks heading to Chicago if this were to happen. However, the Bulls already have Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine and David Nwaba to play the roles Burks would be asked to fill.

It’s my hope that Dell Demps would swoop in to play marriage counselor and fill some of his own needs as a third party to another classic Jazz and Bulls confrontation. After screen grabbing this trade, I realized that the money has us too close to the hard cap so another expiring like Jameer Nelson or Tony Allen would also be shipped to Chicago to avoid that.

The first part of this trade sends Omer Asik out and brings back Burks, who is basically making the same money, but with one less year on his deal. Burks hasn’t been a world beater, but he’s a solid wing that should help defensively — providing backcourt length on the second unit and is at least playable — with a decently high ceiling — while also becoming an expiring next year making him easier to move than Asik in the offseason should the Pels not see him as a valuable piece going forward. Jerian Grant adds some athleticism and a tad more size to the Pelicans point guard rotation — he’s also improved his playmaking in Chicago, though he doesn’t give you much as a shooter. Still, defensively, he would be an upgrade over Jameer Nelson and probably even Rajon Rondo at this point. The Jazz send the Bulls a first round pick and the Pelicans send cash and 2 seconds for taking on that extra year of Omer Asik.

The second trade is a little more sexy for the Pelicans as it involves removing all need to ever play Dante Cunningham and gives cheap youthful depth and athleticism up front and insurance should the extremely unlikely happen — DeMarcus Cousins walking away in the offseason.

Nance is only expendable in LA because they are attempting to move all multi-year deals that don’t belong to Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma for the cap space needed to secure LeBron James and Paul George this summer. Dell could perhaps leverage their confidence by offering pick swaps in 2019 and 2020 as the Lakers would expect to be higher seeds should their free agency plans work out.

If needed, I’d give a first to Chicago to make that trade work and then use those 2nds in the Larry Nance Jr. trade.

Trade Two: Improving the Point Guard Rotation and Creating Some Breathing Room

Ajinca’s contract isn’t the albatross it’s often made out to be. In fact, at $5 million as an expiring next season it could benefit a team looking to make moves this offseason or at the deadline next year. However, with the Pels already having so much tied up into Omer Asik, who is also unplayable, moving that deal for some help and relief next season makes a lot of sense.

I believe sending Dallas a second would be enough to make this deal work. Dallas should be looking to worsen their chances to win this year and move any players that aren’t long term parts that may hinder them in their need to lose — Devin Harris isn’t a starter at this point in his career, but he’d be an upgrade in the Pelicans point guard rotation and he comes off of the books at year end.

Trade 3: Four Ways Only Happen on Trade Machines, But F-It Here’s One to Ponder

Dell sends his 2018 1st round pick to Orlando for potentially his point guard of the future, or at least his second unit facilitator and Marrero native, Elfrid Payton (whom I’ve actually served several times at the bar where I work and he was always very nice and tipped very well) and under-the-basket efficiency and rebounding upgrade, Ed Davis.

The Magic add another albatross big man contract, but add core pieces for the future as well as another 1st round pick from Portland that they can get younger with or use to move some of their other bad contracts. Still, Orlando being able to roll out a Jordan Clarkson, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Simmons, Aaron Gordon and Larry Nance Jr. lineup seems like fun.

The Lakers also move a few long term deals they are trying to shed, but do take back Nikola Vučević’s deal that is slightly higher per year than Clarkson’s deal, but becomes an expiring in the offseason. He could be a piece of their core or used in a sign and trade to get more talent. Portland upgrades its toughness and screen setting. Julius Randle could be a nice piece long term next to Jusuf Nurkić.

Trade 4: Another Kentucky Big Brings Some Youth and Touch to the Bench

The Pelicans — to the ire of many in the fan base — have traded away too many 1st round picks over the years, but sending one to the Kings for Skal Labissiere should be seen simply as a solid draft pick. The young big man would give use a wholey trinity of Kentucky bigs that would kick Dante Cunningham to the end of the bench. Skal is very raw defensively, but offensively he has shown Tim Duncan-like flashes of touch in the midrange and in the post. Hopefully, he can develop into a decent defender, but until then, New Orleans can at least try to out score the opponent’s bench while he’s on the floor.

The Kings are loaded with 1st round picks that they are trying to construct a rotation with — word is Skal is on the outside looking in. Sending them another 1st and a 2nd may seem counterproductive to their roster shaping, but that pick could be used to move bad contracts like Zach Randolph or Kosta Koufos.

Trade 5: Throwing the Jazz a Funeral While Improving Rebounding and Post Defense

The Jazz could fight their way back into playoff contention or they could use another injury plagued season as a springboard to the future. Acquiring Alexis Ajinca helps with the latter by providing no help to their rotation and removing a serviceable big from it.

The Jazz will likely lose Joe Johnson, Rodney Hood and Derrick Favors this offseason if they aren’t traded or bought out at the deadline so taking on Ajinca’s contract for two second round picks isn’t hard to swallow for a Jazz team that will need assets to add to the Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio core. Those seconds can be used to move other salaries, move up in the draft or just add more youth to the roster.

Ekpe Udoh is a solid rim protector and rebounder, and should fit fine either next to Anthony Davis, doing the dirty work down low and setting screens for shooters, or operating at the five when AD’s taking a breather.


Stay tuned for Part II that divulges another 11 trades later this morning!!!