The Pelicans offseason hinges on the DeMarcus Cousins decision. Will he sign? Will he walk? Will he agree to a sign-and-trade? In this series, I will look at ways to build a team that finds itself in any of those scenarios.
Last week I started this series that will look at the three ways the Pelicans can pivot the franchise based off of the DeMarcus Cousins conundrum — a sign-and-trade, a re-signing and a walk into the sunset. In part 1 I laid a plan with the initial move of signing and trading Boogie to the Wizards for Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Marcin Gortat and Jason Smith. It wasn’t purely a S&T piece — as these next few pieces are meant to be plans on how to build a team after the Cousins situation is decided. If you haven’t read it, please check out those roster decisions in detail.
As I’ve often said, I’m 95% fan and 5% media. Most of my writing experience comes from concept development, presentation and copy writing with a decent amount of music journalism. I’m still very raw when it comes to covering basketball. I’m admittedly more of an eyeball tester and a throw out roster shaping ideas guy than an analytics code breaker or a CBA expert — but I’m learning as I go. Oleh has recently steered me to this Hoops Rumors article that pokes some holes in the dynamics of my initial sign-and-trade, but it doesn’t mean that the concepts won’t work. By signing Cousins to a three-year deal valued at slightly less than $22M/year next season (less than 20% increase of his 2017-18 salary), the initial sign-and-trade deal will work as written, and this new trade idea goes off without a hitch as well. Also, this new twist that involves Memphis could work even if Boogie’s salary would exceed $22M/year, but this trade would have to be tied directly to the trade with Washington thus creating a three team deal or Gortat would have to be sent to Orlando in the initial S&T with picks and no returning salary. However, Nikola Mirotic would have to be included in the deal with Memphis to make the money work — convincing Cousins to sign for $18-21M per year for 3 years (3rd could be a player option) seems possible.
Alternate Endings: The Director’s Cut — Revisiting Wizards Proposal with a New Twist
Today while being extremely early to Broad Theater for a matinee showing of Hereditary, a shocking twist was conjured up in my head — I thought, “what if we combined all of these expiring contracts, including our non-guaranteed contracts and whatever other contracts we needed and send them to Memphis? Would the money match-up so that we could get Marc Gasol and Mike Conley? Also, can we do this without sending out Nikola Mirotic?” I pulled out a notepad and pen and with my scribbled mess of a handwriting that I can barely read myself went to work.
I swear my writing isn’t usually that bad. I started having a pain in my shoulder while doing this so I think the thought of building the team this way perhaps led to a mini-stroke. Anyway, let’s rehash the roster post trade and see how the pieces work.
The Pels would send Cousins to the Wizards to form a new core with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr.. The Wizards are in a better spot than the Pels were before adding Cousins because they were a consistent playoff team in the Eastern Conference, but they have continued to under-perform once getting to the postseason. Washington is desperate for a shake-up and a two-year gamble on Cousins could pay dividends — or at least buy Ernie Grunfeld some needed job security...........The Washington Wizards would send the Pels Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jason Smith and Marcin Gortat, which totals $25,353,035 in salary.
The Pelicans roster and salary situation would look like this:
PG: Rajon Rondo (cap-hold $3,960,000), Tomas Satoransky ($3,129,187), and Frank Jackson ($1,378,242)
SG: Jrue Holiday ($26,161,111), E’Twaun Moore ($8,445,024), DeAndre Liggins (non-guaranteed $1,795,015) — after the initial trades the Pelicans would renounce Ian Clark and Jordan Crawford
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr. ($3,208,630), Solomon Hill ($12,752,928), Darius Miller (non-guaranteed $2,205,000)
PF: Nikola Mirotic ($12,500,000), Cheick Diallo (partially guaranteed $1,544,951)
C: Anthony Davis ($25,434,263), Alexis Ajinca ($5,285,394), Emeka Okafor (non-guaranteed $2,445,085), Jason Smith ($5,450,000) and Marcin Gortat ($13,565,218)
Roster: 16 Players
(Estimated) Cap Maximum: $101,000,000
Luxury Tax Threshold: $123,000,000
Obviously this isn’t a roster that you’d want to pay the luxury tax for. However, a trade with Memphis could help both teams accomplish an outcome they can both sell themselves and their fans on. After years — from 2010 - 2017 — of being the team no one wanted to face in the playoffs injuries, big contracts, odd coaching decisions and bad drafting have the Memphis Grizzlies at a crossroads of their own. The Grizzlies boast potentially the league’s worst contract — Chandler Parsons.
Combine that with the salaries (over $51M) of aging players with injury concerns — like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol — on contracts that extend to at least 2020 with little hope for competing in a time-frame that could justify any other reason but identity to hang on to. Memphis should be looking to rebrand. The Grizzlies hold the 4th pick in the upcoming draft and potentially 2 valuable 1st round picks in 2019 if they keep their own and acquire the Clippers pick.
Trying to add another veteran to win now doesn’t look viable right now for the Grizzlies. It would be a hard sell as a destination for any free agent or trade target that Memphis’ assets could possibly fetch. If the Grizzlies and GM Chris Wallace want to start a tear-down-to-build-back-up Philly inspired process, the Pelicans should be happy to assist.
The Pelicans would keep the intriguing parts of the Wizards trade — Satoransky and Oubre Jr. — as important pieces and contracts on a roster that should be enough to justify bringing the Pelicans’ payroll into the luxury tax.
The Pelicans would send out the expiring contracts of Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith, Alexis Ajinca, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller and Emeka Okafor. Dell Demps would also send E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill to Memphis as the only long term commitments. New Orleans would attach two first round picks and however many second rounders Memphis needs to make this happen.
Outgoing Salary: $50,936,055
The Memphis Grizzlies send the Pelicans Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
Incoming Salary: $54,640,140
This trade immediately saves the Grizzlies $3,704,085 this season, they would obviously sheds all other expiring deals next season while also saving on the money due to Gasol and Conley. Memphis would likely seek to trade away E’Twuan Moore to gain more assets. With a handful of picks gained in this deal, with a potential Moore deal and picks that they already had in their pocket, it isn’t inconceivable to think that Memphis could put together enough picks to move Chandler Parsons off of their books as well without damaging their draft capital in a way that hinders their ability to rebuild and leave Memphis with a very clean salary sheet to begin anew.
However, the cap sheet is much different on the Pelicans end to start the 2018-19 season.
PG: Mike Conley ($30,521,115) Rajon Rondo (cap-hold $3,960,000) and Frank Jackson ($1,378,242)
SG: Jrue Holiday ($26,161,111), Tomas Satoransky ($3,129,187)
SF: Kelly Oubre Jr. ($3,208,630)
PF: Anthony Davis ($25,434,263), Nikola Mirotic ($12,500,000), Cheick Diallo (partially guaranteed $1,544,951)
C: Marc Gasol ($24,119,025)
Roster: 10 Players
(Estimated) Cap Maximum: $101,000,000
Luxury Tax Threshold: $123,000,000
If healthy, this is a roster with enough star power, experience, IQ, defense, length, play-making, flexibility and shooting to justify being in the tax — as well as lure veterans and players looking for prove-it opportunities to take less to fill out the squad. However, the Pelicans could even dip below the tax by renouncing Rondo and trading away Mirotic to give themselves potentially $7,503,476 in breathing room under the tax, with a roster that could still lure veterans and players looking for those prove-it opportunities. If I’m building this way — considering the age and health questions about the Memphis haul — I’d take the over the tax route and keep Nikola and Rondo in the fold making this roster as potent as it can get.
To fill out the roster I’d chase the following free agents:
Wings: Mario Hezonja, Glenn Robinson III, and Omri Casspi
Bigs: Ed Davis and Mike Scott
Whomever I miss on in free agency, I would fill in with Euroleaguers, G-Leaguers or other vets that are willing to sign on.
As I and every Pelicans blogger/journalist in New Orleans has said, the sign and trade option is going to be nearly impossible to pull off. However, we are currently dreaming of LeBron James acquisitions that are even being fueled by the Boston fan base — oddly creating scenarios that make us better instead of sending rubber nickles to the dollar for Anthony Davis — so dream big with me for a sec.
Interesting rumor - both LeBron James and D. Cousins resign with Cleveland and NOLA respectively, and then are traded for each other. Cavs get a superstar center and James teams up with The Brow.— Dr. Bill Simmons (@drbill1947) June 12, 2018
While some people will tell you to stop dreaming or to not even entertain such notions, I believe you should indulge in whatever it is that gives you joy and love for this game — whether it’s wild trade ideas, rebounding analytics, the social media aspect, petty memes, social and political commentary from the players, Xs-and-Os, writing 10,000 word essays, or comments in comment sections of blog posts about why VORP stats are flawed. Have fun, it’s just basketball.
Ok, now onto the Bring Back the Boogie plan. Stay tuned.