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New Orleans Pelicans have $2.6 million in cash to spend on improving 2018 NBA Draft position

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The front office could also attempt to offload burdensome salary (Alexis Ajinca contract) before July 1st.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Starting from the very bottom — at the 60th and final selection — and scanning up the list of NBA Draft picks from one year ago makes for some rather mundane reading:

  • played overseas
  • played G-League
  • played overseas
  • played overseas
  • signed two-way contract
  • played overseas
  • signed two-way contract
  • signed two-way contract
  • signed two-way contract
  • signed two-way contract
  • played overseas
  • played overseas

The final 12 picks in the 2017 Draft consisted of six draft-and-stash players, five two-way contracts and one G-League signee. The two-way guys combined for 474 NBA minutes and just one, Alec Peters, managed to average double figures in minutes per game (11.3). Peters went off for 36 points in the Suns season finale against the Mavericks, but in his other 19 appearances, he scored a less than inspiring grand total of 46 points in 197 minutes.

The point of this exercise isn’t too demean anyone, but merely demonstrate one thing. The New Orleans Pelicans have one lone pick (51st overall) in the upcoming 2018 Draft, and the likelihood of hitting on an immediate contributor — in the event the team decides to even hang onto this pick — is hovering around zero percent.

Historically, late second round draft picks (51-60) have enjoyed very little success over the course of their careers. According to a 20-year study undertaken awhile back by Roland Beech, the last ten picks of NBA drafts had around a better than 50/50 chance of never registering a single minute of action in the Association!

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

While we all like to dream of Manu Ginobili or Isaiah Thomas, the reality looks much more like Goran Suton or Christian Drejer. But hey, that’s okay. The NBA is a demanding place. The odds are stacked against 60 fresh names each year who are trying to break through all sorts of highly competitive barriers and a finite number of 15-man rosters carrying up to several two-way participants.

Moreover, development is rarely a linear path and individual goals can change. Sometimes draftees go on to live out their dreams in other leagues around the world. Sometimes those who are bypassed altogether on draft night figure things out later and make greater impacts than their chosen brethren. Everyone’s heard of Jeremy Lin, Ben Wallace and David Wesley — your favorite local color analyst — so who wouldn’t enjoy watching Quinn Cook crack that list someday?

Anyways, getting back on track, the New Orleans Pelicans will look to improve the roster in two days time, and more importantly, they do not have to automatically settle for picking 51st overall because they have simple means to land a higher/additional draft pick or to decrease their 2018-19 salary cap in advance of the free agency period next month.

NBA: Golden State Warriors-Championship Parade Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In the NBA, one can buy second-round draft picks for straight cash. The Golden State Warriors have famously added Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell via this method the last two years. As it’s written in the CBA, teams are allotted a Maximum Annual Cash Limit (an aggregate figure) per season that can be included in trades. The amount for 2017-18 was $5.1 million. After sending Quincy Pondexter and $2.5 million to the Bulls in an early season trade, the Pelicans have $2.6 million remaining to spend before July 1st.

While it would be great to purchase outright either the 38th or 39th pick from Philadelphia or say the 34th pick from Atlanta, both of those teams have already received their allotted maximums of $5.1 million for this season so any deals with them would need to wait to be finalized until the next fiscal period starting on July 1. That’s a problem for New Orleans though because this would force the Pelicans to dip into next season’s cash reserve — something the team should be looking to avoid, barring of course the presentation of a great deal now. General Manager Dell Demps is going to be forced to jump through hoops again in order to adequately fill out the roster while avoiding the luxury tax so maintaining the most flexibility will be key.

If New Orleans is unable to trade $2.6 million cash for a desired 2018 second round pick — you best believe the Warriors will be at least one team eager to outbid them with their full $5.1 million in tow, then perhaps the Pelicans can find a team with enough cap space to accept a trade for Alexis Ajinca in return for the remaining cash and the 51st pick. Admittedly, though, this might be a long shot. The Heat traded Josh McRoberts and the six million dollars remaining on his contract to the Mavericks for salary cap relief, and it cost them their full $5.1 million spending cash in one fell swoop and a 2023 second round pick.

It’s far from a given, but don’t be surprised if Dealer Dell adds some drama during the 2018 NBA Draft. That yawnstipating 51st pick may not be the only piece of news New Orleans gets to read about in several days time.