Name one player that should sit atop the New Orleans Pelicans summer wishlist. Pick a realistic target that can be obtained either in free agency or through trade.
Jason: Avery Bradley or Rodney Hood
As much as I wish I could say Paul George or Kawhi Leonard, that just doesn’t seem realistic. However, Avery Bradley or Rodney Hood would be much more likely and very beneficial.
The Pelicans lack of cap space can be dodged without sacrificing a core piece through the use of an exception, and both of these 3&D category contributors should be available without needing to break open the bank. Hood is large enough to handle the SF role, but Bradley is a much better on-ball defender. With Jrue Holiday and Bradley, New Orleans could have three All-NBA Defensive teamers. Let’s just see if Dell Demps can keep the ball rolling into 2018-19!
Kevin: Khris Middleton
A 6’-8’’, 234lb wing that can guard four positions, rebound, shoot threes, post up, finish at the rim and play-make is the Jango Fett that all 3rd options should be cloned from. Although, considering how inaccurate stormtroopers are, maybe they should have cloned a better marksman. Still, Middleton is a realistic target if Boogie and Milwaukee agree to a sign-and-trade to bring Giannis Antetokounmpo the help he needs and DeMarcus the contract he seeks while playing alongside a familiar face (Eric Bledsoe).
If you want a signing with no hoops to jump through, Ed Davis. He could possibly be had for a minimum contract and would give you the perfect average of what you would get if you could solve this equation: (Emeka Okafor + Cheick Diallo) divided by 2. Wings are hard to get and are the Pelicans most glaring need, but a back up big is also a huge hole and Davis could fill it well.
Jamile: Jonathon Simmons or Evan Fournier
I would look to poach a couple players from the Orlando Magic, and I like both Jonathon Simmons and Evan Fournier.
I’m not sure exactly how the Magic feel about moving either player, but at age 28, Simmons definitely does not fit any timeline Magic are currently on. Simmons would bring added scoring, defense and savvy to the Pelicans wings. In addition, his contract is a manageable $11.7 million over the next two years so he would be the perfect quality cost controlled role player the Pelicans need on the roster. Perhaps, he could be acquired for Alexi Ajinca (an expiring contract), a second round pick and cash?
Fournier is much more expensive, but he would nearly be a perfect fit at the small forward position. Fournier would give the New Orleans another ball handler and shooter who can create his own shot. The upgrade from Solomon Hill could vault the Pelicans offense into another stratosphere. It would also allow E’Twaun Moore to move back to his natural role off the bench. Getting this deal done would be much harder, however. New Orleans would likely have to send a future first round pick to Orlando along with Hill and Ajinca. Depending on how long Orlando thinks the team will be bad, getting extra picks might be worth it. Still, I’m not sure this is a deal they would seriously consider.
Preston: Tobias Harris
The Pelicans hands remain largely tied again. The Pelicans cannot sign and trade DeMarcus without taking back significant salary, they cannot re-sign him without heading into the tax, and they have but the Mid-level and Bi-annual Exceptions to sign Rajon Rondo after his bounce back performance in 2017-18. It will be up to Dell Demps to get creative once again, in a year where the Pelicans have no first round pick, once again. The Pelicans greatest ammunition is the cap friendly contract of E’Twaun Moore and the expiring contract of Nikola Mirotic.
Many have tied the Pelicans to Khris Middleton and Otto Porter Jr. in a sign and trade involving Boogie, but the Pelicans may find a bargain priced deal with the Los Angeles Clippers should things go their way. DeAndre Jordan has an important decision to make, as does Doc Rivers, and should the team seek to ‘blow things up,’ the Pelicans may be able to unload Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill and a first (’19) and second (’18) for Tobias Harris.
David: DeMarcus Cousins
I’m absolutely serious because I think Cousins is worth the investment. I think if sticking to the #DoItBig motto were to blow up, it was worth the shot anyway. If there is one big splash the Pelicans make this summer, I want it to be committing to Boogie and the Brow. It was really starting to lock in during the month of January, and I think throwing out a extremely difficult match-up to guard like that is the most realistic path for New Orleans surpassing either Golden State or Houston.
Oleh: Will Barton
Beyond the Pelicans re-signing Cousins for the future or utilizing his worth in a sign-and-trade, New Orleans next best apparent move involves convincing Rondo to accept a new contract via the Non-Bird Exception. As Kumar recently outlined, going this route would keep the full Mid-Level and Bi-annual Exceptions intact for a team that must continue to add talent but would have few means of accomplishing that goal if the Pelicans are forced to dip into the MLE to bring back their starting point guard.
If Rondo, who has made approximately $90 million so far in his NBA career, follows a path that some veterans choose in order to increase their odds of winning a championship, New Orleans might be able to offer a single player a 4-year deal starting at around $8.6 million. That might be enough to lure Will Barton, a favorite target of mine. The Nuggets scoring wing, who will be entering his age-28 season, averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists while knocking down 40.4% of his three-point attempts as a starter. If Denver doesn’t find a way to remove some money off their books (ie. Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler — if he opts in), re-signing Barton is likely be a pipe dream as the Nuggets franchise would otherwise be hit with an enormous luxury tax.
Travis: Aim for the stars
It’s interesting that the question asks for a “realistic target” — as if this team will be completely unable to draw a big name. This particular team should aim for the stars...literally!
The NBA may be in a moment of flux, with new, young teams cropping up to stop some traditional powers. San Antonio, OKC, Cleveland and others might be on their way out, while Nola, Philly, Boston and Utah could be the next great teams of the future. The Pels have some huge advantages: AD, Jrue, Boogie (maybe), Rondo (probably), Mirotic, and a coach who plays a style that will draw talent.
New Orleans needs to figure out the Boogie situation, and if he wants out, throw him into a trade that gets this team a high-end wing. You know the names: Paul George, LeBron James (hey, you never know!), Kawhi Leonard. If someone wants Boogie badly, let’s fleece them for everything they’re worth!