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2018 NBA Trade Scenario: DeMarcus Cousins sign-and-trade with Washington Wizards involving Kelly Oubre and Tomas Satoranksy

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Throwing darts at a tiny dartboard, part I: New Orleans Pelicans possible offseason moves with limited resources — the sign-and-trade

NBA: Washington Wizards at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Early offseason whispers and exit interview between the line reading had many of us believing DeMarcus Cousins was not going to be walking through the Pelicans locker room again — despite a long period of strong belief that he was desperately wanted just weeks earlier. To be clear, this wasn’t my hope. It was just what the tea leaves were pointing to, especially when you go back and reread this Sporting News article that echoed much of the whispers local media and bloggers were pulling out of the sky with makeshift triggerfish devices crudely assembled from wire coat-hangers, old walkmans and tin foil — stating that Alvin Gentry had privately discussed with New Orleans inner circle about trading DeMarcus even prior to his injury.

“During his Pelicans tenure, Cousins hasn’t had the explosive tirades we saw during his time in Sacramento. But he still has some bully in him when it comes to his “disrespectful” treatment of coaches and teammates, sources told Sporting News. Those, along with his notable playing deficiencies, have moved coach Alvin Gentry to privately talk of wanting to trade his second-best player, next to Anthony Davis.”

It would be easy to shrug off such a suggestion — if many of us had not heard similar complaints coming out of the locker room. Still, I believe that while they were certainly some real issues between the team, the staff and Boogie that were kept relatively hush-hush, which led to some intriguing post elimination quotes, social media antics and Cousins’ absence during the Warriors series — after his presence was so celebrated for the Portland series — reality is beginning to set in.

It seems that the emergence of Nikola Mirotic and the ability to play at the tempo Alvin Gentry has longed for, with the switchability on defense that Darren Erman desired, and having an unquestioned locker room and on-court hierarchy, had the Pelicans staff and perhaps even their roster feeling themselves a little too much. This could have been possibly fueled by the constant questioning of whether the team was better without Cousins — a question that seemed impossible to ask prior to his injury. However, the late season run and sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers created a sense of false confidence in segments of the fanbase and definitely had much of the outside media and some in the local media also jumping on this bandwagon and creating a divide. However, as cap realities, team needs and the market for big men is becoming real while the sun sets on the NBA Finals and the draft looms, I feel like the Pelicans and the Cousins’ camp are starting to see how much they likely need each other.

Player movement is exciting for sure. I love making trade proposals as much as I love watching actual games. It is an exciting game of what ifs and what works. However, while I expect and trust Dell Demps to make a few moves to improve the roster, I think any huge splashes are going to be the stuff of daydreams — mainly because a sign-and-trade (the biggest splashiest card in his deck) is seemingly impossible.

While Oleh recently presented a strong case for a Cousins deal to Dallas — I don’t see Rick Carlisle wholeheartedly agreeing to the move. And with the Milwaukee Bucks hiring Mike Budenholzer as head coach, the Bucks, a team once whispered about in Boogie sign-and-trade destinations, is also likely out. In fact, there is only one sign-and-trade I see that would make some sense for all involved, but relies on too many parts. Still, I’ll lay it out for you here even though I don’t think it happens as it has too many hurdles.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The first move is for the Pelicans to sign DeMarcus Cousins to a 2-year deal with a player option for the 2nd year that falls below the max numbers he would have gotten had he not been injured. For argument’s sake, let’s settle on $24 million for next season.

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.

Remember, Cousins has to agree to a sign-and-trade, which makes the Wizards one of the few landing spots that makes some sense. He will be reunited with his former college point guard and close friend, and he will be right in the mix for a shot at the Eastern Conference championship, especially if LeBron James leaves Cleveland for the West.

None of these rationales are new to the avid Pels rumor reader, but while all of the versions of a Boogie to Washington trade include bringing Porter Jr. to New Orleans — mine does not.

The Mirotic era showed us a blueprint to a successful and exciting style of play, but it also showed us that we have many holes to fill in order to beat the upperclass in the Western Conference four times in seven games. In my opinion, having Cousins allowed us to be that weird team that was hard to plan for and created mismatches for the opponent — though I don’t think we ever really maximized what our size offered, which could be blamed on coaching or perhaps Boogie operating outside of the system — however, if we are shirking that mismatch to play the uptempo en vogue offense of this era, then we have a lot more holes to fill than what Otto Porter Jr. and his questionable back bring to the table. Here’s how Dell can plug those many holes with this trade being the centerpiece:

The Washington Wizards would send the Pels Tomas Satoransky, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jason Smith and Marcin Gortat, which totals $25,353,035 in salary. This saves the Wizards $1,353,035 in the transaction, but still has them over the luxury tax. You could argue that the roster has enough star power to pay the tax, but I’d think they would also look to move Markieff Morris and/or preferably Ian Mahinmi to get below the line.

For the Pelicans, the prizes are Satoransky and Oubre. Satoransky is a 6’-7” point guard that sees the floor well, is a decent athlete, has nice playmaking ability, creates problems with his length, can post up and shot 46.5% from deep last season — while starting 30 games for an injured John Wall. Tomas could replace Rondo should Rajon find greener pastures or he could provide more flexibility in the guard rotation. His size, defensive abilities and his scoring ability would allow Alvin Gentry to employ him in numerous personnel groupings — especially when using three-guard lineups.

Satoransky has the size and abilities to be a perfect piece in Alvin Gentry and Darren Erman’s systems. Look at his per 100 possession numbers from last season via Basketball-Reference.

Satoransky checks a series of boxes for the Pelicans: 3pt shooting, size, rebounding, playmaking, steals and a very impressive offensive rating.

Kelly Oubre Jr. also has potential to deliver what the Pelicans need. Oubre is a 6’-7” springy small forward that can give you minutes at the four — unlike the rumored ability of Solomon Hill to do so. While he isn’t the polished shooter you’d love to have at the three, he is improving — hitting 34% of his threes this season — however, he isn’t stretching the floor for you yet with that jumper. Teams will sag off and allow him to take those shots. This may sound very Solomon Hill or Dante Cunningham-like, but Oubre is much more aggressive and confident than those two on the offensive end. He’s a solid cutter, finishes strong around the rim and isn’t a detriment when driving and kicking out to open teammates.

Oubre is still very much a raw prospect though he has shown the tools to be a solid wing defender and adequate scorer in this league in flashes. He’d certainly be an upgrade over E’Twaun Moore when it comes to guarding threes, and would be an offensive upgrade over Hill or Cunningham. He’s also just 22 years old so he injects some needed youth to this core while also providing good promise.

I’m sure you all burped at hot vomit with the inclusion of Smith and Gortat; however, both are on expiring contracts. The Pelicans could eat those for a year, and Gortat wouldn’t be the worst backup big they’ve had to field in recent memory, though, the goal would be to move him to create more cap space. Our podcast hosting franchise player, **Preston Ellis**, also spends much of his time covering the Orlando Magic for the Do You Believe in Magic? Podcast and the Orlando Pinstriped Post when he’s not hosting The Bird Calls Podcast or contributing to The Bird Writes...or starring in commercials with Christian Laettner — and he has heard that Gortat wants to retire in Orlando. Well, the Magic want to shed nearly all of their long term contracts that don’t belong to Jonathan Isaac so the Pelicans would be very happy to help make this happen.

Orlando could absorb Gortat’s contract without sending out any salary so sending a couple of 2nds could make this work on it’s own, but knowing that they are looking to dump contracts could net the Pels a serviceable player or two — moves that could also allow the Pelicans to move some of their other contracts for space, picks or talent.

I’ve heard the idea of packaging Alexis Ajinca with Solomon Hill to acquire Evan Fournier, which is a move I don’t really like because I’m not a big Fournier fan. However, the Pelicans could make this move with Gortat, Ajinca and some combo of the non-guaranteed players (DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller or Emeka Okafor), but without sending out Hill, Smith and/or Moore in separate moves this would also have the Pelicans at the tax. “In a perfect world,” I’d love for the Pelicans to move Gortat and a 2nd to the Magic for Jonathan Simmons, but I expect the Magic would push to attach another contract — looking at their roster and contracts I’d be fine with taking on Shelvin Mack (whose $6M a year deal is expiring and only has $1M in guaranteed money that could prove very useful), but if I get to keep the 2nd and/or get a 2nd from Orlando I’d take D.J. Agustin instead.

If you’ve read my work before, you know I’m a big fan of Simmons — he was a crucial part of the offseason plan I put together last year. A year in Orlando has done little to sway my lust for him. Taking on Mack is clearly worth the reward as he can be waived at only a $1M charge, added to another trade or kept as depth— though I’m not bullish on Augustin. For moving this plan forward’s sake, let’s assume we send a 2nd and get Simmons and Mack. The roster and salaries would look like this before further tweaking.

PG: Rajon Rondo (cap-hold $3,960,000), Tomas Satoransky ($3,129,187), Shelvin Mack ($6M — only $1M guaranteed) and Frank Jackson ($1,378,242)

SG: Jrue Holiday ($26,161,111), E’Twaun Moore ($8,445,024), Jonathan Simmons ($6,000,000), 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)

Roster: 17 Players

Payroll: $127,694,830

Luxury Tax: $123,000,000

This would have the Pelicans sitting above the luxury tax — while obviously needing to cut two players from the roster; however, without making any trades the Pelicans could cut Mack, Liggins, Miller and Okafor to create a larger cushion of $7,505,440 in space under the tax.

Another route could be to combine some of these with other contracts in acquiring more talent. Waiving or trading some combination of these players would open up both the MLE and BAE for Dell to further shape his roster. By waiving Liggins and Okafor, the Pels would be $454,730 above the tax line with reasonably desirable contracts like Mack’s $1M guaranteed, Darius Miller’s non-guaranteed deal, Ajinca and Smith’s expirings and E’Twaun Moore’s value of a contract to dangle before resorting to cutting Mack and/or Miller to drop below the tax.

PG: Rondo, Satoransky, Mack and Jackson

SG: Holiday, Simmons and Moore

SF: Oubre Jr., Hill and Miller

PF: Mirotic and Diallo

C: Davis, Smith and Ajinca

Here are a few potential moves that could be made to round out the roster after this major roster shuffling and get the Pelicans below the tax — in alphabetical order by city and conference, not necessarily by preference.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

One Call, 2 Courtside Morrises:

Morris Bart doesn’t need to be the only Morris inside The Blender. The Boston Celtics are loaded with young ‘tweeners that can play the three, the four and even the two — Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum and a returning Gordon Hayward will make Marcus Morris expendable. While the Celtics are seemingly in decent footing cap-wise, they would like to create room to bring back Marcus Smart.

Marcus Morris is not a huge needle mover, but he would provide cheap depth at the the three and the four in New Orleans for the cost of simply sending the Celtics Shelvin Mack and Darius Miller, whom the Celtics would immediately waive and save themselves $4M that can go towards re-signing Smart. This move would have the Pelicans at a breathable $2,750,270 under the tax without any other moves. They wouldn’t have much space to operate within the BAE or MLE, but perhaps they could lure Ed Davis on a veteran minimum deal to provide playable depth at the five. This would be a roster with some decent flexibility and depth — especially if Rajon Rondo re-signs under the Non-Bird Exception. The roster would like like this:

Guards: Holiday, Rondo, Satoransky, Moore and Jackson

Wings: Oubre Jr., Simmons, Morris and Hill

Bigs: A. Davis, Mirotic, E. Davis, Diallo, Smith and Ajinca

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Caprificial Lamb:

The Charlotte Hornets are a mess: They have tons of money tied up in Dwight Howard, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They are at the point of having to consider trading away Kemba Walker and his steal of a deal ($12M/year) combined with one of their bad deals to clear some space and start over. Before they resort to extreme drastic measures, perhaps the Pelicans could offer them some relief while also adding some depth of their own. The 6’-5” Jeremy Lamb would continue the trend of adding size and athleticism to the Pelicans backcourt and could allow the Pels to move E’Twaun Moore in a separate deal for cap relief, draft picks or another part — like a quality back up big man.

Preferably, you’d like to see the Pels send either Ajinca or Smith combined with Darius Miller or Shelvin Mack to make this deal work, but the Hornets may not want to wait a year for Ajinca or Smith to come off the books and may demand the instant relief they get from Mack and Miller since Lamb would come off the books next offseason anyway. Still, this is a small price to pay. The Pelicans could then send E’Twaun Moore to either the Kings for Willie Cauley-Stein or Skal Labissiere, to the Knicks for Kyle O’Quinn or to the 76ers for Richaun Holmes in adding much needed front court depth as well as cap relief. The roster would like like this:

Guards: Holiday, Rondo, Satoransky, Lamb and Jackson

Wings: Oubre Jr., Simmons and Hill

Bigs: A. Davis, Mirotic, (Cauley-Stein, Labissiere, O’Quinn or Holmes), Diallo, Smith and Ajinca

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Holidays for Days:

By sending Shelvin Mack and a future 2nd, the Pelicans can probably reunite the Holiday brothers. Justin is on a very reasonable $4,384,615 contract next season and the Pelicans could do much worse than adding a 6’-6” guard with decent athleticism who shot 35% beyond the arc this season. By making this move, the Pelicans can once again trade Moore for additional cap relief and big man depth while still keeping Darius Miller — if they so desired (though they would have to make at least one more move to get to 15).

The roster would like like this:

Guards: Jrue Holiday, Rondo, Satoransky, Justin Holiday and Jackson

Wings: Oubre Jr., Simmons, Miller and Hill

Bigs: A. Davis, Mirotic, (Cauley-Stein, Labissiere, O’Quinn or Holmes), Diallo, Smith and Ajinca

NBA: Miami Heat at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Boogie-Lite:

In this move, the Pels keep E’Twaun Moore and use Mack to bring in one of the league’s most underrated bigs for depth. I’ve long coveted Kyle O’Quinn — he’s unspectacular but does what you need him to do — rebound, hit mid-range shots, score in the post, defend the the rim and is a very solid passer out of the post. David Fizdale may want to hang onto O’Quinn due to his skill set and his reasonable $4,256,250 contract, but already having so much money tied up in Enes Kanter, Joakim Noah, and the looming Kristaps Porzingis contract, may make shedding some front court salary a priority in MSG. Mack’s $1M guaranteed money makes this deal work for both parties — though the Pels may need to add some sweetener.

Guards: Holiday, Rondo, Satoransky, Moore and Jackson

Wings: Oubre Jr., Simmons, Miller and Hill

Bigs: A. Davis, Mirotic, O’Quinn, Diallo, Smith and Ajinca

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Rain-Making the Suns:

On November 16, 2014 my first piece for The Bird Writes was published. It was an extensive look at the current roster as well as some ideas of for trades to bolster the rotation. Troy Daniels was one of those suggestions. Even with him buried in the desert, I’ve never forgotten him.

Daniels is a three point specialist that could consistently give New Orleans the outside threat that Moore and Miller provided in December and January throughout the NBA calendar year without needing the spacing provided by DeMarcus Cousins — thus making Miller and Moore expendable — especially considering the other acquisitions made in the sign-and-trade and following trade with the Magic. The idea here would be to send Mack and a 2nd to the Suns and then move either Miller (or waive in Darius’ case) or Moore for a backup big and/or space.

Guards: Holiday, Rondo, Satoransky, Daniels and Jackson

Wings: Oubre Jr., Simmons, Miller and Hill

Bigs: A. Davis, Mirotic, (Cauley-Stein, Labissiere, O’Quinn or Holmes), Diallo, Smith and Ajinca

Stay tuned as the next time I have a few hours to kill I’ll look at ways to bring back DeMarcus Cousins while also adding some help on the wing...