Don’t look now, but the New Orleans Pelicans are transforming into a legitimate destination for notable free agents during the Anthony Davis-led era.
Last summer, General Manager Dell Demps re-signed Jrue Holiday, was able to lure Rajon Rondo for a cool $3.3 million, and added Darius Miller and Ian Clark on team-friendly deals. So far during this free agency period, the front office has added Julius Randle, who ranked 10th on the CBS list of the top 50 free agents, Elfrid Payton, who has the 16th highest three-year WARP projection among 2018 free agents according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, and Ian Clark, who many believed was destined to leave New Orleans for a contract paying him more than the veteran minimum.
This is a novel but welcome trend for the 17-year-old organization. Prior to the 2017 free agency period, who would you venture to guess was the biggest free agency splash by the New Orleans franchise?
E’Twaun Moore? Solomon Hill? Omer Asik? The signing of everyone’s favorite restricted free agent, Eric Gordon?
How about any names before Demps’ reign began in 2010?
James Posey or Bobby Jackson under the direction of Jeff Bower? Chris Andersen under Allan Bristow? Darrell Armstrong or Steve Smith under Bob Bass?
That’s a lot of players well past their primes and several younger guys who hadn’t proven themselves in a big role yet. New Orleans was forced during the entirety of its existence to exclusively rely on the draft or timely trades to bolster talent levels, but that modus operandi may finally be a thing of the past. Julius Randle averaged 16 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers last season, will turn 24 next November and was signed for a below-market price of $8.6 million. Elfrid Payton has career averages of 11.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds and his shooting was trending positively every season in Orlando until he was unceremoniously shipped off to the lowly Phoenix Suns.
In coming days, watch for individual articles on Randle, Payton and how this FA duo is poised to help build on the successes of last season. Despite the big-name losses of DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, the New Orleans Pelicans front office deserves applause for pivoting quickly and adding a couple of fresh faces — who on the surface appear to be better and significantly healthier fits for Head Coach Alvin Gentry and his fast-paced style of attack.