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NBA Trade Scenarios: New Orleans Pelicans could utilize 2019-20 cap space for dumping ground of players like Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Ersan Ilyasova or Serge Ibaka

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The Pelicans have opened up a tremendous amount of cap space, and despite an offseason of changing the narrative around New Orleans as a destination, David Griffin may make best use of his wealth in waste management over star hunting.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Gayle Benson era has seen a dramatic change in fortunes after the initial rocky start of the Anthony Davis trade demand. Since then she has rebuilt basketball’s reputation in the city surrounding herself with quality additions in the form of basketball minds/talents and character — David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, Swin Cash, Aaron Nelson and Zion Williamson. The first two names on that list pulled off another heist on draft night that netted three quality young players while also opening up a huge chunk of cap space.

It’s salivating to think about using that space to add players like Kawhi Leonard, Khris Middleton, Tobias Harris or to even make hard runs at injured stars like Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson. However, even with the drastically changed narrative locally and nationally — where Mrs. Benson has gone from being “The Widow” to being the owner of the most promising young team in the league — New Orleans may not yet be the free agent market we could become once Zion gets a year or two of NBA experience.

Still, there are smart ways to use this newly created space that could help with staggering the timelines of Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson — taking on quality players on contracts their current teams can’t afford to aid in the win now, but also to gain young players or picks to ensure more chances at the draft or to trade for impact in the future. Here are some such trades I think could benefit the Pels in the short and long run — I’m mostly using Bertans contract as a holder, but I’d definitely pay cash, or give up a 2nd in any deal that needed it.

The Suns

The Suns are estimated to have around $24 million in cap space this season, and with them not traditionally being a free agent destination seems like enough for what they could do to realistically fulfill their offseason plans. However, there are rumors that Robert Sarver is very interested in signing D’Angelo Russell to pair with Devin Booker — $24 million isn’t going to cut it for the overpay they will need to pry DLO away from better basketball situations. Also, they would likely want to bring back Kelly Oubre Jr. and Dragan Bender, while also looking to add another contributor to fit alongside their score first and frequent backcourt.

Tyler Johnson opting in was a giant and expected obstacle for them to be able to achieve their lofty goals. Johnson is an okay NBA player and is expiring. The Pels could use his salary to match something else in another trade, keep him on the roster or perhaps just buy him out if they prefer to groom someone or bring in a cheaper vet and need his roster spot — taking him on is no real issue for New Orleans. The reward for doing so could pay huge dividends.

Mikal Bridges is 6’-7” with a 7’-1” wingspan. He’s a devastating young defender who can guard 1-4 — fitting the versatile defender make-up of this new roster. He’s a low usage wing making him a perfect fit with Jrue, Zion and Lonzo. He didn’t shoot very well from three in his rookie season, but was solid from deep in college, which I believe will be the case for his NBA career very quickly. Also, he is reliable from the free throw line and we need someone to take those technicals.

The Suns may value Bridges, but they still have Josh Jackson, (probably Oubre) and now Cam Johnson on the wing. That cap space may be more important to them now than the minutes Bridges would play. Let’s not forget they gave Indiana a pick to take on TJ Warren’s contract (he’s a very good offensive player) — it’s rare to see a team this bad in sell mode, but they clearly are. David Griffin would be wise to exploit them for it.

The Nuggets

The Nuggets are currently around $12 million over the cap, and that’s not including Paul Millsap’s option, which he will surely take. Mason Plumlee is an expiring and a very affordable one at that. He’d provide solid screens, rebounding, shot blocking, finishing, decent athleticism and is a very solid passer from the post. He’d be a very good mentor and space holder for rookie Jaxson Hayes.

Plumlee would be the win now piece, while another 6’-9” athletic versatile defender in Jarred Vanderbilt would be the piece to gamble on for the future.

The Bucks

The Bucks have to make space to bring back key pieces of their roster — Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic are all free agents. They’ve already begun the process by trading away Tony Snell and the 30th pick in Thursday’s draft to Detroit. The Pelicans could possible get in on the fire sale by taking on the final two years of Ersan Ilyasova’s contract for a 1st rounder in 2023. Ilyasova would add some shooting and veteran leadership now and Griffin would add another future 1st to his war chest.

The Trail Blazers

The Blazers are nearly $18 million over the cap and could be looking for some relief. Meyers Leonard rarely saw the floor in the regular season, but Jusuf Nurkic’s injury led to some playing time down the stretch. Portland, like Milwaukee, has some decisions to make on key free agents like Enes Kanter, Rodney Hood, Seth Curry, Al-Farouq-Aminu and Jake Layman. If Kanter is retained, he and Zach Collins should soak up most of the minutes at the five until Nurkic becomes available (if he’s even able to play this season).

Leonard is far from my favorite player, but he plays hard and brings a stretch 5 skill set the Pelicans could really use in the shooting deficient starting 4 they currently project to use. A second or two seems like fair compensation to take on a pretty reasonable expiring and useful player.

The Raptors

This trade only happens if Kawhi Leonard returns and Marc Gasol opts into his contract as expected. The Raptors have a ton of salary tied up into Kyle Lowry, Leonard and Gasol. With Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby being able to give minutes at the 5 and 4 (OG), Ibaka seems the most likely to get moved.

Serge’s leadership and his ability to defend the rim and shoot the three at a respectable rate make him a nice transitional piece for the Pelicans in ‘19-’20. Nabbing another 1st round pick in 2020 — a draft that is projected to be heavy on guard talent even deep into the draft would be a very nice get.

The Nets

The Nets are about to break up that young fun culture they built by allowing D’Angelo Russell to walk in favor of Kyrie Irving. By adding Irving it means they also need to add another veteran star or borderline star — meaning there is still space to clear.

Joe Harris would instantly upgrade the E’Twaun Moore minutes. He’s a better shooter, he’s bigger and he’s a more instinctive cutter. Moore could then be flipped in another deal to remove the redundancy. In this trade the Pels give up assets, but they gain one of the leagues best shooters.

The Hornets

The Hornets are in that unenviable spot of having a star they have to overpay to keep (even if he says he will take a discount) while having a ton of salary tied up into mediocre to bad players that aren’t complimentary.

The Pelicans could take on two large expiring contracts to gain a first round pick that may fall into the lottery. Marvin Williams could definitely help the Pels this season as a stretch four while Biyombo could possibly be moved in a bigger deal, bought out or just used as a defensive mentor for Hayes.

The Thunder

I love Steven Adams as a player in a vacuum. I don’t necessarily think he’s a great fit for what the roster the Pelicans have at the moment, but he would bring the intangibles and the kind of person David Griffin wants on his roster. He’d set great screens, rebound and the defense this team would play would be something out of the ‘80s. Offensively, it could look like they are playing in a phone booth.

Still, for swallowing that contract and only giving up Moore for a 1st and two 2nds, it could be worth the locker room and intangibles Adams would bring with him. He’d certainly become a fan favorite and expand the Pelicans’ reach to New Zealand, which could help the cash flow and coverage. The Thunder would save massively on taxes and get some needed shooting.

The Clippers

Fletcher Mackel threw this trade out on Twitter the other day and I was very intrigued. If the Clippers are able to land Kawhi and/or possibly gamble on Kevin Durant, moving Danilo Gallinari’s contract could be crucial.

Galinari would solve some key problems on the Pels’ roster. He’s an excellent shooter, can be a go-to guy for a needed bucket — as he can score in a multitude of ways — and he’s a very good defender that can play the 3 or the 4 spot. He’s had injury issues in his career, but pairing him with an Aaron Nelson-led training staff could do wonders for his longevity. He could be a Pelican for years, but even if it is a one year run gaining a definite second 1st round pick (the protections on the Cavs’ pick make that one very unlikely to actually acquire) next season is a great get with a player that also helps you win immediately.

Which trade is your favorite???