According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the New Orleans Pelicans have applied for a disabled player exception following the Achilles injury to Darius Miller.
The Pelicans front office could have applied for this exception at any point between now and January 15th so it’s mildly interesting to see the team go that route yesterday considering their roster appeared to be locked and loaded to start the 2019-20 season despite Miller’s injury.
The issue is if the Pelicans want to utilize this exception to sign a free agent to a one-year deal, claim a player off waivers in the final year of his contract or acquire one through trade who is entering the final year of his current deal, they would have to create space on the regular season roster. (Let’s assume that the Pelicans aren’t on the verge of pulling off a 2-for-1 or some other imbalanced trade which also does not include Miller’s name in the near future.)
Although Miller can be viewed as a sunk cost — in all likelihood he will not be available during this campaign and his contract is not guaranteed for next season, his $7 million+ contract value could be useful in facilitating a trade later this season. Obviously, it’s also not in the Pelicans best interest to dismiss one of their other 12 guaranteed contracts. Thus, that leaves the partial guarantees of Jahlil Okafor and Kenrich Williams.
In my honest opinion, it’s difficult to imagine Okafor’s job hanging in the balance. Derrick Favors is penciled in as the starter at center, but who would be his replacement whether in the event of rest or injury without Okafor on the roster? Jaxson Hayes isn’t going to be ready to handle the task at any point this year. No way do you want to place that burden on Zion Williamson. Nicolo Melli? Nah.
By process of elimination, that leaves Kenrich Williams, who despite his lovable work ethic, incredible rebounding instincts and fantastic character, as the odd man out. Simply put, Kenrich has not yet flashed the necessary perimeter shooting and offensive aggressiveness to remain a permanent fixture in the league, and his lack of NBA experience may play a factor against him as well.
We all love Kenrich — and I still believe in his development, but Miller’s injury may have changed the calculus for the front office. Suddenly, Alvin Gentry has one less perimeter threat on a roster that was already thin in outside shooting at the outset. And if making the playoffs is one of the primary goals, a bulldog defender, who has flashed enough scoring and shooting ability, is going to be more valuable in reaching that objective in the short term.
Therefore, that’s why the news surrounding Iman Shumpert yesterday raised an eyebrow for me, too.
After months of discussions, free agent Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the Rockets' contract offer, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Shumpert will not attend team minicamp this week in Las Vegas.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) September 17, 2019
David Griffin, as most of you know, was the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers when he traded for Iman Shumpert back in January of 2015.
“At the same time, we’re very excited to welcome Iman and J.R. to Cleveland,” said Griffin in the aftermath of a three-team trade with the Knicks and Thunder. “With their size and versatility, we think both Iman and J.R. can help our team on both ends of the court and we look forward to them joining us.”
Shumpert has struggled with injury and consistency throughout his career, but he did display a per 36-minute average of 12.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists and an important 36.6% three-point percentage with the Sacramento Kings over 42 games last season before trading him to the Houston Rockets. At just 29 years of age, Shumpert likely has more left in the tank and maybe he would be willing to come on board for one year and $3.625 million.
Perhaps the Pelicans are applying for the DPE at this point in time just to gauge their available options for down the road, but considering their recent interest in Joe Johnson, they may be showing their cards a bit of wanting to grab a useful player now rather than down the road.