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Robert Covington? Harrison Barnes? Eric Gordon? Understanding the latest Pelicans trade rumors

New Orleans making a move for one of these players now could be a necessary domino for something else down the road

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest item sitting on the New Orleans Pelicans wish list is rather obvious. Whether from watching several games or perusing through statistics, the most glaring hole on the roster remains unequivocally at the guard position to even untrained eyes.

Per Second Spectrum, the Pelicans guards rank last in field goal percentage (39.4%), next to last in 3-point percentage (31.8%) and 26th in points (47.6). Not to mention, the group resides in the bottom third of the league in free throw attempts (8.6) and assists (14.7).

The production is terribly tame. It is in need of a major upgrade.

Reading yesterday’s news from Michael Scotto about the Pelicans having possible interest in either Harrison Barnes, Robert Covington or Eric Gordon doesn’t mean the team is deviating from that plan.

Scotto: The New Orleans Pelicans appear to be buyers heading into the trade deadline and have expressed interest in trading for several players, including Harrison Barnes, Robert Covington and Eric Gordon, league sources told HoopsHype.

Rival executives also believe Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes are both available for the right upgrade as well. According to multiple executives, the Pelicans are more willing to listen on moving Alexander-Walker than in the past.

Let’s first mention that at forward the Pelicans have Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Herb Jones, Trey Murphy and Josh Hart. The first three names deserve 30+ minutes a night at the 2, 3 and 4 positions. Trey could force himself into more playing time as soon as next season. And Hart is highly underrated — but more on him tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Devonte’ Graham looks better suited for a bench role, and the inconsistent play of Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and Kira Lewis Jr (for much of the season before getting hurt) wouldn’t crack regular rotations on nearly all playoff teams.

New Orleans desperately needs to add at least one legitimate above average starter at guard and it must occur via trade.

Free agency will continue to yield swing and misses on the bigger fish until the Pelicans are finally enjoying sustained success. The draft is dodgy. If things don’t play out perfectly and net Jaden Ivey, what’s the alternative worth betting on, especially for a front office with a spotty track record of identifying talent at the position?

Fortunately, enticing trade candidates appear available after pulling back a curtain or two.

  • CJ McCollum
  • De’Aaron Fox
  • Caris LeVert
  • Bradley Beal
  • Ben Simmons

It must be stated that there’s good reason Eric Gordon isn’t on this list. I find it impossible to believe that a player who didn’t want to come to New Orleans originally in the Chris Paul trade, was then ready to leave at first chance, and bad mouthed the franchise a time or two while with the Rockets has had that large of a change of heart — unless, of course, he’s told that his stay would be a very temporary one and wind up elsewhere in the blink of an eye.

McCollum has been targeted by David Griffin in the past and sits in the crosshairs again. There’s simply too much smoke swirling around Fox and the Kings have Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. LeVert has close ties to Trajan Langdon. Beal has been on Griff’s radar forever. Another team is destined to land Simmons eventually. And there could be a name or two yet to surface.

How does Barnes, Covington or Gordon fit into this equation? They’re largely movable assets. In order to land the prized fish, one needs the right tools for the job. Having tradable salary is key to facilitating a large deal when one is reluctant to move members from within their coveted core or the roster depth is just lacking overall.

Satoransky is an expiring contract at $10 million. The Pelicans have reportedly made Hayes ($5.35 million) and Alexander-Walker ($3.26 million) available in offers. But that’s not nearly enough salary ballast to land a Beal, McCollum or Fox. Tossing Hart, Graham or Valanciunas in makes several of those names gettable, but then the Pelicans could exacerbate another problem: the roster depth would likely be further compromised.

The New Orleans reserves have not been a dependable group this season. With so much youth, some growing pains were expected but not to the extent witnessed. And several veterans haven’t made the desired impact.

Outside of the most-used starting lineup of Graham-Ingram-Hart-Jones-Valanciunas, it’s been a crapshoot. Much more was expected of Nickeil, Jaxson, Temple and Satoransky. Willy Hernangomez has filled in admirably, but he does possess defensive shortcomings. Jose Alvarado has come out of nowhere, but can he sustain this level of production?

Improving the team’s depth is high on the front office’s list, but landing a stud at guard is paramount. Patching up all the major holes, though, requires bringing in more talent. If only for a short stay as flipping one acquisition to make another soon thereafter is a strong possibility too.

In fact, it’s not hard to envision a move or two gets made now before next week’s deadline, and then Griffin’s biggest splash comes this summer. Don’t forget that’s the time period in which Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were traded out of New Orleans.

So, don’t read too much into some of the specific names being linked to the Pelicans. Their stays could be incredibly short.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.