The Missing Piece: Modeling Models

Published: March 2, 2013

The easiest way to figure out an answer to a question is to find someone else who has already solved it and “borrow” the answer from them. My teachers used to frown upon this practice in school, but the NBA has no rules against one franchise copying another franchise’s successful model. In fact, it is sometimes encouraged, especially by fan bases of long suffering teams. The “Thunder Model” has been a popular term in recent years, and before that it was the “San Antonio Model”. Small markets need somebody else to look to when a system so clearly favors the big markets. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some models New Orleans could look to emulate this offseason and just how they would go about doing that.

Golden State Warriors


What They Built: An uptempo team with a solid blend of young players and high IQ veterans. They win games by stretching the opposing team on offense with superior three-point shooting and hold teams to one possession on the other end.

How They Built It: Several solid drafts where they took “sure thing” prospects who had at least one elite skill set. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are elite shooters, Harrison Barnes is an elite athlete, Draymond Green is an elite on-ball defender and leader, and Festus Ezili is an elite post defender. All of those guys have holes, but Golden State filled those holes with veterans in trades or free agency, which allows those guys to just do what they do well.

Jarrett Jack was acquired for Dorrell Wright and Carl Landry was basically stolen off the free agent market after few other teams showed interest. David Lee was signed after the Knicks decided to throw $100 million at Amare Stoudamire, rather than sign their own guy for cheaper. And Andrew Bogut was acquired for Monte Ellis, and that move opened the door for Thompson to start and Jack to be the third guard off the bench. They still have some poor contracts (Richard Jefferson and Andris Biendris), but once they clear those guys off the books, they can make a few moves that can make them really dangerous.

How the Pelicans Can Copy Their Model: The Hornets already have the pick and roll component that David Lee brings in Anthony Davis, who should develop into an elite player in this area. Ryan Anderson gives them a more efficient version of what Klay Thompson brings to the table, and Jason Smith is a better version of Draymond Green as well. Eric Gordon can be a combination of Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry when healthy, as he can create for himself like Jack can, but also light it up for 20+ a night like Curry.

What they really need to do is bring in a handful of veterans the way Golden State has and have those guys take charge of a team looking for an on-court leader. The Pelicans also need one more elite shooter to follow this model and 1-2 more fantastic rebounders to match the Warriors 74.6% defensive rebound rate. With all that in mind, here are the moves to catapault New Orleans into the playoff picture the way that Golden State has done it:

Draft Otto Porter, Jr. – Instant impact player at small forward from Day One. A better prospect than Barnes was last year, Porter offers defense, rebounding, a high basketball IQ, and a variety of ways to score to this roster instantly.

Sign Kyle Korver – Add another elite shooter to provide space in the paint for Davis and Gordon. A terrific leader as well.

Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez for Brandon Jennings in sign and trade – Provides another perimeter scorer who can create for himself and others. Gets this team playing at a much faster pace.

Sign JJ Hickson – Hickson has a defensive rebound rate of 27.7%, which ranks him #6 in the NBA. Bye bye rebounding problems.

Sign Beno Udrih – Savvy veteran player who can spot start if need be at either guard position and can be a steady presence off the bench and in the locker room.

Final Roster

Jennings / Udrih / Roberts

Gordon / Rivers

Korver / Porter

Davis / Anderson / Thomas

Hickson / Smith


Denver Nuggets


What They Built: An incredibly deep team with perimeter players that all have interchangeable roles. Upfront they have length and athleticism that allows them to flat out own the offensive glass.

How They Built It: First, they traded their disgruntled star for several smaller pieces. They drafted guys with elite speed and an elite motor in Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried. Traded some aging starters for younger, more athletic one’s, but kept a guy like Andre Miller around to help mentor the young guys. Finally, moved a young vet in Afflalo and some future picks to secure their final piece in Andre Iguodala.

How the Pelicans Can Copy the Model: First things first, they would have to move Eric Gordon for some smaller, quality pieces. The Hornets already have some length and athleticism down low, but need to add another body to pair with Davis. Anderson can be our Gallinari, and keep Aminu around as a poor man’s version of Kenneth Faried on the glass. What you need from there is a point guard willing to push the pace and some wings willing to fill the lanes or set up in transition for three.

Trade Eric Gordon to Phoenix on July 13th for Jared Dudley, Kendall Marshall, PJ Tucker, and Lakers 1st rounder – We know his heart is there and they want him, so make the deal on draft night contingent on it going down when the year is up and the restrictions have been lifted. Have Phoenix take Glenn Robinson III with the pick, a guy who draws comparisons to the Nuggets own Andre Iguodala.

Draft Alex Len with our own pick One of the most athletic and versatile true centers to come out in a while. Can rim run on offense and play in the P&R on defense. Ceiling is JaVale McGee with a post game and a higher basketball IQ.

Trade Vasquez and Lopez to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe Like Lawson, Bledsoe has blazing speed and wants to get out and run.

Sign Gerald Henderson – Underrated SG who can play similar role as Wilson Chandler. Solid on offense, great on defense.

Give Josh Smith the max contract he seeks – Yes, you must overpay, but check out this roster once you add him to it. You can run for days with it. Can go super big and remain athletic by putting Josh Smith, Davis, and Len on the court at the same time in spurts.

Final Roster

Bledsoe / Marshall / Roberts

Henderson / Rivers / Tucker

Dudley / Aminu / Robinson III

Jo.Smith / Anderson

Davis /  Ja. Smith / Len


Indiana Pacers


What They Built: A close-knit team that focuses on defense, defense, and more defense. They have length in the paint and quick players on the perimeter, which force their opponents to take more jumpers in the “dumb zone” than any other team forces by a fairly wide margin. On offense, they have two post options and they grab offensive rebounds at an elite level.

How They Built It: They have been risky at times in the draft (Paul George and Lance Stephenson) and have gone safe at other times (Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansborough). In free agency they only spend big money on difference makers (David West), otherwise they make low risk, high reward type purchases (Gerald Green, DJ Augustin, Ian Mahinmi). More than anything, they have gotten guys who love the game of basketball; guys who are hungry and willing to fight for one another to reach a common goal. There are no diva’s on this team, just a bunch of guys who play the game the right way.

How The Pelicans Can Copy the Model: In order to win this way, you have to get easy points from time to time and that means a post presence that you can go to. Shots from the post help your defense as well, because it makes it less likely that a team can turn a miss into a fast break. The Pacers don’t give up fast break points, and they don’t give up points off of offensive boards. So, finding a guy who can post up on offense and rebound on defense to pair with Davis would be key if you want to follow this model. You also need a lot more speed on the perimeter to play the defense Indiana plays.

Trade Lopez and Vasquez for Eric Bledsoe – Anybody see a reoccurring theme here? Bottom line is that speed is needed on the perimeter and a guy who can rebound on the defensive end is needed next to Davis. Getting Bledsoe accomplishes one of those things. You could also package these two for Kyle Lowry and achieve similar results.

Sign Al Jefferson – People worried that David West was too old when he left New Orleans and a young team like Indiana should go a different route. Those people were wrong. West, at the age of 30 when he was signed, brought a steady scoring from the high and low posts and a veteran presence. Jefferson just turned 28 and can do the same thing for the next 3-4 years.

Draft Victor Oladipo – Talk about a guy with an elite motor and a full toolbox on the defensive end. Oladipo can be the best 6th man in the NBA almost immediately, changing the game on both ends of the court and he also gives you the freedom to move Gordon down the line if the right deal pops up.

Re-sign Aminu and sign Corey Brewer  – Have these two share the small forward, pushing each other every day for starting position and minutes.

Sign Sebastian Telfair – Telfair has reinvented himself as a great on-ball perimeter defender who can give you 12-15 minutes a night.


Bledsoe / Rivers / Telfair

Gordon / Oladipo

Brewer / Aminu / Miller

Davis / Anderson

Jefferson / Smith


The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on For past issues in this series, click here. 



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