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. 



  1. Will

    March 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I enjoyed the piece but I thought that Gordon couldn’t be traded to the Suns until this contract was over.

    • Michael McNamara

      March 2, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      That was under the old CBA. Under the new one, he can be traded there after 1 year. Hence, July 13th

      • Jason Calmes

        March 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm

        Actually, Coon just had a written unclearly. He stated to the contrary at some point. A Phoenix guy (Michael Schwartz, who does Draft Express videos as well) asked him about this. He then updated his FAQ to read more clearly.

        I checked the language in an old CBA, and this 1y thing has been the case for a while.

      • Will

        March 2, 2013 at 5:23 pm

        Good to know; although, I’m still salivating over the unlikely possibility of getting both Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes from Golden State. If more teams are interested the price should rise, though, so I’ll hold on to my little pipe dream for a while.

  2. Snow

    March 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I like how you did the different models! Will you be doing more of these?

    It’s said that the Hornets are looking for a Center right now, any word of who we are looking at? Also earlier in the season we were looking at Donte Green, do you think there is any chance we sign him before the season ends?

  3. JJacob

    March 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

    I don’t know that I really like any of these teams.. The Warriors model roster is my favorite, but only if Jennings doesn’t get a max contract. The Nuggets roster is cool too, but I don’t see our young guys getting enough minutes behind so much depth. The Pacers model is intriguing because Jefferson and Davis pair really nicely together. However, our back court depth is below average (again).

    I don’t believe you can follow any particular model, especially when that model leads to 3-6 seed finishes. The teams listed have low ceilings as far as contention goes (With the Nuggets team having the best chance for contention).

    I think the Pelicans should follow a model of patience. Grab free agents at cheap prices when teams overlook them (Last years list: Carl Landry, Carlos Delfino, Robin Lopez, Danny Green), find diamonds in the rough, which Demps as shown he is very capable of (Ayon, PJ Tucker, Greg Smith), and then draft smartly, until enough pieces are compiled to pull off a big trade or throw out a max contract. Which hopefully leads to something like this:

    Three Teamer: Pelicans get Eric Bledsoe, Richard Jefferson, Klay Thompson, and Andris Biedrins. Clippers get Robin Lopez, Grievas Vasquez, and Warriors 1st rounder, Warriors get Eric Gordon.

    Draft Otto Porter

    Sign Brandon Rush

    Sign Timofey Mozgov


    Eric Bledsoe/Austin Rivers
    Klay Thompson/Brandon Rush
    Otto Porter/Richard Jefferson
    Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson
    Timofey Mozgov/Jason Smith/Andris Biedrins

    This team has tons of space next summer (23 million coming off the books with R-Jeff and Andris alone) and are able still able to compete for a playoff spot.

    • JJacob

      March 2, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Scratch the Brandon Rush signing. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe Alan Anderson or Kyle Korver instead.

    • Snow

      March 2, 2013 at 11:21 am

      I like what you’re thinking. I wish we could keep Vasquez though. Would we have the cap space if we signed JJ Hickson instead of Mozgov?

      • JJacob

        March 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm

        With this roster our cap figure would be around 55 million, so cap space would not be the issue. The issue is how much the Clippers want in a deal for Bledsoe. If they’re content with Lopez and Warriors 1st then we keep Vasquez.

  4. Jared Ennis

    March 2, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Man I loved this piece! Good work! This type of stuff gets me so excited haha. I think Monty would like a mixture of all three. A stout defensive squad, guys who can light it up from three if they have space, and a team with heart and hustle. I think we can really accomplish this easily.
    1) Sign Nikola Pekovic. I would pay good money for Pekovic. He is brutal on the boards and is an awesome post presence. We need big guys like him and that would be a nice addition. The alternative to this move could be signing JJ Hickson but I think he will command more money.
    Another free agent I would like is Beno Udrih. The guys is steady as they come.
    2)Trade for/sign Eric Bledsoe. I think we are gonna have to give up a considerable amount for Bledsoe. Dallas and the Magic both want him bad. Vasquez, Lopez, and maybe someone else would be ideal. Bledsoe is simply an ideal player for both Pelicans fans and Monty. We all know how great he is on D. And I am even more excited to see him give max energy night in and night out.
    3) The draft. There are a few guys I like. I was at a tournament two years ago where I saw Marcus Smart play. I just want him to be a Pelican so bad. I am just in awe of the possibility of having a Bledsoe/Smart backcourt attacking defenses.
    I also see Otto Porter as an ideal fit. Otto can straight up ball. He would be a great Pelican!
    4) The Eric Gordon deal. We tend to overvalue Gordon sometimes. Phoenix would love them and he would love phoenix. Trading him to Phoenix makes the most sense. But I loved the idea of him for Harrison Barnes. Barnes is a great athlete and could really thrive on this run n’ gun team.
    *I realize that by not putting Otto Porter as my projected draft pick I am subject to ridicule
    Here’s the line-up:
    PG: Eric Bledsoe/Austin Rivers
    SG: Marcus Smart/Beno Udrih
    SF: Harrison Barnes/Al Farouq-Aminu
    PF: Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson
    C: Nikola Pekovic/Jason Smith

  5. thouse

    March 2, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    The only model to follow is making sensible deals/signings for players that fit around Davis and Anderson- the only 2 untouchables on the roster.

    I don’t know all of the numbers, but I am going to guess that your proposals pretty much cap out the team. Not a problem in and of itself, but the rosters you offer make the Pelicans a mid tier playoff team- but never a serious title contender. What is the rush to build an above average team?

    They don’t have to “tank” like OKC did, but they would be wise to show the patience that Presti did while Durant/Westbrook were developing. When everyone is healthy- even with about $17million in dead cap space, anchored by a 19 year old rookie, and about 3 NBA level perimeter players- they are a .500 team.

    That doesn’t mean they should sit tight. See what Vasquez and Lopez can get this summer, see what big FAs are asking for. But don’t make a move simply because you can.

  6. CoReMeGa

    March 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Awesome article again! I like mixtures of all 3, but not one by itself. I’m really starting to get sold on this Porter fellow.. especially since he destroyed SU by himself.. might move up now in the draft though.

    I would like them to stay patient this year though, the grass is always greener.. and I feel like people keep talking about trading Vasquez and getting Jennings/ Bledsoe. Jennings is a straight shot jacker (selfish) who shoots 40%.. Vasquez is a play maker/leader who is 3rd in assists (Elite skill and could pass Paul) and if he works on his floater this off season could be even more efficient.

    If Rivers adds some strength and gets his swagger back this off season he would be a perfect, quick change of pace pg to back up Vasquez.

    Get Pekovic and Brewer, best player available and tweak before the trade deadline next yr!

  7. CoReMeGa

    March 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    … also Bill Simmons is the truth (and hilarious). This is a gr8 article and he totally crushes Jennings.

    Talks about great value players
    8. Greivis Vasquez (Hornets): 3 years, $6.5 million
    Ryan Anderson (Hornets): 4 years, $34 million

    He goes on a tangent about Jennings under #5. Al Horford (Hawks): 4 years, $48 million section!

    “Really, he should be making Mike Conley/Goran Dragic/Jeremy Lin money (something like $8 million a year), but as they say in auctions, it only takes two dummies to drive up someone’s price. No offense to Brandon Jennings, but I can’t wait to make fun of the team that gives him $58 million over four years. And it WILL happen. (End tangent.)”

    • 504ever

      March 2, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Article link:

      You have to spend a while reading why you can’t overpay to understand and get to the part about good and great value contracts. He like the following Hornet contacts: Davis’s, Anderson’s, Lopez’s, and Vasquez’s.

      The Lopez part is particularly interesting:

      “Marcin Gortat (Suns): 2 years, $15 million
      Robin Lopez (Hornets): 3 years, $15.4 million
      Seems like a super-cheap price for Gortat … and then you watch him put up 11 points and eight boards in 30 minutes with a happy look on his face that seems to say, “I wish we could drink beer during NBA games, that would be awesome” as his team is getting killed by 20 … and then he doesn’t seem so underpaid. Meanwhile, Lopez turned himself into a decent NBA center and extinguished all Frank Stallone/Stephen Baldwin/Ozzie Canseco black sheep brother jokes in the process. You’d rather have Lopez at $5 million than Gortat at $7.5 million at this point, although Gortat might be the starting center on the Needs a Change of Scenery All-Stars. Stay tuned.1″

      The first part of Footnote 1: “The points-allowed-per-100-possessions numbers tell us that Gortat makes Phoenix worse defensively, which wasn’t the case last year but definitely confirms the Eye Test (he doesn’t seem as engaged this season). Meanwhile, the Hornets suck defensively when Lopez is sitting, which also confirms the Eye Test.”

      • CoReMeGa

        March 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        haha thanks.. forgot to post the link!

  8. mateor

    March 2, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I am all about fat models, but I have to say that you and I value basketball players differently. I would be very upset to pay Jefferson or Josh Smith their asking prices, at their age. I think paying Brandon Jennings is a ticket to a disgruntled 6th seed as he and Monty fight.

    I cannot see any way the Clippers trade Eric Bledsoe for Lopez/Vazquez, etc, etc.

    In my estimation, a successful top five pick is the best and most valuable way to turn around a team. Calmes and I went through this before. If we assume Davis is the real deal, then we might have one more shot next year. My best estimate is that half of all top five picks become stars (top of my head estimate, nothing more).

    I would like to take that shot, should the balls bounce our way. Use the cap slowly and wisely…think of the assets we are stock piling.

  9. bywas2008hornets225

    March 3, 2013 at 1:30 am

    I like this Oladipo guy, the game comes naturally to him

  10. lsutigers33

    March 3, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Al Jeff needs to sign here. Miss. Kid

    My question to u mm is why do u thnk anyone will take a GV and Lopez package?

    Would rather trade EG for suns pick( smart ) and we draft olidipo.

    Aminu/Dudley/ korver
    Davis/ smith/anderson
    Jefferson/ Lopez

    We get bigger,stronger faster. Better D.

  11. Michael McNamara

    March 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Half the readers tell me Lopez and Vasquez are two of the best values in the NBA and we shouldn’t move them. The other half says I am crazy for thinking we could get quality for them.


    • lsutigers33

      March 3, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Both have liabilities, but I think if we get the right value for an EG trade, both guys can be good rotation players. Speed/D is their downfall so we need to mix in players that can cover that up.

    • Basketbol

      March 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Each one is a different case, and they are under different contracts. Better to talk about Lopez and Vasquez separately.

    • shantadiva

      March 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      I was in Dell’s “chalk talk” this week, and he indicated that if they can’t upgrade the small forward position but can land an upgrade a point, they would consider playing Vasquez at small forward. How would that impact your building scenarios?

      • 504ever

        March 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

        That is very interesting, Shantadiva. I wondered about Vasquez at SG, but hearing Dell talk about SF is more interesting. Also, I think it shows how much they value Vasquez.

      • Michael McNamara

        March 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        Thanks for the tidbit from the Chalk Talk.

        Schwan has actually brought this up on several occassions in the past, saying that the numbers indicate Vasquez can be a quality SF. Again, we are talking about “positions” as if they are a fixed thing. Forget that. Imagine they draft Marcus Smart or trade for Eric Bledsoe.

        Could a Smart (or Bledsoe) – Gordon – Vasquez work? The more I think about it, why not? You can hide Vasquez on the opposing team’s worst perimeter player, while the other two could hold their own against most perimeter players not named LeBron or Durant. Offensively, you got three guys who could create for themselves and others, and Vasquez is actually a really good spot-up shooter. The 2nd best on the team behind Ryno in fact and the best corner three point shooter on the team.

        I actually really like this idea the more I think about it

    • mateor

      March 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      That’s because at least half of us are idiots.

      I am the kind of idiot that thinks they have both exceeded expectations and are providing nice value. And could never be packaged for a kind of budding star or hot prospect.

      Excellent rotation players who should top out at under 25 mins a night.

      • mateor

        March 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

        After being bugged that I wrote this for 24 hours, I return to the well.

        ‘Nice’ rotation players. ‘Nice’.

        I feel a lot better.

  12. lsutigers33

    March 3, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Only think we should be looking at a few guys in the draft. Most of u agree.

    Porter- solid all around player with good skills at the sf spot.
    Smart- leader, physical, intangibles, watched the kid the past 3 years. Improves his jump shot and he’s best available.
    Olidipo-watched him the past few years. Athletic, hard worker, scores different was.
    Lin- big that has the talent to be a top 10 center.

    I’m slowly trending away from shabazz.

    • Michael McNamara

      March 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      It’s Alex Len, but other than that, I agree that those are the four favorites. But I wouldn’t exclude:

      Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Cody Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad, or Ben McLemore. In my opinion, it will be one of those 9 guys.

      Noel could be a best player available candidate if the Hornets are sitting there at #3 and you just don’t pass up a guy like that even if you have more pressing needs. You always draft BPA. Teams that draft for needs end up with Thomas Robinson instead of Damian Lillard.

      Bennett could give Monty what he desperately wants- a low post scorer. Monty loves playing inside-out offensively, but hasn’t had the personnel to do it. This is why they heavily considered Jared Sullinger before the medical reports came out. He wants a low post scorer and Bennett might be the best low post scorer to come out in the last 3-5 years.

      Cody Zeller is a Monty and Dell type of guy, and when you consider that they would have taken Myers Leonard to put next to Davis had Rivers been off the board last year, and the fact that Zeller is 10 times the player Leonard is, then I could see us taking him if other guys are off the board.

      Shabazz is the perfect fit for this team if Gordon is traded away. If he is moved for say Klay Thompson, the Hornets would need a guy who can create for himself and a good perimeter defender. Those are Shabazz’s two biggest strengths.

      Finally, if the Hornets get super lucky and get the #1 overall pick, Ben McLemore will be the guy they select. Nobody has anywhere near the upside McLemore does, so he would be the pick.

      Those are “The Nine”, so watch them because barring a trade, one of them will be a Pelican next season.

      • lsutigers33

        March 4, 2013 at 9:21 am

        I’ve been watching Shabazz and yes he can create his own shot, but seems to be in the EG mold in regards to a passive player. Talented, yes.

        After watching Burke last night, damn he reminds you of CP3. quick hands, great ball handler. Just wish he was 3 inches taller.

        I still think Smart is the guy for this team if he’s available. known him for a few years and he just has a feel for the game and does so many things for a team that needs that.

  13. jsl05

    March 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Let’s find a way to sign David West, Jarrett Jack, and Willie Green so that Chris Paul will come.

  14. Bigeauz

    March 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I would love it if people.were talking about the Pelicans model in a few years. That being said, the single most important trait is patience, in my opinion. Different coaches/owners will obviously require somewhat tailored approaches. Surprised that Pek isn’t in one of the models.

  15. CoReMeGa

    March 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    … I know this is crazy.. but what if they keep stock piling the assets…. Timberwolves start off weak and the playoffs aren’t in the picture next season… Love starts hinting about a trade. We would have a couple of gr8 packages to throw at them depending on what they wanted.

    Anderson (don’t want to trade him but this would be for a considerable upgrade) & Gordon for Love!!!! Or Anderson and Vasquez and 2014 1st rounder.. because we would have enough young bucks to grow with!
    … Just sayin

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