The Missing Piece: Almost There

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Published: June 29, 2013
Missing Piece Four

The Missing Piece has been an enjoyable piece; both for me, and many of you have told me that your Saturdays were brighter because of it as well. It was great looking forward, because what was taking place on the court in the present wasn’t enjoyable to watch most of the time. But it is with great pleasure that I announce this is the last Missing Piece that you will see on this site. Ever!

Dell Demps acquired All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday on Thursday night, trading away our 2014 1st round pick in the process. Translated message: The future is now! No longer will we have one eye on the court and the other on 19 year old college players, who we view as potential saviors. The Pelicans have their core now, just as Dell and Monty promised last October. It is time to move forward with four guys who are 25 or younger; all of whom are locked into contracts for multiple years, and all of whom have All-Star potential.

All that is needed is another player on the perimeter and with several million dollars in cap space and some very tradable assets, Dell Demps looks poised to fill that need. In our final Missing Piece ever, we will take a look at what exactly is needed and what the Pelicans can use to get it.

Cap Situation

Jason Calmes did a fantastic job of breaking down where we stand in a piece published late Thursday night. Long story, short, the Pelicans are about six million dollars under the cap, if they pick up the options to guys like Jason Smith and Robin Lopez, as expected. If they let those guys go, however, they will have nearly 12 million dollars in cap room. Move Vasquez for a future first rounder, and that number jumps to $14 million. Add that to an infinite number of possible sign and trade scenarios, and the Pelicans have the ability to go after anybody they want this offseason to fill their perimeter need.

Assets

The Pelicans can not offer their 2015 1st round pick in a trade, per league rules. But they have very tradeable assets in Grevis Vasquez and Robin Lopez. They can move these guys as part of an uneven trade that lands them a small forward. For instance, let’s imagine that the Nuggets re-sign Iggy and/or Corey Brewer. The Pelicans can offer Vasquez for Wilson Chandler, even though the salaries do not come close to matching.

Or the Pelicans can trade one or both of these players for a future pick, which takes their salaries off the books to open up space, but also nets them a future asset in return. Lastly, the Pelicans can also offer one or both of these guys up as part of a sign and trade. Let’s imagine a scenario in which there were competing offers for Martell Webster in free agency and Washington did not know if they were willing to match the price tag because they just drafted Otto Porter. The Pelicans can entice them with somebody like Vasquez, and ask them to sign Webster, then move him to us via S&T.

Again, long story short, the options are endless. Officially, there is about $6 million available right now, but Dell has about $14 million to play with in reality and is in no threat, whatsoever, of going into the luxury tax.

Exceptions

Depending on how Dell chooses to play this, he could either have the full Mid-Level Exception ($5 million per year) or the Room-Level Exception ($2.75 million) to play with this summer. If he were to make a big play for a guy like Pekovic, for instance, he could keep certain cap holds on if he can tweak the Holiday trade, do a sign and trade involving GV and Lopez, and then come back and use the full MLE for a small forward. Tons of ways to play this. Tons of possibilities. See a theme?

What are We Looking For?

Ah, now we get into the fun part. What do we want exactly to fill out this young, talented core? In my opinion, the best way to answer this is to look at the skill sets you already have and make sure that the player you bring in doesn’t overlap areas where you are already strong. Rather, you want him to fill in gaps. Obviously.

As currently constructed, you have two guys who can handle the ball and make plays for others in Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday. It would not hurt you to have another, but it is not a necessity. You also have guys who can cover 1’s and 2’s, so you don’t need a SF with the versatility to hide either of those guys. What you do need is simple:

Perimeter Shooting

Ryan Anderson is a stud from deep, but even with him finishing this past year in the top-3 in three-pointers made, the Pelicans still finished 19th in made three-pointers last year. Gordon is below average for a shooting guard, and Holiday is about the same as Vasquez, so what the Pelicans need on the wings is a guy they can kick up to in order to space the floor.

Rebounding

Jrue Holiday is an average rebounder for a point guard, while Gordon is horrible for his position. Factor in Ryan Anderson’s inability to pound the defensive glass, and the Pelicans need a small forward who can rebound on the defensive end.

Defensive Intelligence

Monty does not want to go through another season like last year where the rotations are horrendous and teams are taking shots without even being contested. He needs a smart player who understands rotations and can pick up his defensive scheme with ease. He also needs a guy who can help this team create turnovers, which is something they were terrible at doing last year. Creating turnovers has something to do with athleticism, but it also has a lot to do with intelligence. Knowing when to trap, when to play passing lanes, when to gamble and when not to – all extremely important.

Who Fits the Profile?

Several guys, actually. And we are going to cover them all in the days leading up free agency. As part of my final Missing Piece ever, I will start you off with one name: Earl Clark.

Clark fits the profile in so many ways. He is 25, so he can grow with this team as he enters his prime. He also is a terrific defensive rebounder for a small forward, as he posted a defensive rebound rate of 19.1 last season (Paul George was next on the list at 19.0 for the sake of comparison). Clark is also just starting to come into his own as a three-point shooter, hitting 35 last season after making just two in his previous three years in the league combined.

He is an extremely willing defender, as he was often the only one playing any for the matador Lakers last season. It is what got him quality minutes in Orlando under Stan Van Gundy two years ago, as SVG used him to defend four different positions in his time there. And lastly, he can be had at a reasonable price. Remember that dream scenario where I said we could flip GV and Lopez for Pekovic and come back and sign a small forward with an exception? Well, Earl Clark could be that small forward. A three-year deal worth 10-12 million should be more than enough to sign Clark, and that deal could look like a bargin as early as next season.

Goodbye

With all of this I say goodbye. Not so much to you, the reader, because I know that you will be back. But I say goodbye to the future. I say goodbye to peaking around the corner, and I say hello to analyzing the present and the recent past. I can’t wait to do more of that, actually. With no first round pick in 2014, the Pelicans will not be “resting” players anymore late in the season. They will not be giving young guys minutes who don’t deserve them. They will be trying to win every game – what a noble concept, huh? And as they do that, I will focus on the games, not the future. Make no mistake about it, this was fun, but the prospect of winning is infinitely more exciting.

Farewell Missing Piece.

The Missing Piece was a weekly series that you can find only on BourbonStreetShots.com. For past articles in the series, click here.