How to Watch New Orleans Pelicans Free Agency

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Published: July 2, 2013
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Free Agency is normally a time of excitement for teams with a enough cap space to land a difference-maker, as the New Orleans Pelicans do. Many fans even enjoy, at least on some level, watching other teams’ moves as they reshape the NBA.

With Dell Demps at the helm, this gets taken to a higher level.

It’s not all about excitement, however. Since the start of the Benson era of ownership, this franchise has shown an increased level of savvy. Prior to Benson, Dell’s move were things like Posey and Collison for Ariza, a pick for Bayless, Pondexter for Vasquez. Little stuff.

Dell’s track record during this time was overall on the plus side, but these moves were not anything of real weight. They were well-intentioned moves that improved the roster or at least were easily recoverable, as in the case of Bayless. He has yet to really take back a worse contract than he sent out.

Since Benson bought the team, however, the moves have changed character, and there is a picture the puzzle pieces, looked at correctly, reveal.

Many new regimes want to set the tone going forward by making some kind of public splash. The Benson camp traded Ariza and Okafor for Louisiana’s own Rashard Lewis, then paid him to win a title with the Heat while getting paid only about $2.5m less than LeBron James in the process. The move for Ryan Anderson can be viewed as a no-brainer, but apparently Demps’ success was due in part to most GM’s assuming he was unavailable. Demps asked the easy question and was rewarded handsomely. Then, he dumped Jack by getting involved in a Sixers-Warriors deal, traded for a retiring player making around $5m, then entered into a winning deal for all parties that landed the Hornets Robin Lopez.

Trading productive, though not impressively so, players for someone to buy out makes good cap sense, as we see today (literally), but for new ownership to see the wisdom of going through the pain of the 2012-2013 season for the potential pleasure of this period of Free Agency instead of making a splash of some sort then and there is informative. It says that this franchise knows significant investment is required to get right (in the classic “Can’t Get Right” sense), and that ownership is providing the time and money to do just that.

  • Taking the time to wrangle and manage a disgruntled and injured Eric Gordon after taking the risk of signing him to the maximum deal Phoenix could offer him, player option and trade veto power included, is informative. It says that this team is not only about developing assets, but that it is also about developing players. This team will be a place for players to come and be treated with respect and given the opportunities to display their talents in the constant job-interview that the NBA is for most players. Having a practice facility (like all the other teams) makes this easier to sell.
  • Trading Warrick to Charlotte so he could get playing time and waiving Rashard Lewis at great cost both send a message to players that the Pelicans value them as workers and appreciate their need to constantly interview, which furthers the above.
  • Pursuing, nearly exclusively, restricted free agents with above-average-salary contracts, is informative. It says that this team knows it is not ready to compete at the highest level, but is investing in the future, sticking with their young veteran plan . . . the Pelican model.
  • Demps’ trading-to-set-up-the-trade-to-set-up-the-trade is not just an homage to Swingers, but shows a willingness to find moves that other GM’s are unwilling or unable to pursue. That he can cash in assets, unlike Chris Grant in Cleveland time after time, makes the effort worth it and reinforces the cycle.
  • Demps’ willingness to search for inefficiencies in the market, like his pursuit of Ryan Anderson, reinforces both his aptitude and dedication to his job and to the players.

Taken together, these show that the that the Pelicans are fully self-aware of their status in the NBA, which is an organization with a bad reputation who may be on the rise. May. This is the first of the 12 steps, for those keeping score. (Incidentally, they are acknowledging the power of outside agents, making amends for the mistakes of the past and more, so maybe that’s not too shabby a reference.)

They know who they are. They know they can’t just plop a fair deal, much less a shrewd deal, down and expect a free agent to thank them for honoring him in such a fashion. They know they have to `overpay’, but they do it differently. They don’t vastly overpay the proven vet who is on the downside of his career whose value on the court and on the player market declines by the day (we’ll see about Iggy). They overpay young players who can turn their ship around by a lesser amount and whose deals end up being more movable than the behemoth that was Peja’s contract (a free, valuable lesson for Demps there, perhaps), for instance. Lopez is exactly this sort of contract: The often-injured Center got a contract exceeding his qualifying offer, but with team options to protect New Orleans in case it did not work out.

Going forward into this offseason, the band strikes up right where it left off, with the Pelicans pursuing a restricted free agent by the name of Tyreke Evans after netting Jrue Holiday in a Draft night trade.

The proposed Lopez for Evans deal (possibly with Vasquez or a minimum salary player) will leave the Pelicans with no Cap Room, just small exceptions and the ability to trade players. Last offseason, Dell acquired three main pieces in trade in Lewis, Ryan Anderson, and Lopez, while retaining Gordon’s services. Anderson was acquired in trade, but could have easily been a free agent signing, and Lewis was bought out, of course. This offseason has seen two major moves so far for the Pelicans, counting Jrue and this Evans play. Further significant moves will have to be via trade.

As this team assembles, and as bad contracts turn into good, it’s important, also, to remember that players have value to your team and value to other teams. The teams deployed are not always ideally constructed to win a title, of course. This is not only because there just is not enough talent on the Pelicans roster to do that, but also because the roster is being filled with players who are were undervalued at one point and whose stock is rising. They can then, hopefully, be traded at a higher value, over and over again. When the time is right to get the piece that was wanted all along, hopefully the assets are sufficient.

Looking at Lopez this way may make the proposed deal for Evans seem better. Some players are more asset than player when it comes down it. Therefore, when that asset reaches its strike price, you swap it out for another undervalue asset. Lopez is clearly at this highest value to this point in his career. With his injury history (in Phoenix, if that matters to you), his value may never be higher. The return may never be higher, so trade.

Some may think the team is overpaying for Tyreke (if they get him). Time will tell, as will the market. But, he may also be undervalued. It’s hard to tell with the cloud(s) he was under there in Sacramento. We can certainly understand how ownership issues can devastate a team and players and still bear no reflection on the market or city, but the team there has been in chaos. Lopez had the injury cloud, and Anderson had the Dwight cloud, and these depressed their value. Anderson was clearly a solid player, but not Lopez. Thank the scouts and medical staff for the help on that one.

So just bear those things in mind:

  • The long-term plan
  • Persistent elevation of asset value
  • Financial commitment and savvy
  • Culture change

Sadyly, some of basketball is not about basketball.

If they can package these assets, like Houston has done over the past couple of years with their weird teams, at least pre-Harden. They are on the brink, one way or another, with Dwight. It all comes down to free agent negotiations for them. For the Pelicans, seeing Dell’s history, it’ll likely come down to a trade. The trade will use some of the non-Davis assets collected over the time. Demps’ll pick his spot, and we won’t know who or how or why or when. He’ll pick his spot, he’ll roll the dice that he loaded as much as possible . . .

Then it’ll be about basketball.

23 comments
xman20002000
xman20002000

The Kings pulled the offer to Iggy....  So will they try to retain Evans... but oh he hasn't signed the offer.. And by the way, looks like the Kings felt with that kind of money on the table.. we don't do the Dwight Howard...  So I don't know if I want to sign for $100M with you......

Does Evans want to remain in Kings... Will they match....  Who knows... round 2

Kempleton
Kempleton

Great article. I think Dell Demps has been making very clever moves during his tenure.

If he can sign Evans, our starting lineup may be Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis. Almost all 5 of those are star-caliber players, 1 of them has already became an all-star, at least 3 of them are all-star caliber.

AD(age 20) played for Team USA, Gordon(age 24) was a finalist for Team USA, Holiday(age 23) was a member of USA Basketball Select Team which was a team of young stars, possible future Team USA players, Tyreke Evans(age 23) attended Team USA training camp back in 2010. So, our starting lineup will have 4 players under 25 that has all-star (and Team USA) potential! AD has already made it to Team USA at age 19! So, he has superstar potential. Think about a superstar surrounded by 3-4 stars! Wow!

I hope Demps can sign Evans! Come on Kings, do something good and do not match that offer! If Dell extended him an offer, I am sure he has a good plan in mind! Even if Kings keep Evans, I am sure Dell would have a great plan B. Excited to watch the Pelicans roster shape this month!

Rebuilding is officially over. Now, it is time to Win.

Geaux Pelicans!

LaNative
LaNative

As always, concise and informative.  I always look here first for the latest Pelicans news.  And for the record, let's not put into motion this CANS thing.  But you guys make it plain - exactly what the majority of us need.  In my opinion, you are the front runner in information regarding our team, our new practice facility and renovations to the arena.  Thanks a million from a Pelican hungry out-of-state fan.  

Sportgeek4
Sportgeek4

Jason, this is incredibly well written and logical. You fellas do a great job. I always thoroughly enjoy your articles. Please keep up the outstanding work! Using this logic to elevate assets that the Pelicans are clearly using sure seems to me that they are in no hurry to trade Gordon. He did the Pelicans a favor by signing the offer from Phoenix. There is no need to, he has 2 years before he can opt out, so lets get solid pieces around Davis and him, and see what happens!

DeFrank
DeFrank

If done in the correct order of operations, i believe we might not have to forfeit our cap space if we perform a sign-and-trade with the Kings. This would require sending Lopez and one other player of the following: Vasquez, Smith or Rivers (heard that rumor going around). A four year, $44 mil contract would have a first year salary of about $10.3 mil. Trading Lopez and one of the aforementioned players would enable us to take back 150% of their combined salaries plus $100,000, which would be more than enough for Evans' proposed salary. We could use our cap room prior to finalizing the trade and still have our Room Mid-Level Exception. This of course implies Evans agrees to sign and the Kings want any of these players. Please feel free to correct any or all of this.

mateor
mateor

FYI, Home tab still goes to Hornets247 redirect.

Edit: while I am here, the gravatars obscure text on my various Android browsers.

AngryCookies
AngryCookies

A lot of y'all are over thinking this worried to much this cap situation which is stupid we have the money spend it. I mean come on theirs no need to hold on to that money or spend it on guys like Corey Brewer or Dorrell Wright yeah they're nice fits but we won't get anywhere with them. If it doesn't workout we could trade Gordon in February for some guys but I like what the pelicans are doing.

lsucpolk
lsucpolk

I love how Dell is going after young talented guys who can put the ball in the hoop.  He isn't overpaying for older vets who are past their prime.  He isn't depending on 19-year-old rookies.  He is getting guys who can produce now, and also in future seasons.  With Anthony Davis as the centerpiece, and young talented playmaking guys as the supporting cast, the future is bright.  It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Pelicans. 

Pelican Poster
Pelican Poster

Vasquez is now at his all time high value...Dell will utilize that value to better the team while it is at its peak...his value will begin dropping now with Holiday on board...similar situation with Lopez per the article...will move while at his high value and before we acquire a better C or move others over to the 5 spot...now is therefore NOT the time to move Gordon because he cannot show anyone that he can stay on the court...they had to sit him last year to protect their future asset value...a gamble perhaps but if Gordon feels good and can play and plays well, now we have a choice to keep him or trade him...either to our benefit and gaining flexibility...I say they'll trade Gordon at that time to recapture the 2014 pick so many are worried about losing...as for Evans, guy has shown he can be a great player, but when surrounded by knuckleheads like Demarcus Cousins (sorry Thornton), I think he's lost his way...can't believe he is just 23...seems like he's been there for a long time already...Budinger gone....my fear is we get none of these guys we want...must admit to be excited about a dynamic 2nd team of Evans, Rivers, Anderson, Smith, and maybe Pierre Jackson and his 42"+ vertical...compare that to our 2nd teams of the past..anyone see the video of Rivers at the Pro-Am game recently? Looked super fast and was nailing deep shots (!) I think he is poised to have a great year...still so young..be patient guys!

xman20002000
xman20002000

this is a great and well thought observational analysis...  One of the things left out is the relationship with the Saints/Benson organization... Look at the Saints strategy with free agents this season and the draft...   Our first signature was Lewis out of the Steelers organization...  The kid started in a Dick LeBeau defense.... You can't have a better mentor but the move is similar bringing in talent...  The Saints did it with Greer and Bunkley....

Demps' first move was bringing in Holiday...  LOL...  Now that was skill and research but we did get a little lucky...  He can ball.. all out ball...  He looks like a max contract talent... When coach said he wanted to play faster... some of us knew Vasquez was gone... To me, he and Rondo could play together...  But we are looking for someone to play with EG, stay or leave and Holiday...  And this covers the BowerPaul issues including the primary reason he fled... teams inability to surround him with talent..

The great thing is the chemistry of these moves especially assuming we have Evans....  Look at the rotation with EG....  Ever thought Jason Smith might be ready to start...  To me it began when he got a technical foul against Blake....at the Clippers game...  We do need another big...

mojart
mojart

in Dell we trust....

RafaBrazil
RafaBrazil

Couldn't have written it any better! that's exactly what this offseason is about! in demps we trust!

504ever
504ever

Really like this!  (And expect Gordon to be traded this season once he plays well for an extended period of time and has a higher market value.)

mateor
mateor

Good article. Hornets as a bad drunk has merit.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes moderator

@mateor The theme and livefyre don't play well. That may get fixed this summer, maybe on next redesign next summer. We'll see.

Thanks for not on home link. the downside of a 301 redirect is that it hides some stuff.

ADubya11
ADubya11

If Gordon plays well for an extended period of time, would you want to hang on to him at all?

AngryCookies
AngryCookies

Well disagree all you want but when we sign Evans just go be a heat or lakers fan

AngryCookies
AngryCookies

You can complain all you want but with the kings offering iggy a big contract Evans is basically ours so you better get use to Holliday/Gordon/Evans our you can complain on this site for the next four years

504ever
504ever

@AngryCookies  

You prove my point with how insulting you are: "A lot of y'all are... which is stupid" and "just go be a heat or lakers fan".

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