The New Orleans Pelicans arranged a meeting with former Blazers center and #1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, Greg Oden. Do the Pelicans have what it takes to separate themselves from his other suitors?
Yesterday morning, Marc Stein of ESPN.com first reported that Greg Oden would meet with a few teams in Las Vegas during NBA Summer League – the Mavericks, Kings, and Pelicans. Up until that point, it had been widely assumed that Oden’s most likely landing spot would be with one of the two teams from the 2013 NBA Finals, either Miami or San Antonio. Even after Stein’s story, the notion of Oden ending up on the New Orleans Pelicans seemed like a long shot, as Oden would opt for the team with the superior title chances given equal salary. A player with Oden’s injury history likely draw only minimum salary offers from most teams, so the title contenders would have no reason to raise the stakes, leaving the field level.
This morning, however, Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears provided added intel on the Pelicans’ expected meeting with Oden. According to Spears, New Orleans will instead meet with Oden later this week, as he is heading home today. The meeting will reportedly include Mickey Loomis, Dell Demps, and Monty Williams, which should indicate how serious the Pelicans are in their pursuit of Oden. Unfortunately, just because the team’s front office is serious doesn’t necessarily mean that Oden is serious about ending up in New Orleans.
In order to make an offer strong enough to compete with the likes of Miami and San Antonio, Spears says that the Pelicans are offering a starting salary just shy of $3 million in the first year of his contract. Unfortunately, the team does not seem to have the requisite cap space to make this offer at present, as they are over the salary cap.
Skip this if you don’t care about the Cap stuff. Special thanks to the one and only Larry Coon for contributing to the following section. Anything correct is Larry’s; anything wrong is Jason’s.
As it turns out, NBA teams are not constrained by space or time in making deals happen. They are constrained only by money, the CBA, creativity, and the willingness of the parties involved. While the team appears over the cap, and appeared so when they signed Greg Stiemsma to a contract that looks suspiciously Room Mid-Level Exception. In fact, it appeared as if the Pelicans had consumed the Room Mid-Level Exception.
This, however, is not the case.
NBA teams have the ability to arrange their transactions in any consistent and CBA-legal order.
Applied here, it seems the Pelicans can consider the Tyreke Evans trade to have occurred after any free agent signings up to that point in the offseason, should it prove advantageous. In this case, it does. Because the Evans trade brought back so much more money than was sent out, it eats up the much available cap room if it occurs just after the Holiday trade (which has to occur using space because of the unbalanced salary) in transaction order. By sliding it until later, other moves can be considered to happen with Harris, Lopez, and Vasquez on the books instead of Evans.
This allowed Aminu to be resigned, of course, but it also allowed Stiemsma and Morrow to be signed into cap space. This leaves the Room Mid-Level Exception available to give to Oden. This gives a deal that is consistent with the reported deal.
Moreover, further rearrangements could allow the team to up the offer to right around $3m, if I (Jason) am thinking about this correctly. The deal could be sweetened further by waiving or trading away unguaranteed players. Update: I was not thinking about this correctly. Once a deal is executed, the mechanism that allows it can not be changed. Thus, Morrow will remain as a signing into cap space. Also, Stiemsma’s deal exceeds that which can be offered by the Room Mid-Level Exception, so he could never have been signed into it.
I’ll save the wrinkles for another, far more painful, article.
Anything wrong is still Jason’s . . .
Now that we know the Pelicans have some legitimate options, we can discuss other details – health and contract structure.
Does the Pelicans’ training staff think that Oden’s knees are healthy enough for him to cost the team other roster possibilities this year and perhaps in later years? If so, will he agree to a team-friendly or performance-based contract which gives the Pelicans the option to retain him (something similar to Robin Lopez’s contract, perhaps)?
For reference, his most recent contract, in the 2011-2012 season, was worth $1.5m.
All of this talk of a contract begs the question: What’s the big deal?
- Oden was considered a “once-in-a-decade type player” prior to the draft where he was taken first overall, ahead of Kevin Durant
- Oden has played, coincidentally, 82 games in his NBA career, and the numbers are impressive
- Henry Abbott says Oden can really play
- The same article, however, details all of his injury issues, including three microfractures surgeries, two on one knee, one on the other, and more issues
So while he has tremendous potential and is still below the age at which many big men show peak performance, he could very well fail to play a single game, just as in that most recent $1.5m deal. The upshot there is that he signed that deal rather than even a qualifying offer from Portland. It was not a cash grab for Oden, and he voluntarily sat out last season. He could be legitimately trying to make a comeback the right way rather than just cashing in while the player market is hungry for potential value.
None of the above matters if Oden prefers to sign elsewhere. Some of the other teams that have shown interest in him are as follows:
- Miami Heat. The Heat can offer Oden about $3.2 million through their taxpayer mid-level exception, and using their amnesty on Mike Miller will help clear some space in their budget to sign him. Needless to say, if Oden wants to chase a title right from the start, there is no better option for him than Miami. As of now, Oden will cost the Heat 3.5 times his salary in total cost (salary plus tax). If the deal exceeds the minimum, it will erode their ability to sign higher profile free agents with their taxpayer MLE. Also, the microscope in Miami may be a negative for a player on the mend.
- San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs may be able to offer Oden a better chance at winning a championship next season, but the team’s long-term prospects are not as strong, and he may have a more difficult time earning minutes behind Duncan and Splitter. The Spurs can only offer him a minimum contract.
- Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks may be able to offer more minutes than the Pelicans, Heat, or Spurs, but that team does not have any clear direction at this point, and Oden runs the risk of getting stuck in a rebuilding situation next season.
As a result of the interest in Oden from other teams, the Pelicans will have to make a strong sell to Oden on the advantages of coming to New Orleans if they want to swipe him away from some of the league’s strongest franchises, especially if the Heat offer a deal over the minimum. Here are a few possible selling points from Dell Demps & Co.:
- The opportunity to grow with the team’s young core, similar in age to him, with the goal of building a sustainable contender
- The ability to grow as a player and prove he can still be effective on a team that would impose far less pressure on him than he may feel in other places like Miami or San Antonio along with fans that are quick to love and content to hope (at least for now)
- A very public enduring of a nearly-two-seasons-long rehabilitation of Eric Gordon’s knee, including extraordinary measures and steadfast defense of the guard
- Monty Williams, the assistant coach in Portland when Greg Oden was drafted in 2007, as his head coach, providing an established relationship that could make New Orleans a more comfortable place to work for Oden
Greg Oden may be just what the Pelicans are looking for: a 25 year old big man of high character who is potentially undervalued, looking to prove himself, and can be had on a reasonable and tradeable deal. Ultimately, however, the chase for Greg Oden will come down to two things – what Oden is looking for in his next NBA team and what Oden is looking for from his next NBA team.
Photo Credit: AP, Bill Haber
In case it wasn’t clear, Jason and Mason worked on this together.