For the last three weeks, the New Orleans Pelicans have been hoping to add Greg Oden to their already promising young core. On Friday night he decided to sign with the Miami Heat instead, leaving the Pelicans with a room exception and nobody to spend it on.
Or so it seems.
The truth is that there are still several quality free agents on the market that could help a team that has some minor holes that need to be filled. Greg Oden had, perhaps, the highest ceiling of all the guys on the market, but the chances of him reaching that ceiling were probably 1-in-a-1000, if that. The fact is that there are dozens of guys still available that have contributed more in the last year or two than Oden has in his entire career, and while they aren’t sexy acquisitions, they can help you win games.
The Pelicans could arguably use help at three positions: Small Forward, Center, and Point Guard. And at worst, you are bringing in competition to help push some of the other players on this roster. The team has the room exception to spend (2.62 million) and could have almost any player still on the market with that money, now that most teams are offering just minimum contracts. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some guys the Pelicans can bring in with the money Greg Oden turned down.
1. Beno Udrih, PG
I already know what people are going to say, but hear me out. Most feel that we are overloaded at the guard position and question my sanity in wanting to bring in another guard. That’s fine, I’ve been called worse than crazy in the past. No offense taken. But I will ask you this: Imagine a scenario where Jrue Holiday suffers a minor injury and has to miss a couple of weeks. Who runs the show while he is gone?
The standard answer is that, “Tyreke Evans can play point guard,” or “How about Austin Rivers?” No thanks. Can they play point guard? Sure, in stretches. Do I want either of those guys to run my offense for 30-40 minutes per night? No thank you. Jrue Holiday is our Drew Brees. Austin Rivers and Tyreke Evans are Michael Vick or Tim Tebow. Can those guys pass and make plays? Sure. Do you want them being the general of your offense? Not if you want to get others involved consistantly.
To me, Brian Roberts and Pierre Jackson (for now) are not the answer either. And if you try to play Tyreke out of position, then you weaken two areas of your team. Instead, I propose getting a true point guard to back up Holiday and fill in if needed. Udrih is a solid pro with an assist rate over 32% in each of the last two seasons. As a bonus, Tyreke Evans played terrific off of Udrih in Sacramento. Most of Evans best five-man lineups involved Udrih on the ball and Tyreke playing off of it.
Sign Udrih, trade Roberts for a 2nd or 3rd string big man, and let Pierre Jackson play in France next season. Voila, clutter gone!
2. Rodrigue Beaubois, PG
Remember when Dallas considered this guy untouchable? Now, he is just twiddling his thumbs on the free agent market, waiting for somebody to give him a call. Beaubois fits the mold of our recent reclamation projects. Talented first round pick who got squeezed out of his team’s rotation and missed time with injuries. Also, lacked focus on the defensive end. But man, does this guy have tremendous offensive potential. In his rookie season, he averaged more than 20 points per 36 minutes and had a true shooting percentage of 61.7%.
He is lightning quick and could really help push the pace. Also, like the other guys we brought in this summer, he is a young vet who is just starting to reach his physical prime. Take a chance on him and if you get him playing free, the way he did his rookie year, you could have another special, young talent on your hands.
3. Ivan Johnson, PF/C
Quick, who is the toughest, nastiest player on this roster? Time’s up. Got anybody? Either do I, and that’s too bad, because we need some nastiness. Honestly, I can’t think of anybody in the NBA I would be more afraid to get into the Octogon with. You know how I say, “Me and a Grizzly Bear, I’m betting on me,” in the podcast? I still believe that. Me and Ivan Johnson? He destroys me in less than ten seconds.
Johnson is an enforcer who can rebound and gets a surprising number of steals. He is nothing to write home about on the offensive end, but he can finish at the basket he has a serviceable mid-range jumper. But more than anything, you get this guy to provide some toughness, both in games against other teams, and in practice against your own guys day in and day out.
4. Tyrus Thomas, PF/C
The Pelicans were willing to gamble big on Greg Oden. The second biggest gamble, in my opinion, is former top-five pick Tyrus Thomas, a Baton Rogue native who played for LSU. Just three years ago, Tyrus Thomas was a very good rebounder and an elite shot blocker. His career 5.1% block percentage mirrors Anthony Davis’s rookie year. If Thomas is healthy and Monty can get his head on straight, he can give you everything Nerlens Noel would have given you this year and then some.
5. Unnamed Player in March
The Pelicans can stand pat or they can bring back end of the bench guys from last year like Lance Thomas and/or Lou Amundson. Either of those guys can be had for the minimum and you can save the exception for a guy who gets released in March. It will be a prorated portion, of course, but that prorated amount will be bigger than the prorated minimum amount, and that can help you land a guy late in the season. Teams always release solid veteran players after the trade deadline, so saving that exception can help you land one of them.