Several Free Agent Options Still Available for the New Orleans Pelicans

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Published: August 2, 2013
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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.

 

34 comments
pelicans72
pelicans72

Trade Anderson for Omer Asik and Eric Gordon for Luol Deng and Tony Snell or draft considerations

Starting lineup:

Jrue, Tyreke, Deng, Davis, Asik

It's a win win for everyone involved: the Rockets get afloor-spacing PF, the Bulls get a scorer alongside DRose and we fill the holes in our lineup. Asik is a great rebounder at C and deng is a traditional SF.


rrossi004
rrossi004

I like the Beaubois idea even though the backcourt is a bit crowded (never hurts to have talent. If he elevates his game he is at worst - a bargaining chip, at best - a still young talent who could become a solid backup/ instant offense off the bench).

Ivan is somewhat interesting as well, but Udrih is really just a filler player at a position we don't need filled. And Thomas, well... I just don't think it's a good idea.

Other thoughts:

Ronnie Brewer - again he's really a 2 and we have plenty of those to ration playing time to already, but he is still a very solid defender and could help Monty re-inject some of his defensive mentality that was lacking last year. Plus, we can probably get him cheap and if we end up making a bigger move involving Eric Gordon down the road, he could provide some stable depth to the roster. 

Mickael Pietrus - probably highly overrated for a couple of years but now the needle has swung so far he may actually be underrated. Again, an athletic defender at SF - a position where we could use more depth - who can be a decent (if streaky) shooter.

Eddy Curry - our obvious answer and savior at the C position.    ... ok just joking about this one.

Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

I too have been wondering why noone has signed Ivan the Terrible.

Come On Pelican
Come On Pelican

Your assertion that the Pelicans "could arguably use help" at the center position may be the understatement of the off-season.  Every New Orleans fan has to love Jason Smith's game, but is he really a starting NBA center?  Isn't he much better coming off the bench?  One certainty after watching a few Monty Williams' coached teams is that he likes starting the game with a traditional line-up, including a true, solid center.  That starting center may not end up getting a ton of minutes every game.  But he's out there for the tip-off, and he'll stay on the floor for the 1st 8 minutes of the game, unless he picks up two quick fouls.  It's obvious that Dell Demps et al. still view the upcoming 2013-14 season as a transitional year, so isn't it unrealistic to expect the team's leadership to deprive Coach Williams of his preferred starting line-up?  If there's an opportunity to put together a deal either before or during the season to bring in a legitimate starting center, my guess is that Demps and Williams will be in favor of one final upgrade to the roster.

voopster
voopster

I vote Beaubois, fragile but deadly

josephplum
josephplum

Love this column. I don't necessarily agree with the idea about having a second string QB instead of Michael Vick.

Jrue = Drew
Tyreke = Mike Vick
Rivers = Tebow
Udrih = Luke McCown

If we could hold on to Ivan Johnson to have while we're contending (a few years off) he'd be my first choice. Championship teams have to have a crazy dude. I remember Barkley saying, in the context of Johnson's intimidation factor, "You ain't gon grab that man." Unnamed player in March, after the trade deadline, is probably the prudent choice. My impulsive self would probably roll the dice on Tyrus Thomas as a second choice, just to get in-arena-fans worked up with the Tiger Rag.

Papa Pelican
Papa Pelican

Daniel Orton from the Thunder another Kentucky Wildcat he's 23,a center and is worth an 2nd rd pick.

mojart
mojart

Give me ivan johnson or arron gray...

504ever
504ever

I'll take option 5.  Here is why.  The plan is to pick up pieces in a certain age range and develop them long term.  The Pelicans really only need help at two positions: (starting) SF and (starting) C.  No one on this list fits as either a long term piece or based on position, so the Pelicans retain flexibility to sign some one who fills these two needs later in the season with option 5.

Johnson and Thomas are PFs, one of the two most loaded single positions (SG is the other) on the team with Davis, Anderson, and even Animu on the PF depth chart.  So they are out.  Forget about all the "ifs" about Thomas ('if he is healthy and if Monty can get his head on straight'); they highlight his problems.  Oh, and what does Thomas add at PF that Animu doesn't?  Johnson is a 29 year old 2nd year NBA player.  Guys who aren't signed by now, not even by the bottom of the NBA barrel, are on the street for reason. 

The idea of another PG needs further discussion.  (Backup) PG is the Pelicans position of third greatest need, but one where help is on the roster.  So adding a 'stop gap' PG, absent a significant (knock on wood) injury in the future, will limit the growth of current players.  (I am not saying Rivers is a PG; I agree he is not.  Rivers is a player without an NBA position whose best chance to remedy this was to stay in college.  I have him as a situational Guard who plays when defense, not shooting (Morrow, a younger Roger Mason), scoring (Roberts), or quickness (Jackson) is needed, in addition to any "developmental" minutes Rivers gets this year as a 2nd year player.)  

The current PG whose growth I am most worried about is Jackson.  I wonder if the Jackson to Europe stuff was part of what the Pelicans had to do if Oden signed.  So I still see a reasonable chance Jackson stays on the Pelicans' roster.  I also remember Roberts playing very well at PG when he had to start, against Denver, with the highest assist total for a Hornet in a game last season.  (That's right, higher than Vasquez who averaged 9assists/game!)  So I'd like to see more of Roberts at the point when the game is close, and Jackson when he can get minutes.  Also, add in my point about guys who are on the street at this point in the preseason for a reason when you look at options 1 and 2.  They work fine if the Pelicans need a 10 day, or longer, fill in.


SnowofSX2
SnowofSX2

I wouldn't mind Thomas at all. I'd choose him over the ones you listed even Lou Amundson. 

saZam2
saZam2

i like the idea of T Thomas or Ivan.  Ivan really is a destroyer

mateor
mateor

I have never heard of this...Oden.

BigBLDavis
BigBLDavis

RIGHT ON TIME!  Standing ovation and thanks for sharing!

Caffeinedisaster
Caffeinedisaster

@rrossi004 Pietrus is an interesting prospect.  We're already playing SF by committee.  He seems to have fallen off the face of the planet in recent years.

xman20002000
xman20002000

@Come On Pelican Where do you find a traditional starting 5 on the street...  Considering we only have 11 on the roster... Look for something out of the front office... 

xman20002000
xman20002000

@josephplum If the Pelicans were thinking about winning being a few years off Monty and Demps would have to go... Last season we were in games not knowing how to close.... We started losing in the last 3 minutes plus lots of turnovers...   Some folks are predicting the Pelicans can ride below the radar shocking the league...  Others note the Holiday/Gordon backcourt as one of the better young backcourts in the league behind only the Bulls and Warriors...  

I don't get the comparisons with football players....

xman20002000
xman20002000

@Papa Pelican What makes you think we can cherry pick from OKC's roster....  Last I heard they were trying to dump Thabeet

xman20002000
xman20002000

@504ever If Thomas played his entire career for the Bobcats... God bless him... they are  like the old Saints... ESPN has the chart at the 5 as Smith, Stiemsma and Whthey....  That might just work....  Smith might be ready to break out... I always liked Stiemsma and the rookie is a hell of a defensive player...  

I like Beaubois at PG if we are going to bring one in....  Roberts is adequate in a rotation plus he can shoot.... Jackson might be in France for a while...  Why even bring him up...  Aminu will, have a break out year....   Last season he proclaimed his defense would improve.... It did... and if he can do the same this season.... He will be good plus we are bringing Evans off the bench... He and Anderson should be a great combo... with the vastly improved combo guard Rivers....

In reality we don't know what the front office will do... Who could have anticipated the trade for Holiday.....  It will be fun to watch...

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

@504ever Great comments. A few minor disagreements. 

Overall, I agree, I would choose #5 too. But Ivan Johnson is a center. He defends centers, so that is his position. 

If Udrih beats out Rivers and/or Jackson, then that is on them. Saying not to bring a guy in because he might be better than the guy(s) we already have is not an argument I stand behind. Get the best players possible, create competition every day and push those young guys. Make them beat out a vet like Udrih, don't just hand them a role. 

But no, nobody on this list is a need or a long term piece. Those guys are long gone. If any of those guys were still out there, they would top this list. But there are still guys that can help around the edges short term. Plus, you add another expiring contract, which could help make salaries work in a trade come February. There are no home runs or even doubles left. But a sacrifice bunt might be out there. 

RobertWelch
RobertWelch

@xman20002000  Yeah, I was hoping Oden might decide to come to the Big Easy, but after it's all said and done, I'm glad he didn't. I looks like he did make the right decision, and some of the things he said about it convinced me so. I didn't realize he is still feeling so fragile. The way he talked about the Heat promising not to use him much, let him pretty much rehab as much as needed this year, sounds to me like he is a long ways off still from being on the court in any kind of significant way. If he came here, and didn't play any significant minutes, it would be a disappointment. The Heat really only need him for the playoffs, and in particular the playoffs with Indiana, if they meet them again, which seems likely. All the Heat need to do is give him just enough playing time to get him in shape for the conference championships and the finals maybe. If they can get that out of him, then they got exactly what they need from him, no more and no less. He would be a bargain for them at that point.

For the Pelicans, we could rest him a good amount, but we'd really need him to be some kind of presence for us along the way. We'd need some production from him during the season, and at the beginning of the playoffs for sure. If we don't get that production from him during the season, we might not even get to the playoffs. So for both Oden and the Pelicans, it was probably better he didn't come here if he isn't up for that. To have him on the roster this year, but really have him do nothing for us would be a sore disappointment, and that is sounding exactly like what would happen, listening to what he said about why he joined the Heat. It might work out really well for him and the Heat, and if it doesn't, at least the Heat will still likely be in the same position at the end of the year either way, just be a little easier for them if he's contributing. For us, he would be a much bigger difference maker, and unfortunately more likely a disapointment. I don't think we can as easily afford the disapointment this year.

Good luck Greg, it was fun to contemplate what could have been, but glad to not have to face what likely would have been. Thank you for not taking our money to sit on the bench.

Papa Pelican
Papa Pelican

They want to dump one or the other from publish reports.

504ever
504ever

@Michael McNamara@504ever 

Agree with all, except Johnson is 6-8.  I don't care where he played for Atlanta.  That is too little length to play C in the Western Conference for me.

Your idea to use the Room Exception to get another expiring is an interesting, but puts us on the 'improvement by trade only' path and removes the chance to use the Room Exception later.  I trust Dell to make that difficult choice.


As far as PGs go, I was trying to say:  Are options 1 or 2 good enough long term to be better than what we have now and worth losing our 2013 Room Exception?  I say: "No, unless (knock on wood, again) we have an injury."  Others may disagree.

I see the Pelicans growth as occurring over multiple seasons.  So if option 1 or 2 doesn't fill a long term need, I say wait for better options especially at SF or C.

My 2 cents.  Others may disagree.

Papa Pelican
Papa Pelican

Gray is still undercontract with the Raptors

xman20002000
xman20002000

@RobertWelch @xman20002000 Listen I agree with your comments...  But remember the Eastern Conference didn't stand in one place marching to the same drummer...  Derrick Rose is back for the Bulls and Danny Granger will be on the court for the Pacers.   The Knicks and the Nets will be trying to win.. I don't see the Heat having an easy time walking in the park.... 

But I agree...We need this guy to play and if he is worried about getting hurt... that would be a cloud over the head of a young team... and in that regard a distraction..  Good Luck Mr. Oden..


josephplum
josephplum

@Michael McNamara @josephplum @504ever I see what you're saying. I think we're all a little traumatized by watching Emeka and Landry get outsized by the Lakers in 2011. In that series it was the length of the dog in the fight, not the size of the heart in the dog. 

josephplum
josephplum

@Michael McNamara @504ever 
I agree about body measurements, but Smith is a much better overall player. I know you said only in the context of defending a burly center, but Smith is pretty tough and would make Howard, Gasol, or Duncan work on both ends. Johnson is a fifth big; I'd start Smith on this team.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara moderator

@504ever @Michael McNamara Chuck Hayes is one of the best defenders of Centers in the West and he is smaller than Johnson. Give me a guy who can actually perform the task over ideal measureables any day of the week. Yes, Jason Smith is 7-feet, but if I had to cover Howard or Duncan or Gasol in the low post, I would choose Johnson, without a 2nd thought personally.