LeBron’s move to Cleveland allows Dell Demps to get creative with Asik trade

Published: July 12, 2014

What a day, huh? As soon as LeBron announced his decision that he would be heading back to Cleveland, the NBA free agency period quickly kicked into overdrive. Among the flurry of deals to take place this afternoon was the announcement of a trade between the Cavaliers and Pelicans that sent veteran small forward Alonzo Gee to New Orleans for future draft considerations (recent reports are calling that a top-55 protected pick in 2016 from the Clippers).

Without James’ decision to take his talents back home, there would have been little incentive for the Cavs to dump Gee’s contract so quickly, but with the addition of LeBron, they have gone into full salary-shedding mode (the move also may give Cleveland a $3 million trade exception depending on how their moves are arranged). Before going on, let’s be clear – Gee will never play a minute for the Pelicans. He has played pretty terribly each of the past two seasons and belongs nowhere near a legitimate team’s regular rotation. However, he is entering the final season of his 3-year contract which owes him $3 million – ALL of which is non-guaranteed, and that is the key.

Acquiring Gee is important because doing so allows the Pelicans to inch even closer to accumulating enough “dead weight” unguaranteed contracts to trade to Houston (along with the 2015 first round pick protected 1-3 & 21-30) without having to part with any meaningful players. New Orleans now possesses the non-guaranteed contracts of Gee ($3 million), Melvin Ely ($1,316,809), & Luke Babbitt ($981,084), totaling up to $5,297,893. In order to trade for a player despite having the requisite cap space to take in his entire salary, the amount of salary traded out x 1.5 plus $100,000 must equal or exceed the amount of salary coming in. In purely mathematical terms:

Outgoing salary x 1.5 + $100,000 > Incoming salary

For example, if a team with no cap room is trading a player making $4 million, the salary that they receive in return cannot exceed $6.1 million (6 million is 150% of 4 million, plus the extra $100,000). If the Pelicans were to utilize only the three contracts mentioned above (Gee, Ely, & Babbitt), they could take in up to $5,297,893 x 1.5 + $100,000 = $8,046,839.50. Unfortunately, Omer Asik’s 2014-15 salary is $8,374,646, meaning New Orleans is just a little bit short. Working backwards with Asik’s incoming salary in the equation, the outgoing salary necessary to complete a trade for Asik is $5,516,431, meaning the Pelicans are $218,538 short.

It is very difficult to imagine that the Pelicans pulled off this trade only to come up short and have to trade a player that could help them on the court to make it work. Adding Ajinca makes it work, and now that the Rockets aren’t in play for Bosh, they would be more likely to accept a contract that they wouldn’t be able to instantly shed for free. However, Ajinca took legitimate strides in his first season with New Orleans, and it stands to reason that the team would prefer to keep him if possible. Assuming Rivers is also staying in town, that leaves the Pelicans with two options to accumulate the outgoing salary necessary to trade for Asik:

  1. Sign and trade a player (likely either Al-Farouq Aminu or Jason Smith). As mentioned above, the Rockets all of a sudden may have some cap space to play with, and therefore could be interested in adding a player like Aminu or Smith to the deal if either will agree to be signed and traded to Houston.
  2. Acquire another non-guaranteed contract from the Cavaliers (Scotty Hopson or Matthew Dellavedova). With news that the Cavaliers still have an agreement with the Hornets to trade for Brendan Haywood, it is likely that one of those two contracts listed above will be going to Charlotte in exchange. As a result, it may be difficult for the Pelicans to acquire one of them, but not impossible. Of the two, Hopson’s contract would be ideal, as his $1,450,878 non-guaranteed salary would be enough to combine with just Gee and Ely’s contracts to get Asik. If Dellavedova was the guy, then Babbitt would still need to be included for the trade to work, as his non-guaranteed money only amounts to $816,482 (they would be $383,140 short).

As a result of the Gee trade, as it was a trade into cap space, the Pelicans have lost their non-taxpayer mid-level exception and bi-annual exception, but are left with the room mid-level exception ($2,732,000 this season and the contract cannot exceed two years in length) and a small amount of cap space instead. In an ideal world, that could be used to get a serviceable stopgap small forward, or – potentially an even better use – to bring back Anthony Morrow. The fact that Morrow has not signed yet is encouraging, and you can be sure that Dell Demps has been keeping him in the loop in hopes of having him return to New Orleans next season. (UPDATE 7/12/14 at 1 PM: Anthony Morrow has reportedly agreed to a 3-year, $10 million contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.)

Speaking of Dell, the moral of the entire process I have described is this – the Pelicans have been working for far longer than was realized to make a trade like this one possible. Luke Babbitt and Melvin Ely were both signed to contracts with non-guaranteed second years, the latter with just a few days remaining in the regular season. Many questioned the significance at the time, but now the motive becomes inescapably clear. Chessmaster Dell Demps and the rest of his basketball ops team have once again found a way to create something out of what most initially thought was nothing. Their hard work should not go unnoticed.


  1. Sportnlyfe

    July 12, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Saw a tweet saying Pelicans had renounced Aminu, Smith, and Southerland rights. If true, I assume that means Bird rights too, so even if they wanted to bring back Smith or Aminu, they couldn’t go over the cap to do it, right? Also looks like Austin Rivers is still locked into the roster so far, after a lot of speculation, but didn’t Russ Smith just take his job? It’s just amazing how all the stuff Rivers is still struggling to learn seems to come so easy to Russ.

  2. Jason Calmes

    July 12, 2014 at 1:14 am


  3. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 1:23 am

    MG did the release of Steimsma right at the 11:59 point of the season also play a role?

  4. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 1:39 am

    Also impressive to me is that he was able to get a foot in the door with Cavs mgmt.with the flurry of activity and calls they had to be getting…surely we could not be the only team with needs of some kind, be it personnel, cap, whatever.
    Lastly, I seem to recall another explanation on here from some time ago that analyzed a multi-step, multi-person, multi-year situation for how Dell got from point A to point B which also revealed how the start to finish process benefitted us…?

  5. Jason Calmes

    July 12, 2014 at 2:15 am

    Pelican Poster This? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2012/08/15/the-2012-hornets-offseason-from-a-salary-cap-perspective/

  6. bpec12

    July 12, 2014 at 2:27 am

    Is that definitely the protections on the 1st round pick? The casual fan isn’t gonna like that. Anyway great piece Mason. I also feel morrow is waiting for us. He would have signed by now

  7. 504ever

    July 12, 2014 at 6:44 am

    So the upshot of the Gee trade was we lost nearly $5M in exceptions this year (the Bi-Annual Exemption and our MLE goes from Full to Room) to keep Rivers????  I think this move was a mistake.  That nearly $5M was money we could have used to sign Morrow, who can play some SF, and some other help at starting SF.  Instead we get a backup guard, Rivers, who hasn’t been able to beat out Brian Roberts?  We already have Holiday, Evans, and Gordon.  How many minutes can Rivers play?  
    I believe that hole at SF will determine our playoff fate in Western Conference this year.
    The only thing that would change my mind is keeping Ajinca (Withey is at least a year away from the 2nd team), signing Morrow, and signing a reasonable, stopgap/temporary, ‘3 & D’ SF.  (Or the miracle, trading Gordon.)

  8. Larry Lemoine

    July 12, 2014 at 7:09 am

    504ever Agreed, only having the room exception could leave a huge hole at SF and more importantly floor spacing on the first team if Evans starts. Maybe they were just having a difficult time moving Rivers. Don’t forget we also now have Russ Smith at guard. So many guards (and salary) and so few SF’s.

  9. Michael McNamara

    July 12, 2014 at 7:28 am

    504ever At the end of the day, you are pretty much looking at:
    1. Rivers, Ajinca, and the Room Exception
    2. the MLE and the BAE
    You are saying that you would rather have #2. Looking at the prices in this FA market, I disagree. I don’t think you can even get Marvin Williams for the MLE (not that I would want him!)
    Morrow is probably the best you can do, and while I would love him back, I would take Rivers and lets say Richard Jefferson or CDR over Morrow. 
    At the end of the day, we headed into FA with 6 mil in cap room and are walking our of this crazy Free agency period with huge price tags with Omer Asik. That is a mini miracle. People can nitpick around the edges I suppose, but what Dell did here is remarkable IMO

  10. Houpgarou

    July 12, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I’ll take either door 1 or 2 considering we brought in idea starting center for practically nothing

  11. Houpgarou

    July 12, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Good eye. It was originally reported widely as 1-10 and 20-30 protected

  12. 504ever

    July 12, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Michael McNamara 504ever
    I agree my complaint is currently limited, constrained to Morrow and he might have told us “see ya”.  So I will have to wait and see what SF we end up with.  
    I am a big “in Dell we trust guy” but that cuts both ways.  I am sure he knows what he could get for that nearly $5M, but his reputation also creates the perception that Dell could have done something significant at SF (possibly including Morrow) with that $5M. 
    I am a big CDR fan and was when he was drafted.  I wanted us to pick him with our late 1st, which we sold (brilliant!).  CDR went early-mid 2nd round and I was surprised.  He would be a nice get, but is he a starting SF?  To me he is more like those backups Dell pulls out of his hat every year, and that concerns me.  
    Dell addressed the starting C position and hopefully we keep Asik long term.  But if anything, we have a bigger hole at SF to go with our abundance of guards: Holiday, Evans, Gordon, Rivers.  Again, that is a concern pending Dell’s next moves (without nearly $5M in exemptions).

  13. ryc30078

    July 12, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Hey Michael, why did u delete your twitter account?

  14. Michael McNamara

    July 12, 2014 at 9:10 am

    504ever Michael McNamara I guess I just don’t see the other side. Who is the 5M small forward you are advocating for that all of a sudden makes you feel good there and makes you okay with Russ Smith as your backup PG?

  15. Zed84

    July 12, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Please don’t tell me they’re planning to bring back Aminu because it’s bad enough with Gordon on the roster because this franchise better pray for a winning season because Demps will regret giving away next years pick.

  16. Houpgarou

    July 12, 2014 at 9:51 am

    I hear you just think stopgap sf is fine as we are still in development mode, wanting.to win but with realistic expectations . Think a guy like asik gives us immediately several more wins and more of a future building block than a 3 & d sf. Meanwhile I am a fan of holding both rivers and Gordon as their value as assets can possibly increase quite a lot this year, prepping us for a big big 2015- 6 one way or another.personally, I’d be fine with Darius miller at sf with such a strong bench and starting 4

  17. 504ever

    July 12, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Michael McNamara 504ever
    Not sure. That’s why I said my argument is limited to Morrow for now.

  18. nolahog

    July 12, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Dealer Dell!

  19. 504ever

    July 12, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Michael McNamara
    I am willing to say that this is probably an A-/A offseason already (assuming Morrow wasn’t really an option for us) and I am hoping it becomes A/A+.  [I know Gordon won’t be traded this off season!]
    CDR and even your favorite, Jordan Hamilton, might be acceptable short term starters at SF now but end up 2nd teamers after we upgrade SF next summer.

  20. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Jason Calmes Pelican Poster Yessir!  Though a busy life makes it harder to find the time for deep thought, that one certainly resurrected some of those college-stressed brain cells.  And to think that the Dr wrote it was the unintended icing on the proverbial cake.  Now I need to rest again after reading it…and I look forward to the next edition after our roster is set soon!

  21. Jason Calmes

    July 12, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Pelican Poster Jason Calmes I should do one for the past couple seasons . . . just been swamped . . . lots going on not related to basketball.

  22. wilthomas178

    July 12, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Just give them ajinca and get it over with!!!

  23. SamuelWhoDatWilcher

    July 12, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Michael McNamara Since we don’t appear to be able to trade Eric Gordon this season, would foresee Monty and Dell starting Eric with Holiday and Evans?  You guys on the site have shown great stats about how bad Gordon plays with evans and holliday but maybe for 5 mins to start the game and 5 mins in the 3rd qtr.

    You wrote this article like a seasoned veteran writer not like a second rate blogger.  My sources inside NOLA.com tell me that there will be an opening covering the Pelicans as Jimmy Smith will be reassinged to the Uptown Ladies Jewish Bridge Tournaments.  They are in great need for a reporter that doesn’t do any research and make no points that are relevant..

  24. Jason Calmes

    July 12, 2014 at 11:29 am

    wilthomas178 Better to end your frustration now, no matter the cost, rather than wait a few hours, or maybe until tomorrow, to see it play out better, if possible?

  25. wilthomas178

    July 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

    SamuelWhoDatWilcher Michael McNamara DAMN SAM..lol

  26. 504ever

    July 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Michael McNamara 504ever What if your choice is Morrow (@ only $10M over 3 years) and CDR versus Rivers and Babbitt?

  27. SamuelWhoDatWilcher

    July 12, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Michael McNamara MasonGinsberg  sorry Mason You wrote the article.

  28. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Jason Calmes wilthomas178 Patience is a virtue here as well! Certainly we’ve seen that exhibited, so long as the dealmakers verbal agreements don’t get changed somehow (Asik deal vs No Bosh for Houston)?

  29. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Jason Calmes Pelican Poster Gotta do it sir!  I think we may have worthy content for the next edition!  If I can hold off reading my Game of Thrones novels on the shelf for the past few years, I can wait for this too!

  30. Jason Calmes

    July 12, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Pelican Poster Jason Calmes Been putting them off myself. I did a calculation to tell me when to start reading so I’d finish 1-6 and not have to wait too long for 7. Been avoiding everything for years and years. Try Wheel of Time, dude.

  31. Pelican Poster

    July 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Have considered it… partly because of it’s length… Was not sure if it fulfilled what I usually like in this genre, being an LOR fan of old…?

  32. Zed84

    July 12, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    They need to trade Gordon this guy is a cancer,stuck in a abyss and over paid 115 of 249 games with this team. There’s too man Gordon defenders on this team. If his comfort zone is Indy well trade him there do it they’ll be losing Stephonson where’s the down side. Evan Turner S&T plus Scolia waive or flip for a pick and the Pacers get Gordon.

  33. dschmid4

    July 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Seems like the cupboard is pretty bare on the free agent market for small forwards at this point.  Is CDR the best we can hope for? J Ham?  Are we better off with just a series of three guard line ups? Seems like especially with AD and Asik we could make up for the size disadvantage we might have at the three.

  34. Zed84

    July 12, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    xman20002000 What’s with you and Gordon? he’s the most overrated, high risk low reward player ever played in the NBA if anyone thinks he’s a good player well in his three seasons in NOLA no results.

  35. TristanBisnezzWilliams

    July 13, 2014 at 12:04 am

    The best scenario for me
    1. Include ajinca in the Asik deal
    2. Give Richard Jefferson the room exception
    (Same offer we gave morrow)
    3. Sign young
    4. Resign darius miller
    5. Find an insurance big at veteran min.

  36. Jason Calmes

    July 13, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Pelican Poster It’s very American. If you are not pretty interested by the end of Book 2, I’d be surprised. The first 2 books will be very familiar, then a turn is taken. You are correct . . . heavy time investment.

  37. Benson Boogie

    July 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    So it looks like this is going to be the team:
    1. Holiday – Smith
    2. Evans – Gordon – Rivers
    3. Casspi
    4. Davis – Anderson – Young
    5. Asik – Ajinca – Withey

    Good enough for the 8th seed in the west?

  38. Steven J

    July 13, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Benson Boogie I’d put Rivers there in front of Smith and behind Holiday.

  39. Pelican Poster

    July 13, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Interesting to note that Casspi and Tyreke Evans both debuted in the NBA together for the Kings, playing together in 2009 and 2010.  Highlights of Casspi in those years are pretty impressive as a very agile, almost high flying big man, alley oops and flying on the break dunks and all…but did NOT see this in his Houston highlights as the explosiveness appeared gone…is that possible for a guy who is 26 going into year 6???

  40. Pelican Poster

    July 14, 2014 at 12:47 am

    xman20002000 Pelican Poster I agree…I think he would be a great 2nd teamer

  41. Zed84

    July 14, 2014 at 8:17 am

    xman20002000 Gordon never had an healthy season. So if a player that plays almost under 50% of a season is your guy well the gm and owner should arrested for giving money to guy that’s never healthy or committed to this team.

  42. yaboytonez

    July 14, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Marvelous job by Dell. I’m still trying to understand the NBA cap. Its complicated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.