In Search of an Eighth Man for the New Orleans Pelicans

Published: November 16, 2014

Prior to the season starting, our own Mason Ginsberg wondered whether a 7th man would emerge. Austin Rivers clearly has, but unfortunately there is still a gaping hole on the wing and ideally it will get plugged up as the Pelicans race towards a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference. Some may say that it is too early to assume that the answer is not on this roster, but I already feel like we have seen enough from the Miller-Babbitt-Salmons trio to make a judgement. Miller gives you nothing when he is on the floor. In 21 minutes this year, he has zero rebounds, blocks, or steals and just two assists. And that is pretty much the norm for him over his career.

Salmons has been abysmal. I mean, he has been so bad that the didn’t even get any run when we were up by 53 the other night. He looks painfully slow on defense and unable to contribute anything offensively. And then there is Luke Babbitt, who has been fine offensively due mostly to his three-point shooting, but has been an eye sore defensively. He is the only player this season to make that #24 guy on the Lakers look like Kobe Bryant. The fact is that he is a fine small ball power forward, but he can’t defend wing players in this league.

Dell has to pull another small rabbit out of his hat in these next few months and he has to do it without giving up any significant present or future assets. We also can’t be unrealistic and propose any Eric Gordon trades in this piece. And because of his play, I will leave Austin Rivers out as well because moving him would just land us a 7th man, and we would be right back looking for a different 8th man – and that’s the whole point of this article. Only unnecessary pieces can be moved or released for the purpose of this piece, so do not expect superstars to be coming back. That is not what we need anyway. We have five fantastic players and two solid ones; All that is needed is one more everyday rotation guy that can be great in his role for 12-15 minutes per night. Here’s a look at some guys who can fit that role.

Trade Targets

(Practically everyone in the NBA becomes eligible to trade on December 15th and the trade deadline is in late February)

Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets

When Kirilenko went to Brooklyn, everyone in the league was convinced there was some kind of wink-wink deal because he took far below market value to go there. Cut to two years later and Kirilinko is having a hard time getting off the bench due to the emergence of Bojan Bogdanovic. The Nets are well into the luxury tax, and if they have no use for him, they could be swayed to let if go for some younger guys and a few million in savings. Remember, we helped them with something similar last year with the Tyshawn Taylor trade.

Kirilenko is a veteran who would instantly earn Monty’s trust, and while he really isn’t a three-point threat, he is an intelligent defender that can still score in half court or transition, with better than average rebounding and passing for his position.

Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

Jason Kidd has given Middleton DNP’s even when he was completely healthy, citing some defensive issues. The Bucks are also overloaded at small forward, and for now, it appears that Middleton could be the odd man out. While his defense has never been great, his shooting was last season when he got regular minutes. Middleton hit 120 three’s last season, shooting 41.4% from behind the arc. If Kidd wants defense and intensity, why not ship Withey or Patric Young over to Milwaukee and bring Middleton to New Orleans, where he can just spot up and rain three’s whenever he is on the court.

Chris Copeland, Indiana Pacers

Dell supposedly had some interest in Copeland two summers ago, but he signed with Indiana who didn’t play him much last year. They have been forced to give him some minutes this year because of injuries to Paul George, but they want former 1st round pick Solomon Hill and recent FA signing CJ Miles to get those minutes moving forward. Once David West comes back, expect Copeland’s minutes to go way down. Copeland has his flaws, but he at least makes the opposition worry about him as a three-point threat and can rebound. He even can post up a bit and is a solid passer. Again, nothing great, but an upgrade over the options Monty currently has.

Jared Dudley, Milwaukee Bucks

15 months ago, Jared Dudley was such a valuable commodity that he was a major piece in a trade that got the Suns Eric Bledsoe. He was the ultimate role player, able to defend, pass, and hit the three, AND he was on a great contract. Cut to present day and he was a contract that the Bucks essentially got paid to take on and one they would be willing to dump for expirings. Again, he is a veteran and a career 42% three-point shooter from the corners who is a good passer. It’s hard to believe that his game has declined as much as his numbers have these past two years. He is just 29, and hasn’t had a clearly defined role since leaving Phoenix. Perhaps the Pelicans can buy low, give him a role, and reap the benefits.

Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz

Evans had his best season last year, but has not been able to get off the bench after the Jazz added free agents and rookies at his position this summer. Evans can’t shoot, but he is an electrifying athlete who can run the break, defend, and rebound exceptionally. He is basically a more fluid Aminu without the bonehead turnovers and with more consistent defense. Worth a flier if the Jazz have no use for him.


(Dell went out and found former NBA players Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca last year. Can he do it again?)

Sonny Weems

Weems had a couple of solid seasons in Denver and Toronto after getting drafted early in the 2nd round. He has been out of the league for three years now and has been playing well overseas. He has slowly been increasing the range on his shot and is currently having his best season from deep, shooting 44% from behind the arc. His basketball IQ has also increased, as he has added the ability to set up his teammates as well. At 28, he has 7 years of professional experience now – 3 in the NBA and 4 in the second best league in the world (Eurolegue). He just might be ready for another chance.

James Anderson

Yes, this is the James Anderson who was a first round pick for the San Antonio Spurs. You know, the team that supposedly never misses on draft picks. Well, Anderson played 80 games for the Sixers last year and had some moments. Now, he is in the Euroleague lighting up the scoreboard. Anderson is averaging 15 points in just under 25 minutes and is shooting a blistering 47.6% from deep on nearly 8 attempts per game. He can score and has good size, and has the potential to give the Pelicans a knock down threat that understands the NBA culture and is hungry after what must have been a miserable season in Philadelphia after playing for a world class organization in San Antonio.

Buyout Candidates

(After the trade deadline, teams no longer in the playoff hunt often buy out players who have no future with the team)

Chase Budinger, Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves are loaded with young wings, and while Budinger has a player option for next year, he and the Wolves might agree to a buyout that can help him get to a playoff contender while helping Minnesota gets more minutes for its future core. Budinger has fallen off a bit, but he was one of the best corner three-point shooters in the league back when he was a regular in the rotation. Before the injuries, he was a slightly above average defender and a slightly below average rebounder, and if the Pelicans get even 80% of the player he used to be, it would be a huge upgrade.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Philadelphia 76ers

Mbah a Moute is another guy who can’t shoot from deep, but he would instantly upgrade their perimeter defense and could steal a couple of possessions by getting a few offensive rebounds. Mbah a Moute’s best seasons were in Milwaukee when the team was in the playoff hunt, and after a couple of months in Philadelphia, he should be as hungry as ever to contribute for an up and coming playoff team.

Insert Current Player Currently on a Good Team

Every year, a playoff team includes solid player in a deal to a team that is just trying to dump a contract or add draft picks. Not wanting to win, that bad team dumps said good player and he is free to sign with another playoff contender. ¬†Imagine the Grizzlies trading Tayshaun Prince with some picks to the Celtics for Jeff Green, for instance. Now, Boston wouldn’t want Prince, so they cut him. While he is not the old Prince, he is an upgrade over Salmons or Miller. Imagine a similar scenario with the Clippers trading Matt Barnes for a better SF or the Mavericks moving Richard Jefferson. History says that one or two of these guys will be out there, and the Pelicans will have the opportunity for these veteran players to have a significant role on a possible playoff team.





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