Making the Kevin Durant to the Pelicans Dream a Reality

Published: June 16, 2015

The idea of pairing Anthony Davis with another superstar is something that every Pelicans fan has contemplated from time to time, and no superstar would be more deadly with Anthony Davis than Kevin Durant. Rumors have been out there for months that Durant is eyeing Washington or LA if he decides to leave Oklahoma City in 2016, but having Davis on the roster should at least put the Pelicans in the room with Durant when he makes his 2016 summer tour. And if it does, Dell needs to come with the best pitch possible. He has 12 months to get his ducks in a row so he could sell Durant on New Orleans and a potential dynasty. Here’s how he can do just that.

1. Sign Omer Asik to a Short and/Or Declining Contract

The Pelicans will need Asik to continue their upward trajectory this season, and a defensive minded/low usage center would work perfectly with a KD/AD front court. The key to the deal, however, will be to have the ability to get out of it by 2017 and/or have it declining each year so that it doesn’t limit the Pelicans in future years. I talked about an ideal contract here that would start high (when the Pels don’t have space anyway) and decline through the next 1-3 years. The short term contract could appeal to Asik because it could allow him to boost his stock after a miserable playoffs and hit the FA market again after the cap goes way up.

2. Move Tyreke Evans Before July 1st, 2016

A team with Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis on it has no need for Tyreke Evans. Evans is a high usage guy that doesn’t serve much of a purpose without the ball in his hands, and the ball will be in the hands of KD, AD, and Jrue. Ideally, the Pelicans can get two things out of a Tyreke trade – 1.) A large trade exception AND 2.) A future draft pick or two. As you will see in the pitch to Durant, the money starts to get a little tight and depth would be hard to provide for a top heavy team, but a trade exception allows you to take on salary without giving any back. Additionally, draft picks on rookie scale contracts allow you to have depth with upside for cheap. The best time to pull off said trade would likely be on Draft Night 2016. You get to utilize Tyreke’s skills to help you win this year, and then you move him to create the space for Durant. Nearly every team in the NBA (except for maybe Brooklyn) will have 20+ million in cap room going into 2016, and many will know they are not players for the big time free agents, so getting an exception and a pick or two for Tyreke should be quite easy if he has another quality year.

3. Win and Play at a Fast Pace

In addition to money, players want to win and they want to play a fun brand of basketball that fits their game. Durant might grow frustrated this year playing under Billy Donovon, a notoriously conservative offensive coach who will also have Monty Williams on his staff advocating for a slower pace. Meanwhile, the Pelicans have an up and coming superstar and a head coach who likes to play at a fast pace, with creative offensive sets in the half court that highlights a players strength. If Durant looks over to New Orleans and sees a more intriguing style and a superstar who actually enjoys sharing the limelight and the rock, that could be more appealing than what he experiences in OKC this year.

4. Stay Patient This Summer and at the Deadline

As I wrote yesterday, Dell can both improve this team and maintain all his future flexibility. The key will be to use his exceptions on guys looking for just one year deals and not making the big splash at the deadline with his expiring contracts. Breaking up the MLE and giving out one year contracts will incentivize guys to play at their highest level, as they look towards a big pay day when the cap goes up and it also gives Dell maximum cap room in July. The other part will be harder, as Dell will likely get several offers that feature quality players on multi-year contracts for his expiring guys. For example, Sacramento could come calling with a Gay for Ryno package, and sometimes it is hard to bypass a sure thing for a possibility. But if the Pelicans want any chance at Durant at all, he will have to do just that.

5. Continue Adding Familiar Faces

While many got excited about the Robert Pack hire this summer because of what he can do for our guards, it might be his role in recruiting Kevin Durant next year that gets us really amped up. Pack has grown close with Durant these past few years and it wouldn’t hurt to add one or two more guys that can vouch for the Pelicans organization when Durant meets with Dell Demps and Anthony Davis. The Wizards have hired Durant’s ex-High School coach for such a purpose, and the Pelicans can look around for ex-teammates, coaches, and training staff members, etc. to reach out to him as well. Heck, Michael Beasley was his best friend growing up and the two remain close. That guy is as gettable as it gets.

6. Recruit Anthony, Recruit!!

If Kevin Durant is going to come to New Orleans, it will be because he and Anthony Davis will want to do something historic. It could be a 2011 Miami Heat thing all over again, but with an even younger duo at the center of the equation with vastly different egos. The “whose team is this?” question was a problem for the Heat in their first season, but that shouldn’t be an issue with these two superstars. They might very well be the two best players on the planet by late 2016, but they are superstars that are built much differently from most. They want to win as bad as any other player on the planet, but both have shown that they are willing to take a step back if it is best for the team. Davis will have to sell Durant on this possibility, most likely in Rio next summer as the two compete for Gold. First gold, then the Larry O’Brien trophy. Several of them.

The Pitch

So, here it is; The Pitch Dell Demps makes to Kevin Durant next summer. First, he sells them on the core of the current team, which would include Jrue Holiday, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, Quincy Pondexter, and himself. With Davis and Durant both getting max contracts, that would put the Pelicans at about $75 million, with the cap projected to be at $88 million next season. Eric Gordon would look nice as a three-point threat in that starting lineup, and a small ball lineup of Holiday-Gordon-Qpon-KD-AD would put 5 guys on the floor who can all handle the ball and shoot. It would be the current Golden State small lineup on steroids.

The trade exceptions and the picks allow the Pelicans to fill out the roster if the Tyreke deal was made, and Dell could also sell Durant on another big move coming in 2017 when the whole league will want to pair with the ultimate duo and the cap raises another 20+ million. At that point, Jrue’s contract would be up and Asik’s might be too. Maybe Westbrook would want to reunite with his old teammate or Chris Paul (Also, close with Pack) would want to come back to New Orleans and get his first ring. Heck, maybe the Pelicans let both Jrue and Omer walk and CP3 and Dwight finally join up in New Orleans to get their rings next to AD and Durant. And yes, that would be possible financially with the new cap if Chris and Dwight took slight discounts.

The point is that once you get those two together, getting a third (and maybe even a 4th piece) will be easy as the Pelicans could have as much as 50+ million dollars in cap room going into 2017, even with Davis and Durant both on max deals. Or maybe Holiday is the perfect guard to play with those two (he would be if healthy) and Asik does all the dirty work to get those guys clean while Q-Pon helps them close out games in their small ball lineup. In that case, you just spend the money on shooters and role players, of which there will be plenty dying to take pay cuts to play off those two.

Dell tells Durant that he understands that going home is appealing, but reminds him of how frustrating it is to accommodate his family and friends every time he goes to D.C. Then, he sets his sights on LA and this myth that being in a large market creates more exposure for athletes. You know what creates more exposure? Playing well individually, and winning. Anthony Davis seems to have more commercials on during these Finals than Carmelo, no? Lastly, Dell has to convince Durant to leave OKC and the 5th year that only they can give him. The simple pitch here is that KD has given that franchise his whole professional career so far and the dynasty that once seemed possible fell apart. Westbrook could leave the following year, and even if he stays, he is not the superstar Anthony is, and Donovon’s system will not do for you what Gentry’s will.

The choice will be clear at that point, if Dell remains patient over the next 12 months and Anthony does his part. Kevin Durant will look around, as he should, but arrive at the same conclusion that any sane person who wants titles and a legacy would – Join the Brow Down in New Orleans.