Imagining Some ‘Pelicans as Buyers’ Trades

Published: January 24, 2016

The blockbuster trade is not coming. And with the Pelicans starting to play much better and the playoffs in reach, neither is the epic sell job that sends out impact players for picks and/or inexperienced young prospects. No, if Dell is going to make a move, it is going to be a minor one or two that nets some rotation players that provide a spark and fill some gaps – the way that Norris Cole and Quincy Pondexter did last year in the Pelicans push for the 8th seed.

Dell found young veterans no longer valued by their current teams and gave up expiring contracts and minimum assets (Russ Smith, Austin Rivers) for guys who not only helped the Pelicans make their push, but could be a part of the team for multiple years if they worked out. This year, with Pondexter out and Eric Gordon gone for 4-6 weeks, there are at least two spots available in the rotation that could be upgraded if Dell didn’t have to give up too much to secure their services.

Unlike last year, they don’t have many expiring contracts outside of their regular rotation (like they had in Salmons) that they could move, however. Luke Babbitt and Kendrick Perkins are probably the only two, but their contracts are so small that it will be hard to find impactful players with matching salaries. But also, unlike last year, Dell has multiple picks he can add to trades that can sweeten the pot. Let’s take the Pelicans first round pick off the table, because that is too valuable, and talk about the second rounders. The Pelicans will have Denver’s 2nd rounder and the worst of their own 2nd and Sacramento’s 2nd this year. That’s probably the 40th and 45th pick, give or take a few spots. Those picks have some value. In addition, they have Philly’s pick in 2017, which is likely to be in the 31-35 range, which is a pick teams value even more than a late 1st rounder.

Those picks won’t get you a star, but they will be seen as more valuable than an expiring Austin Rivers or a project like Russ Smith (who has since been cut). And what should get fans most excited is that this is where Dell does his best work – shopping in the bargain bin. From Belinelli and Jason Smith to Pondexter and Cole, Dell’s best trades have been when he has found depreciated assets and given them a chance to contribute in New Orleans.

In addition to the picks, Dell has a massive expiring contract to deal in Eric Gordon. Gordon could be appealing to a team that has a guy with multiple years on their books that they want to get rid of – similar to what the Grizzlies had in Pondexter last year. The difficulty with trading Gordon, however, is that you will have to take back at least 10.5 million dollars in salary, and not many teams have a player or number of players they need to unload with that much salary.  There is one X factor that can help overcome this obstacle, however, and that X factor is an NBA franchise named the Portland Trailblazers.

The Blazers are currently $20.6 million under the cap, meaning they can take on salary without giving matching salary back. They are also under the salary floor, so they have some incentitive to make a move, seeing that they will need to pay out that money anyway. The Pelicans can make an uneven trade with Portland or use them as a 3rd team facilitator to make a Gordon trade work. So, with all those factors in mind, let’s take a look at some possible deals Dell could make as a buyer, similar to what he did last year.

Eric Gordon, 2nd rounder, and Luke Babbitt for Tucker, Teletovic, and Sonny Weems

The Suns are clearly playing for future years, and would ideally lose close games while giving playing time to their young guys. Devin Booker has looked fantastic and TJ Warren needs as many minutes as possible to see what he can become. Getting Tucker and Weems off their roster and off their books (both have deals for next year) allows them Suns to fully dive in to the rebuild that they need to undergo. They also get a quality pick and a look at Babbitt, who could flourish in their system.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, get the exact player that they need in Tucker – a tough as nails defender who can provide leadership on and off the court, and who at least has to be respected from behind the arc. Weems is a 5th guard who can provide depth, and Teletovic is the ultimate Ryan Anderson insurance, both for this year (if he gets hurt) and beyond if he bolts in free agency.

Eric Gordon, 2nd, and Cash for Gerald Henderson

The Blazers have an exciting young backcourt duo in Lillard and McCollum, and a quality prospect in Allen Crabbe that they want to get more minutes for. This leaves little time for Gerald Henderson, who is likely to bolt this offseason. So why not get a pick for him and some cash, while simultaneously reaching the required salary floor?

Henderson has had his worst season since his rookie year, mostly because he isn’t attacking as much as he has in the past, getting to the rim 25% less than in recent years. His 3-point shooting, however, is improved (including an astounding 52% from the corner) and he has always been a plus defender. In his previous two seasons, he has produced 5.1 defensive win shares, which is borderline elite, and his assist to turnover ratio was good outside of Portland’s system. Like Pondexter, it looks like Henderson is just dying for a change of scenery, and if the Pelicans can get the pre-Portland Henderson, he can provide a huge boost on both sides of the court.

Kevin Martin to New Orleans, Eric Gordon, cash, and two 2nds to Portland, Chris Kaman to Minnesota

Again, Portland gets to the salary floor while picking up a 2nd from Minnesota and New Orleans in this deal. The Timberwolves save some money this year and get Martin’s deal off the books next season. Meanwhile, Dell gets a player he has always coveted and a guy who can fit right in to Gentry’s system. When healthy and given the green light, Martin can still score in bunches and can do one thing no Pelicans guard does with consistency – gets to the line. If he fits in, the Pelicans have him back next season on a (relatively) bargain basement deal, and if he doesn’t, he becomes a trade asset next season.

Anthony Morrow for Kendrick Perkins, Luke Babbitt, and Toney Douglas

The DNP’s are starting to add up for Morrow, who just can’t seem to find a role under Billy Donovon. With Gentry wanting the Pelicans to rain 3’s and the wings getting a ton of open looks, Morrow could take this offense to another level. The Thunder get their team mascot in Kendrick Perkins back for the playoff push and some depth in Babbitt and Douglas. But more importantly, they unload Morrow’s salary for next year, which isn’t much on the surface, but could cost something like 6-8 million when you factor in their likely luxury tax bill if they re-sign KD.

The Pelicans could also work other deals out with Portland as a 3rd team where they can send out Gordon and maybe take back other undervalued assets like Kyle Singler, Mitch McGary, and/or Josh Huestis. A deal like Gordon and 2nds to Portland, Morrow and McGary to the Pelicans, and Gerald Henderson to OKC could make sense for everyone.

Nick Young, Anthony Brown to Pelicans, Eric Gordon, cash, and 2nds to Portland, Chris Kaman to the Lakers

Dell Demps has been close to bringing Swaggy P on several different occasions, but the timing has just never worked out for either party. Nick Young’s value might be lower than ever, as he is both playing poorly and has multiple years left on his contract. For both reasons, the Lakers would love to unload him and might even be willing to throw in a young prospect like Brown to do so. Portland does it for the reasons listed above, and the Pelicans gamble on Swaggy P returning to form from two years ago, when he could score in bunches rather efficiently (18ppg on 14 shots). And again, like with Quincy Pondexter, if he does turn it back around, he is on a value contract for the next few years while the cap soars.


I don’t expect any of these trades to get you very excited, but let’s be honest, how excited were you when we made the deals for Quincy and Norris Cole last year? How excited were you for Jason Smith and Marco Belinelli coming in, or Greivis Vasquez, for that matter? If Dell is going to acquire a guy who gets you excited, he will likely have to give up Ryan Anderson or his 1st round pick to do so. Instead, he has to hope to find a guy who seems to be trending downward and resuscitate his career. If he hits, the Pelicans could get a boost this year and also have value deals next season.

So while you dream of a Kevin Love blockbuster (not gonna happen) or a tank that results in a top pick (not gonna happen), know that this is the route that Dell is likely exploring. And let’s hope he nails it yet again.


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