Do Pelicans Players Actually Have Trade Value?

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Published: February 3, 2016

Value: the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something

That is the definition of value, universally. In the NBA, determining what a player’s value is at the current moment is handled more specifically. A player’s value is simple, because it lies in the eyes of the other 29 general managers. A player is simply worth what they are willing to give up, no more and no less. Players are valued by teams for multiple reasons, but generally they are traded for because of one of the following:

  1. Ability to “move the needle” in the short-term
  2. Their contract
  3. Their locker room presence
  4. Their upside and/or ability to possibly move the needle down the road

That is it, and that is all. Sure, a team will take a player and give up nothing if he doesn’t quite fit one of those 4 criteria, but they aren’t going to give up something that they value, or that has value in the minds of one or more of the other 29 GM’s, unless they get one or more of those things in return.

Looking at the list, do you immediately identify any Pelicans player not named Anthony Davis or Jrue Holiday fitting one of those criteria? As a fan of some of these guys, I tend to answer yes on first pass. Maybe it is because it is true; Maybe it is wishful thinking. But stepping outside of my fandom, I want to try and take a more objective look at each player and view them the way the other 29 GM’s would.

Ryan Anderson

Argument For (Value): You can say that on the right team, replacing the right player, Ryan Anderson can move the needle. Can he be the difference between being a 2nd round team and beating the Spurs, Cavs, or Warriors? I don’t think so. But can he turn a team from a first round exit to a team that gets to the 2nd round? If it’s a team like Detroit, Miami, or Houston and they don’t have to give up a major rotation piece, maybe. As for his locker room presence, he is a genuine good guy who could bring some levity and perspective to a team. Guys who whine and complain about their issues need to look no further than what Ryan Anderson went through to realize that maybe it isn’t so bad. His overall character could be considered a net plus.

Argument Against: The contract works back against him, however. If he does move the needle for you, he likely commands upwards of 20 million a year this summer. If he doesn’t, then you got no value for him in the trade to begin with, so long-term, you can argue that trading for him is a lose/lose. There really is no upside argument to be made for Anderson, as he has likely already peaked – especially when you consider his production per dollar ratio. Even if he stays this good through the remainder of his next contract (unlikely), he wouldn’t be worth his next contract. Real Plus-Minus has him at #51 amongst all power forwards right now (Jason Smith is #52), primarily because everything he gives you on the offensive end (+1.95) is more than negated by his defense (-2.52, which is 94th amongst 95 qualifying power forwards)

Possible Fits: Boston, Toronto, Washington, Houston, Detroit, Indiana, Sacramento

Perceived Fan Value: A young player and a first round pick

Truth be told, nothing has frustrated me more than seeing what people think the Pelicans can get for Ryan Anderson. The expected return from some on the interwebs have included guys like: Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, a late lottery pick, the ability to attach him to Asik, Nic Batum, and many more. It frustrates me because if Ryno doesn’t get moved and then leaves in the summer (the most likely scenario IMO), I already know people will be up in arms about how we didn’t get anything good for him when we could have in February. But the truth will be that what was offered was nothing close to the fantasy people have in their heads.

Likely Objective Value: An inferior player and/or a late 1st to early 2nd rounder

I will put it here, even though I know I might look foolish in two weeks – I don’t think Dell could get more than something like Terrance Jones and a 2nd for Ryan Anderson. Oh, and by the way, Jones is the guy who is 95th out of the qualifying 95 power forwards in defensive plus-minus and is terribly offensively in that statistic too. Maybe they can get Rudy Gay or Illysova in a lateral move, or Tyler Zeller and a late first, but even that would only happen if Boston strikes out on bigger deals. Objectively, any sane GM will realize that after this year, it is a lose/lose proposition and for this year, the best case scenario is that he just makes your playoff loss to one of the big boys a little closer. Maybe. Not much value in that.

Tyreke Evans

Argument For: If you value advanced stats like real plus-minus, PER, and the like – Tyreke Evans has quietly been a beast this year. He is 13th amongst all guards in real plus-minus, right behind all-star Isaiah Thomas and ahead of guys like: Mike Conley, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, Tony Parker, Klay Thompson, and more. He is also higher than both Atlanta guards reportedly on the market, and of the guys ahead of him, the only one that might be on the block is Ricky Rubio. So, amongst available guards, he is pretty high up when it comes to productivity. His PER is in the Mike Conley, Tony Parker, Klay Thompson range, and he produces at that level at a good cost for this year and next making $21 million combined.

Argument Against: All production is not created equal. Some guys who put up numbers are the reason you win, and other guys put up numbers that don’t move the needle one bit. Tyreke Evans has put up numbers his entire career, and has 1 winning season and 4 playoff games to show for it. In addition, when considering his game, you have to know that for him to be effective, he will have to take the ball out of other players’ hands. So, if he goes to Boston and puts up 16 ppg on 14 shots, but Thomas, Smart, Bradley take 14 less shots per game as a result and their scoring dips 18 ppg as a result, that is a net negative.

This is also assuming Tyreke is healthy, which he has not been all season. There is a chance he might not even be there to move the needle for you this year, and then he becomes Ryan Anderson, essentially, next year. If he plays well for you, then you either have to pay him 100+ million the following summer or let him walk. If he doesn’t play well, you extracted no positive value from the trade anyway. He also has no realistic upside and is not a net positive in the locker room. A neutral, at best.

Possible Fits: Brookly Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kings, Celtics

Perceived Fan Value: Cap relief and/or picks and/or young player

I have seen the ability to unload Asik as a common one, along with the ability to get a first for him, and even young players like Avery Bradley.

Likely Objective Value: A Salary Dump and/or a late first to early 2nd round pick

I think that if the Pelicans wanted to clear Evans contract off the books, they could call Cleveland, who would need to get creative with their trade exception and expand it by 300K to take in Evans contract while giving nothing away. A third team would have to be involved. Or they could just absorb Evans in July with the exception, as Tyreke’s salary decreases next year. Evans would ideally be a 2nd unit guy, and he could do that in Cleveland. The Nets might take Tyreke and Gordon for Joe Johnson, and might be willing to throw in a guy like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, but that might not even be on the table. Perhaps you can get Collison and Belinelli from the Kings, though Tyreke and Rondo would be impossible to play together. Still, they’re the Kings.

Eric Gordon

Argument For: That contract. It’s the only argument that can be made. He has a big expiring contract and if you are a team wanting to unload contracts you don’t like that have multiple years on them, then you could be interested in Eric Gordon’s contract. He has also genuinely grown as an individual, so a small argument might be made that he could positively effect your locker room.

Argument Against: He has shown no signs of being able to move the needle this year, nor would a team know how much his current injury would effect him for the rest of the season. Prior to being injured, he was slightly better than replacement level. He is not a guy who would be a sure-fire starter or finisher on many playoff teams and his defense would likely be seen as a liability in the postseason. Basically, you are getting a 5th option who is a catch-and-shoot guy, making 15.5 million dollars to do so. You can get the same thing from a Gary Neal type for 1/5th the cost and you don’t have to give up anything of value to get those types of players.

Possible Fits: OKC, Brooklyn, Portland, Indiana, Detroit, Miami

Perceived Fan Value: Late first to early 2nd round pick

Likely Objective Value: Bad contracts, expirings, and/or fake picks

Maybe OKC can be enticed if you take on Singler and Morrow. Or perhaps Detroit would take him if you take Jennings, Brooklyn if you take Joe Johnson, etc. Maybe Portland wants help reaching the salary cap floor and takes a flyer for nothing. The Heat, in need of shooting, might give you McRoberts and Birdman. With Will Barton emerging, maybe a Gordon for Wilson Chandler swap would make sense, as Denver likely wants to shed that salary. That’s about the best you can do.

Conclusion

I didn’t even bother with Holiday, because his value to the Pelicans is 10 times higher than it would be to any other team right now, so he won’t be moved. Looking down the list of Pelicans after that, you can maybe argue that Ajinca is on a good contract should a team want to actually use him, but as everyone goes smaller that is unlikely. Cole is an expiring, but has a trade veto, so that kills the small value he might have. Pondexter would have value, had he been healthy and played like he did last year on a great contract, but that is shot. Oh, and Asik was deemed the least tradeable contract in the league by one site.

Bottom line, this Pelicans roster is full of high paid players around Davis who have little to no value league wide. Even the ones who are solid players have their free agency come up at the worst possible time (2016 and 2017, when the cap explodes), so that kills any of their long-term value. Basically, if a team is looking long-term, the only thing they would value from New Orleans is Anthony Davis and draft picks. If they are looking short-term, there are so many players who move the needle just as much as the Pelicans players, that there is no need to give up anything of value for the guys on this roster.

For a team to give up something of real value, they have to not only want the player, they have to feel like they NEED the player. They have to look at all available deals and feel like this one is at the top of the least when it comes to value extracted for the cost. Of course I would take a 60 inch TV to replace my 42 inch if it cost me little to nothing, but that is a far different scenario than what we are talking about here with the NBA trade market. I see people say things like, “Ryan Anderson is better than Pattrick Patterson, so we can probably get picks from them.” As if it is that simple in a vacuum. What if, for that pick, they can get PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris? Or heck, just one of them? Wouldn’t that be equal short-term value, and better long-term?

For a team to give up any asset, they need to value what they are getting in return more than anything else they could possibly get from the other 29 teams for that same asset. Looking objectively at the players on our roster, who really has value when compared to some of the other options a team might have if they are willing to put a pick, a wing (the most valued commodity in the NBA right now), or a young player on the block?

So, don’t be surprised if the Pelicans pretty much stand pat these next two weeks. Not necessarily because they want to, but perhaps, because they have to.

One Comment

  1. cocorner

    February 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Good article. Personally, I think EG who is almost solely a three point sniper can be if value to a playoff team. Anderson definitely no worth $20 mm unless he plays alongside good defenders. Asik was and remains a grievous signing. Which leaves the biggest question: How does a hack like Demps who made these decisions still have his job? Any answers?

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