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Five Scenarios in Which the Pelicans Improve This Offseason…. Without Holiday
Earlier this week, our own Jake Madison hypothesized that Jrue might have already made up his mind to head elsewhere this offseason. While that would leave another gaping hole on an already thin roster, it is possible that this would actually be a blessing in disguise long-term for the Pelicans. Giving Holiday a contract at the max, or close to it, would limit the flexibility the Pelicans have moving forward, as they would be committing nearly $90 million to just three players if Boogie re-signs next summer. And god forbid Jrue’s injuries return, a max deal for Holiday could become the worst deal in a league full of bad ones.
But while it is easy to make an argument that letting Holiday walk could be best for the long-term future, it is harder to make the case that the Pelicans can be better next year if they let Holiday leave. The easiest path to an improved roster is for the Pelicans to operate above the cap, re-sign Holiday, use all their exceptions, and maybe attach a pick or two to some dead weight salary to trade for another key piece. The financial commitment would be enormous, and flexibility would be dead for future years, but a very good roster could be put together by going that route.
But if Dell makes the right moves, a very good roster could be put together even if Holiday sets his sight on another franchise. In fact, if the right moves are made, we can see a team that could look even better than the late March Pelicans that really got rolling. How can they do that? Well, here are five possible offseason that put a great product on the court, even without Jrue Holiday.
In: Jeremy Lin, Wesley Matthews, Jonathan Simmons, Shelvin Mack
Out: Jrue Holiday, Tim Frazier, Quincy Pondexter, Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik
How It Gets Done: This scenario is quite simple. The Pelicans renounce the rights to Jrue Holiday, and then sign Simmons and Mack using cap room. They then swing a three-way trade, sending Ajinca, Frazier, a first rounder and QPon to the Nets for Lin. Asik, a 2nd, and cash go to Dallas for Wesley Matthews. (The Mavs then stretch Asik and save a bunch of money vs. Matthews, gain a ton of cap room to be aggressive with too). The Pelicans final move is to use the room exception on Montiejunas or some other big man they like.
Roster Outlook: Gentry gets a point guard who is much more suited to run his offense in Lin, and gets a shooter, defender, tough guy, and team leader in Matthews. Simmons is another wing with tons of potential and the ability to defend/switch multiple positions. Basically, this team can switch almost everything and has better shooters than they had this past year. They have guys who can carry the load offensively for stretches when AD or Boogie goes to the bench. And perhaps most importantly, they have more flexibility moving forward, as none of the other players are on huge, long-term deals like Holiday would be.
In: Jeremy Lin, JJ Reddick, Ian Clark, Wesley Iwundu
Out: Jrue Holiday, Ajinca, Frazier
How It Gets Done: The key to this offseason is Jrue Holiday and the Knicks doing the Pelicans a solid by doing a sign and trade. In this deal, the Knicks send Melo out to the Clippers and Lance Thomas to the Nets, while the Pelicans send Holiday to the Knicks, the Clippers sign and trade JJ to the Pelicans (for a fairly substantial price), and the Pelicans send Ajinca, Frazier, and a protected pick to Brooklyn for Lin again. They could also send Asik instead with the pick and the Clippers can throw some trinkets Brooklyn’s way. After that, the Pelicans use the MLE to bring in Ian Clark and they use their 2nd round pick on Iwundu (a guy I LOVE!). They use the bi-annual on a backup big.
Roster Outlook: Shooting is no longer a problem as the Pelicans add studs in Clark and Reddick, not to mention Lin, who isn’t to shabby himself and fits Gentry’s system. The offense should not be an issue, but the wing defense is probably worse than the roster above it. Iwundu is a fantastic project, but he wouldn’t be in the rotation, as we would see a ton of three-guard lineups with this roster. This is an explosive team that could challenge Houston and Golden State for top offensive efficiency.
In: Eric Bledsoe, Leandro Barbosa, Ian Clark
Out: Jrue Holiday, Montiejunas
How It Gets Done: Again, the Pelicans Sign and Trade Jrue Holiday to the Knicks, who dump Lance Thomas in the deal. In addition to Thomas, the Pelicans get a HUGE trade exception worth more than $20 million and get to continue to operate over the cap, so they have access to the MLE, BAE, and the other trade exception they got in the Boogie trade. They go to Phoenix and agree to absorb Bledsoe and Barbosa’s salary into the exception, while giving the Suns a future pick or two as well. The Pelicans then use the MLE to sign Ian Clark, who can be a perfect complement to Bledsoe on both ends of the court. The bi-annual and draft picks are also available for depth.
Roster Outlook: Clark and Hill provide spot up shooting and the ability to also take the ball to the rack after one of the other guys bend the defense, while the main three just physically overwhelm the opposition night in and night out on the offensive end. Defensively, there are several units – including the starting lineup, that allow you to switch almost everything, and the depth on this team is fantastic, save for the backup center position – which can be addressed with the Bi-annual.
In: Ricky Rubio, CJ Miles, PJ Tucker, James Michael McAdoo
Out: Jrue Holiday, Tim Frazier, Quincy Pondexter, Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik
How It Gets Done: The Pelicans need some cap room so they stretch Omer Asik and let Dante Cunningham walk out the door with Jrue Holiday. They take their cap room and split it between PJ Tucker and CJ Miles to give them some shooting and defense on the wings that can guard multiple positions. They then turn to Minnesota for their point guard and give up a package of Ajinca, QPon, and Frazier with a pick for Ricky Rubio. Using the bi-annual, they pick up a guy they can groom like they did Cunningham in McAdoo, who has more upside and defensive potential. A minimum center and a draft pick rounds out the roster.
Roster Outlook: Gentry has the playmaking point guard he seeks in Rubio, whose shooting gets a terrible wrap. Do you realize he was a FANTASTIC shooter from 16-22 feet last year, and is an elite FT shooter? Not to mention a great defender and an incredibly high IQ player. Around him is plenty of shooting and the ability to put lineups out there that can literally switch 1-5. PJ Tucker brings leadership and a rugged attitude to this team. The second someone tries to bait Boogie into a tech or gets too aggressive with him, Tucker can step in and be the enforcer to keep Boogie out of trouble. If Solomon Hill makes another jump offensively, like we saw at times in March, this is easily a top 10 offense and a top 5 defense.
In: Darren Collison, Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum
Out: Jrue Holiday, Ajinca, Asik, Frazier
How It Gets Done: The Pelicans sign and trade Jrue Holiday to whichever team he wants to go to and just receive a massive trade exception in return, while operating above the cap. From there, they use the MLE to sign Darren Collison to play point guard, and use the exception to absorb Nic Batum’s giant contract that he signed just last season, while also giving Charlotte a future pick. After that, they send Asik, Frazier, cash, and two 2nds to Dallas for Wesley Matthews. The BAE is available again for a big.
Roster Outlook: The Pelicans do a “playmaker by committee” approach here, as the ball can go through any number of guys on each possession. Collision isn’t a true point but he is a very good shooter, and Batum has played point forward plenty in his career. This team has offensive punch, with a lot of defensive presence as well, and the ability to play big, versatile lineups. Imagine, for instance Batum at point forward, with Matthews, Hill, AD, and Boogie. That is a lot of length that can guard and switch anything.
If Holiday is going to walk, the first thing the Pelicans have to do is see if his agent will push for a sign-and-trade as a favor to the Pelicans. This gives them the option to still operate above the cap and it gives them a massive exception. If that is not an option, then it’s probably smart to go ahead and create as much cap room as possible, and this includes things like stretching Asik and unloading Pondexter and Ajinca. The next step is to identify the playmaker they want to target, and then build the rest of the offseason around that. There are several to be had either via trade or on the free agent market, and at that point it just becomes an order of operations issue when dealing with the cap.
The key is to have an answer from Holiday as early as possible. Before the draft would be nice, and although agents aren’t “allowed” to talk to other teams until July 1st, they always do. So Holiday’s agent should have an idea of what his market will be, and the Pelicans can base their decision off of that. Re-signing Holiday and then operating above the cap is the easiest path to a quality roster this year, but it might just be too much money to pay to a guy who doesn’t really move the needle that much. Looking around the league, there are guards who can give you 80-90% of what Jrue does for 30-50% the price, allowing you to allocate other resources elsewhere.
The Pelicans can lose Holiday this summer and take a massive step back if they don’t address the lead guard position, but Dell Demps has always been aggressive, and he has a couple of chips to put into the middle of the table in the event that Holiday leaves. He can get a guy just as good, and maybe even better fit wise, if he is aggressive with money and picks. One way or another, I firmly believe that the roster that starts the 2017-18 season, will be better than the one the Pelicans currently have today.
With or without Holiday.