The Midnight Dance

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Published: June 29, 2018

Intro

At midnight July 1, the gates to the NBA’s biggest ball fly open and everyone is looking for that special someone to take to the dance floor. Like any dance, your popularity and attractiveness play a huge role in finding a partner to tango with. If popularity were market size in the NBA, you can guess where the Pelicans lie. The Pelicans have to be careful and strategic with who they choose to pursue. There is a definite opportunity cost to every minute spent chasing a free agent who may not be interested in you while others who may have given you a shot are being scooped up. A small market with limited cap room cannot afford to waste time chasing a free agent that will be high on the list of teams that can make better offers.

So how should the Pelicans approach midnight? For starters, they shouldn’t waste time meeting with Cousins and Rondo. Think about it. Boogie and Rondo are technically under contract until June 30th. The Pelicans face no moratorium restrictions on being able to contact them and their representatives to discuss contracts. In all likelihood, Cousins and Rondo have known what is on the table for them for a while now. Meeting with them at midnight wouldn’t accomplish anything – you let the market play out in this situation and adjust your offer as necessary. Likewise, as mentioned before, the Pelicans need to avoid guys who might find themselves a bevy of suitors. The game here is to find a guy that is the perfect mixture of attainable and discounted while other teams are busy chasing the mid-tier or high value guys. Guys that other teams will overlook. While teams tell a guy to sit tight as they are chasing their A, B, and C options, the Pelicans need to show their target that he was unilaterally plan A. THAT is the sell – we wanted you July 1st when no one else did. No one wants to feel like a leftover even if that is exactly what they are. Perhaps nothing illustrates how the Pelicans should approach this better than this scene from A Beautiful Mind.

The Pelicans need to not waste time chasing after the blonde, but just make their move decisively on one of her friends. This ensures the greatest probability that the Pelicans get lai– (ahem) their man.

Targets

Here are some guys I think are undervalued and are likely no one’s first choice. They will probably not command a large sum of money, but the Pelicans might have to pay a small premium given their market status.

Glenn Robinson III, 6’6’’, SG/SF: People may remember Glenn Robinson from taking home the dunk contest title right here in New Orleans a couple years ago. Robinson is a hyper-athletic wing who is discovering his shot. He was an extremely low volume player in Indiana, but sported a career 38.1% mark from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, Robinson was sidelined with an ankle injury for the majority of last year. He could very well fit the mold of a low value pick up to slide into the wing position. He doesn’t do much, as he averaged a mere 4 points per game in Indiana. But then again, neither did Solomon Hill. Don’t expect much rebounding or playmaking out of him.

Joe Harris, 6’6’’, SG: Joe Harris was a nice surprise in Brooklyn last year, averaging 10.8 ppg on a blistering 63.8% true shooting. His stats are not much different than E’twuan Moore’s this past year. Like Moore, Harris is limited athletically and doesn’t provide much on the way of rebounds or assists. But Harris is a workhorse off the ball. The Pelicans need shooting and Harris provides it.

Jerami Grant, 6’8’’, F: Grant played a pivotal role in OKC this past year and was only on a minimum deal. He will be seeking a raise for his services. Not only is he a small ball 4 who can switch across the perimeter, Grant is a tenacious defender and solid shot blocker. He isn’t much of a shooter, but in small lineups, he was aggressive on the boards. OKC even showcased Grant at center in super small lineups. From a hustle and culture standpoint, Grant would be a great addition to the front court.

Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Wayne Ellington. Thomas and Bradley are coming off injuries that took them out for the season. It is unclear whether they will ever be the same players again, and their market is severely depressed from a year ago. I’m also not the biggest fan of either player, but they could be a decent buy low gamble. Should one of these guys recuperate their value, suddenly you have an asset on your hands on a cost controlled contract. Ellington is coming off perhaps his best year in the league, but is already over the age of 30. I also expect him to have more suitors than the guys listed above.

Calling My Shot

I’m calling my shot for the Pelicans entire offseason here. Okay maybe not every single detail, but at least the major ones. I think the midnight meeting should be with Joe Harris. He is coming off a cheap 2nd round contract and he will probably have the least suitors compared to the guys above. Harris, at worst, gives you someone who makes E’twuan totally replaceable. I mentioned his off ball work rate above — just look how he relocates around the perimeter.

 

In a Finch and Gentry offense, and ideally with Rondo finding shooters, Harris will thrive. Last season Harris made 150 threes. That’s 3 more than the highest Pelican shooter, Darius Miller. The ability to take and make these shots is vital in today’s NBA, and especially to AD. Harris shot 41% on catch and shoot threes, and 50% on pull-ups (smaller sample). Harris excelled not only as a spot up shooter, but also one who could do damage off screens and handoffs. This offensive dynamic is one that is sorely needed on the Pelicans.

Should the Pelicans choose to go after Harris, or any one of these guys, it tells me that they are banking on Rondo taking the non-bird exception for his contract. The non-bird for Rondo comes in at $3.9 million this year and would likely be valued around 2 years, $8 million for the duration of his contract. The rumors you hear about Rondo wanting 2/16 are likely the results of the Suns sniffing around and Rondo giving them double his rate. After all, wouldn’t you throw out double your current offer if a bad team came asking? New Orleans provides a unique fit of playtime, freedom, and opportunity to compete and I think Rondo accepts the non-bird. If the Pelicans have to dip into their other exceptions to sign him, it could prove problematic when it comes to picking up other players.

In keeping with the 2 year theme, I think Boogie gets 2 years, $60 million, fully guaranteed. I don’t think his offer exceeds beyond 2 years in length, but he probably has a version with a player option on the table. I think the Pelicans want to line up everything with AD. Gentry is around for 2 more years, and the Pelicans front office was also given a 2 year extension. Solomon Hill and E’twuan Moore come off the books in 2 years (if they are still around). Given the trend, I think both Rondo and Cousins get 2 year deals, unless there is massive external pressure from an opposing team.

Finally, I think whatever money is leftover in the Pelicans’ mid level exception (tax-payer or regular depending on future moves), will be used to bring over Tyler Honeycutt from Europe, like they did with Darius Miller last year. Those of you who listen to the pod know my thoughts on Honeycutt and his fit with the team. This just leaves the Pelicans to fill out the team with some minimum level guards and bigs. It isn’t a flashy offseason, but continuing to fill the cracks with guys who can provide useful minutes on cheap contracts will help the Pelicans go further in the regular season.

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    June 29, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Elfrid Payton anyone?

  2. Anonymous

    June 29, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Mario Hezonja!!!!

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