What Makes Sense as the Next Step for the Pelicans?

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Published: July 3, 2018

July 2nd was a weird day. We can go into every minute detail and break it down several different ways, but let’s just say it was weird and move on. Some people want Dell to battle the false claims Boogie’s camp is spewing, but there really isn’t anything to be gained by that. His job is to put together the best basketball team possible, and there are still moves to be made after the signing of Julius Randle.

It is almost without doubt that Randle will be better than Boogie in the 2018-19 season, and he will undoubtedly be better than the guys who played the 4 and the 5 behind AD and Mirotic down the stretch last year. The Pelicans have, quite frankly, upgraded their front line since the end of last season – a season that saw them sweep the Blazers and get to the second round.

They won’t have to worry about playing different styles, depending on which big men are on the floor. If DeMarcus returned, they would have had to have two distinctly different styles of play on both ends, but with Randle, they can switch and hedge hard on everything on defense and they can run like crazy on offense. They can play one style all the time, starting from training camp, and the importance of that cannot be overstated.

All that said, there is still some work left to be done. I won’t get too far into the leadership stuff, because trying to project whether AD or Jrue takes over in that department would be pure speculation. Let’s stick to on the court. First and foremost, shooting must be added. Right now, you would rightfully list four of the Pelicans top seven rotation players as below average shooters for their roles/positions. Only AD, Moore, and Mirotic would be thought of as average or above average. This must change.

Payton could start at the point or Hill could start at the 3. Starting both, next to Holiday (who has declined from deep in recent years) would make it extremely hard on Davis. Especially if Randle was on the court as well. The Pelicans need to find a different player to insert into that lineup. Payton has more upside, and his ball handling is more needed than Hill’s slightly above average at times wing defense. So, in this writer’s opinion, the Pelicans need to put all their efforts into finding a capable wing. Ideally, one with just one year left on his deal.

Dell needs to be working on two goals simultaneously here. The first is to put together the best team possible for the upcoming season. The second should be to give himself as much flexibility as possible heading into the summer of 2019. If he can clear the Solomon Hill contracts off the books, there is a possibility that he can head into that summer with just Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday on his payroll and nearly 50 million dollars in cap space to entice free agents to play with the best player in the game and an All Star guard (if Jrue plays at the level we saw post-Boogie injury last season).

And while being as good as possible while also making flexibility could be difficult, it is not impossible. One step in the right direction was already taken yesterday, with the Randle signing. The next step has to be moving Hill to upgrade at the wing while also reducing the number of years owed by one. This will require moving another first round pick and/or an asset like Diallo or Frank Jackson. Tough pill to swallow, but necessary. The issue for Dell will be that it is hard to find teams in July who are already to give up on next season. So, maybe he will have to wait a few months, as teams lose their delusions of grandeur. Whether it is now or whether it is January or February, here are some deals that could help check both boxes.

  • Solomon Hill and a top-10 protected first to Brooklyn for Demarre Carroll and Spencer Dinwiddie

    This is an ideal trade for the Pelicans that Brooklyn only goes for if they have chosen D’Angelo Russell as the PG of the future and are not willing to pay Dinwiddie big bucks next summer to be the backup. The Pelicans fix their two biggest roster issues in one swoop and maintain flexibility, as both guys come off the books next year. The question is: Do you do this deal if it costs you Diallo too? Or would you do this deal if you don’t get Dinwiddie?

  • E’Twaun Moore, Ajinca, 2019 first and 2021 first for Kemba Walker

    Charlotte probably doesn’t do this today, as they would prefer to get off some of their bad contracts if they trade Walker, but could this be the best they could get for the expiring guard? Pels just push all their chips in and live with Solomon Hill on the wing because the other four next to him are superb. This doesn’t really help much from a flexibility angle. What you are banking on here is that it all works and this will be the core of your team for the next 3-5 years, as you constantly scour the free agent and trade markets over the next few years, hoping to get lucky and hit on a wing.

  • Solomon Hill, Alexis Ajinca, and a top-10 protected first for Terrance Ross and Jonathan Simmons

    The Magic aren’t going anywhere. Why not pick up a first round pick for two wings that aren’t in your long-term plans anyway? You can even argue that Clifford is a defensive coach and might prefer Solomon Hill anyway. He can also be a leader for a young team. The Pelicans, meanwhile get two guys who would fit great on the roster and Ross is expiring while Simmons is only guaranteed $1 million next year.

  • Solomon Hill, Diallo, and a lotto protected first for Danny Green

    Imagine the Spurs do trade Kawhi and go into a semi rebuild mode where they try to win now but also collect assets. Hill, when healthy, is a Spurs-ian player. Diallo is a good developmental big for them and the pick could land them their next Dejonte Murray, as they tend to get value late in the first. Meanwhile, the Pelicans get their 3-and-D guy for a year and have flexibility next summer.

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