The Writing is on the Wall; It’s Time for the Pelicans to Sell

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Published: January 19, 2019

Two Games under .500 with a brutal 12 game stretch facing a Pelicans team that was finally completely healthy. That was the situation the Pelicans were in after beating the Cavs for a second time in a week on January 9th. Though the upcoming schedule was tough, the prevailing wisdom that this Pelicans team could hang with anybody when healthy.

Then came a loss to a shorthanded Timberwolves team. Followed by a win against a struggling Clippers squad that couldn’t hit anything down the stretch. A heartbreaking defeat to the Warriors was next, and finally a blowout at Portland that saw the team fall to four games under .500, while also sidelining Anthony Davis for the next week or two. Possibly more.

Taking a look at the Western Conference playoff picture, it is reasonable to expect that it will take at least 46 wins to finish in the top 8. And to avoid the Warriors, the Pelicans likely need to win 47 or 48. With just 36 games left to go in the season, that means the Pelicans need to play .700+ basketball to make the playoffs. And again, that includes this next 4-10 games that they will be without Davis.

The playoff dream….it’s dead. That simply is not happening. Anthony Davis’s season will again end in early April, and that will not sit well with a man who has said his top priority is winning. Face it, Anthony Davis is gone. It won’t be this February, but in will happen sometime in the next 18 months, with the most likely outcome being this summer. There is nothing the Pelicans can do about it now, so they have to start preparing for the post-AD era.

That starts immediately, as the February 7th trade deadline is right around the corner. Although Dell has been in buyer mode for 3 months now, it is imperative that he changes directions and becomes a seller in a market that is actually far better for the sellers than it is the buyers currently.

Julius Randle, Niko Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore, and expiring contracts all have some positive value right now. Each of those scenarios should be explored, with the Pelicans looking to add assets to a war chest that can be quite substantial in six months. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some possible trades they can make to kick start this rebuild.

 

Nikola Mirotic

Value: 70 (on a scale of 1-100, where 50 is a ‘neutral’ asset_

Why Teams Would Want Him: Big Man Shooting, Bird Rights

Trade #1

Sixers Receive: Niko Mirotic

Suns Receive: Markelle Fultz

Pelicans Receive: Dragan Bender, De’Anthony Melton, Bulls 2nd round pick (from Sixers), 7 Million Dollar Trade Exception

Sixers are in need of more shooting and Mirotic gives them a better version of what they lost in Saric and Illysova. The Suns get a prospect with fantastic pedigree that could fit great in their core if he returns to form, and the Pelicans get a look at a reclamation project in Bender while also getting a top 35 pick, a prospect in Melton, and a trade exception they might be able to use over the next year.

Trade #2

Charlotte Receives: Nikola Mirotic

Pelicans Receive: Marvin Williams and Malik Monk

The Pelicans take on an extra year of a bad contract and an inferior player in Williams. And for that, they get Malik Monk on his rookie contract. Charlotte instantly improves and can surge towards the playoffs while also opening up money to pay Kemba next year, and all it costs them is a prospect who probably does not mesh with their franchise star anyway.

Trade #3

Portland Receives: Nikola Mirotic

Pelicans Receive: Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins

Portland adds the shooting big that they need to help space the court, but without sacrificing defense or rebounding, and they also get of Leonard’s contract. Pelicans, meanwhile, take on an extra year of Leonard for the ability to grab a young, tough minded prospect who should develop into a solid starter, or at worst, an elite 3rd big

 

Julius Randle

Value: 60

Why Teams Would Want Him: Bench scoring

Trade #1

Milwaukee Receives: Julius Randle

Pelicans Receive: Jason Smith and Donte DiVincenzo

When you have a shot to get to the Finals, you have to be aggressive and though Randle might just be a rental for the Bucks, he can give them a physical, bench scoring element they sorely need. Pels, in return, get a scoring guard with upside, on a rookie contract. And J-Smitty doesn’t hurt either.

Trade #2

Pacers Receive: Julius Randle

Pelicans Receive: Kyle O’Quinn, Aaron Holiday

Similar to the Bucks trade, the Pacers load up with more firepower and it costs them the guy they selected in the 2018 draft. Meanwhile, for the Pels, they make this move and then sign Justin this summer and try and see what the three Holidays can do for them in 2019 and beyond.

Trade #3

Hornets Receive: Randle, Wes Johnson, Ian Clark

Pelicans Receive: Biyombo, Malik Monk, Hornets lotto protected pick

Pels take on an even worse contract this time while giving the Hornets a player that could take some of the scoring burden off Kemba. In return, Pels get a prospect in Monk and a pick that would likely be between 15-19 in the upcoming draft.

Trade #4

Nets Receive: Julius Randle, Wes Johnson

Pelicans Receive: Allan Crabbe, Nuggets pick

Another example of the Pels taking on extra money in the 2019-20 season so they can help a team in the playoff picture this year while also clearing their books the following year. Pelicans put out perhaps the worst, most expensive SF duo in the league next year in Crabbe and Hill, but they are off the books the next summer and Pelicans get a pick in the 20’s for their trouble.

 

Moore and/or the Expirings

E’Twaun Moore

Value: 52

Why Teams Would Want Him: Shooting, decent contract

Expirings

Value: 50-60, depending on the team

Why Teams Would Want Them: Clear next year’s books

Trade #1

Jazz Receive: E’Twaun Moore

Pelicans Receive: Thabo Sefolosha (bought out) and Royce O’Neale

Jazz get another shooter, as they want for Grayson Allen to eventually grow into that role. Pelicans get Moore off next years books and pick up a solid wing role player on a great contract.

Trade #2

Knicks Receive: Wesley Johnson and Chieck Diallo

Pelicans Receive: Courtney Lee, future lottery protected 1st

The Knicks are getting ready to go after KD and Kyrie. To accomplish that, they need to start shedding money and Courtney Lee is a great place to start. The Pelicans take on the extra year of Lee’s contract and get the Knicks pick in 2020, 2021, or 2022 if the Knicks make the playoffs. If they haven’t by then, it conveys to two second round picks.

Trade #3

Wizards Receive: E’Twaun Moore, Wesley Johnson, and Cheick Diallo

Pelicans Receive: Ian Mahimni, Dwight Howard, protected first round pick

The Wizards save a ton of money on the luxury tax and also get out from bad contracts next year while also improving themselves on the court. The Pelicans eat an extra year of bad contracts for the chance to add a Wizards protected pick to their war chest. It would be lottery protected this year and next, dropping to top-10 protection in 2021, and conveying to two second rounders after that.

 

Conclusion

The Pelicans can get create and start building up their asset chest now. They could walk away with young players on rookie deals and picks, all while also making their own 2019 (and perhaps 2020) pick better. Combine those assets with the massive collection of young players and/or picks they are likely to get in an AD deal, and the Pelicans could be one of the most exciting, flexible teams, as early as the summer of 2020.

Conversely, if they become buyers now, or just let their current assets go without receiving anything, they have less margin of error. They also probably win more games and damage their own pick. Look, AD is gone. Accept it and start building for the future – and there is no better time to do that than the present.

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