New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Mon, 06 Jul 2015 05:30:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In the NO Podcast Ep. 222: Free Agency Wrap Up Mon, 06 Jul 2015 05:30:41 +0000 With most of the big moves already completed, Michael and I talk about what this off-season means to the team. Will Asik, Ajinca and Cunningham live up to their deals? Can we squee with joy over Anthony Davis resigning? What is a squee? What teams got better or worse in the conference? Plus, we answer some listener questions.

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New Orleans Pelicans Round Out Gentry’s Coaching Staff With Addition of Phil Weber Sun, 05 Jul 2015 19:02:19 +0000 The staff was already looking tremendous with the additions of Darren Erman and Robert Pack to Alvin Gentry’s crew, but it got even stronger today with the reported addition of Phil Weber. Weber was one of the guys I profiled as a possible assistant right before Gentry got hired, and like I said in that piece, he is a high energy guy who is a tremendous shooting coach. He also works with guys on balance and fundamentals – two key building blocks for a young team. Want to get a sense of Weber the person and his philosophies? This video basically sums it all up.

Weber is known as a positive guy (as you can see from the video) that will bring a lot of energy to the team. He played under the legendary Jim Valvano, who delivered a similar positive messages, including perhaps the most legendary sports related speech ever. He went on to coach in college before moving on to an assistant job with Phoenix, where he worked with D’Antoni and Gentry. From there, he moved on to New York with D’Antoni for four years before moving on to Miami.

Weber has done both player development and X-and-O coaching, so he can bounce between both roles. He also has some connections with some Pelicans summer league players, as he coached both Khem Birch and Larry Drew in the D-League last year. It will be interesting to see how involved he is with Summer League, which starts next week, but it can’t hurt to have a guy who is familiar with D-League players as Dell tries to round out the bottom of the roster with minimum players that have some upside.

The hiring of Weber likely means that the staff is set, as the Pelicans also kept player development coaches Kevin Hanson and Fred Vinson, along with bringing in video coordinator Elvis Valcarel. This staff is intelligent and energetic and has already been getting to work with Anthony Davis and others. While the roster has stayed essentially the same, there is reason for optimism because of the tremendous staff that Demps and Gentry have put together.

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New Orleans Pelicans Free Agency and the Tax Sun, 05 Jul 2015 08:25:57 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans have had a busy start to the new season without creating much of a new look. The team replaced Monty Williams and at least some of his staff with Alvin Gentry and new assistants, but thee have not placed any players under contract yet who were not under contract last season with the team.

The Pelicans and Anthony Davis have agreed on a 5-year contract extension that starts in 2016-2017. While not directly affecting this season’s roster, it was a hugely important move. Davis will be playing on the final term of his rookie deal this season.

In actual free agency (in the moratorium period before signings are allowed), the Pelicans have agreed to terms with Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik, and now Dante Cunningham (3 years, $9m total). They have extended a qualifying offer to now-restricted-free-agent Norris Cole, and they did the same to Jeff Withey before rescinding it, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Value of a Stable Roster

With no new faces from the recent draft and mechanisms to add pieces running out, the team is set to “run it back,” as McNamara (and seemingly others) like to say. As Graham later showed, there is some good support behind this idea given the level of player available to the Pelicans.

Beyond this, the coaching change is not something be ignored. Coach Williams and Coach Gentry are very different people and very different coaches. The idea that you can pop one out, slide the other in, and just be “better” is misguided. Adjustments take time for a number of reasons. Talking with some writers from The Bird Writes and Pelican Debrief, I said that I have no idea what to expect to start the season, then it’ll get worse, then come January I’ll start really buying what I see. By that time, there will have been adjustments, re-adjustments, etc.

Moreover, Dell Demps is the architect of this team. While others have had some input, this is Dell’s vision, right or wrong. He’s not afraid to take a risk or clean it up when possible in the cases it does not work. Given the differences in the coaching styles from last season to this coming season, it may be best to see how the coaching change affected his evaluation of the main roster pieces. Given the team’s limited mechanisms for growth this season, taking some time to see what you have before making an uninformed move seems justified.

Hidden Flexibility

I spent some time before 2015-2016 started laying out how life over the cap differs from line under it. This offseason is a taste of that, if a bit extreme.

  • Moves So Far
    • Anthony Davis Extension via Bird Rights
    • Omer Asik 5-year deal via Bird Rights
    • Alexis Ajinca 4-year deal via Early Bird Rights
    • Dante Cunningham 3-year deal via Mid-Level Exception
  • Remaining Tools
    • Bird Rights: Norris Cole, can be used for any salary
    • Early Bird Rights: Jeff Withey, Luke Babbitt, worth about $5,750,000 each (TBD post-moratorium)
    • Non-Bird Rights: Jimmer Fredette, about $1.1m
    • Minimum Salary Exception
    • Remaining Mid-Level Exception, about $2.5m depending on Cunningham’s deal
    • Bi-Annual Exception, $2,139,000
    • Traded Player Exception

As you can see, the team’s best options involve signing Norris Cole, which they seem to be planning to do once the market sets his value, bring back players they had last season, or sign a player or two in the sub-$3m range. Then, they can fill out the roster with minimum contract players. We are told that Withey and Babbitt are likely to return, which fits with the above, and the above makes sense of those moves.

If they were to use these tools to their fullest now or during the season, the Pelicans would find themselves at the tax line or above, depending on where it falls, likely between $80m and $82m. Above the tax there is what is called the apron, which is $4m above the tax. Once a team crosses the tax line, the team’s financial picture changes as they start to pay the NBA’s “Luxury Tax” rather than receive benefits from it. (This is not a government-imposed tax; this is a part of the soft cap system the NBA uses, and it is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well). Additionally, some transactions becomes less flexible. The apron levies even more hardship on a team by restricting transactions further than being a tax team does.

Most teams try to avoid the tax. Assuming Asik’s deal is $10m its first year, Ajinca’s is $4.75m, Cole ends up a $4m, and Cunningham’s deal starts at $3m, the team’s salary at that point is around $80m. Plus, they’ll had to add a player or two, waive Douglas, and hope Cole’s deal is that low. Staying below the tax line would give next to no room to make major changes.

Hidden Flexibility

So, maybe the team in the position that they may need to go into the tax to make the right move. Many a writer here and elsewhere are assuming the team will not pay the tax. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Dell was trading picks when people did not expect them to because they were thought to be so valuable. As it turns out, maybe they were not so valuable. Dell traded for the contracts of Rashard Lewis and Omer Asik under Benson’s ownership, incurring financial obligations that did not appear directly on the court or in the salary figure. So, who’s to say they would not become a tax team if it were worth it to do so?

At this point, not only are they positioned to become a tax team, but they are actually able to go over the apron, as well.

  • Teams can not go over the apron if they have received a player in sign-and-trade who is being signed-and-traded. The Pelicans have not received a player in this manner, so they are able to go over the apron.
  • Teams can not go over the apron if they use the Bi-Annual Exception. The Pelicans have not used the exception yet, so they are able to go over the apron.
  • Teams can not use more than the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception in signing players using the Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception and go over the apron. The amount of the Taxpayer MLE is $3,376,000. Cunningham’s deal, as reported, is below this number in the first year. This could be me taking the reports too literally, but I checked a few reports and the deal seems no higher than $3m in starting salary. Also, Cunningham’s deal is for 3 seasons, which is allowed by the Taxpayer MLE. A 4-season deal is not, though it is by the Non-Taxpayer MLE.

In order to go over the apron, the team would have to not use sign any more free agents other than those who were on their roster last season and minimum contract players. This leaves trading, Dell’s specialty, as the means for growth. As noted, the team has an array of contract values that allow a number of trades, and even moreso once the free agent signings are eligible to be traded on December 15. Alternatively, they can send a player out in sign-and-trade if all parties agree.

Of course, not all trades increase salary, but teams trying to build will often take on inflated salaries or even bad contracts to try to become an elite team. At that point, some players will take discounts to play with that team whose options to pay are limited. So, in this case, we cam assume the Pelicans will take back salary exceeding what is sent out. In order to go over the apron when a team is at the tax line, this excess needs to be at least $4m. If it is a single player leaving in trade, Gordon is the only player that fits the bill; his contract would allow a tax team to take back about $19.5m, or about $4m more than he makes this season. Any two of Anderson, Evans, Holiday, Gordon, and Asik (when eligible) would do the trick, too. The team could nickel and dime its way up the salary scale, but it’s not clear that it’s with the financial problems caused by the tax to nickel and time up the talent. Rather, a big swing is necessary. Also, with the jump in the cap next season, the danger of being a tax team for two seasons in a row is quite low, which lowers the risk of such a move.

I have long said that Evans and Anderson were perhaps signed in part to be good trade chips, and we all know Gordon has some value as a player now. Anderson and Gordon are also expiring contracts. While expiring deals are not pure gold, as teams prepare for next offseason’s free agency, some may try to clear space for maximum salary offers and fall just a bit shy. An expiring to such a team could have good value, even if the player received back had a sizable cap hold; the devil is in the details.

I’m not suggesting a major deal is pending. I’m suggesting that the team has left this option open at this time. The situation may not be as I describe, and the situation could change, as maintaining the option will require some austerity. They will not be able to receive a signed-and-traded player and will basically only be able to sign “new” free agents to minimum contracts. However, positioning themselves in this way could be very valuable. As the trade deadline nears, there may not be may teams who are ready, willing, and able to add major salary, even for a good asset. Being a team in that position and with good assets to send back in trade could lead to something major.

So, as the team brings back what they had last year, if things go according to plan, the level of play will improve, the Pelicans players will look better than last season, and some of their contracts will be shorter. Also, the team will determine just what the core of the team is in the new regime and what the team is missing. If they can’t add what they need in the manner in which they have before, they are positioned to make another unexpected move to improve, and perhaps in the most substantial pay possible this season: going into the tax and above the apron.

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Transitioning into the new NBA Salary Cap Environment Fri, 03 Jul 2015 01:15:38 +0000 This week, the Pelicans have verbally agreed to extend three of their four most important big men to long-term deals: Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Alexis Ajinca. From a financial perspective, each player’s average annual salary is in line with what most of us here at Bourbon Street Shots expected them to get: $29 million for Davis, $11 million for Asik, $5 million for Ajinca (I actually nailed Ajinca’s $4.5 million salary for year 1 of his contract with my salary cap post back in early May, though I did not expect the Pelicans to be the team giving it to him). That being said, some of us (myself included) are not thrilled with the length of Asik and Ajinca’s signed contracts, mainly due to salary cap and roster flexibility concerns.

My goal in this column is not to say Dell Demps made the right move in locking Asik and Ajinca in for the next 4 years; in my opinion, they’re both one guaranteed year too long. What I aim to do here is to show you that these contracts are by no means worth panicking over. I know many of you have heard “the cap is going way up” so many times that you’re numb to it by now, so allow me to present my case visually instead of verbally.

Salary Commitments

Screenshot 2015-07-02 at 7.09.52 PM

This chart shows the salary commitments for the Pelicans after their verbal agreements on July 1st. The projected extensions are based off of reported totals and 7.5% annual raises, but there has not yet been confirmation on the exact annual salaries.

Salary Cap Occupancy

Screenshot 2015-07-02 at 7.09.36 PM

This table shows what percentage each player’s salary makes up of the entire salary cap for that year. It is important to note that the 2016-17 season and beyond uses the cap projections that the NBA sent out, but because the collective bargaining agreement contains a mutual opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season, those numbers will likely end up changing.


1) After this upcoming season, Omer Asik will never account for a higher percentage of the salary cap than any of the years of his prior 3-year contract. That’s not usually how this works! As successful players age, they typically account for more and more of the cap until they get into their 30s, when their salaries plummet. Asik is going to be 32 by the end of his last guaranteed year, which basically takes him up until you can reasonably expect to see a decline. Getting better value on a player in his late-20s than his mid-20s just doesn’t happen very often. Would it have been nicer to shorten the deal by a year? Sure, but there is absolutely no reason to panic.

2) Ajinca’s cap hit post-“cap spike” is similar to what Pondexter’s hit is pre-“cap spike”. Many people have been calling Pondexter’s contract a “steal” even before the salary cap jump. Well guess what? As a percentage of the cap, Ajinca will account for about the same percentage in the final three seasons of his deal that Pondexter does for last season or this season.

3) Anthony Davis will be one of the best bargains in the NBA for the duration of his contract. While it doesn’t excuse overspending, the Pelicans have a security blanket who goes by the name of Anthony Davis. Pretty soon (and probably already), his true worth will be at least 60% of the salary cap, if not more. The Pelicans have him locked in for 10% next year, and around 25-30% for the subsequent four seasons. That kind of value gives a team much more flexibility with roster construction (just ask the Spurs or either LeBron James title team, whose stars have consistently taken less than market value for the good of the team).

BONUS: The Pelicans can still easily make space for a max contract in 2016. While it’s not in either of the tables above, the 7-9 year player max contract will start around $25 million. Provided the team doesn’t sign Cole and Cunningham (or whoever they use part or all of the MLE on) to outlandish extensions, all it would take is unloading a contract like Tyreke Evans – one whose $10 million salary in 2016-17 will be great value – to once again have the requisite space to bring in a max contract caliber player. If you’re worried about not being able to do that, you can put those concerns to rest.

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Summer Is Coming! Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:58:25 +0000 Summer league is coming for the New Orleans Pelicans. The team will host a mini-camp from July 6-9th, with their first game in Las Vegas, NV, being on July 10th against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pelicans also have games scheduled against the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets. After that, summer league turns into a single-elimination style tournament, with each team playing at least five games.

All 67 games will be aired on NBA TV, with the championship game being on July 20th at 8 PM CT. The games will also be made available via and the NBA Game Time App.

Without any picks in this year’s NBA Draft, the Pelicans roster will mostly consist of journeymen. Some notables are two players part of the NBA sorority via family in Larry Drew II (via his father) and Seth Curry (via his MVP and NBA champion brother, Steph Curry.) Jarvis Varnado, of Mississippi State (and who was drafted in the second round by the Miami Heat in 2010), is another player who can potentially make the roster, due to his wingspan and timing when blocking shots.

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Pelicans Scoop: Davis, Ajinca, Asik, and Free Agency Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:54:45 +0000 With big Pelicans news coming out in the first 24 hours of free agency, BSS writers give their opinions on five pressing questions. 

1. What was your reaction when you saw AD had signed his extension?

Michael McNamara: Instant relief. I knew that AD would sign it at some point this summer, but having him do it at the first possible moment showed that he had no hesitations in his commitment to this franchise and this city. He could have played hardball or pulled a Lebron and used his power to get some things done, but instead he put his faith in Demps and Gentry and signed on the dotted line as soon as he could, and that was a relief.

Graham McQueen: Reassurance. I didn’t really have doubts about this deal getting done, but for avid fans who talk sports all day you come across those select few who seem so confident in their beliefs of players “coming home” or “going to big markets” that it puts that little twinge in the back of your head. The first thing I saw in the morning was Davis resigning, then the first thing I read about it is about how he’s already in the gym focused on basketball. If that doesn’t make you feel good his and the franchise’s future I don’t know what will.

James Grayson: Excitement. I was over the moon as evident by my tweet. In fact I actually thought it was a fake twitter account so I paused for a little bit, thinking, “Nah, this has to be fake Woj. It’s JUST turned 12.01am – there’s no way!” Then I saw it was actually happening and I did a quick couple of fist-pumps and sat with glee. I had a discussion a while back with one of my good friends who said, “Well Thibs isn’t going to be your coach because he doesn’t think Davis will sign on long term.” Ha! Guess Gentry is laughing at that notion.

Jason Calmes: Other than “Already?” . . . not much. It was a no-brainer. The sun came up . . . nice, awesome in fact, but expected.

Michael Pellissier: A sigh of relief.  The extension was always going to happen, but getting it done as early as possible will probably go a long way in calming the nerves of Pelicans fans.  As long as AD’s around, we will have a very entertaining team to watch.

Jake Madison: I went to bed somewhat early Tuesday night expecting everything to be quiet on the Pelicans’ front. When I saw the news the next morning I honestly was about as surprised as possible. It was an inevitability that he would sign the extension, but the statement he made by signing it the minute he could shows AD’s belief in this team and vision going forward. For a city that still feels burned by Chris Paul forcing his way out, it’s a cathartic moment of sorts. And one worth celebrating—as I did that night.

2. Grade the Alexis Ajinca signing (4 Years/ 20.2 million)

MM: C+. It is a great contract for a 3rd big and a solid one for a 4th big in this new NBA economy. I trust that Gentry sees something that he likes with Ajinca and both Marresse Speights and Festus Ezili took huge steps forward in Gentry’s system last year. Like Speights, Ajinca is a versatile scorer and he also played very well with AD last year. I don’t love the number of years, but if the coaching staff can work on his screen setting and fouling it could be a bargain down the line.

GM: B-. Good contract for a fairly decent 3rd/4th big who has visibly improved every season. Ajinca was a pleasant surprise for the Pelicans this season when injuries forced him into a bigger role. He deserved a pay raise, and you can’t teach height. 4 years is awhile, but if he keeps improving it could turn out to be a steal. As long he doesn’t regress this is a fine deal.

JG: B. It’s a decent contract, but not overly great. Ajinca has been a foul-machine, but his offensive capabilities are good and he provides the depth needed for the bench. My issue is with the role. It’s my understanding that Ajinca wants to be the third big – where does this put Ryno? Outside of Asik and Davis there’s absolutely no defense along the front line. Davis or Asik get in foul trouble… and boom! There’s a problem because the Pels need to improve defensively if they ever want to contend.

JC: B. This seems to be a little bit better than the trade for Lopez, at the time, but the standards were lower, and Lopez was coming off of injury. Ajinca’s biggest issue has been his fouling, as I have pointed out often, but he has improved his foul rate to the best of his career. In fact, his season average, a pretty high 5.7 / 36 minutes, actually makes his stead improvement through the season. A smart guy like Ajinca who can pass and score from more than one area of the floor may have a little extra value in Gentry’s offense. If so, or if those fouls keep coming down, this goes to a B+.

MP: C+.  Ajinca is a serviceable backup big and made some gigantic strides as an offensive weapon last year, but he still fouls too often and is a liability on defense.  However, considering the contracts that are being handed out and the skyrocketing cap, I think the Pelicans made the right move. If the Pelicans can surround Ajinca with some good perimeter defenders and feed him the ball in the post, he will be a very valuable weapon off of the bench.  In sum, a good player on a reasonable contract.. so I’ll count this as a small win.

JM: Rather than give it a letter grade I’m just going to say, “Eh.” Under the old cap I wouldn’t like it. But most deals given out in free agency have been focused around when the cap will rise. Ajinca is a decent backup big who has potential to breakout into a solid rotation player under Gentry. 4 years may be a little long, but he should be tradeable on the tail end of it. My biggest question is did they need to get this done day one or could they have waited to see if there was a market for him?

3. Grade the Omer Asik signing (5 Years/58 million; 5th year non-guaranteed)

MM:C -. It is essentailly a 4 year/44 million dollar deal that allows the Pelicans to use Asik as a major trade piece in year 5, and while I don’t hate it, I would have loved it if it were one year shorter. The average salary per year is right where we expected, but it is impossible for me to imagine some other team offering him similar years and money. In some ways, it feels like we bid against ourselves, and so I say it is a below average deal based on the fact I think playing hardball could have gotten him back cheaper.

GM: C-. Don’t hate it, don’t like it, just…meh. I am totally fine resigning Asik, though just looking at the total money and years it seems too much. It is Dell’s little workings that make this a much more tolerable signing. Basically only $44 million guaranteed, incentive based, unguaranteed last year (lined up as a trade chip before Davis’ last year under contract) all make up for the fact that this contract seems just a little bit too much and just a little bit too long. However, if the Pels get the Asik they originally thought they were getting when they traded for him, it’ll look a lot better this time next year.

JG: D+. I’m not overly thrilled with it mainly because of the length of time and amount of money. Now, with the new salary cap after 2016 it’ll look a little better but you’re committing a significant amount of money to a position that really only requires 20-25 minutes from it per game. Davis will be playing the 5 (I dislike to concept of traditional positions) for most of the fourth quarter. I always love to find silver linings in any deal and there is some good news. Asik was top-10 in the NBA in TREB% last season and provides solid interior defense. If he can stop being the fumbling mess on offense that he was last season perhaps it won’t be as bad.

JC: B-. This contract is really not so bad. Measured in units reflecting today’s market, it’s about 1.5 Aminus, or about 0.85 Chandlers, which is good for a big man, especially a talented rebounder like Asik. Asik is 4 years younger than Chandler . . . 29 compared to 33 when the season starts. He’s underrated, in my opinion, which is a statement about his ratings, not about him. This contract scales with the cap to be as good as or better value than his last contract, on average. No issues. I do discount the quality due to Asik’s low minutes last season. If that’s the way it will continue to be, the grade has to reflect that; it does for not, at least. This signing also allows use of the MLE. If that signing is a good one, I bump this move to a B.

MP: C. Before Asik stepped onto the floor as a New Orleans Pelican, I noted how Asik looks different as an offensive player in a lineup that doesn’t force him to catch the ball in traffic.  There are some issues with the Tyreke/Asik pairing, though Gentry giving Tyreke the green light in transition and in early offense may mitigate some of these concerns.  But Asik still rebounds at an elite level, is a very good defender, a very good screener, and most importantly, protects Anthony Davis.  His price tag isn’t nearly as steep if you consider the skyrocketing cap, but I certainly wouldn’t argue that Asik is being underpaid.  Overall, I’m meh–not particularly excited, not particularly concerned.

JM: I grade it with a shrug. The Pelicans’ conference has a ton of big, bruising centers; Asik has his place on the roster if for nothing else than during the regular season. He may be situational in the playoffs but if the team doesn’t make it there then what does it matter? Asik will help in that regard. More than that he is a tradeable asset—something Demps likes to have. The Pelicans can’t bring in someone from a trade without sending something out. For that reason alone he’d be worth it to me.

4. Assuming Cole signs his QO, what would you do to round out this roster with the resources the Pelicans have?

MM: I want a couple of guys on 1 year deals, with Dante Cunningham being one of those guys. Bring back DC so that we have our top 10 all back next year, Then, go get a vet who can provide some help on the court and in the locker room (like Richard Jefferson) and maybe one project to see if you can develop. A 5th big wouldn’t hurt either.

GM: A little bit more wing depth. Guys like the ones the team has already been linked with (Dante Cunningham, Richard Jefferson, even Quincy Acy) who come to work, won’t cost much, and can effectively guard on the wing. Defensive versatility is key. Last season Pondexter and Cunningham were adequate, but the Pels need more than adequate. There isn’t a ton of space to work with but there is room to bring in a vet or two who can help in the locker room and still contribute on the court. Think Jared Dudley, who has been a big help to a young Bucks team and is staying there for less than 5 mil.

JG: This team needs wing help – especially on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of Jrue Holiday it really is a turnstile. Get guys on shorter deals – 1 year if possible. The Pels still have some sort of flexibility with the MLE and BAE up their sleeve. I’d love to look at Gerald Green or Corey Brewer too.

JC: In an effort to shore up the locker room, I’d try for Tayshaun Prince, then maybe Richard Jefferson. Both have experience and would likely help the young vets and new coaches. Additionally, while either could be valued on a contender for the same reason, neither will command more than the MLE. A one-year deal that can be traded in-season to add an over-MLE player would be nice, and other teams can sell the name to their fanbases. Other than that, fun min contract guys, keep some space for a waiver claim or somesuch.

MP: Shooting wings. Several of the guys have already mentioned Richard Jefferson and he’s a feasible option.  I’m not a big fan of Gerald Green, so I’d prefer not to go there.  KJ McDaniels is a guy I’d love to bring along slowly (certainly not known for his shooting), so if there’s a way to pry him from the Rockets, I would love that.  We don’t have that much money, so options are limited–but I think getting a couple of wings before or during this season is a necessity.

JM: I think they still need to add another deep-shooting swingman with the MLE. Target someone who can fill the role that Anthony Morrow did two seasons ago. With Pondexter potentially out until the start of the season adding some depth there is important.

5. Assuming the Pelicans are running back practically the same roster, what would the ceiling be for this team in 2015-16?

MM: 56 wins and/or a 2nd round playoff birth. I think anything short of 50 wins would be a disappointment, and continuity combined with health and a better system could easily lead to the Pelicans winning 10 or 11 more games. Whether they win or not in the first round will likely come down to matchup and/or health, but advancing beyond that would be tough in the Western Conference. This year, at least.

GM: When talking projections with this team there are two very frustrating words that always come up: “if healthy.” 50 wins should be the bottom line, but if everyone can stay healthy there is no reason this team can’t win ~55 games. A full season of Holiday (instead of a half), a full season of good Gordon (instead of 3/4’s), and a full season of good Anderson (instead of 3/4’s of inconsistent Anderson) with improved team defense under a new coaching staff could definitely increase the win total by 10. But more than that the Pels need post-season success. The West is so deep that you’ll have a tough matchup first round no matter what seed (see Clippers v Spurs) so I won’t put the burden of winning a series on them this year, but they should at least win a couple games. Stephen Curry and his Warriors’ second playoff appearance was a first round loss, but then this year happened.

JG: 52 wins and 2nd round playoff exit – more or less falls in line with McNamara’s prediction. My only thing is that the West is so damn good I feel like teams will cannibalise each other win totals. Some of their lesser teams will start to compete more strongly. They definitely will evolve and my belief is that it’s all dependent on health. This team needs to stay healthy – it’s so frustrating. It’s a positive time to be a Pelicans fan, with a healthier Anderson and Holiday there’s no telling how badly the Pelicans can make my prediction look. On either side of the spectrum.

JC: I’m not getting into wins, but I’d say the reasonable ceiling is 4 seed with a shot of luck. With a few shots, Conference Finals participation ribbon..
MP: 54 wins.  Realistically speaking, this team isn’t going to be ready to win a championship this season–the road is too long and too hard.. but I feel confident in saying that the Pelicans could certainly be in the 50-54 win range. This was a different team once it acquired Cunningham, Pondexter, and Cole last season. Assuming AD’s continued development and a boost from continuity, I think the Pelicans have a chance to make a real mark this season.  And if Darren Erman can help the team make gains on defense, watch out.

JM: Obviously it is higher than last season—especially if the team stays healthy. But the problem is the nuclear arms race occurring in the West. The Spurs look to be reloading. The Warriors are still the Warriors. The Mavs look like they will be improved. So will Memphis. While the Clippers and Portland will take a step back that is still some tough competition. But the Pelicans showed they can compete with anyone last season, and I think they’d like their chances if they were seeded 6th.

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New Orleans Pelicans Reportedly Bringing Back Omer Asik Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:00:26 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans have reportedly agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent center, Omer Asik. The contract is for 5 years with an aggregate total value of around $58,000,000, along with incentives throughout and some non-guaranteed money in the final year.

General Notes

  • Asik was acquired by the Pelicans for a first round pick in the recent draft (18) and some filler contracts. He had just one year left on his deal. There was worry at the time by some that he would not re-sign with the team, but the team felt confident in bringing the center back.
  • Asik turns 29 on July 4th. His age each season through the contract will be 29, 30, 31, 32, 33. Since the final year is not fully guaranteed, one can view the contract as doubly expiring starting after the third season, at age 31. For reference, Tyson Chandler, a more complete center on the free agent market, commanded a 4-year deal at age 33 (when the season starts) worth about $13m per season. This is about $2m more per season for the older center.
  • Asik was acquired to both keep Davis from playing center against the biggest men in the game and also freeing up Davis to roam more on offense and defense. Additionally, Asik’s main role is on defense. He protects the paint well, even against guards, rebounds extremely well, and is savvy. He is by no means fleet-of-foot or graceful in a scoring or general ball-handling capacity, but the team has those skills in abundance. There are more complete centers, but they come with higher financial, and other, costs, as noted above. He also brings skills missing from the rest of this team.
  • The Southwest Division is loaded with talented big men, and that number is set to climb. The formula that we hear about the new NBA may have something to it, but the Cavaliers spent most of the season trying to get their big man, the Warriors have theirs, and the entire Southwest Division . . . and their big men . . . made the playoffs. There is a need for this team at this time to be able to battle against very good big men to make the progress they want to make.

More Detail

  • Asik was signed using Bird Rights, which the Pelicans were able to maintain since he spent 2 seasons in Houston who traded him to New Orleans prior to his lone season as a Pelican. This allows them to preserve their salary cap exceptions to sign role players from the market. In other words, the value of this signing is partially yet-to-be-determined. Signing another center off the market would have to have been done by trading an asset or using the Mid-Level Exception. The MLE has not done much to grab good big men so far this offseason (1 day), and this fact is historically true. As only Asik could have been signed using his Bird Exception, the choice is a sub-$6m center or Asik and whoever you get for the MLE. So . . . patience on fully evaluating the deal.
  • The deal seems to have the following structure: $10m, $10.75m, $11.5m, $12.25m, $13m (not fully guaranteed). This structure leads to a total of $44.5m in the first 4 seasons, $57.5m total. Incentives of $250,000 – $500,000 could be included, along with a couple million of guaranteed money in the final season. The details should come to light in the next few days or following the moratorium through leaks.
  • Asik is justifiably criticized for his short-comings, but he is unjustifiably ignored for what he does well.
    • He is an excellent rebounder. His Offensive Rebound Rate last season was 14.0, good for 8th in the NBA among players logging at least 1000 minutes. His Defensive Rebounding Rate is 28.8, good for 6th in the NBA in the same pool. In terms of total rebounding, the rate is 21.4, good for 4th in the NBA in that 1000+ minute pool. The only available player with better total rebounding rate is Deandre Jordan, who is choosing from a number of max deals.
    • His PER, which favors scoring to a degree, is 15.5, which is a little above average. Among players who are poorer scorers, this is a little above a little above average. His WS/48 is 0.12 which is above average, as well. While there are clear deficiencies in his play, what he does well more than overturns those by high-level metrics, all while excelling as a rebounder.
    • His Offensive Rating – Defensive Rating, an important statistic in evaluating effectiveness of play, was 7, which was second highest on the team among players with at least 1000 minutes. Ajinca as his 957 minutes had a difference of 10, Babbitt 7 in 830 minutes, and Withey 11 in 283 minutes. See a pattern? For reference, Davis led the team at 22. Jrue and Quincy were the only other players with positive differences, 2 and 4 respectively.
  • This contract puts his non-guaranteed season as the last season prior to Davis’ option season. Therefore, the team has the option to dump him if they feel forced to trade Davis early (see: Chris Paul) or to try to make a last ditch effort to change directions in that final year non-option year. Dell has used non-guaranteed contract to great advantage (see: acquiring Lopez, Asik).
  • Considering the first 4 seasons of the deal as that is the only real commitment he got from the team or all 5, Asik’s new contract is worth about what his prior contract was, on average, once the anticipated jump in the salary cap is taken into account. In both cases, his deal is worth about an eighth of the projected salary cap. This is not true this season (worth a larger share), and it will be untrue in the opposite direction (better value) after the ballooning of the cap. In other words, adjusting for NBA-inflation, his new deal is on average at least as good as his old deal. This deal like likely fairly tradeable, provided Asik is healthy, and maybe heatlth is not even required as the deal approaches the final season (see: Rashard Lewis contract).
  • There is worry that a player like Asik will not fit with Gentry. There are also natural comparisons to the Golden State team of the past season, with Asik paralleling Bogut, but with worse offense. I take such parallels with a grain of salt, because Steph Curry needs a way different supporting cast than Davis. Gentry got the job in part based on his pitch about how to use Davis, particularly on offense. I find it very unlikely that they signed Asik without reasonable expectations of being able to use him according to Gentry’s plan or to trade him. Keeping Davis farther from thr basket on defense more often will lead to more and better offense.
  • The deal can not be formally signed unitl July 9th due to the moratorium. This is standard across the NBA. The verbal agreements are effectively binding.

Earlier in the day, the Pelicans inked Anthony Davis to a massive contract extension. Later, they gave the recently married Alexis Ajinca a new contract, rounding out their front court for the season, as Ryan Anderson is under contract for his fourth and final season. The qualifying to Jeff Withey was rescinded, and he is an unrestricted free agent. The Pelicans can still go over the cap to sign him to a larger-than-minimum contract using Early Bird Rights.

The Pelicans still have some of their own free agents they can sign, plus the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception to work with before they are left only with trades and minimum salaries to improve the team.

Be sure to check out the open thread and @BourbonStShots for updates and analysis.

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Pels Bring Back Alexis Ajinca Wed, 01 Jul 2015 23:30:27 +0000 Alexis Ajinca and the Pelicans reached an agreement on a four-year deal worth $20.2 million. Here is what a rounded yearly breakdown might look like:

2015-16 – $4,540,000

2016-17 – $4,880,000

2017-18 – $5,220,000

2018-19 – $5,560,000

The 27 year old will be entering his 6th year in the league. This past season was a good one for the 7 foot center, averaging a career high 6.5 points a game to go along with 4.6 rebounds in a reserve role.

Ajinca really showed his worth over a two-month period from February through March where he was asked to step into a bigger role with fellow big men Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both missing extended time to injury. Over those 26 games Ajinca averaged a very productive 9.5 points and 6 rebounds, shooting 53.7% from the field in about 19 minutes a night.

Ajinca has gotten better every year he has been in the league and this year really proved he could be relied upon to be in the regular rotation. In previous seasons he would get in foul trouble too quickly to be put on the floor, but this season he made the most of his limited minutes. He really made strides in using his length on both ends of the floor, bothering opponents on defense and using his touch to punish bigs on offense. He posted a career high offensive rating of 113 and tied a career low 103 defensive rating.

He still gets himself into some foul trouble, averaging just under 6 fouls per 36 minutes (5.7), but he showed major improvements in that area. He should only continue to see improvement now that he can work with an extremely detail oriented guy in Darren Erman. It is yet to be seen how he would fit in the up-tempo offense expected to be implemented under Alvin Gentry, as Ajinca gets a lot of his offense from back-to-the-basket work. However, he does possess a fairly reliable mid-range shot and has gotten better in the pick and roll game, averaging 1.08 points per possession as the roll man.

Ajinca was resigned using Early Bird Rights so the Pels still have Bird Rights to Omer Asik, the MLE, and the Bi-Annual Exception as they operate over the cap. Ajinca’s deal won’t even account for 5% of the cap over the course of the deal with the expected jump in the salary cap looming, so this was not a very expensive signing and Ajinca got the pay raise he deserved. Good deal for both sides, especially if Ajinca continues to get better.

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Anthony Davis And The New Orleans Pelicans Agree To Contract Extension Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:15:55 +0000 As the clock struck 11:01pm CST General Manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, Dell Demps, promptly offered Anthony Davis and his agency a 5-year/$145 million contract extension. The terms we’re accepted almost immediately as Davis formally becomes the centrepiece for the Pelicans for the next six years.

The move solidifies an assumption many have felt around the organisation that the deal would eventually get done. Davis, it appears is more than happy to continue his upward trajectory alongside new head coach Alvin Gentry who was also in attendance when terms were verbally agreed upon.

Michael McNamara discussed this back in July, 2014 to great detail, about the possibilities of signing Davis to an extension.

Contract Information

Anthony Davis extension structure


Red = Player option

The extension will officially start after the 2015-16 season in which Davis makes $7.07m, and the numbers above are an approximation based on a projected $89 million cap next year. He will have a player option after the fourth year meaning he can opt-out and become an unrestricted free-agent.

The deal makes Davis the Pelicans designated player, meaning that New Orleans could extend Davis on a five-year deal after his rookie contract as opposed to a four-year deal. They can only do this for one player on their roster (they could acquire another player on a designated contract via trade).

In order to receive the total amount of money included in the deal Davis must satisfy one of the three following conditions next season:

  1. Be named to an All-NBA 1st, 2nd or 3rd team
  2. Be voted to start in an All-Star game
  3. Win the MVP

In the unlikely event that he does not, he will not meet the Rose Rule qualifications and the deal will be approximately $20 million smaller over the five years.

The Pelicans Updated Salary Cap Situation

Pelicans current salary cap situaion

Red = player option
Purple = Qualifying Offer
Yellow = Non-Guaranteed

With the extension, the New Orleans Pelicans cap situation for this season does not change with nearly $6m in room (not including cap-holds of Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca etc.)

For 2016-17 the Pelicans will have just over $50m in total guaranteed salaries committed with Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson becoming free-agents. The salary cap is due to go up significantly so they will likely have enough room to operate (depending on what they do this free-agency) to bring in another sizable contract.

Pelicans 2015 Free Agency Resources

New Orleans still has all of their free-agent flexibility for this off-season. Should they re-sign Asik/Ajinca/Cunningham and go over the salary cap – the Pelicans will still have their MLE or BAE at their disposal.

The Future is bright, but the pressure is on to win

It’s been a long time since New Orleans basketball was in this position. They are back to having the sole focus on winning, and the goal is to win it all. Dell Demps and his staff deserve a tonne of credit for getting this done so quickly. After getting Gentry signed, turning this around is highly commendable.

Davis’ intention to stay with the club beyond 2016 means that the Pelicans now become one of the more attractive destinations for free-agents looking to sign long-term. AD’s ascension can only go further with All-Star appearances, All-Team NBA and MVP’s set in his sights.

Demps has assembled a cast of young-veterans all with plenty of room left to grow. The belief is that if the team can remain healthy that their progression can only go up.

The key will be playing together and the only way that can be done is if New Orleans can remain healthy. Holiday, Gordon, Anderson and even Davis have all missed a large amount of games over the past three seasons. Continuity will be a key (despite what others may perceive it as) and luckily that will exist after last seasons playoff appearance.

The roster turnover will be minimal with the Pelicans likely adding only another role player or two. They also will likely look to retain Asik, Cole and Withey who provide much needed depth.

Just as continuity is important, so too is understanding the pressure that is on to produce a winner. The Pelicans and their staff have a big task ahead of them. They need to take lessons from Chris Paul’s time in New Orleans as well as Lebron’s first stint with the Cavaliers. Not winning championships will be intolerable. The Pelicans will have until 2019 to build a sustainable championship contending roster around Davis, and if they fail to do that, Davis will have the power to threaten to opt out the following year, which could force the Pelicans to trade him before they lose him for nothing.

Having said that it is a very exciting time for New Orleans basketball – they will be the talk of the town. After losing Chris Paul, being in financial disrepair, having rumors that they could be moved; the organisation has completely transformed.

They now have a team in the hands of a local owner, have a world class practice facility, have renovated the New Orleans Arena, signed a sponsorship deal for the naming rights for said arena (now Smoothie King Center), hosted another All-Star game, made the playoffs and finally they now have their superstar locked up for the long-term future.

Bright times are ahead for the crescent city.

For more Pelicans free-agency news head to the open-thread which will be updated LIVE for any new information. 

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New Orleans Pelicans Free Agency Open Thread (Win NBA 2K16!) Tue, 30 Jun 2015 21:55:12 +0000  

Update: July 1st, 1:04 CST Alexis Ajinca Re-Signs (4 Years, 20.2 million)


The deal seems a little big at first, but remember the new era we are in with the cap going way up. He will count for less than 5% of the cap over the course of the deal. Imagine him signing a 4 year/12.3 million dollar deal 4 years ago if you are having trouble adjusting to the new NBA. The only thing curious about this signing is that Ajinca said he wanted to be a third big this summer. Asik or Anderson on the way out? We shall see. 

With regard to where the Pels stand cap wise, they are operating over it and they will use Early Bird rights to re-sign Ajinca, meaning they will still have the MLE and BAE left. Depending on how much Asik signs for and the exact number of the luxury tax, the Pels will be very close to the tax if they use the full MLE and will almost certainly be over it if they use the MLE, BAE, and re-sign Asik. Stay tuned. 


Update: July 1st, 11:01 CST Anthony Davis signs a 5 Year, $145 million dollar max extension

Much more on this to come, but we gave you all the details on this about 10 months ago and not much has changed. The deal will kick in after the coming year, and Davis will have a player option in his 5th year, meaning AD will be under contract for at least 5 more years. Maybe six. He is here to stay for a while folks.

With the cap projected to be around $89 million next year, his contract will look something like this

Year 1: 24.9 mil
2: 26.77 mil
3: 28.78 mil
4: 30.93 mil
5 (Player Option): 33.25 mil


Free Agency begins at 11:01 Central tonight, and the Pelicans are keeping it relatively quiet as usual. There have been some whispers about Quincy Acy and Al-Farouq Aminu, but the Pelicans haven’t really been linked to any major players or major moves so far. In this open thread, we will keep you up to date on all rumors, whispers, and signings – along with some analysis on those moves. Below you will find some links that will help you get prepared for this summer, including pieces on our cap situation, Asik, Davis contract extension and more.

But first, we want YOU to be a part of the process by predicting how you think this whole free agency period goes down. Make your predictions in the comment section below, and the person with the most points wins NBA 2K16 featuring Anthony Davis for the system of their choice. Only one entry per person (email address and/or IP address. Please be honest and keep it to one!) Once you lock in your answers, it’s done. NO EDITING! Or you are disqualified. With that in mind, here are the things you have to predict:

A) Asik’s contract; Years and Dollars (25 points) 

B) Date Anthony Davis agrees to contract extension on (30 points)

C) Which of these guys, if any, gets re-signed; Dante Cunningham, Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt (15 points for each correct prediction. -10 points for each incorrect prediction) 

D) New Players Signed and/or trade for (40 points for each correct prediction. -10 for every incorrect prediction. Max 4 predictions)

Tiebreaker: Score of Pelicans – Dallas Mavs Summer League Game on July 11th AND who is the Pelicans leading scorer, with how many points?

Again, put your predictions in the comment section below for a chance to win and/or have bragging rights if you are not a video game person. One chance only, so make sure it is exactly how you want it before you publish. Deadline to enter is 10:55 CST TONIGHT.

Pelicans Free Agency Related Links

New Orleans Pelicans Will Likely Operate Over the Salary Cap

The New Orleans Pelicans Salary Cap Situation

How Demps Can Maximize Depth and Flexibility This Summer

Players the Pelicans Can Pursue with the MLE and BAE

The Cap Situation of the Western Conference Playoff Teams

Anthony Davis’s Next Contract With the New Orleans Pelicans

Don’t Panic if Anthony Davis Does Not Sign His Extension on July 1st

A Look Inside the Omer Asik Contract Negotiations

Updates will be posted on this page as they happen. Enjoy Free Agency, and good luck winning 2K16!

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New Orleans Pelicans Likely Will Operate Over the Salary Cap Tue, 30 Jun 2015 07:15:03 +0000 For the first time in a number of year, the New Orleans Pelicans will likely operate above the salary cap for the entire season.

I know what you are saying: The Pelicans have been above the cap. You guys just got finished telling me how much Benson spent last season, and it was well over the cap, and it was even close to the tax line.

That is true. However, they went above the cap after dropping below it and using cap space. This is a subtle point, but it’s very important. Using cap space to complete transactions is often much more flexible than using exceptions, and this works in the team’s favor. Since the team seem poised to operate in this fashion for years, depending on how they treat the large bump in the salary cap, I wanted to lay out the basic differences.

All teams can:

  • Sign players using the Bird Exception
  • Sign their first round draft picks
  • Sign minimum contract players
  • Trade players using the Trade Exception

Below the Cap teams can also:

  • Trade players into cap space, which allows for unbalanced deals; see: Ayon for Anderson, picks for Holiday (which is why the trade was was not processed just after draft night . . . the team needed the cap room to exist, then it was further delayed because of his honeymoon.)
  • Sign players using a small exception known as the Room Mid-Level Exception; see: Salmons.
  • Sign free agents for amounts larger than exceptions may allow, up to the amount of cap space; see: Stiemsma signed for $25,000 more than the Room Exception allowed
  • Sign free agents or second round draft picks for terms longer than some exceptions allow; see: Russ Smith signing a minimum contract with a third year that was a team option. The minimum salary exception allows at longest only a two-year deal.
  • Allow deals to be agreed upon using space during the moratorium to be processed to deals using exceptions if helpful; see: Evans was tendered a free agent over using cap space, but the deal was converted to a trade by agreement of all parties, allowing the team to sign Stiemsma, make other offers. This change allowed the the team secure the free agent deal, then doing a trade instead, allows them to use the cap space again to an extent. The nature of the moratorium allows this, and this is highly restricted, as teams have to make sure that all deals agreed upon can be completed by some means.
  • Allow a player traded in to cap space to be aggregated into a trade immediately; see: Brad Miller prior to being traded for Robin Lopez.

Above the cap teams can instead:

  • Only sign players using certain exceptions, the Bi-Annual (every other year at most) and the Mid-Level Exception.

Short list, huh?

The above is not exhaustive, but it gets the point across. We’re not even getting into the apron and the tax. If the team gets close to that, we’ll take care of it then.

The two exceptions mentioned go for $5,464,000 (MLE) and $2,139,000 in first year salary. The MLE can be used to sign any single player of multiple players for up to that amount with raises of up to 4.5% of the first year salary, and the deals can be up to 4 years in length. If given to multiple players, their deals can differ, but each deal has those limits, and the total first year salary has a limit. The Bi-Annual Exception is similar, but has the lower limit on the total salary, the deals can only be up to 2 years in length. Also, this can not be used in consecutive years. The salary limits go up annually according to an agreed schedule in the CBA that is independent of the salary cap.

Don’t get too scared if this seems like it’s too restrictive. Mike put together a great piece about how the Pelicans can use this exception this season.

The MLE is one of the three main tools that teams over the cap use to grow. Many teams are successful for years with the MLE as their biggest weapon in free agency. To be clear, free agent signings agreed to based on these exceptions exceptions can become trades, but the flexibility and power are greatly reduced.

The second route is the draft. Note, the Pelicans have their first round draft picks for use or trade and have only minor claims to two second rounders (2016 can be swapped, 2017 is top-55 protected). Trading picks was a means to accelerate the rebuild when their free agent draw way not so great but they were not bad enough to land another player like Davis with enough confidence to risk losing Davis before the team was in fact rebuilt. Their three traded first rounders landed Asik and Holiday, and the Holiday trade likely played a role in helping to land Evans. At any rate, they need this tool, and they have it whether it be to trade or use as is each season.

The final route is trading. Since the team will be over the cap, their are restrictions on trades largely having to do with a relationship between incoming and outgoing salary. It get complicated, but here’s good data point. A player signed to the MLE can be traded later that season for a player whose salary is $8,296,000. That’s less than Ryan Anderson makes this coming season ($8,500,000), and a good bit less than Jrue ($10,595,507) and Evans ($10,734,586), give or take depending on relatively small incentives . . . I’m going with these numbers.

What will those guys bring back in trade, you ask? Individually, $12,850,000, $15,993,260, and $16,201,879.

Sound familiar? What does Eric Gordon make this season? $15,514,031, which can fetch $23,371,046 in an individual trade.

Factor in a non-guaranteed or minimum deal with an MLE guy later this season, and you see that Dell has many, many options to trade players individually, and clearly in packages, to trade away a player and take back a player with much higher salary. Every dollar value would be covered by some key player, with minor assets used to tailor a deal. Or, they could be combined to help land a major player.

This is very important. As we noted, the only way to add players unilaterally is through the draft or with the MLE. Players in the highest strata of the NBA will likely not be available to the Pelicans at that salary on with the draft picks (fingers-crossed, think about it). So, they must have big contracts on the books prior to going over the cap so they can both have those player and use them in trade to increase or decrease salary without completely gutting the roster to do so.

Dell appears poised to enter life above the cap with their quiver full. Whether this is happenstance or great cap management, the facts are there. The Pelicans are entering next season with a need to improve and changes already underway in terms of staff and a large number of bench contracts expiring. This is a critical season on the court, and that means this offseason and this season up to the trade deadline are important off the court.

Dell has made all his biggest moves via trade so far. Right now, he has to be hunting that second star to add to the core with Holiday (if my reckoning holds up in the new regime). Of course, his biggest target may not have the biggest salary in a package deal. Either way, I’m guessing he has his arrow nocked, string drawn, and the quarry in his sites. It’s just a matter of time before he shoots.

Will he hit?

Pass the popcorn.

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New Orleans Pelicans Receive $3m from Philadelphia for Undisclosed Jrue Holiday Injury Tue, 30 Jun 2015 05:07:59 +0000 ((On the eve of the new NBA season, as we all await to see what the New Orleans Pelicans do with their roster, we bring an update to ours. Meet Shamit Dua. You can follow him at @FearTheBrown, and please do. He’s been in the community for a while, and he is one of those reddit guys. He also goes by Kumar just as much as Shamit, so, pick. Either way, welcome him. The following is his introductory piece.))

Saturday night the Philadelphia Inquirer released a report stating the New Orleans Pelicans received $3 million in compensation from the 76ers for withholding information regarding Jrue Holiday’s injury history. Sources report that Holiday incurred and played through a stress fracture in the later part of the 2012-2013 season.

Holiday, who was acquired on a draft night trade which sent Nerlens Noel and a future first to Philadelphia, suffered a stress reaction in his lower right leg in early January of 2014. The injury later required a surgical procedure and curtailed his first season as a Pelican. Unfortunately, Holiday’s woes didn’t end here. The injury resurfaced again earlier this year and kept Holiday out for another 42 games.

There are a few things to address here. Naturally there is outrage from Pelicans fans, but we have a limited set of facts to work with. Until more details are released, if ever, here is what we know.

  • Both general managers Dell Demps and Sam Hinkie have no comments on the situation at the moment. We can only speculate as to why both are refraining to comment. Naturally, this works in Hinkie’s favor and allows him not to incriminate himself if the reports are true; however this also allows Demps to not throw a colleague under the bus. NBA relationships are a very political and complicated matter, there is no need to throw in additional wrenches.
  • The 76ers were being independently investigated by the NBPA for violations of the collective bargaining agreement. Some fans were concerned this was related to the Holiday issue, but it is believed the NBPA was looking into unguaranteed contracts and certain patterns that may have been more against the spirit of the CBA than against violating any particular rule or engaging in outright deceit.
  • In 2012, then NBA commissioner David Stern punished the Oklahoma City Thunder for withholding information about a heart condition that Jeff Green had. The NBA declared, “Stern found that there was no evidence of bad faith or any intent to withhold information on the part of Thunder management or its physicians, but that Oklahoma City’s cardiologists were in possession of information about Jeff Green that was not shared with Thunder management and that should have been disclosed to the Celtics in connection with the trade of Green in February 2011.” This infraction cost the Thunder the better of their second round picks they held that year.
  • The report states the Pelicans received their money last year. The NBA, the 76ers, and the Pelicans all presumably discussed the relevant details and at some point reached an appropriate conclusion. This money has no impact on the Pelican’s cap situation, but as Jason detailed recently, the Pelicans use cash in a variety of ways.
  • Since this was resolved long ago, it is unreasonable to expect any further compensation or alteration of the deal for Holiday. As stress reactions and stress fractures are often very treatable with only rest, the deal would likely have gone through with little to no modification. The payment is likely a punitive measure against Philadelphia than some form of equitable compensation for New Orleans. In other words, this is not something to make it right so much as a move to make sure it does not happen again.

Now everyone is probably wondering how this may have slipped by the Pelicans’ notice in the first place. Stress reactions are complicated injuries. They are difficult to diagnose, and sometimes require patient testimony. I don’t claim to know what goes on in NBA physicals, but it is likely they do not image specific areas of the body unless there is concern to do so. Since they did not know of the previous injury, they likely had no reason to evaluate his shins.

The good news is that every bit of additional information regarding the history of the injury helps the doctors understand the nature of the injury and adjust their treatment accordingly, just as New Orleans could have done early on if they knew that Holiday played through a seemingly not-too-serious stress fracture. Holiday playing through the stress fracture in 2013 not only may explain his sudden decline in production during the second half of the season, but also may explain why the issue has lingered. While we can’t go back and undo the past, the important thing here is that he is on his way to recovery.

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In the NO Podcast Ep. 221: Free Agency Starting Mark Mon, 29 Jun 2015 05:03:39 +0000 Michael and I talk about the news about Jrue Holiday’s leg injury and the 76ers being fined about it, the underwhelming results of the NBA Draft, and then we get into the big fun discussion: The Draft! We talk pie-in-the-sky candidates, whether Asik should come back and at what deal, and who we think should be targeted for all those mid-level exception dollar bills.

Austin Rivers anyone?

Like the Show or the Blog?

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The cap situations of the Western Conference playoff teams Sun, 28 Jun 2015 12:20:42 +0000 The other day Michael McNamara analysed the Pelicans options for the mid-level exception for this years’ NBA Free Agency. However, one of the most important things to remember is that not only will the Pelicans be wanting the services of these players, so too will other teams.

Today I’ll have a look at each of the Western Conference playoff teams’ cap situations and also where their priorities lie. Usually if a team has a big-name free-agent they will try and put all their efforts into retaining that player. Because New Orleans is going after guys in the $3-6 million range they can at least get a jump on the players they like before some of their competitors.

Just some key salary cap reminders before we jump into proceedings:

  • NBA Salary Cap Figure: $67.10m
  • NBA Luxury Tax Figure: $81.60m
  • Mid-Level Exception: $5.5m (deals up to $23.3m over four years)
  • Tax Payer Mid Level Exception: $3.4m (deals up to $10.6m over three years)
  • Bi-Annual Exception: $2.2m (up to $4.4m on a two year deal)

Golden State Warriors

  • Salary Cap Figure: $83.43m
  • Cap Holds: $5.97m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$22.30m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$7.80m
  • Free Agents: Draymond Green (RFA), Leandro Barbosa (UFA), Justin Holiday (RFA), Ognjen Kuzmic (RFA)

After winning the NBA title the Golden State Warriors don’t have much time before they have to turn things around to try and retain one of their key pieces, Draymond Green.

The Warriors have what appears to be a very difficult cap position. Their cap figure (without cap holds included) is 1.83m over the luxury tax already. Green is likely to command a sizable offer when free agency starts. The Warriors have already made known that they plan to match any offer thrown at him (which could be a potential CBA violation).

What this also might mean is that Golden State will invariably look to move pieces already on their roster. David Lee is on the final year of his 6yr/$79m deal, Andre Iguodala still has two years/$22m left and Andrew Bogut too has a sizeable amount sitting at 2 years/$23m.

The point here is that the Warriors can either move some of their pieces or swallow some of that sweet, sweet luxury tax. I’d say they would be leaning more towards the latter, seeing as they have just won an NBA championship.

What it means for the Western Conference is that Golden State are unlikely to be players in the FA market outside of resigning Draymond Green. They will likely be trade players, but only if they can somehow get rid of David Lee.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat (Pierre Threat out of 5): full pierre

Houston Rockets

  • Salary Cap Figure: $60.72m
  • Cap Holds: $15.04m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$8.66m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): $5.84
  • Free Agents: Jason Terry (UFA), Corey Brewer (UFA), Josh Smith (UFA), Patrick Beverley (RFA), K.J. McDaniels (RFA)

After an arduous playoff campaign that landed the Rockets a Western Conference Finals exit, Houston enters free-agency with a few things to take care of.

Houston’s main free agent priority, Patrick Beverley, is restricted. Others likely Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Jason Terry are unrestricted and will likely command deals around the $5-7m range.

The good news is that Houston has a little bit of flexibility in comparison to teams like the Warriors. Houston can renounce all free-agent rights and sit $6.38m under the cap. As an alternate, the can re-sign some of their players, go over the cap and then use the MLE and Bi-Annual Exception to bring in different players.

The Rockets will likely retain Beverley because he is such an integral piece of their team. It’s likely that Smith, Terry and most notably, Corey Brewer all get offers far exceeding Houston’s taste.

They won’t have to do much in the way of filling out their roster as they already have 10 players committed to the 2015-16 season. Houston also drafted Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell who add some promising depth to a roster that already has 12 players on it.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrehalf a pierre

Los Angeles Clippers

  • Salary Cap Figure: $65.33m
  • Cap Holds: $21.46m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$19.69m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$5.19m
  • Free Agents: DeAndre Jordan (UFA), Glen Davis (UFA), Austin Rivers (), Hedo Turkoglu (UFA), Ekpe Udoh (UFA), Dahntay Jones (UFA)

The first cab off the rank for Clipper free agency will be DeAndre Jordan. I don’t mean that he’ll leave, but it’s certainly going to be a nervous time for many LAC fans (who I’m certain were Laker fans not just 5 years ago).

Jordan already has scheduled meetings with the Clippers, Lakers, Mavericks and Bucks. He’s likely to command a maximum contract.

Operating under the scenario where Jordan re-signs with Los Angeles (not the Lakers) for a maximum deal the Clippers will have $85.33m committed for the 2015-16 season – this would place them nearly 4 million over the luxury tax.

Due to this they would be unlikely to contend with the Pelicans for any MLE candidates (they’d have to move some players and cut salaries).

Also playing into the Clippers off-season was the acquisition of Lance Stephenson. The thought is that by being asked to do less Stephenson will thrive. It’s also likely that this will be the Clippers only other play (unless they trade something again).

The other scenario is if the Clippers don’t sign Jordan. In this event Los Angles would be sitting right under the salary cap (if they renounced all their other FA’s). If this was to transpire they’d likely be strong contenders for many mid-level type of players. They’d almost certainly want to have a look at Omer Asik as they’d be down a center.

Overall I find it unlikely that Jordan goes elsewhere. If he has a max-contract from the Clippers he’d be silly to turn it down, especially considering he’s playing with arguably the best point guard in the league.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierre

Portland Trail Blazers

  • Salary Cap Figure: $26.70m
  • Cap Holds: $58.17m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$17.76m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$3.26m
  • Free Agents: LaMarcus Aldridge (UFA), Arron Afflalo (UFA), Wesley Matthews (UFA), Robin Lopez (UFA), Dorell Wright (UFA), Joel Freeland (RFA), Alonzo Gee (UFA)

The Portland Trail Blazers have a big off-season ahead of them. Arguably their second best player, LaMarcus Aldridge is an unrestricted free-agent who is already heavily linked with a move to the Dallas Mavericks. Wes Matthews is reportedly asking for $15m a year despite having a serious season ending injury.

This doesn’t take into account some key role players like Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Dorell Wright who also can choose where they’d like to sign without any influence of Portland.

The good news for the Blazers is that they have the flexibility to not only re-sign the players they want but can also look at other FA’s if they so desire.

Arron Afflalo has an $11m cap hold and Robin Lopez has a $9m one against him. If the Blazers decide that they are not of priority they can renounce them and their Bird Rights clearing up additional room.

What Portland really needs to figure out is what they’re going to do with Aldridge. A player with undoubtedly one of the finest skillsets in the NBA, Aldridge is a player who has grown into one the best forwards in the league. Pretty much all the usual suspects are linked to Aldridge: the Lakers, Rockets and the Mavericks.

The Blazers are going to have the majority of their time tied up with both Aldridge and Matthews. As such don’t be surprised if they aren’t involved in much MLE discussions in the event they’re re-signed. It wouldn’t be unsurprising if Portland tried to move Batum in order to re-sign one or both of the aforementioned.

The tough news for Pelican fans is that the Blazers have the flexibility to sit under the luxury tax amount by anywhere up to $30m if they re-sign Aldridge. In fact it’s likely that Portland will be eventual mid-level players once the main free-agents have decided on their new destinations.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrefull pierre

Memphis Grizzlies

  • Salary Cap Figure: $50.90m
  • Cap Holds: $24.54m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$8.35m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: $6.15m
  • Free Agents: Marc Gasol (UFA), Kosta Koufos (RFA), Nick Calathes (RFA)

Assuming that the rumors are true and that Marc Gasol re-signs in Memphis for (on the conservative side) a 5yr/$90 million deal they would still have about $6m left before they go over the luxury tax.

What they could do is try to re-sign Kosta Koufos who would likely command a deal of around $5m a year or they can go out and find someone for the MLE or Bi-Annual exception.

The Grizzlies have the ability to re-sign Gasol and still go out and find another contributor to their team, namely someone who could shoot a three.

Memphis doesn’t have the greatest “flexibility” in the world for this off-season. However their needs are clear and defined. Re-sign Marc Gasol and get someone who can shoot a three.

If the Pelicans are contending for any kind of MLE wing player who can shoot the three and defend then Memphis will be a likely contender. The Grizzlies will likely have about $6m in luxury tax space should they re-sign most of their free-agents. This means they will likely use the MLE to sign someone in the $4m range.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrefull pierrehalf a pierre

San Antonio Spurs

  • Salary Cap Figure: $34.16m
  • Cap Holds: $50.43m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$17.49m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$2.99
  • Free Agents: Tim Duncan (UFA), Manu Ginobili (UFA), Danny Green (UFA), Kawhi Leonard (RFA), Marco Belinelli (UFA), Aron Baynes (RFA), Cory Joseph (RFA), Jeff Ayres (UFA), Matt Bonner (UFA), Reggie Williams (UFA)

You know when you want to rip up all the carpet and start your room design all over again? Well that’s sort of the position that San Antonio is in. Do you keep the old, worn out carpet, give it an industrial clean for the next year? Do you pray to God that it holds together so you can cash in that big sweat check once you sell the place to the next unlucky bastard?

Or do you rip it up, lay down some expensive timber and completely re-do the place?

San Antonio has a litany of free-agents, a few who have been so damn important to the franchise for a very long time.

Yes, I am referring to Matt Bonner.

Okay, well maybe not. But still it’s quite the predicament that SA is in because everything hinges on what Tim Duncan decides to do.

If he returns will Ginobili want to as well? Tony Parker thinks both will return for one more season, but we all know that plans can be easily broken.

After you sift through all of that then you finally get to Kawhi Leonard, a Finals MVP and defensive player of the year (just don’t tell Mike Ryan of the Dan Lebatard show that) who in his own right has shown a fantastic ascendency in the league. Many are questioning whether he is worth a max deal of 5yrs/$92m but the truth is that someone is going to give it to him, especially considering the new TV deal will affect the salary cap past 2016.

The Spurs remain in the driver’s seat to re-sign Leonard, but they also need to consider the long list of role players that are also free-agents.

Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Aron Baynes and Cory Joseph have all been significant contributors for San Anontio over the past few years. It becomes a little problematic when their focus will likely been towards Duncan, Ginobili and Leonard.

Danny Green is the name who will likely command a sizeable contract. Ken Berger of CBS Sports says Green will garner anywhere between $10-$12m on the open market.

This almost certainly puts the Pelicans out of the race, but also the Spurs.

It’s this sort of information that makes it increasingly likely that San Antonio will be competing with New Orleans for MLE type players. After they sort their own business they won’t have much room left before they go over the luxury tax (they would be $3m over if you consider all their cap holds).

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierrefull pierre

Dallas Mavericks

  • Salary Cap Figure: $32.54m
  • Cap Holds: $55.54m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$20.99m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$6.49
  • Free Agents: Tyson Chandler (UFA), Rajon Rondo (UFA), Greg Smith (UFA), Charlie Villanueva (UFA), Richard Jefferson (UFA), Jose Barea (UFA), Amar’e Stoudamire (UFA), Bernard James (RFA)

Another team that is at somewhat of a cross roads the Dallas Mavericks have some critical decisions to make. Even just recently with Monta Ellis opting out, the Mavs have a lot to take care of if they want to remain in playoff contention.

For Dallas they will almost certainly be big players in the free-agent market, especially on a larger scale.

When not considering Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo’s cap-holds the Mavericks have around $28m in cap space. If they were to renounce all their free agent bird rights then they’d have around $31m.

Dallas almost always go over the cap so don’t be surprised if they once again are poaching players around the $4-6m range. We know they will likely be players for LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe, but it’s the per-year MLE players that are more than likely to consider the Mavericks.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierrefull pierrefull pierre

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Salary Cap Figure: $77.98m
  • Cap Holds: $10.20m
  • Cap Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration): -$21.07m
  • Luxury Tax Space (if cap holds are taken into consideration: -$6.57m
  • Free Agents: Enes Kanter (RFA), Kyle Singler (RFA)

I understand that the Thunder were not a playoff team last season, however I felt it important to discuss their current situation as it relates to the Pelicans well.

Currently Oklahoma City sit $11m over the salary cap. They have two restricted free agents they need to sign. It’s highly likely that if they re-sign Kanter that they will only do so as long as his deal doesn’t push them over the luxury tax. This will inevitably mean they’re right up against the $81.6m luxury tax limit and will have no room to sign any other free agents.

Their situation and roster turnover will be small, especially when it comes to the big names.

While their flexibility is certainly less than that of New Orleans, it does highlight a similarity for the likelihood of a big name free-agent signing there. Unless some new trades occur, OKC is set with pretty much the same roster – for them, hopefully a healthier one.

Mid-Level Pelican Threat: full pierre

Once NBA free-agency starts it is highly likely that only the big names get discussed first. I would be curious to see if Demps starts working the phones on some of his MLE targets or if he tries to reach out to Asik, Cole or Ajinca.

What must be understood is that the mid-level guys usually wait for the market to set itself before choosing a destination. With the NBA salary cap likely to jump next year it wouldn’t be suprising for many players to be asking for “max-contracts” when that might be their market value with the new salary cap.

The mid-level exception will be the Pelicans card to play should a contributor be out there. However as outlined above there will be a number of contenders all looking to do the same thing – bring in talent to compete for a championship.

WC playoff teams salary cap situations v2


Sources used: Basketball Insiders,,

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Thoughts on the Pelicans Draft Sat, 27 Jun 2015 20:00:53 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans had a single pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, at #56 from Memphis, but Pelicans fans still hoped from Draft night deals, which have happened under Dell’s watch. Their first round pick had been traded prior to the season to acquire Omer Asik from the Rockets. With cap holds chewing up all possible cap space and only a late second round draft pick, Pelicans fans were right to keep an eye on the Draft to see if Dell could make a move to improve the team. You only get so many shots to take, after all.

The only things that happened was the Pelicans drafted Branden Dawson, then traded his rights for cash.

This seems to have worried some fans to say the least. I wanted to share my thoughts in case they make a difference to those concerned souls.

  • Let’s talk second round picks. For the most part, these players end up signing a minimum salary contract that is often not fully guaranteed or team-friendly in some fashion. This can be done with the minimum salary exception, so the draft pick itself offers no special value with regard to signing a player. In this sense, there is no real loss in selling the pick unless they placed special value on Dawson particularly, or another player in the draft remaining at that point, significantly above that of others in the pool.
  • Second round draft picks can be used on players that are not signed. This creates a trade asset that has no cap value. Selling the pick can be viewed as opting for cash instead of such an asset. This is valid, but the Pelicans also have the rights to such a player, so the loss is mitigated to an extent. Dell has used these assets before.
  • The team is very open on the bottom end, so there is no reason to fill a particular need, especially with a rookie that is likely not NBA-ready.
  • This team has a new coach and will have a large turnover in their important staff. They need to really figure out what they have with respect to their major players relative to their game plan, then fill in once they have that information. Spending an asset on a player’s rights only to waive them (potentially) is wasteful, and other minimum salary players can be signed in the offseason who can have just as much trade-fill value.
  • Omer Asik’s contract was such that though his cap value was $8,374,646, his salary was actually $14,898,938. The difference of $6,524,292 needs to be paid, of course. This trade brought the Pelicans’ cash in this season to the maximum allowed for the season, $3,300,000, which is over half the amount to be made up. The team paid over $75,784,902 this season (they also paid $75k to Charlotte), or nearly to the tax line. This $3,300,000 outlay bring that down to $72,484,977 which is top-half of the NBA and just $100,191 less than the champion Warriors (congrats).
  • Dell sold a pick before, and the proceeds were used in a buyout for Ayon. Ayon played well, was traded for Anderson, and was a rotation player until injuries got the best of him. So, saving a roster spot and getting a little cash to use in the business of basketball can pan out better than a second round draft pick and has here before under Dell’s watch.

I’m not defending the move, I’m evaluating it in context. This is what I think of when I consider it.

Some of our own writers and others have suggested that the move looks cheap or signifies stinginess. I say this is simply the opposite of the case once you look at the situation in its entirety. This is my objection to that claim. The object is to put forth a good team For those worried about appearances, I would say that they appear to be paying Asik less than the do by over ten times the value for which that pick sold and the team really lost no value other than rights to a particular player. Making a move to reduce costs does not equate to cheapness; it can easily be good business and part of an established plan for the season.

The main thing is to remain patient and see how the team comes together. If turns out that we were that one piece short or that Dawson ends up a special talent (relatively speaking), then we should absolutely revisit this with a critical eye and ask some questions. Judging any move in isolation may seem fun and is worthwhile, but it can not be done to the exclusion of a more comprehensive look at said move.

Until then, let’s just hope that “the plan” is going along smoothly. We still have the MLE to work with (here’s Mike’s article on it), plus it’s possible, I suppose, Dell will make a trade.

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Players the Pelicans Can Pursue With the Mid-Level Exception Fri, 26 Jun 2015 13:12:53 +0000 Not surprisingly, the 2015 NBA Draft was rather anti-climatic for the Pelicans. Dell Demps sold his 2nd round pick again, and we all should have seen that coming, as he has told us time and time again he prefers young veterans on this team. The last time Dell sold a 2nd rounder, he used that cash to get Gustavo Ayon away from his team in Spain, and Dell eventually turned Ayon into Ryan Anderson. Not saying that he will have similar moves lined up, but the point is that Dell is always two steps ahead and his goal is to get quality young vets around Anthony Davis now, rather than hope a rookie pans out years down the line.

With that in mind, Dell will get his work done starting July 1st when the free agent market opens and the Pelicans can add a veteran or two to their already deep roster. The top 8 players are likely to return after the Pelicans extend the QO to Norris Cole and they use their Bird Rights to bring back Asik. The Pelicans also have Early Bird Rights on Babbitt and Ajinca if they want to bring them back and have options on Withey and Douglas as well. Basically, they can run back the same team and add a rotation piece or two with their exceptions.

The Mid-Level Exception and Bi-Annual Exception are only available to teams operating over the cap, and if the Pelicans retain Asik, they will be one of those teams. Last year, the Warriors only major move was to use the MLE to add a versatile piece in Shaun Livingston. They added Leandro Barbosa on the cheap a couple of months later. But for the most part, they brought back their core pieces and a new coaching staff with a better system helped take that team to the next level. Sound familiar?

Expect the Pelicans to follow the same blueprint this summer, as they bring the core back and add a piece or two. But who could those pieces be? Well, according to a source, they are looking for position versatility on the defensive end and shooting on the offensive end. Looking at the roster, it would seem that SF would be the obvious choice, but there could be a hole at center too if Ajinca leaves, and maybe even power forward if Ryno is moved to fill out one of the other spots. So, with that in mind, we will look for guys at those positions and with those skill sets in this piece.

Let’s take a look at possible options for the Pelicans as free agency kicks off next week.

Full Mid-Level Exception

The Pelicans can extend a single player a contract starting at $5.464 million in the first season and can go up to 4 years. That means that the maximum contract would be 4 years/ $23.3 million. These players would probably require the full MLE for multiple seasons, and for some of them, even that might not be enough.

Jae Crowder, F, Boston Celtics

Coming into the season, Crowder was a guy that many would have thought could have been had for the Bi-Annual or maybe even the minimum, but he really blossomed in Boston and now the MLE might not be enough to pry him away.  Looking at his raw stats, it might be puzzling to some who haven’t watched Crowder that he is a guy that might get more than the MLE. He shot just 42% in Boston, including just 28% from three, but he rebounds well for his position and can cover any type of perimeter player. On the defensive end, he compares favorably with guys like Demarre Carroll and Andre Iguodala, and he is a three-point shot away from being a 12-15 million dollar player in this league. And Gentry specifically mentioned 35% on catch-and shoot 3’s as where he wants players to be in his recent interview. Crowder wasn’t that far off this year at 33.3%. If you believe that you can help him develop that, then you could have one of the best bargains in the league if you get him for the MLE. The problem is that Crowder is restricted, so Boston will have final say on whether he stays or goes.

Jared Dudley, F, Milwaukee Bucks (Opted in with Milwaukee)

Jared Dudley had some of his best seasons with Alvin Gentry, including a 2009-10 season that saw him shoot 46% from three while posting a ridiculous offensive rating of 124. After a bit of a down year in LA, Dudley bounced back with a solid season in Milwaukee after getting healthy. Last year, he shot 39% from three and offered Milwaukee positional versatility and leadership for a young team. He and Pondexter could essentially split the SF position, and if you take his numbers from last year and Q-Pon’s numbers after he joined New Orleans, you would have the perfect role player. Combined, those two played 51 minutes, scored 16.2 points and shot 41% from three. Combine that with hustle, defense, and leadership and you might have the ideal SF duo for this team.

Corey Brewer, F, Houston Rockets

Like Dudley, Brewer has a player option and after a great showing last year he would be wise to exercise it this summer so he can get paid. Brewer continued to struggle with his three-point shot (just 27%) but he was a dynamic force in transition and a pest on the defensive end. Like Dudley, Brewer will not be demanding big minutes (25.1 per game in Houston) and he brings a wealth of experience to the table. Brewer is one of the best passers on this list and can create turnovers in bunches – two things Gentry will put heavy value on. But I don’t want to undersell Brewer in transition. He was elite there in several respects. First of all, 35% of his used possessions came in transition – the highest position of any regular rotation player in the league. He shot 64% (#1 amongst perimeter players with at least 100 possessions), and he averaged 1.28 points per possession in transition. Again, elite. If Gentry wants to get out and run, Corey Brewer would look fantastic on this team.

Mike Dunleavy, Jr., F, Chicago Bulls (Re-signed with Chicago 3 yr/14 mil)

We know who Mike Dunleavy is at this stage of his career, and that is both a good thing and a bad thing. He is a solid role player that can give you shooting, occasional playmaking, and smart defense, but at 34 his upside is limited and he probably won’t be in the league much longer. In his last two seasons with the Bulls, Dunleavy shot 39% from three and put up over 10 points a game with a usage under 16%. Nearly 55% of his attempts came from behind the arc this season, and he hit an astounding 45% from the corners. Basically, he is a role player at this point who needs to be respected from behind the arc. Defensively, he is still quick enough to defend most 3’s, and he is coming from a system that will be fairly similar to what Erman will want to employ here. On a 1 or 2 year deal, Dunleavy could be a great stop gap that can hold down the position with Quincy Pondexter.

Brandan Wright, F/C, Phoenix Suns

Wright has been an efficient player player since entering the league and he knows where his bread is buttered. He has not tried to extend his range, nor does he fancy himself as a jump shooter. He is a threat in the paint and at the rim, where he has shot 75% from 0-3 feet over his career. He has been a part-time player, never averaging even 20 minutes per game in any given year. Wright is Tyson Chandler-lite, as he can also rack up blocks and steals when given playing time. His rebounding is average, at best, for a center and he would have trouble defending most traditional centers at just around 210 pounds. But as a 3rd big at the MLE, you could do much worse.

Kevin Seraphin, F/C, Washington Wizards

Seraphin has had some ups and downs in his career on the offensive end, but where he continues to show tremendous promise is on the defensive end of the court. This season, he gave up a FG % of 47.6% at the rim on 4.4 attempts per game. That number is better than Drummond, DeAndre Jordan, and Robin Lopez, and is the same as Mozgov in Cleveland after the trade. Offensively, he has some skill in the paint as he can finish strong and he has a nice little hook when he posts up. His jumper is far from great, however, as he shot just 32% on his 237 attempts this season. Seraphim is another 3rd big type who can play a role similar to what Festus Ezili did this year for Golden State, but with even better production on both ends.

Gerald Green, F, Phoenix Suns

Again, Gentry specifically mentioned catch-and-shoot 3’s in his recent interview on the Black and Blue Report and Green was solid on his catch-and-shoot three-point attempts (37.3%) this year and even better last year (40.0%). Where he struggled was on pull-up three’s (31.8%), but the hope would be that in a motion offense that the latter would go away for the most part. What Green would give New Orleans regardless is some athleticism on the wings and the ability to finish in transition. The worry is that Green’s defense is lacking and might not be good enough to keep him on the court. And least that is what happened this past year in Phoenix when Jeff Hornacek called out Green specifically for his effort on that end.

Amare Stoudamire, F/C, Dallas Mavericks

Stoudamire has as much familiarity with Gentry as anyone on this list, and would instantly be able to pick up the offensive system, while also mentoring Anthony Davis over the next year or two. While Stoudamire is no longer the player he was in Phoenix, or anything close, he is still a big who can give you instant offense off the bench for a much lower price than what he has made these past five years. Just last season, Stoudamire shot 56% from the field and put up nearly 11 points per game for Dallas despite getting just 16.5 minutes a night. While there might not be a huge need for bench scoring right now with Ryan Anderson still on the roster, Stoudamire could become a target if Anderson is moved for a piece on the wings. And again, you can’t underestimate what he could do for Davis day in and day out as he tries to pick up the nuances of Gentry’s system.

Amir Johnson, F, Toronto Raptors (Signed with Boston; 2 yr/24 mil)

Johnson offers some positional versatility, as he can defend 4’2, along with some 3’s when you go big and 5’s in a small ball lineup. His big issue is that he has been a foul machine over his career (5.1 per 36 mins), but outside of that, he offers a lot of things that you want in a big man. He is a beast down low who provides tons of energy and toughness, and he has also increased his range every season. He can also do good work on the glass and is an underrated passer. Another terrific 3rd big if the Pelicans move on from Anderson or Asik.

Brandon Bass, F, Boston Celtics

Bass spoke highly of Darren Erman in the past and could return home if Anderson or Asik is sent out. His jump shot has gotten better and better every year, including last season where he shot a blistering 46% from 16 feet to the three-point line. Bass could step in immediately as a 3rd big who can finish games next to AD if need be, and help the bigs with Erman’s defensive system. He is a low usage big who does a lot of things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score, and you can have him on the court at the end of games because of his outside shooting, his IQ, and his FT shooting (83% career). He has been experimenting with a three-point shot over the last few years, and if he adds that, he is a tremendous value at this price.

Partial Mid-Level Exception and/or BAE Candidates

The MLE can be split up amongst multiple players, as long as the salaries in the first year don’t exceed that $5.464 million limit. The Pelicans will also have the Bi-Annual Exception if they are operating as an over the cap team. The Bi-Annual allows the Pelicans to start a player out at a salary of $2.1 million in the first year, and they can give out a maximum contract of 2 years, $4.4 million. The following players could possibly be had for a price in those ranges.

Dante Cunningham, F, New Orleans Pelicans

I covered Cunningham here, and honestly, if he gets more time at the PF position he would be a key contributor off the bench. In fact, I think a Gentry lead team could use him next to Anderson, as they play a small ball 4-5 off the bench. How many second units have a quality low post player that would make them pay? Conversely, a 2nd unit with Cole, Reke, insert SF, Dante, and Ryno could cause fits. Ideally, the Pels use the BAE on Cunningham, and have the full MLE for a SF in that scenario.

Alan Anderson, G/F, Brooklyn Nets

I guess I could report it now without anyone getting upset – Anderson was the first guy Demps reached out to last year after the Asik deal was complete. When he passed, Demps settled for John Salmons. With more money and years to offer, I could see Demps going back to Anderson, who offers defensive versatility and he can shoot the rock. This past year,  he shot 44% on open three-point attempts, 44% on very tightly guarded 3’s, and an astounding 62% on catch-and-shoot 3’s in the playoffs.

KJ McDaniels, G/F, Houston Rockets

A mystery wrapped up in an enigma wrapped up in a quagmire. McDaniels could be the lone guy on this list with All-Star potential or he could be the one guy on this list out of the league before the age of 25. After a terrific start in his first 15 games, McDaniels shooting numbers plummeted and then he got traded to Houston where he was buried on the bench. His offense is beyond raw, but his rim defense was elite for a wing, he can block shots, and gets tons of steals and deflections. His FT shooting (75%) makes you think he has some potential as a shooter, and if you can get anything from him there, he could be a poor man’s Andre Iguodala.

Gary Neal, G, Minnesota Timberwolves

Dell Demps was intrigued by Troy Daniels in past years, and Gary Neal has some of the same qualities, not to mention a pedigree having played big minutes in big games with the Spurs. He really struggled last year, but was still 43.5% on wide-open three’s and he is just a couple years rumored from shooting 42% overall from deep in back-to-back years with the Spurs – who ran a similar offense to what the Pelicans will run this year.

Marcus Thornton, G, Phoenix Suns

The last few years, Thornton has been nothing more than a contract to be traded, as he has bounced around quite a bit in the last 24 months. At $8 million a year, he was vastly overpaid, but a huge pay cut could humble him and he could be a value for his next team if he plays with a chip on his shoulder. The one thing he hasn’t lost is his shooting touch. Amongst guys with 65 or more spot-up attempts last year, Thornton finished 4th statistically behind only Klay, Korver, and Stephen Curry. Also, don’t forget his relationship with Robert Pack, who mentored him during his rookie year. And oh yeah, he is a hometown boy. Fits in a lot of ways.

Leandro Barbosa, G, Golden State Warriors

Golden State resurrected Barosa’s career, and Alvin Gentry had a lot to do with that. He and Norris Cole do a lot of the same things, but in a scenario where Cole is gone, Barbosa could be a spark plug for the second unit and a veteran presence for their young guards. Barbosa is still a very good transition player and he can knock down the three. Could do a lot worse than the Brazilian Blur.

Will Barton, G/F, Denver Nuggets

Before Melvin Hunt was named head coach in Denver, Barton looked like he had one foot out of the league. But after Hunt reinstalled their fast pace offense, Barton had a few moments, including a 25 point, 9 rebound, 3 steal, 3 assist game against the Pelicans in March. He still needs to work on his outside shot, but he is dynamic in transition, and if that shot continues to improve he can be a Demarre-like steal down the line.

Al-Farouq Aminu, F, Dallas Mavericks (Signed w/ Portland 4 yrs/30 mil)

Aminu went to Dallas, and to no surprise, he diversified his game a bit after leaving Monty. He took far more three’s, and despite missing many of them, he still was willing to take them and that helped out his team’s spacing. He shot just 28.4% on catch-and-shoot 3’s in the regular season, but he improved throughout the year and got hot in the playoffs (63%). Dell was always a bigger believer in Aminu than Monty, and likely saw him as a small ball 4. With Monty gone, could Aminu return?

Austin Rivers/Xavier Henry/Wille Green/John Salmons

Just seeing if you are paying attention. Oh, and Jimmer too.

Bismack Biyombo, C, Charlotte Hornets

When he was drafted, the sky seemed to be the limit for Biyombo, but 4 years later he hasn’t shown much improvement on the offensive end, and his man to man defense is average at best. Where he excels, however, is as a weak side defender who can block anything and everything – when he doesn’t foul someone, that is. The appeal of signing Biyombo is that he is young (22) and he could be a rim protector on a 2nd unit with Ryan Anderson. Offensively, don’t expect much growth – he hit one shot outside the paint last year. One.

Kyle O’Quinn, C, Orlando Magic

O’Quinn has been a guy that us analytic nerds have been interested in for a few years, and he could be a Marresse Speights type player for this Pelicans team. O’Quinn can rebound like a beast and has a jumper that he has recently began to extend out to 3-point range. In his young career, he has shot 48% from 10-16 feet and 40% from 16 feet to the 3-point line. If he continues to extend that range, he could be an ideal backup 5 who could spot start if needed.

Javale McGee, C, Philadelphia 76ers

Talk about your high-risk gamble. McGee won’t take much to get financially, but you would risk ruining the chemistry in your locker room and the hair of your 60 year old coach. But, if you can get him on board, McGee has been a beast in uptempo offenses before, and if you can get the production Denver got in limited minutes in 2012-13, the Pelicans could have the best front court in the league. That said, Dell has been a huge character guy in the past, so McGee seems unlikely.

Jeff Ayers, C, San Antonio Spurs

Ayers won’t get the fan base excited if he is signed, but he is a typical Spurs big who has some versatility and knows how to move the ball in a motion offense. He is a low usage center with the ability to cover both 4’s and 5’s and he can be a great offensive rebounder. The biggest downside is that he picks up fouls in bunches, but we are used to backup centers who do that.

Andrea Bargnani, F/C, New York Knicks

Here is a real wild card if Ryan Anderson is moved in the next few weeks. Bargnani is considered a bust because he hasn’t lived up to expectations as a #1 overall pick, but that isn’t his fault. The truth is that he has had a more than serviceable NBA career and he could thrive in a Gentry offense as shooter and a facilitator. Surprisingly, he is still just 29 years old and a fresh start on a team with high expectations might be all he needs to get back on track after being stuck in New York.

Jason Smith, C, New York Knicks

Speaking of guys stuck in New York, Smith had a healthy season, but was asked to do farr too much for a Knicks team that had given up by January. The good part was that this let him experiment with his 3-point shot, and the end result was that he hit as many last year (15) as every other year combined. Smith is a fan favorite who has several fans on this team and could thrive in Gentry’s system if he has in fact extended his range.



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In the NO Podcast Ep 220: Staff, Gordon and the Draft Mon, 22 Jun 2015 04:36:40 +0000 Michael and I get together and break down all the stuff that’s happened since Gentry was hired! Gordon picking up his option, staff joining Gentry’s squad, Anderson making health vows, and, of course, the DRAFT coming up! I love the draft. Hope you do too!

Like the Show or the Blog?

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A Little Bit About Ryan Anderson Sat, 20 Jun 2015 16:09:31 +0000  

The Playoffs, game 3, the first playoff game in New Orleans since the team rebranded. The Pelicans blow a huge lead in the fourth enroute to an OT loss. I throw a chair. While incredibly disappointing in the result, the game itself was fantastic, they left everything out on the court against the league’s best team. One of the main reasons that game was so close was the hot shooting of Ryan Anderson, who knocked down shot, after shot, after shot. It was a Ryan Anderson fans had not seen in about a year and a half. After missing most of last season and struggling most of this season people forget what he can do, and how important he was and is to this Pelicans team. Yes his defense leaves a lot to be desired, yes his rebounding has gone down every year he has been in New Orleans, but that isn’t who Anderson is. He is the Flamethrower.

Here are some stats on Anderson from 2010 through 2014 (4 seasons):

Offensive RatingPERTS%Turnover%Usage%3pt%

That’s 4 seasons with an offensive rating of 120. For reference, Kevin Durant’s average offensive rating over the last 4 seasons is 120. Anderson was the league’s MIP in 2011-12, making the most 3 pointers in the league. That’s not such a small deal looking at some other MIP winners spanning back to 2000 – Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Paul George, Kevin Love, Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu, Monta Ellis, Boris Diaw, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracey McGrady, and Jalen Rose – he’s in good company.

He made the 2nd most 3’s behind now MVP Stephen Curry in 2012-13, and 2013-14 he was enroute to his best season as a pro: in 22 games he was averaging a career high 19.8 points a game in a career high 36 minutes a game, shooting a career high 40.9% from 3 on a career high 7.5 attempts a game…with an offensive rating of 120. In those 22 games, Anderson sat at 5th in the league in 3’s made behind Damien Lillard, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Wesley Matthews (and he was making them at a better clip than both the splash brothers). He is a great shooter, and watching him get hot made watching those rebuilding years bearable. Unfortunately for the Pels, a bizarre neck injury and a tragic off the court incident derailed his rapid assent up the NBA ladder.

He had a very down year in 2014-15, his worst year shooting the ball since his rookie season. As McNamara pointed out in his article, Anderson was just as good as he always was at home, his road performances were just abysmal:

FG%3pt%Offensive RatingPoints/game

Apart from the 6th game of the season where Anderson had 32 points and shot 8 of 12 from deep at Cleveland, no other road game stands out where he shot particularly well from deep with the exception of 3 or 4 games where he went 2 of 5. So who is he? Home Ryno, Road Ryno, Old Ryno, or new inconsistent Ryno? Many will say he never showed any signs of breaking out of his slump, every night was a different Anderson, but lets check the facts and go through the season to see if this is really the case.

November his numbers weren’t good, December wasn’t much better, and January his numbers didn’t look much better either, but he did shoot 39.5% from deep for the whole month, a sign of hope? Let’s look at the games.

A string of 7 games (6 at home, 1 away, the last two games being that amazing OKC double header) toward the end of January and the beginning of February was the only sign that Anderson was working through the slump. Anderson averaged 17.6pts in 29 minutes, shooting 43.7% from the field and 43.6% from deep in those 7 games while the team won 5 of 7, beating Dallas, Philly, LAC, Atlanta, and OKC. Yes it was mostly at home but it was Anderson’s best streak the entire season and it was against quality opponents. Specifically I want to talk about the Clippers game on the 30th of January.

Anderson went 3-10 the previous game against Philly and started this game 0-6, including two air ball 3’s, another missed open 3, a missed layup, and a blocked turnaround all in the 1st quarter. He made 6 of his next 11 and ended the game 5-11 from deep as the Pels went on to win the game 108-103 without Davis. He finished with 24 points and 9 rebounds. This is how it works, shooters have to shoot themselves out of slumps, and Anderson is never afraid to pull the trigger.

We’ll never know if this was truly him breaking out or not because the 8th game was that terrible blow out loss to Chicago where both he and Davis got injured. He would go on to miss 20 of the next 22 games. The last glimpse we would get of good Ryan would be that unbelievable game 3 performance months later, but that Clippers win showed just how much he means to this team, being able to step in for Davis and provide that offense.

But why the road issues? According to NBA Tracking data, Anderson actually got more open looks on the road than at home: in 28 home games, 60.5% of his shots were with a defender more than 4 feet away compared to 64.5% in 33 road games. That would seem like it would help, but this season Anderson shot horribly when open:

Closest Defender2013-142014-15
4-6 Feet42.4%, 37.3% from 334.9%, 30.8% from 3
6+ Feet45.7%, 45.6% from 337.9%, 37.3% from 3

This may sound ridiculous, but that is encouraging to me. All this leads me to believe it is more of a mental, confidence thing than anything else; every shooter has droughts and anyone who has ever had a neck injury knows how something like that can affect you. And as to whether he can return to form, well just see for yourself:

10/14, 2/3 from 3, 26 points, +15. With a new system and a full offseason to work on that shot and get his confidence back I have no doubt the flamethrower can return, full force. There is only one thing that he needs to give this team: spacing.

Gettin that jumper back. Feels good to be back home and in the gym. I’m making a commitment this summer to be the best mentally, physically, and spiritually I can be #justlikeridingabike #24hour

A photo posted by Ryan Anderson (@rjanderson33) on


Specifically, I can imagine a couple of ways Gentry can help get the flamethrower firing on all cylinders. Take a look at his assisted vs unassisted numbers:

assisted vs unassistedA Career low of his shots were assisted this past season (61.5% compared to his career average of 69.7%). The Pels relied on throwing the ball to Anderson and hoping for him to create something far too much. He has a couple moves to his arsenal—a couple of herky-jerk post moves and his turnaround isn’t that bad, but he is best when he can exploit mismatches and benefit from others creating in the space he provides. At times he tried too hard to get it going instead of playing within the offense. Sure a heat check now and then is fine but relying on Anderson to hit one-legged fades for an offensive spark is unrealistic and not beneficial to either him or the team.

A faster paced offense with more ball movement will undoubtedly benefit Anderson more than Monty Williams’ offense did. When stretch-big Channing Frye was added to Gentry’s offense in Phoenix in ’09-’10, he propelled them to the 4th best offense in NBA history. He was a Sun for 5 years, missing one full season. His first season the team’s offense was 1st in the league, the next year they lost Stoudemire but were still 9th, the next year 9th again, then 29th in ’12-’13, then back up to 8th in ’13-’14. Can you guess which year he missed? He left for Orlando this year and the Suns offense dropped down to 16th. Anderson is a better stretch 4 than Frye in my honest opinion, I think he can play a similar role to Frye seeing as both’s best aspect is providing space. Don’t think space is that important? Just ask someone who can appreciate a good space-creator, like Goran Dragic:

Last year (’12-’13) he [Frye] had some heart problems and couldn’t play with us, so when I played pick-and-roll I didn’t have that space guy. This year, when we play pick-and-roll, Channing stretches the floor so I have room to operate; I can get inside the paint and make other plays for him and everybody else. He just gives us that spacing, and especially for me and Eric [Bledsoe], he makes things much easier because nobody can rotate from him

Anderson shoots a little worse career percentage from behind the arc (37.9 vs 38.6) but that might have a little to do with the fact that he attempts 3’s at a much higher rate (52.5 vs 35.6). He is every bit as dangerous of a stretch 4 as Frye so I have no doubt that Gentry can find a way to use him to the team’s advantage.

The last thing I will say about Anderson is even when he was off, the team was still better with him than without. The offense was still an above league average offense with him shooting miserably on the road. Davis is better with him on the floor, and the team is better with both. A small ball lineup with Davis at the 5 and Anderson the 4 still has the possibility at being untouchable offensively. He will continue to be invaluable to this teams offense, I’ll bet anything on that. He is true professional, a irreplaceable locker room guy, and he’s a fan favorite for a reason, just look at that smile!

Here’s to seeing the return of the Flamethrower, I can’t wait for next year.

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Not Yet a Succession Success Fri, 19 Jun 2015 17:00:42 +0000 Yesterday, an important ruling was handed down in a legal case with enormous implications for the New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Saints, and the rest of Tom Benson’s Empire. The ruling denied the attempt to declare Tom Benson incapable of running his various business entities. This denial, however, does nothing but keep the succession battle on the course it was on prior to the attempt. In fact, there could actually be a benefit to the heirs in the facts of the case.


We detailed Tom Benson’s change to his succession plans in January. The ownership of Benson’s Empire is complicated, and he really has a concentration of control more than a concentration of ownership to be clear, but the change to the plan would rearrange which assets would be controlled by Ms. Gayle and which by Ms. Renee, Rita, and Ryan, who are his daughter and her two children. Again This is very much about control and not about money.

Key Issue

As stated above, the (property) issue is not about the current value of the assets his heirs will receive. Rather, it is the form that value takes. Prior to the change, Ms. Renee, Rita, and Ryan would have controlled the Saints and Pelicans. After the change, they would not, and Ms. Gayle would.

There is a mechanism that allows for these kinds of changes in certain ownership styles, and the one in question appears to be an Intentionally Defective Trust. In order to execute this change, the value of the assets being swapped must be equal. Additionally, the assets being added to the trust can not be less “sound” than the ones being removed. For example, a $100,000 in cash can not be swapped for land valued at $100,000 whose value has been declining and is expected to decline further for some external reason.

When Benson tried to exchange the assets, the executor of the trust, the person in change of making sure the transactions related to trust assets are such that they protect these assets, refused to execute the swap. The refusal was justified by him by not knowing the current values of the franchises, rendering it impossible to maintain his fiduciary duty if he executed the swap. Such a misstep would have been very bad for him.

This attempt is central to the battle.

Path Forward

There will be more cases going forward regarding the legality of various transactions. This is where the details of the interdiction case matter. the mental health experts all agreed that Benson suffers from some impairment at his age. While not surprising for someone of Benson’s age, the establishment of some degree of impairment adds risk of challenge to future decision Benson may make.

Expect challenges on esoteric legal points and on values of the franchises at various times. It’s going to be complicated, it’s going to be ugly, and it’s going to be drawn out.

Final Note

We are covering this because it concerns the Pelicans, and we are trying to give a clear analysis of the facts, not just the facts, related to the team. The real story here is not about property, but about people, and a fractured family in particular. It’s truly very sad, and the best possible outcome is a healing of the family. Accounts lead us to believe that this is improbable. We are not qualified to speak on the details of their family dynamic, but we are very much qualified to wish them the best and ask that you all do so, too, while we enjoy our season tickets, cheer on our teams, and dream of title after title after title.

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Why the Pelicans Should Not Draft a Rookie Fri, 19 Jun 2015 12:00:35 +0000 While the draft is always exciting, and it is fun to think about the potential that all the future rookies can bring to the Pelicans, Dell Demps should absolutely avoid trading into the first round to select one.

You’ve heard since Anthony Davis was drafted that the Pelicans have looked for ‘young veterans,’ and have gone about acquiring them through trading draft picks. That has been Demps’ plan. And now, as the team’s championship window really starts to open, the Pelicans steer away from that? I don’t think so.

Yes, the roster has holes to fill, but like Tony Stark in Age of Ultron, this is the path Demps started the team down, and we’re going to start seeing if it was the correct. A rookie isn’t going to impact the team right away. Demps has repeatedly said that most rookies take three seasons to start impacting their team’s record. Davis was different, they expected him to contribute after one year, and that is why the front office decided to trade picks for players: the Pelicans’ window opened much earlier than expected.

A rookie like Sam Dekker, Stanley Johnson, D’Angelo Russell, can absolutely make an impact further down the line, but the Pelicans need someone to make an impact this season. Otherwise they risk wasting years of Anthony Davis in his prime. And, as McNamara pointed out, Davis isn’t likely to sign his contract extension right away. He wants to see what moves the team makes first. LeBron James wanted the Miami Heat to draft Shabazz Napier. Their front office acquired him in a draft day trade and then watched James bolt for Cleveland. I don’t think Davis cares much about someone’s potential.

While Demps is not on the hot seat he is the guy making the decision, and if the Pelicans don’t start making waves in the playoffs it could cost him his job. Trading away assets such as Ryan Anderson, future first round picks, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon’s expiring contract (not as big of an asset as it once was) and Tyreke Evans for a rookie is going to limit his flexibility at the trade deadline. It hurts the team twice: bring in a player who isn’t helping now and hurt the ability to improve the roster later on.

But I want you to notice that I haven’t said the Pelicans should not trade into the draft itself. I have no problem with that.

As long as the Pelicans trade the pick for an established NBA player.

A team may not be interesting in one of the Pelicans’ players, but if they moved one, or a combination, for a first round draft pick in next week’s draft? That easily could be more appealing than taking on the salary of, say, Anderson. By trading a draft pick to another team the Pelicans are providing cap relief, a potential roster spot, and a host of other benefits that trading a player does not provide.

Players like Goran Dragic, Arron Afflalo, Isaiah Thomas, Jeff Green, Timofey Mozgov and plenty of others have, in a simplified sense, been traded for first round picks. Those are players who can help the Pelicans this coming season.

No one associated with the Pelicans want to say they are in a Win Now mode, but if next season doesn’t result in some playoff victories it will feel like a huge disappointment. A rookie isn’t going to help in that regard. Dell Demps should save his assets for the trade deadline, see how this team looks under new coach Alvin Gentry, and then tweak the roster some if need be.

At the start of Age of Ultron’s third act Tony Stark seemingly repeats the same mistake he makes in the beginning. Only this time it works and he creates the Vision, and without the android the Avengers don’t win in the end.

Demps has done a good job of using the draft to acquire quality, established NBA players. There is no reason to deviate from that plan now.

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