New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Wed, 23 Jul 2014 15:57:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Anthony Davis and His Next Contract With the New Orleans Pelicans Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:31:59 +0000 (A special thanks to Jason Calmes in this article for his fact-checking and infinite wisdom. Also, a large shout out to one of our favorite podcast guests and salary cap guru’s Larry Coon.) 

While the drama of free agency is fun for most, it is nerve-racking for fans of that team whose star player is out there hearing pitches from other franchises. The idea of losing a franchise changing player for nothing causes more anxiety in a fan base than anything on the court possibly can. And even if your team’s superstar is not a free agent, just the threat of him becoming one can put your team in a position where they almost have to trade him (See: Kevin Love).

This is the new NBA, and with this franchise’s history of losing its star players, it is not a surprise that some fans are worried about Anthony Davis eventually exiting stage left. And while it is possible that he will some day play for another city, that day will likely not come any time soon. If the past is truly the best indicator of the future, the Pelicans will likely have Anthony Davis in uniform for at least five more seasons before they have to worry about him having the ability to put the Pelicans in a position where they have to move him or risk watching him leave. This is the timeline they are on.

But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s take a look back at the past, examine the present, and project forward to the future, as I take you through each and every detail of what is likely to be Anthony Davis’s next contract.

Anthony Davis’s Current Contract

Davis will count for $5,607,240 against the cap this season, and the Pelicans have the right to pick up a $7,070,730 option for the 2015-16 season. They have until October 31st, 2014 to do so, and they will undoubtedly pick up that option year. The Pelicans would then have the ability to make a qualifying offer of $9,191,949 in June of 2016 that would make him a restricted free agent that summer. But don’t expect it to get that far, as the Pelicans will be able to offer him a contract extension in the Summer of 2015. If and when Anthony Davis accepts, his new contract will start in 2016, seamlessly continuing his position on the Pelicans roster following that final year of his rookie deal.

Extension Possibilities

First, let us start with the timeline. The New Orleans Pelicans can not offer Anthony Davis a contract extension until July 1st, 2015. He will have until November 2nd of 2015 to sign the offer. If the two sides fail to agree on a new contract, then the Pelicans will have to wait until June of 2016 to extend him the qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent. From there, they would still have the ability to negotiate with Davis and sign him to a new deal, or allow him to sign a contract with another team and match that contract.

That seems to be the worst case scenario. The more likely scenario, if history is any indicator, is that Davis and the Pelicans agree to a contract extension at the beginning of July 2015. With Anthony Davis being a player that has between 0 and 6 years of service in the NBA, they can offer him approximately 25% of the 2015-16 salary cap as a starting point, with a duration that goes up to four years. His overall contract will start at that salary, and then standard 7.5% increases will commence for the duration of the contract, regardless of how much the salary cap increases or decreases over the next four years.

The Pelicans do have another option, one that they are likely to take. They have the ability to extend one player coming off his rookie deal a ‘five-year designated player’ contract. This contract can be signed between July 1st and November 2nd of 2015, and a team is only allowed to have one ‘five-year designated player’ contract on its roster. In addition to allowing the team to offer a 5th year, the player also has the ability to command a salary that counts for approximately 30% of the cap in the first year if they meet certain criteria. This has been deemed the ‘Rose Rule’ in the new CBA.

The Rose Rule

For a player to meet the requirements of the Rose Rule, and in turn get up to approximately 30% of the salary cap, as opposed to 25%, he must do at least one of the following:

  • Be named to the All-NBA First, Second, or Third team twice
  • Be voted to start the NBA All-Star game twice
  • Be named the NBA MVP once

With two years left before Davis starts his new deal, all three of these remain a possibility for Davis even though he has not accomplished any of those things yet. By July of next year, it is possible that they all remain in play. Or perhaps only one or two of them will remain a viable option. If he signs a ‘five-year designated player’ deal and does not achieve one of those select criteria, then he will count for 25% of the salary cap in the first year of his extension. It is possible that, over the course of the contract, this could make a 10 to 25 million dollar difference for Davis and the Pelicans.

Recent Designated Player Contracts

First things first – NOBODY turns down the designated player contract. Kevin Love would have accepted it in Minnesota (it was not offered), Kyrie accepted it less than a month ago despite three somewhat miserable years in Cleveland, and so on and so forth. Now, I guess there is always room for breaking with precedent, but few (if any) agents will allow a client to turn down five years and 100+ million dollars just to allow a client to play on a bargain basement salary for two more years (one rookie, one on the qualifying offer), earn their free agency, and only get 25% of the cap from another team.

Now, all ‘five-year designated player’ contracts are not created equal. Players and teams can negotiate trade kickers, early termination options, and other minor clauses. For example, Kyrie Irving does have an ETO for his final season and a 15% trade kicker as well. Paul George’s contract has an ETO in year 5, but no trade kicker and in exchange for getting the ETO, the Pacers got him to agree to only start off at 27% as opposed to 30% in the event that he qualified for the Rose Rule (which he did). Meanwhile, John Wall is a straight 5-year contract with no ETO and since he did not meet the qualifications, he started at 25%. Quite frankly, the better the player, the more leverage he has. Expect Anthony Davis’s contract to have an opt-out in the 2020-21 season. The trade kicker, however, might work to the detriment of Davis if he wants out down the line, so I don’t know if that will be a part of his agents’ demands.

A couple of small things to note here as well. First, it is not a “true” 25% or 30% of the cap, which is why I used approximately earlier. It is 25% or 30% of a slightly small number that was negotiated a recent collective bargaining agreement. The two sides negotiated a different formula for setting the salary cap than they did for maximum salaries, so the two became decoupled. The salary cap is based on 44.74% of the BRI (Basketball Related Income), while maximum salaries are based on 42.14% of the BRI. So, for example, if BRI was 5 billion dollars, the salary cap would be a little less than $74.56 million (5 billion x 44.74%, less some deductions, divided by 30), but the 30% max salary would only start at a little less than $21.07 million (5 billion x 42.14%, less some deductions, divided by 30, then multiplied by 30%). As you can see, that is not 30% of the salary cap.

Second, you can sign other players on your team to 5-year contracts. Just not the designated 5-year contract. The Indiana Pacers, for example, re-signed George Hill for 5 years when he became a free agent, and that did not cost them their designated contract. The designated contract is an extension to a rookie deal, essentially giving you a one-time ability to have a guy under contract for six seasons. So, the Pelicans could sign AD and then turn around and give Jrue or Evans or Asik, etc. 5-year deals when their contract is up, like the Wizards just did for Marcin Gortat.

Also, once the 5-year designated contract is up, the Pelicans get the right to give it to somebody else if they so choose. And if they wanted to trade for a guy who was given designated contract by another team, they could do so. But you can only give out one designated contract. So in a world where the Pelicans kept Nerlens Noel and he became a superstar, they wouldn’t have been able to offer this contract to both Davis and Noel. This, in part, was why Harden wasn’t opposed to leaving OKC, as the Thunder could not offer him the five-year designated contract. Not saying that this was a big part of why Dell Demps has been willing to trade picks these last couple of years, but it is something to consider.

The Effects of the New Television Contract

You have probably heard about the new television contract that will come into effect starting in 2016. The current contract runs out after next season and the NBA will likely make close to double in their next deal, according to some projections. This directly affects the salary cap, and as we have seen, the salary cap directly affects Anthony Davis’s next contract if he is given the ‘five-year designated extension.’

The players are guaranteed to get no less than 49% of the BRI (Basketball Related Income) and no more than 51% of the BRI in each given season. For the purpose of this article, let’s assume that the players will get 50% of the BRI. A small percentage of that money goes towards benefits, while 44.74% (see above) is dedicated to the salary cap.  Now, television is only a portion of the income, but it is a large percentage. Currently, television accounts for about $930 million every year and total BRI projects to be between $4.5 and $5 billion these next two seasons. Now, we can do some complex math here, but let’s assume that the television deal essentially doubles and an extra $930 million is thrown into the pool. About half of that will go to the players, with 45% of it going towards the salary cap and the rest going towards benefits. Divide that up amongst 30 teams, and you are looking at the cap rising by about $15 million per team in that first year, just based off the new television deal.

Based on this conservative projection, it would be safe to assume that the salary cap for the 2016-17 season will be at least $80 million, with $85 million likely being the top end of the projection. Now, let’s go back to AD’s possible contracts. This would put the first year of Davis’s contract at $18.8 – $20 million if he did not meet the clauses of the Rose Rule. If he did, his contract would start at $22.6 – $24 million in year one. Again, factoring in standard increases over all five years in his contract, this could mean a difference of close to $25 million dollars over those five seasons, depending on how much the cap increases. The first table below will shows what his contract will look like, give or take, if the cap rises to $80 million, and the second table shows what his contract would look like, give or take, if the cap rises to $85 million.

Davis Contract Type2016-172017-182018-192019-202020-21Total Contract
No Rose Rule (25%)$18,837,729$20,250,559$21,769,351$23,402,052$25,157,205$109,416,896
Rose Rule (30%) $22,605,275$24,300,670$26,123,221$28,082,462$30,188,647$131,300,275


Davis Contract Type2016-172017-182018-192019-202020-21Total Contract
No Rose Rule (25%) $20,015,087$21,516,219$23,129,935$24,864,680$26,729,531$116,255,452
Rose Rule (30%)$24,018,104$25,819,462$27,755,921$29,837,615$32,075,437$139,506,539


The 1800+ words can be summed up like this: On July 1st of 2015, the New Orleans Pelicans will present Anthony Davis with a five-year extension that will likely wind up being in the neighborhood of $110 – $140 million when it is all said and done. There is no sure-fire way to know at this point what the final numbers will be, and in fact, the Pelicans and Anthony Davis will not know what the final terms of the contract will be on the day he signs it. But it will be signed, because it is far more financial security than he can get in any other scenario.

Nobody has ever turned down the ‘five year designated contract’ and AD likely won’t be the first. Based on recent precedent, we could expect to see Davis negotiate for an ETO in the final season, and this basically puts the team on a five-year time table starting this season. They will have the last two seasons that he is under his current contract and the first three of his new contract to show him that he can win here. If not, Davis could very easily do what Kevin Love is doing now (and Chris Paul did before him), and threaten to opt out and leave the following season if the team does not trade him. Once we hit the summer of 2019, Davis will have all the leverage, so it is imperative that the team shows him that this is the best place for him by then.

The eventual dollar figure attached to the contract will depend on two major factors:

  • The new TV contract
  • Whether Davis meets the ‘Rose Rule’ criteria

In all likelihood, we won’t know the exact figures until some time in June of 2016 what Davis’s contract will look like, because that is when the All-NBA teams are released. Some might root for Davis not to meet the criteria because that would likely add an addition 4-6 million dollars in cap room each season, and while that is understandable, I believe that Davis will be underpaid regardless of whether he meets the criteria or not. If Davis becomes the MVP candidate that most expect, his true value would probably be closer to $40-$50 million per year over the course of that extension. It’s nice to save money wherever you can, but some players are simply worth paying top dollar for, and Davis is one of those players.

Something else to keep in mind is that while I have stated in the past several times that 2015 could be the last chance for Dell to make a big move for a core piece, the truth is that he can also set things up so that he can make a splash in 2016 if he so chooses. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans will be on bargain basement deals at that point, accounting for approximately $22 million against a cap that figures to be between $80 and $85 million. Even if you add in Davis at the highest level possible and Omer Asik on a contract similar to Marcin Gortat’s new deal, the Pelicans will still have more than $20 million in salary cap room. And that is the low side of the projection, with $30-$35 million in cap room a realistic possibility if they clear out everyone else on the roster – something they would do if say Kevin Durant were interested in teaming up with AD.

In the summer of 2017, the team would likely have to give significant raises to both Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans if they wanted to keep them around, but there is a window for the Pelicans to do something major in either 2015 or 2016, even with AD’s new deal on the horizon. By the end of the summer of 2016, however, the team will likely have whatever core it wants around Davis locked into place and will move forward with that core, trying to get the championships that will satisfy Davis and keep him here long term.

You will undoubtedly hear (or read) misinformed people tell you that the Pelicans are in danger of losing Davis if they don’t show him they can win big in the next year or two, and now you have the ammunition to correct them. Or you can just point them to this article so you can save your breath (or fingers). The fact is that Davis is here for a minimum of five more years, and in all likelihood, a couple of more after that. Davis is less than 350 days away from signing a contract that will make him financially stable for the rest of his life, and the Pelicans will fork over $100 million with a smile on their face, because they will be securing one of the best bargains in the entire NBA for at least another four years.

]]> 50
In the NO Podcast Episode 186: James Ham on the Kingly Pelicans Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:30:43 +0000 Cowbell Kingdom’s James Ham joins us to talk about the new former Kings the Pelicans have imported: John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette, Omri Casspi – and of course, we can’t avoid talking Tyreke Evans too. Then Michael and I talk about rotations, Darius Miller returning to the team, and who the most irreplaceable Pelican is this year. Michael is wrong, as usual.

Thanks to James for joining us!  Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

]]> 12
New Orleans Pelicans End Summer League With Loss to Timberwolves Sat, 19 Jul 2014 13:18:07 +0000 Russ Smith and the Pelicans started off red-hot, but they could not maintain the offense they produced in the first quarter, and as a result, they lost to the Timberwolves 97-78. Smith finished with 21, and the only other Pelican in double figures was Cameron Ayers, who had 11. The Pelicans went cold after jumping out to a 30-22 lead after the first quarter, scoring just 48 points the rest of the way, while the Wolves out up 22 or more in every quarter.

It wasn’t much of a game down the stretch, so instead of recapping the Pelicans third straight loss, I want to take an overall look at what we saw from the Pelicans in Summer League and what, if anything, we can learn from it.

Notes and Observations

- Russ Smith finished Summer League averaging 16 points, 6.4 assists, and 5 rebounds. He shot just 43.4% and averaged 4.2 turnovers, but if you take out that terrible first half in his first game where he was still adjusting, he shot 46% and less than 4 turnovers. Smith got into the lane at will and found guys on kick outs throughout these five games. He often left his feet with no clear plan, and that resulted in some ugly turnovers. His spot-up three point shot is smooth, but when he takes a three off the dribble, he seems to push the ball rather than release it smoothly and the results aren’t great.

Smith has a solid mid-range game, showcasing a pull-up jumper and floater, and he can finish in a multitude of ways when he gets to the rim. Defensively, he is a pest on the ball who often anticipates his opponents next move and gets his share of on-ball steals. Off the ball, he has good awareness, but his height can work to his detriment when his man angles to the rim and gets a lob or back door pass. Overall, he is a guy that I am sure will make it in this league because he simply refuses to fail. Whether he gets minutes this season or not will all depend on whether he can cut down on those bad habits. If he can, he could move into the upper echelon of backup point guards.

- This was supposed to be Jeff Withey’s Summer League, as the coaches wanted to get him involved early and often. The goal for him was to be a double-double machine and a defensive anchor. He accomplished neither. He looked slow, and quite frankly, disinterested at times. He lumbered up and down the court and found himself on the perimeter far too often on offense. He put up just 7 points and 6 rebounds and shot just 40% against a bunch of bigs who probably won’t play a minute of basketball in the league this year.

He never had more than 4 defensive rebounds in a single game and never took more than 8 shots. He could not establish deep low post position, and his jumper was off for most of the tournament. Basically, he looked like most of the other big men in Summer League, but those guys are going back to the D-League or Europe. Withey was trying to prove that he deserved a spot in a rotation for a team trying to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Nothing he did should give the team or fans any hope that he can overtake Alexis Ajinca for the backup spot.

- Patric Young, meanwhile, showed some promise and there is reason to believe that he can provide a spark for the Pelicans this season if and when he is officially signed to a contract. Young led the team with 8 rebounds per game despite getting just 25 minutes per game, and he often times was the only Pelican going all out defensively. Young dove for loose balls, always found a man to box out, and talked every possession. Offensively, he rarely got his number called, but he found ways to get buckets and always ran the floor hard.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether Young has signed anything with the Pelicans, but I think we are all rooting for him to join the team. Young’s energy and effort is needed on this young team, even if it only shows itself in practice and for spot minutes during the season. Quite frankly, he looked better than Withey in almost every way during Summer League, and it would be a shame to see him join another team after having first crack at him. Here’s hoping Dealer Dell gets it done.

- Darius Miller being brought back was expected, but I found it curious that Jimmer Fredette was signed yesterday. I was convinced that the Pelicans would leave the 15th roster spot open for several guys to computer for, including Cortney Fells, James Southerland, and Dequan Jones. Instead, they chose Jimmer, and now it looks like the roster is set if and when Dell signs Patric Young. Fells looked like the best player of the young wings, at least offensively. He was willing to let shots fly whenever he found an opening, and he had a relatively quick release. I am convinced that he will eventually find a spot in this league, and maybe he is a guy Dell has on his radar for next year if he continues to grow as a player on the other end of the floor.

- Now we get into the dead season. No more games, and likely no more transactions. We will have a podcast soon, and the articles will keep coming, but there will be nothing until Team USA (snd Anthony Davis) takes the court. Then, Pelicans basketball will start again in October. It is going to be hard to wait, but there is plenty to be excited about with this roster.

]]> 10
Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Sat, 19 Jul 2014 00:14:28 +0000 And now we have come to the 5th and final game of Summer League, as the New Orleans Pelicans end their run in the Consolation Bracket. After three close games, yesterday was tough, as the Hornets got red-hot and mowed down the Pelicans. Russ Smith was stellar once again, but he got little help outside of Courtney Fells, and if the Pelicans want to win this one that can’t happen again. Shabazz Muhammad, Zach Lavine, and Alexey Shved can all score on the wings and Gorgui Deng is an absolute beast on the boards.

Jeff Withey and Patric Young are going to have to show up today in the paint and on the glass to keep the Wolves from getting easy buckets and second chance opportunities. That is what killed them yesterday, and it can’t happen again. Those two also have to be more aggressive offensively. But at the end of the day, this team will probably go as Russ Smith goes, and he has had four games now where he has been brilliant for part of the game and maddening for other parts. It would be nice to see him put it all together and go out with a truly special performance.

Notes and Observations

- It looks like the Pelicans have filled out their roster with the signings of John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette, and Darius Miller. That brings us to 14, and you have to believe that Patric Young gets a contract offer any day now, which will max the Pelicans out at 15. The Pelicans have surrounded their penetrators and AD with shooters, and with AD and Asik on the back line, they can afford to go small from time to time. Expect to see a lot of three-guard lineups with AD and Asik on the floor, including a starting lineup of Jrue-Gordon-Evans.

- You have to wonder why the Pelicans didn’t leave a roster spot open for Fells and Jones, Southerland, etc. to compete for. Were they not as good in practice as they were in the games? Were they not willing to come to camp without guarantees? Who knows, but with how well Fells played in particular, I was a little surprised Demps gave Fredette that final perimeter roster spot.

- Unless somebody goes crazy or Russ Smith puts up a goose egg, Smith should walk away with the SL assists title. That’s something, right?

- Game tips off at 8 Central. It will not be on NBATV, but you can watch it on with the SL pass. Or you can watch it at 8:00 am tomorrow on NBATV

]]> 2
Why The New Orleans Pelicans Shouldn’t Play Transition Basketball Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:00:54 +0000 It isn’t a question of pace but of getting out in transition is something Mason pointed out to me on twitter the other day. I was saying that I think the New Orleans Pelicans will play with a slower pace because of the Omer Asik trade, but Mason was right: Transition is the correct word even though it ties in with pace.

But whatever. The Pelicans shouldn’t get out and play in transition.

It almost seems counter intuitive with the Asik signing. The team has athletic players in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis, and now a guy to swallow up the ball on defense. This New Orleans Pelicans team is almost built to run.

But that doesn’t mean they should.

Even with Asik’s rim protection and rebounding skills the Pelicans still suffer in two areas…

Defensive Rebounding

The Pelicans ranked 21st in DRB% last season. They simply gave up too many second chance points. Combine that with being below average in causing turnovers and you have opponents who maintain offensive possessions. It’s no surprise the Pelicans ranked 27th in defensive efficiency last season.

Adding in Asik and his career 28.2 DRB% helps but the team is still losing Aminu and his rebounding abilities. Anthony Davis will certainly improve but opponents will reason they are going up against a monster front court and look to take one of the two Pelicans towers out of the paint through the use of high pick and rolls, etc. Unfortunately, Asik can’t fix everything himself.

In Monty Williams’ first season the then-Hornets finished with a defensive efficiency of 10th best in the league. They also ranked 2nd in DRB%. That defense was anchored by Emeka Okafor—much like the Pelicans defense will be stabilized by Asik. But the main reason for the high DRB% was the gang-rebounding style Monty likes to use. It was not uncommon to see four then-Hornets crashing the glass after an opponent’s miss.

You can look at the stats and say Asik and Davis are better rebounders than Okafor, Aaron Gray, David West, and Jason Smith. No one will debate that but their stats that season dip because everyone on the floor was hitting the boards. Yet, even with two superior rebounders this coming year, I expect to see more gang-rebounding and less transition because…

The Perimeter Defense Is Bad

The Pelicans’ guards and wings are going to get beat on the perimeter. This forces the bigs in Davis and Asik to rotate over to try and contest open looks or clog the lane to the rim. Sure they may force a miss but they will be taken out of rebounding position because of this. And that opens the door for the opponent to grab offensive rebounds or at least establish superior position under the hoop. Gang-rebounding eliminates this. Defenders flaring out in transition doesn’t. Getting stops should be the priority over scoring easy points, at least right now for this team.

This doesn’t mean the Pelicans won’t get out and run after defensive stops, but I find it more likely they play in transition close to the 9.8% of the time in 2010-11 than the 13.6% from last season. Monty likes the slow defensive, grind it out style of basketball; and there is enough fire power to score in a slower half court style of offense. It’s not as fun and exciting, but if it leads to a playoff spot, like in 2010-11, I don’t think anyone will really complain.

]]> 25
New Orleans Pelicans Add Shooters in Salmons, Fredette, and Miller Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:26:11 +0000 After the trade for Omer Asik, Dell Demps had the core of his roster in place, but there were still holes on the wings. As the saying goes, ‘You can never have enough shooting’, and Dell is proving that by adding John Salmons, Darius Miller and Jimmer Fredette to fill out the roster this week, according to reports. While John Salmons struggled a bit last season with other aspects of his game, he was still a terrific shooter, as he nailed 42.6% of his catch-and-shoot 3-pt attempts. Jimmer Fredette was at 50% on catch-and-shoot threes last year, though on a limited sample size. And Miller has always been a good shooter when he is willing to let them go. He hesitates far too often, but last season we saw Miller take a step forward as he was instrumental in wins over the Clippers and Thunder late in the year.

Salmons is the guy most likely to get significant minutes when all these guys are healthy, and the hope is that he thrives in a more limited role. In Sacramento and Toronto, he handled the ball a lot, with pick and rolls and isolations accounting for over 40% of his possessions. He was ineffective in those settings, but was great when he just set his feet and shot off of kick outs. With Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Russ Smith, and Austin Rivers all likely to handle the ball, the hope is that all Monty will ask Salmons to do is hit the spot-up three.

Just over 35% of Salmons two-point baskets were assisted on. It is no coincidence that he shot just 35% from two-point range. Meanwhile, nearly 94% of Salmons three-point makes were assisted on. It is also not a coincidence that he shot 39% from three, including 47% from the corner. If utilized properly, there is no doubt that Salmons can have a positive effect on the offensive end. The bigger question is whether his 35-year-old legs can keep up with the young wings on the other end. Watching his defensive possessions on Synergy, I see an intelligent team defender with length that should be able to push his man into the defensive lockjaw that is Anthony Davis and Omer Asik.

Jimmer Fredette is the biggest variable of the three. A 10th overall pick just three years ago, Fredette is now on his third team and has been an effective scorer, but is a guy coaches need to hide on the other end. He also tends to play with the ball too much on the offensive end, as he still seems to believe he is more of a point guard than a shooting guard. As I noted, he is a terrific spot-up shooter, but over his career, only about 15% of his shots have come on the spot-up while nearly 50% have come out of the pick and roll.

When you sign guys for the minimum, you play the ‘If’ game. If Anthony Morrow could stay healthy, he could be a real find for this team. If Alexis Ajinca can keep from fouling so much…. If Pops Mensah-Bonsu…., etc. Well, it’s no different for Jimmer. IF you can hide him on defense and put one or two shot blockers behind him, and IF you convince him to just catch-and shoot, then you might have a bit of a steal here.

Darius Miller is no different. IF he can play with the defensive intensity that we saw him play with against Durant and IF he has the confidence in his offensive game that he showed against the Clippers, then his experience in this system can give him a chance to jump into the rotation. What Dell Demps has done here is throw 20-25 minutes out there in front of numerous players who are desperate to prove that they belong in this league and told them to go out there and prove that they can get the job done.

They don’t have to do too much. The superstar is here. The playmakers are all over the court. Just catch-and shoot, oh and play some defense. In addition to these three, Luke Babbitt has been working all summer to improve his speed and agility so he can defend the small forward position. It looks like there are some hungry shooters on the Summer League team too, but with guaranteed contracts, these guys will have the first crack at those 20-25 minutes. And what they need to do is clear: Just Catch. And Shoot.

]]> 16
Farewell to a True Pelican, Jason Smith Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:30:04 +0000 Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you’re doing so to the longest tenured player from your favorite team. Jason Smith has given us so much on and off the court that it’s going to be hard to see him in anything besides a New Orleans Pelicans jersey, but especially one that says Knicks.

When Smith showed up in New Orleans expectations were fairly low, as they rightly should have been. He came over from the 76ers along with Willie Green for Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins. Not exactly a star-studded trade…

After a his first season, few were sold on Smith as an integral part of moving forward. To paraphrase myself – There isn’t much use for a jump shooting big man who is a subpar defender and really can’t shoot that well. Fortunately management knew better than to let him walk, signing Smith to what wound up being a pretty sweet three year deal worth a mere 7.5 million.

Oh boy did I enjoy eating my words throughout the next three seasons. Smith turned a corner after his initial year in New Orleans; Improving on defense, establishing himself as a locker room leader, and excelling on the offensive boards. Outside of his contributions to the basketball side of things, Smith became one of the main faces of the franchise. He was used in all sorts of team oriented advertising, as well as the rebrand, and was arguably was the most recognizable Pelican to New Orleanians prior to Anthony Davis coming aboard.

Playing 199 games over his four years with the club, Smith finds himself all over the new New Orleans all time leaderboard (2002-2014) in games played (9th), offensive rebounds (10th), offensive rebound percentage (10th), total rebound percentage (10th) blocks (8th), blocks per game (8th), block percentage (5th), field goal percentage (5th), free throw percentage (9th),  and personal fouls (8th).

Speaking of fouls, who could ever forget Smith laying out Blake Griffin in one of the most epic Hornets games in history. Let’s take one more look at that for old times sake–

Speaking with Smith after that foul it was clear that although it likely earned him the largest ovation he’s ever received, making him an instant fan favorite to Nola fans and Blake-haters across the league, he was not proud of it. In fact, he called it one of his most regrettable moments ever on the court. I will always remember the look on his face when I asked him what it felt like having that play be his most famous to date.

While some athletes would play it off as something that Blake deserved, or simply an inadvertent mistake, Smith took the blame for it entirely. He did it, he meant to do it (although not that hard), and he would take whatever punishment came his way. Nay, he deserved whatever punishment came his way. I’ve never seen such a huge disparity in how a fan base felt about an action compared to how the player himself felt. He took no joy in the hard foul, regardless of the consequences it had on the game (a victory).

Jason Smith was a kind and compassionate human being in a league overflowing with hubris. He was always willing to give an interview, regardless of how tough the questions were going to be, regardless of what he’d done or not done recently on the court. Every Pelicans reporter will miss how easygoing he was in the locker room, and as far as I know there was literally not a single time that he was anything but helpful.

Stories of fans running into Smith off the court yield similar stories of his character. If you have a particularly good one please leave it in the comments as a lasting testament to just how much we enjoyed having him in New Orleans.

Always working at his game, he was a favorite of Monty Williams who once called him the backbone of the bench unit. To this day I still can’t think of a negative thing Monty ever said about Smith as a person, or a single time his effort was questioned by anyone– coach or fan.

When I fantasize about the basketball player I may have been had I not mysteriously stopped growing at just under 6’0, Jason Smith was who came to mind. Perhaps that’s why I liked his game so much. It wasn’t that he was the most naturally gifted player, or the biggest guy on the court. He didn’t wow you with his ball skills or dunk like a boss. Smith just cared about what he did, worked to get better, and gave it the full 100% every single time he stepped on the floor. He never backed down from a challenge or gave up anything without a fight.

I’ll miss Jason Smith, the original Pelican.

]]> 5
Red Hot Hornets Take Down the Pelicans Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:17:02 +0000 The Hornets should consider changing their names to the Opossums, because that is what they played the first week in Summer League. Charlotte was one of the worst teams in Summer League for the first three games, shooting just over 35%. Today, however, they could not miss. And as a result, they pulled off their second straight upset, beating the Pelicans 104-75.

Charlotte shot 50% from the field, as they able to both get anything they wanted in the paint and light it up from behind the arc (shot 60%). PJ Hairston led the Hornets with 21, while Rion Brown and Cody Zeller added 16 and Josh Davis added 14 and 12. Meanwhile, New Orleans only had two of their five big guns show up, as Russ Smith and Courtney Fells combined to score 38 points. Patric Young, Jeff Withey, and DeQuan Jones were virtual no shows however, combining for just 11 points on 8 shots.

Honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered in this game, but the Pelicans were terrible from the free throw line again, shooting just 60.9% (14-23). Russ Smith was doing all he could do keep New Orleans in the game, but he just didn’t have enough help inside, and that is where Charlotte truly dominated. The Hornets dominated the glass (38-26), as the Pelicans got just 4 second chance opportunities, despite missing 34 shots. They were one and done on that end, while the Hornets were getting whatever they wanted on the other end. Hence, the blowout.

Notes and Observations

- This was supposed to be the summer of Withey, but it is hard to walk away impressed, as he has looked clumsy on the offensive side of the ball and incredibly slow on the defensive end. While it is true that Summer League is more guard friendly, I was expecting to see Withey at least be a presence on defense, while scoring some garbage points on the offensive end. He really hasn’t done either of those things. But again, it’s Summer League. It could just as easily be an aberration as a sign of things to come.

- Patric Young didn’t even get a field goal attempt in this game. He took two free throws and missed them both. Young will be going against this kind of size in the NBA, and today showed that sometimes you need more than energy and effort. His defense was good and he grabbed some boards in the first half, but he was not the standout player we saw in the first two games.

- Courtney Fells should get a training camp invite, and perhaps even some guaranteed money. After his Summer League this year, I am sure there will be a few teams trying to snatch him up. He only has 1 assist in 4 games, but who cares? The guy would be brought in to shoot, and he can do that.

- The Pelicans will play at 7PM Central tomorrow against Minnesota. It will be their final Summer League game.

]]> 11
Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Charlotte Hornets Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:29:19 +0000 This is the game we have all been waiting for folks! The Pelicans against the Hornets in a game that, once and for all, will end the confusion amongst the national media. Right? Right?!?!

The Hornets were terrible in the first three games of Summer League, but destiny reared its head, and got us the matchup that we all wanted, as they upset the Dallas Mavericks. Charlotte is led by lottery picks Cody Zeller and Noh Vonleh up front, and 2014 first-round pick PJ Hairston on the wing. Prior to yesterday’s game against Dallas, they hard a tough time scoring, averaging just 65 points per game on 32% shooting. But they got hot in the first half yesterday and Dallas was uncharacteristically off, as Ricky Ledo went just 2-18.

So, thank you fate. Hopefully every eyeball in the national media will be focused on this game, and we will never have to hear New Orleans Hornets or Charlotte Pelicans or New Orleans Hornicans or whatever again. Win or lose, the confusion will be no more, and that’s all we can ask for.

Other Notes and Observations

- We all need to thank Roberto Nelson for this matchup. With the Hornets down two, Nelson went the length of the court and drilled a three at the buzzer to give the Hornets a one point win.

- Cody Zeller has had a strange attitude as he approached Summer League, and Hornets brass and the coaching staff is not happy about it.

- A reminder of the strange altercation PJ Hairston got into.

- A win today would send the Pelicans to the Quarterfinals, which would take place Saturday – likely against the Knicks. It would be the first time Russ Smith and Tim Hardaway, Jr. matched up since the 2013 NCAA Championship game. A loss puts the Pelicans in the Consolation Bracket, which would be played tomorrow afternoon.

- Courtney Fells and DeQuan Jones have been two of the best per minute scorers in Summer League, trailing only TJ Warren and Tim Hardaway, Jr. Russ Smith is leading the Summer League in assists by a wide margin. Patric Young is leading the Pelicans in rebounds, with 8.0 a game. Today should be a good matchup, as Noah Vonleh is pulling down 9.8 per game. Josh Davis of the Hornets is third in the Summer League, pulling down 10.5 per game.

- Of course, the jinx of McNamara is still alive in Summer League. The Mavericks seemed like a lock going into yesterday’s game, so I wrote the preview in the morning to get it out of the way. (Below). Of course, with the Hornets up 15, I started writing this preview. When I was done, the Mavericks were up 2 with 7 seconds left, so I changed the title back to Mavericks. Then, Nelson hit the three. Alive and well.



The Pelicans made the second round of the playoffs! Okay, it is the Summer League playoffs/tournament, and they had a bye, but still. The reward for their 2-1 record is a match-up against perhaps the most physical team in Summer League. The Mavericks feature former Air Force security forces specialist Bernard James at center, and notorious NBA tough man Ivan Johnson at Power Forward. In addition, they have quite a few capable shooters that are capable of lighting up the scoreboard in Ricky Ledo, Gal Mekel, CJ Fair, and Chris Goulding.

The Pelicans front line will be up for the challenge, as Patric Young and Arinze Onuaku might be the only two guys in the Summer League as physical as James and Johnson, while Withey is the most skilled of all the bigs in this game. It will likely come down to three-balls and free throws – which the Pelicans could not hit in their last game, going 10-25 from the charity stripe.

Russ Smith vs. Ricky Ledo should be fantastic, as both can score, but Smith holds the edge as a playmaker and defender. Smith is leading the Summer League in assists, at 7.7 per game, and in order for the Pelicans to win this game and move on to face (in all likelihood) New York in the quarterfinals, Smith is going to have to continue to get his teammates involved. If he can do that and limit Ledo’s opportunities, the Pelicans could get the sour taste of the Spurs loss out of their mouths.

]]> 4
Pelicans Scoop: Asik, Playoffs, and the Starters Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:44:39 +0000 1. What excites you the most about the addition of Omer Asik?

Michael McNamara: The fact that we will get to see Anthony Davis freelance and roam more on the defensive end. Last season, he was always the last line of defense, so he had to stay disciplined and you knew that if he got beat, it was game over. Not anymore. Davis can hedge hard and go for steals, knowing Asik is behind him. He can leave his man and go for a swat, knowing Asik will be there to clean up the boards. Anthony Davis has just been given a pass to be ten times more aggressive as a defender, and that should scare the heck out of the other 29 teams in the league.

Mason Ginsberg: Apart from the unibrow defensive factor given above, I’m excited because, despite Asik possessing a limited offensive skill set, he should help the Pelicans’ offense from a team perspective. His ability to both protect the rim and rebound at an elite level will allow the team’s guards and even Anthony Davis/Ryan Anderson to get out and run more frequently in transition. The thought of Asik cleaning up the glass on the defensive end while Holiday, Evans, Davis, & Perimeter Shooter X run the floor is a massive upgrade from last season that I don’t think enough people around the NBA recognize.

Nick Lewellen: The match ups. Assuming we keep Ryan Anderson (and it looks like we will), we will have three very good big men. Better yet, between the three we will have pretty much every skill set you’d want. That means we can be more aggressive with our line ups. We won’t have to respond to what the other team is doing. They’ll have to respond to us. Ain’t it great to have options?

Jake Madison: I’m excited that Monty finally gets the defensive center he wants in his defensive system. I’m on the opposite of belief from Mason, as I think the Pelicans slow down and run a grind-it-out style of play. It may not be fun to watch but Asik should allow the Pelicans to get back to how they played in the first season under Monty. The style of play that featured a top 10 defense and a playoff spot.

James Grayson: Like everyone above there’s the whole defensive aspect to Asik’s game that really excites you. To add to this I’ll say that an aspect to Asik’s game that won’t get discussed is his pick and roll defense. He’s not necessarily fleet of foot, however he’s one of the best 7-footers at hedging on the pick and roll and this fits perfectly with what Monty wants to do. Add in the shot-blocking, rebounding and general Turkish delight-ness and there’s a lot to be excited about.

Michael PellissierAsik’s defensive/rebounding abilities are a perfect fit. Stops help you get out in transition and attack before the defense is set, and we haven’t been able to stop anyone for a couple years now. Look for Tyreke to get loose with Asik patrolling the paint. He also fixes our weak defensive rebounding, and our guards should no longer have to crash the boards to compensate for weak frontcourt rebounders. And AD can finally roam freely.


2. Who do you think starts games for the Pelicans this season? Who finishes them?

McNamara: I think Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Asik starts games, and on most nights Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis finishes them. I believe there is a small chance that Salmons starts at SF and gets 15-20 minutes, allowing Tyreke to change the game off the bench, but the addition of Asik allows the Pelicans to go a little smaller on the wing, knowing they have the best defensive duo in the NBA behind them. Meanwhile, Anderson is just too deadly and opens up the offense too much to keep him off the floor at the end of the game. Rebounding might be a bit of a problem, but the Finishing Five will create more problems for the opposition than they will have themselves.

Ginsberg: Holiday-Gordon-Salmons-Davis-Asik, although I’d love to be wrong and see Evans replace Salmons in that lineup. Regardless, Evans and Anderson should both play twice as many minutes as Salmons, who will be in the game to fill the floor-spacing role that Morrow left. The closers will be the same “finishing five” as last season, although if games get particularly close in crunch time, don’t be surprised to see the Asik-for-Anderson defense-for-offense subs.

Lewellen: Holiday-Gordon-Salmons-Davis-Asik, and this is actually my preferred starting lineup. I’d rather have Evans and Ryno enter the game together, because last season they showed the makings of quite a dynamic duo. We could just destroy second units with those two guys featured. I agree with everyone else on the closers. I think the 5th closer (either Anderson or Asik) will depend entirely on what the team needs based off the opponent. Again, ain’t it great to have some good options?

Madison: Holiday-Gordon-Salmons-Davis-Asik, but I don’t think Salmons solely plays with that bunch. He should receive maybe around 20 minutes a game which allows a lot of flexibility when it comes to the core-player-lineups. Mason nailed the finishing five–especially the Asik for Anderson sub since Monty loves to go with offensive-defensive subs late in games.

Grayson: Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Asik to start and Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis to finish. I mean it’s quite a standard response however I would expect things to be very fluid in terms of lineups. A lot will depend on matchups and who the Pelicans are actually playing so don’t expect Monty to be consistent with his starters and who he finishes with. As a wildcard don’t rule out Asik finishing games. Monty seems to have a love affair with centers and if Asik performs I wouldn’t rule him out from finishing games.

PellissierSame as many of the others: Holiday-Gordon-Salmons-Davis-Asik to start and Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis to finish. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Evans start in place of Salmons either.


3. Where does the Davis-Asik-Anderson trio rank amongst NBA front line trios?

McNamara: Second. I think the Bulls trio of Noah/Gibson/Gasol is more proven, but if and when Anthony Davis takes another leap, I think the Pelicans rise to first. The fact that you can throw an elite offensive duo (Anderson/Davis) or an elite defensive duo (Davis/Asik) out there at any time and change the game is a coaches dream. The Anderson/Asik combo gives you a perfect blend of both, and the thought that at least two of those guys will be on the floor for every second of the game should give opposing teams nightmares.

Ginsberg: Great question here. Some of the best in my opinion, for some perspective: Griffin/Jordan/Hawes, Gibson/Noah/Gasol, Nowitzki/Chandler/Wright, Love/Pekovic/Dieng, Randolph/Gasol/Koufos. First things first – there is not a more versatile 3-man front court combo than Davis/Asik/Anderson in regards to the ability to succeed at both ends of the court, and it’s not particularly close. If all I was worried about was winning a game tomorrow, I think I would take the Clippers’ trio by a hair, with the Pelicans’ coming in right behind them. By mid-season, though, it would not surprise me in the least if my answer changes to NOLA’s guys by a solid margin.

Lewellen: First, when everyone is healthy. I really like what the Bulls and Dallas have, but they don’t have the diversity or youth of our lineup. Sure, we will need Davis to take that next step, but his development so far has been off the charts. I don’t see any reason to think his rate of development dips below average this season. That means it will be a trio with a legit young superstar and two perfect compliments. Who else has that?

Madison: I wanted to say second or third but then I really looked at it and I have to say first. The Bulls snagging Gasol is a great move, but he shouldn’t be playing 36 minutes a night anymore. The Clippers have a strong trio but Jordan’s abysmal free throw shooting knocks them down some. But pairing elite defense with scoring versatility sets the Pelicans ahead of everyone.

Grayson: Being a homer I’ll say first, but there are a lot of good front lines around the league. For the sake of it my top front lines in the league are as follows: One, Pelicans (Davis, Anderson, Asik). Two, Chicago (Noah, Gibson, Gasol). Three, Minnesota (Love/Pekovic/Dieng). Four, Detroit (Drummond/Monroe/Smith). Five, Dallas (Nowitzki, Chandler, Wright).

PellissierNoah/Gibson/Gasol/Mirotic is the best frontcourt in the league, I think. I’m also a big fan of Gortat/Nene/Humphries, Dirk/Tyson/Wright, DJ/Hawes/Griffin, Horford/Millsap/Antic, and of course Duncan/Diaw/Splitter. Given my lofty expectations of Anthony Davis, I really think this could be the second or third best frontcourt in the league.

4. Is there one Western Conference playoff team that you feel confident in saying the Pelicans are better than? If so, who?

McNamara: The Grizzlies and the Trailblazers. Personally, I think that the Pelicans were better than both of these teams, when healthy, last year. Now, the Pelicans have added Asik, while the big additions for these two teams are Chris Kaman (Blazers) and Vince Carter (Grizzlies). Everything broke right injury wise for Portland last year, and while people felt so sorry for the Grizzlies for losing Marc Gasol last season, their key guys only missed 35 games total. The Pelicans would have killed for that. If all three teams have the same luck this season, the Pelicans are easily the best of that trio.

Ginsberg: The Pelicans’ posted an average scoring margin of +8 against the Grizzlies last season, so I have zero hesitation when saying that they’re better than Memphis, who basically have only swapped Ed Davis for Vince Carter so far this offseason. Apart from that, it’s tough to confidently say anything until the games start getting played; the Spurs, Thunder & Clippers will be at the top again, the Rockets still have James Harden & Dwight Howard, the Warriors are still ripe with talent, & the Mavericks added a couple of Chandlers (Tyson & Parsons). The only reasonable choice left would be the Trail Blazers, who experienced near-perfect health last season and could regress next season. That being said, I’m not ready (yet) to suggest that New Orleans is better than Portland, though it would not surprise me in the least.

Lewellen: We aren’t better than the Spurs, Thunder, or the Clippers. I’m not sure how to feel about the Rockets, given the way their offseason has gone so far. I could see that being a dysfunctional team in no time. The Warriors are probably still better than us. I’m not sure about Dallas. I’m leaning towards yes, but I want to see how Parsons works out. I’m confident we are better than Portland and Memphis, for all the reasons listed above.

Madison: Memphis. They haven’t done much this offseason to improve while the Pelicans have added a massive, key piece. Couple that with health and a next-level leap from Davis. Future is looking good.

Grayson: Seeing as the question asked for one I’ll have to go with the Rockets. They are a terrible defensive team and added Ariza while losing Parsons, Asik and Lin. Roster stability is something very few people value these days and Houston doesn’t have much of it recently. The Pelicans, when healthy are a much better team.

Pellissier: the Memphis Grizzlies. But honestly, better may not be as important as healthierEvery year, X teams struggle with major injuries en route to clinching or falling short of playoff spots. Portland was absurdly healthy last year and the Pelicans were absurdly unhealthy, but that doesn’t mean that this year fortunes will change. Given perfect health for everyone, I think the Pelicans are the 6th-9th best team in the West- after the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Mavericks, Warriors. I think we’re in the same tier as Portland, Memphis, and Houston.


5. What is your overall grade for the Pelicans offseason?

McNamara: An A. I said it on the podcast Sunday and I will stick with it. I know that the signing of John Salmons leaves a bit of a sour taste in some peoples’ mouths because it was the last move, and we always remember the most recent thing. But I like Salmons for the intangibles that he brings and think he is a better spot-up shooter than most people realize. But this summer isn’t about Salmons. It is about adding Asik while keeping our core and some nice fringe pieces as well. It’s about bringing in some new blood in Russ Smith and Patric Young – two proven winners who are incredibly hungry and fit the culture this organization is trying to build. Dell has pulled another rabbit out of his has by getting Asik. Now, it is time for Monty to coach them up.

Ginsberg: B+. You can whine about the Pelicans not being able to unload Eric Gordon’s contract, or you can be happy about what they were able to do despite having that contract on the books. I choose the latter, as New Orleans’ ability to add an elite defensive center while sacrificing zero players who figured to get minutes next season was truly remarkable. Jeff Duncan said it well yesterday morning: “The Pelicans went into the offseason with few resources at their disposal and have managed to add starting center Omer Asik and potentially three key reserves, combo forward Omri Casspi; rookie point guard Russ Smith and power forward Patric Young to the five-man core of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. Impressive work, Dell Demps.” (He notes that Casspi is likely to be waived & replaced with John Salmons.) Impressive work, indeed. If Asik can be extended for a reasonable price (ideally right after the Pelicans dump Gordon & add their long-term solution at SF next offseason), then this grade will retroactively jump to an A/A+.

Lewellen: A, and I’m not sure how it could be less. First, we acquire Asik. There was a cost, which many Dell Doubters are quick to point out. But if you’re going to point out the cost, acknowledge that there was a point in time, not even a year ago, when the cost was much higher. Maybe it wasn’t as high as 2 first rounders, like some reports suggested. Still, it was higher. And sure, Salmons isn’t a sexy signing, but he fits a role. If you consider all the possible outcomes for the Pelicans’ offseason before the offseason started, this is one of the best. So Dell gets a high grade in my book.

Madison: It’s a B+ right now. The Asik move to me is an A- but the lack of movement on Gordon is what drags the grade now. But if the team makes the playoffs and actually keeps the first round pick which was sent to the Rockets? Well, that would certainly boost it up!

Grayson: A-, personally I never saw how Gordon could’ve been traded and the only thing that is holding me back from an A is finding a solid small-forward option as I don’t think Salmons is ideal. For Dell Demps and his staff it would of been tough to ask to find better talent with the position his roster was in. Overall, very pleased and fans should be excited when this team finally gets healthy and stays on the court for a sustained period of time.

Pellissier: B+. I love the Asik addition, but we’re still short a small forward that we can depend on for major minutes. I realize that there is time to add that for the future, but as of right now, the Pelicans walk into the season without a solid contributor at that position (though I’m happy with Salmons playing a role). Losing Morrow and Smith hurts, but they can be replaced. I’m just glad Dell was able to add Asik without throwing away any other of our key contributors. It was a solid offseason by all accounts.

]]> 20
An Educated Guess on the New Orleans Pelicans Rotation Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:25:46 +0000 I have spent a lot of time (maybe too much) studying Monty’s rotations over the years. Whenever I hear vague comments and accusations thrown around, it is in my nature to want to learn more so I can be better informed. There is no accusation thrown at Monty more than, “His rotations are horrible.” Going back and watching all of the games when the Pelicans were healthy, I made it my top priority to observe his rotations and try to see what it was that got people so angry. I found nothing. In fact, I liked what he did 99% of the time.

The only thing that bothered me was that he would get far too nervous when AD picked up two fouls in the first half or had four in the third quarter, and often yanked him for too long. But other than that, he had a nice way of staggering units at the right time and was able to get his stars proper rest. I became familiar with his pattern and his thought process from watching that stretch, and now I want to carry that over here and try to project his rotation, seeing that the final roster is essentially in place.

Starting Unit


I think there is a small chance that he starts Salmons at SF so that Evans can change games off the bench, but with Asik and Davis as the second line of your defense, you can go a little small on the wings. This unit will feature Gordon heavily to start the games, as the Pelicans will look to get him off to a hot start, which should open things up for the team as a whole later in the game. Expect this unit to run a lot as well, with Davis and Asik controlling the glass and quickly getting it out to one of the guards on the break.

Substitution at 7 minutes


Salmons and Anderson come in for Gordon and Asik, as Monty often moved Davis over to center after the opposing big wore down a little bit and wasn’t as aggressive. This unit will feature a heavy dose of drive and kicks by Tyreke and Holiday, along with rim runs by Davis that should result in numerous dunks with all these shooters on the court. Keeping Evans on the court gives you just enough rebounding to allow this to work, and though Salmons did not have a great season last year, he id shoot 42.6% on catch and shoot threes.

Substitution at 2 minutes


Monty often made a substitution at the 2 minute mark, which I thought was smart because, along with the end of 1st quarter break, it really increases the ‘real-time’ minutes that a guy gets to rest for. He almost always pulled AD at this point and got Rivers into the flow of the game, rather than starting him cold at the beginning of the 2nd. This unit will feature a lot of Holiday and Anderson, often starting with the guards in a pick and roll with Asik. Asik will rim run, and if the defense sucks up on the shooters, Asik should get some easy dunks. If not, three balls will rain from the heavens.

Beginning of the 2nd Quarter


Gordon comes in and again is the focal point of the offense, with Anderson and Rivers also getting some looks. On paper, this unit looks like it can be torn apart defensively, but 9 times out of 10, the opposition will have 4 to 5 reserves on the court to start the second quarter, so Rivers hounding the ball and Asik protecting the rim should be enough to get by.

Substitution at 9 minutes


Monty almost always reinserted Davis here unless he had two fouls already. That strategy allowed AD to get close to 12-15 minutes of real-time rest, despite only missing five on the court. He does the same thing here with Evans, and more likely than not, the opposition will still be pretty reserve heavy, so look for this unit to absolutely blitz them on the defensive, which will lead to easy points on the other end.

Substitution at 5 minutes


The Finishing Five makes its first appearance. At this point, everybody will have had a chance to get involved in the game and this unit could just go on a massive run to give the Pelicans momentum heading into the locker room. Ideally, the Pelicans can be in or near the penalty and live at the line with this lineup of quality free throw shooters and/or get plenty of layups and three-point looks. And on the other end, this is where AD’s weight gain needs to pay off, as he needs to control the glass for this 5 minutes stretch.

Second Half

Rinse and Repeat for the second half.

Minutes Distribution

Anthony Davis – 38 (20 with Anderson and 18 with Asik)

Tyreke Evans – 38 (28 at SF, 10 at SG)

Jrue Holiday – 34

Eric Gordon – 34

Ryan Anderson – 30

Omer Asik – 28

John Salmons – 20

Austin Rivers – 18


Now, this is going to seem weird, but I am going to start off this final part of the piece by disagreeing with myself. The other common theme with Monty when this team was healthy was that he usually had a 9-man rotation. As you can see, I only have minutes for 8 guys when everyone is healthy. But I am having a hard time finding minutes for anyone else here. Maybe you can give Babbitt some minutes in the place of Salmons or perhaps you can argue that he will give Ajinca 4 or 5 minutes in the first half. This was actually quite common in the stretch where the Pelicans were healthy this year. A 4th big would get a couple of minutes in the first half, and none in the second half. But who do you want to take away minutes from? 38 is perfect for an elite guy like AD, and Asik and Ryno are barely getting enough minutes as it is.

The real issue here is that this team will face injuries, and when those injuries happen to Evans, Gordon, or Holiday, this team could be in big trouble. If Holiday or Gordon goes down, Evans can slide down and get all his minutes at guard, while Rivers can eat up some minutes there too, but then we are left with a huge hole at small forward. You probably don’t want Salmons getting more than 20 minutes (and some people don’t even want that many), and the options behind him seem thin. I mean, nobody wants any of the bigs to go down, but if one does, the two other elite guys can get more minutes and you have viable options behind them in Ajinca, Babbitt, Withey, and Young.

Behind Salmons at small forward will likely be Darius Miller (if he is re-signed) and maybe one of the wing players from Summer League. Going from Evans to one of those guys is clearly the biggest possible downgrade on the roster. And again, an injury to any of our three premier perimeter players thrusts one of those guys into the rotation. Or maybe the Pelicans can keep Evans at the small forward and go really small, playing Russ Smith a couple of minutes with Holiday, Rivers, or Gordon. Or maybe Babbitt can get a few minutes at small forward against the oppositions’ reserves.

As you are probably starting to see, I am beginning to reach here. But quite simply, guys have to step up. Whether that’s Darius Miller or one of the guys on the summer league team. Because injuries will happen, and if history is any indicator, they will probably happen to Gordon and/or Evans at some point in the season for a handful of games. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that this roster has a weakness – nearly every one in the NBA does.

What is more exciting to think about are its strengths. Think about a team that will have two fantastic bigs on the court at all times and at least one dynamic guard on the court with them as well. Think about lineups that can absolutely lock a team down on offense or offensive minded lineups that can drop 15 points in three minutes. With this roster, Monty can throw out either kind of lineup. He can adjust to the opposition or make them adjust to him. He has the talent to win games in a multitude of ways, and it will be fun to see just how dominant they can be if utilized properly.


]]> 20
New Orleans Pelicans Sign Russ Smith Wed, 16 Jul 2014 06:17:21 +0000 Just prior to the press conference to introduce Omer Asik, the New Orleans Pelicans announced another move, the signing of Russ Smith, the second round pick they got in exchanged for the draft right to Pierre Jackson. Both players were drafted by the 76ers.

Press Release

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has signed guard Russ Smith. Per club policy, terms of the contract were not released.

Smith, the 47th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers on June 27, 2014. He recently completed his senior season at the University of Louisville, becoming the only player in program history with at least 1,800 points, 350 assists and 250 steals. Over the course of his career, the 6’0” guard led the Cardinals to two Big East Tournament titles, the American Athletic Conference Tournament title, two NCAA Final Fours and a school-record 35 wins in 2012-13 en route to the NCAA Championship.

In his senior campaign, the unanimous all-AAC first team member averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.0 steals on his way to being named a consensus All-American. He guided Louisville to the AAC Championship and garnered AAC Championship Most Outstanding Player honors by averaging 25.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 steals in the tournament.

As a junior, Smith helped Louisville win an NCAA Championship and earned All-Big East First Team accolades with averages of 18.7 points, 2.9 assists and 2.1 steals. He averaged 22.3 points and 2.5 steals per game in the Cardinals’ six NCAA Tournament contests.

Over the course of four seasons, Smith appeared in 133 games and averaged 14.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals. He completed his career as the school’s all-time steals leader (256) and finished second in free throws (488).

Here are some of are articles about Smith:


John Reid had some interesting notes on Smith contract details here.

The Pelicans did not release the financial details of the contract or its length, but a league source confirmed that Smith agreed to a two-year guaranteed contract with an option for a third year.

The option is a team option.

There is more at the link, and I encourage you to read the details that John has pulled together into a convenient package, but it’s the contract that interests me most.

Just prior to the Asik trade, the Pelicans had $995,991 in cap space. Once the trade was final, that cap space would disappear. So, in advance of the Asik trade, the New Pelicans worked out a deal with Smith and used this cap space to do it. In addition to the points John makes about second round picks not getting guaranteed money so early, they are also, for a number of reasons, often signed using the minimum salary exception. This exception only allows deals for a maximum of 2 seasons, including option years. (The “rookie” exception is only for first round draft picks being signed to rookie scale contracts). The same 2 season limit applies to deals signed using the Room Mid-Level Exception.

The presence of the third year, then, is an indicator that this deal was signed using some of their last bits of cap space. The basketball people in the organization are very high on Smith, and using this vanishing resource to allow a team option for a third year will help keep costs down in 2016-2017, the season where of the current players under contract only Holiday and Evans have contracts into that season, Davis’ inevitable extension will kick in, the new TV deal kicks in, and the NBA and NBPA both could opt out of the current CBA immediately following its conclusion. Any constant in that chaos could be a help.

Smith would be a restricted free agent following this contract regardless of if his option year is picked up by the team. Here is how the contract breaks down:

  • 2014-2015: $507,336, fully guaranteed
  • 2015-2016: $845,059 fully guaranteed
  • 2016-2017: $980,431, team option, restricted free agent if option not picked up but qualifying offer of $1,180,431 is tendered, fully guaranteed if it is picked up
  • 2017-2018: $1,251,245, likely qualifying offer to make Smith a restricted free agent
]]> 7
New Orleans Pelicans Acquire Omer Asik in Trade Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:24:41 +0000 The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Omer Asik today in a trade. The trade was rumored in June prior to the 2014 draft, but the trade could not happen until today for a few reasons, explained below.

The Pelicans also acquired Omri Casspi. Both Asik and Casspi came from the Houston Rockets.

Following are the deal summary, release from the team, notes from the press conference, a looong, sandwich-required explanation of the deal and the path to it, and ending with a commentary.


Pelicans Receive:

  • Omer Asik, 1 season, $8,374,646 salary figure ($14,898,938 actual salary, smaller number is for the bookkeeping)
  • Omri Casspi, 1 season, $1,063,384 (veteran minimum, fully non-guaranteed through August 5th, fully guaranteed after)
  • $1,500,000 from Houston (does not have a salary figure value)

Rockets Receive:

  • Pelicans 2015 first round pick, protected 1-3, 20-30 (Rockets receive pick if 4-19 this season, unclear after)
  • Trevor Ariza, 4 seasons, $32,000,000 ($8,600,000 first year, $400,000 decreases each year afterwards)
  • Alonzo Gee, 1 season, $3,000,000 (fully non-guaranteed)
  • Scotty Hopson, 1 season, $1,450,878 (fully non-guaranteed)

Wizards Receive:

  • Melvin Ely, 1 season, $1,316,809 (veteran minimum, fully non-guaranteed through August 1th, fully guaranteed after)

As a consequence of the deal, the Wizards also receive a trade exception for $8,600,000, the amount of the first year of Ariza’s deal. This is really the prize for them in the deal, not Ely and his expiring contract. These things are created when an over-the-cap team trades salary in an unbalanced way to an under-the-cap team. Since they are not traded, I did not include it above, but I wanted to mention it so the trade motivation is understood. At this time, Washington is rumored to be looking to trade for DeJuan Blair, and this could be of use.


The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has acquired Omer Asik, Omri Casspi and cash considerations from the Houston Rockets in a three-team trade that sends Alonzo Gee, Scotty Hopson and the Pelicans’ protected first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft to the Rockets and Melvin Ely to the Washington Wizards. As part of the three-team trade, the Rockets have acquired Trevor Ariza from the Wizards.

Asik (7-0, 255) was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round (36th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft before having his draft rights traded to the Chicago Bulls. The four-year veteran has appeared in 278 games (103 starts) with the Bulls and Rockets and holds career averages of 5.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.

In 2013-14, Asik appeared in 48 games (19 starts) and averaged 5.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 20.2 minutes per game. He started all 82 regular season contests for the Rockets in the 2012-13 season, posting career-high averages of 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game.

Appearing in 33 career playoff contests over his four NBA seasons, Asik holds postseason averages of 4.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game.

Prior to the NBA, the Turkey native played for Fenerbahçe S.K. Istanbul from 2005-10.

Casspi has appeared in 327 games (96 starts) over the course of five NBA seasons with Sacramento, Cleveland and Houston, holding career averages of 7.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.7 minutes per game.

Notes from the Press Conference

  • Asik was introduced with a 3 jersey
  • Dell said the team both wants and needs Asik
  • Asik is looking forward to the music and food in New Orleans
  • The Pelicans team excites Asik
  • Dell feels that Asik is a needed piece, and that he’ll fit in well. Both of these things make the franchise feel he is worth the risk of trading a protected first round pick for a player on an expiring contract.
  • Asik is not eligible for an extension since he was signed to a 3-year deal, but Dell is confident that they can resign Asik in unrestricted free agency.
  • Dell believes that Asik and Davis playing together will benefit both players
  • Asik was the teams number one target.
  • Dell did not want to show his hand about the teams’ next highest priority.

Looong, Sandwich-Required Explanation

Since Anthony Davis joined the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012, Coach Monty Williams has tried to protect him from heavy contact and the stronger big men in the NBA and has often lamented his limitations in doing so. He said flat-out that conversations needed to be had in Basketball Operations in getting him players that will play in his style rather than having to adapt so much and so often to the roster.

All of this points to one of the two big needs on the roster . . . a classic big man who defends and rebounds, as opposed to the other, which is, simply put, a bigger talented wing player.

Pelicans fans wondered in which direction the team would go and who would be the acquisition. On the evening of June 25th, 2014, the night before the 2014 NBA draft, it was rumored that Omer Asik would be traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. The deal had a protected first heading to Houston with cash coming to New Orleans. A quick look at the books and trade rules showed that this deal count not take place until after the July moratorium, and so began a search to understand just how the deal would be completed.

Below is the attempt to explain.

First, background.

  • We need to understand why the deal had to wait. We really only need one reason, so here is one; there may be more, but that’s just piling on. Since the trade, as reported, was unbalanced, then there had to be more to the story or the Pelicans were trading Asik in cap space. The Pelican had none (like most teams), so they had to wait until the books reset following the start of the 2014-2015 NBA season and the July moratorium, a period where deals are only verbally committed to while the NBA does its accounting for the just-ended season in order to set the salary cap for the new season.
  • Some may be confused at the inclusion of the 2015 first round pick since New Orleans traded their 2014 first round pick (and the player picked with their 2013 first round pick for that matter). The NBA has a rule that does not allow trades of first round picks that could, in any possible way, leave the team with 2 consecutive future first round picks. The Holiday trade was legal because they made the pick, then traded the player and one future pick. Once that draft had passed, they could then trade the 2015 pick since they are not without consecutive future picks. This could go on forever and be within the rules.
  • $1,500,000 in cash was also reported to be traded from Houston to New Orleans. This cash has a role in trades, but it has no value in salary calculations. Cash is simpl a thing of value that can be used in a trade to help motivate moves and complete them in some cases, but it does not enter into the salary calculations.
  • A point about Asik’s deal needs to be addressed here. He is paid more than his cap figure indicates . . . and by a large amount. This has to do with the manner in which he was acquired by Houston. The salary he is paid (equal to that of Eric Gordon) is Tom Benson’s problem, and is meaningless going forward other than that (and that may in fact matter, as each team has it’s own internal spending limits set by the will and capacity of ownership relative to the business of basketball). While it may have affected the willingness of teams to deal for Asik or affect the value in return for him, it plays no part in making the mechanics of the deal work. The figure of $8,374,646 is all that matters going forward in this article. THAT is what matters in the trade calculations.
  • Asik was unhappy in Houston following the acquisition of Dwight Howard in free agency in 2013, and he was vocal enough about this for it to be clear to many observers. As such, this may have depressed his market. Additionally, Houston was trying to build a title contender, and discontentment disrupts these efforts.
  • In an effort to win a title, Houston was making a big free agent play, with realistic hopes of landing either Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony this season. To make this move, they needed to clear space. Thus, a trade for Asik that clears his entire salary figure supports this, and this was a key parameter of the deal for Houston, so the Pelicans offering a only a pick, even protected, was a big plus for them.

Now that we understand the key aspects of the deal, especially the hidden fact that Houston was greatly benefiting from clearing cap space, it leads us to determine just how this will happen. Once the books for 2013-2014 were closed and those of 2014-2015 were opened, it was clear that the Pelicans simply did not have the cap space to do the job, and the projections at the end of 2013-2014 were good enough to make it clear from the start.

As is always the case with Dell, a move is needed to make the move . . . in this case, the twist was that we knew the last move but none before.

The Pelicans had four basic routes to do this, a combinations of them would work:

  • Clear space by waiving players, even those with guaranteed contracts, and cap holds
  • Clear space by trading players
  • Find multi-team deal in which at least one other team could absorb salary
  • Trade players with non-guaranteed deals to Houston

The first two routes potentially give up assets that may have more value later since the Pelicans could not create enough room by simply waiving their minimum contract non-guaranteed players. The space created by such a move would only be $6,939,807. To clear the around-$2,000,000 needed to absorb Asik’s deal (the cap was not set exactly at the time, so one had to work from conservative estimates), the Pelicans would have to lose Austin Rivers, who may not be at his peak trade value at this time.

The third is complicated and would almost certainly require the Pelicans or Houston sending out an asset of value not already discussed.

The fourth was then the simplest option. The team had the non-guaranteed contracts of Melvin Ely ($1,316,809), Luke Babbitt ($981,084), and the $100,000-guaranteed deal of Jeff Withey ($816,482), which may or may not have been acceptable to Houston. We’ll assume so for the time being. Using the Traded Player Exception (TPE) rather than can room to make the deal would only require $5,516,431 in salary leaving the Pelicans. This is because the trade rules state that for deals where the salary totals for the involved players are below $9,800,000 for each team, then the larger of the incoming and outgoing salaries can be within $100,000 or 150% of the smaller. This outgoing figure for the Pelicans allows them to absorb $100,000 + 1.5 * ($5,516,431) = $8,374,646.50, which is just over Asik’s salary. Thus, $5,516,431 is the smallest such salary, and the Pelicans were well short of that using their most-contractually-waivable players.

Since no single option worked, a combination was required.

Also, a choice had to be made: over the cap, or under the cap. This choice is perhaps more complex that it seems on the surface.

  • If the Pelicans could stay over the cap, they would have access to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception ($5,305,000), the Bi-Annual Exception ($2,077,000), and keep any Full Bird, Early Bird, and Non-Bird rights to their free agents not lost through free agency or in sign-and-trades
  • If the Pelicans went under the cap, they would only have access to the Room Mid-Level Exception ($2,732,000) and a reduced number of the various Bird rights, which would limit the ability to bring such players back or use the sign-and-trade mechanism to add assets, but they would have more flexibility in making the Asik deal work due not only to lower salary but to actual rules governing trades

There are other Exceptions they have access to in either case, thus, they are not part of the decision-making.

As it turns out, the Pelicans chose to go under the cap, losing the larger Mid-Level. A possible consequence of this was the loss of Anthony Morrow, but certainly the ability to sign a free agent commanding more than $2,732,000 . . . the difference between $5,305,000 and $2,732,000 is pretty big in the NBA.

In order to go under the cap, the Pelicans renounced the cap holds of Al-Farouq Aminu ($7,214,244), Jason Smith ($4,750,000), and James Southerland ($816,482). Once Anthony Morrow agreed to sign with Oklahoma City, his cap hold ($915,243) could be removed. Removing the Southland cap hold was nearly meaningless, and he could easily sign again for the minimum. The Aminu and Smith holds being renounced removed the Pelicans’ ability to use the Bird Exception to sign the players or sign-and-trade them. They can still be signed using another exception or space, or they could be signed-and-traded using space (and this is still true at the time of this writing). The Pelicans’ cap space, however, is quite low, however, and this means that the Room Exception would be the only likely way to retain either player for above the minimum salary (and this is still true at the time of this writing . . . and this is likely how the rumored Salmons signing will take place).

The Pelicans’ had $57,202,888 in contracts (Gordon, Evans, Holiday, Anderson, Davis, Rivers, Ely, Ajinca, Babbitt, Withey) and had cap holds for Miller ($915,243) and Roberts ($915,243). Since the salary cap is $63,065,000 and no Incomplete Roster Charge is necessary, this leaves $4,531,626. Keeping in mind that the Pelicans could not simply waive their non-guaranteed contracts to create space, they traded for additional non-guaranteed contracts using the cap space they created.

First, they used a top-55 protected 2016 Clippers’ second round pick to get Alonzo Gee from the Cavaliers. His contract is for one season at $3,000,000 and is fully non-guaranteed for the season. The Pelicans could do this trade because they were under the cap, so they can execute unbalanced trades. Cleveland was just going to send Gee out in another deal, but sent him to New Orleans instead. The second round pick may actually become a pick for them, but it can also be used in deals such as this, so it’s an asset for them when they would have just lost a player.

This reduced their cap room to $1,531,626, but increased their total non-guaranteed salary to $5,297,893, which is still less than the required $5,516,431. If we include Withey, it works, but he’s $100,000 guaranteed. Plus, he’s an asset, as is Babbitt. Acquiring another non-guaranteed contract could preserve both Withey (if Houston or a third team would have him) and Babbitt. This player would need to have a contract worth at least $1,199,622.

Once Brian Roberts agreed to terms with Charlotte, his hold was removed, and the Pelicans’ space increased to $2,446,869. Miller’s hold could be removed, as it had very little practical value unless he was going to sign for more than the minimum somewhere, and then his Early Bird Rights would be potentially useful. This created a narrow band with ceiling of $2,446,869 or $3,362,112 without Miller’s hold and floor of $1,199,622. A few NBA contracts fit the bill, and Dell got one.

Scotty Hopson’s expiring contract is fully non-guaranteed and is worth $1,450,878, right in the needed band. He was traded from Cleveland to Charlotte after Dell traded for Gee. Gee was originally part of the Cleveland-Charlotte deal that sent Brendan Haywood and the rights to Dwight Powell. I’m not sure why the switch was made, but it may have been to help Charlotte maintain cap space for negotiations or set-up potential deals or executions that did not manifest. At any rate, the Pelicans acquired Hopson for cash. This deal is legal because it a trade into the Pelicans’ cap space and players can be traded immediately after being received in a trade. Since he and Gee were received into cap space, they can be aggregated immediately, too. In other words, they can be traded in one big transaction to receive one player (if necessary) rather than only being able to receive players into the smaller separate slots created if each is considered alone.

Now, the Pelicans can trade the contracts of Melvin Ely, Alonzo Gee, and Scotty Hopson away and receive Omer Asik.

But, that, of course, could not be the end of it. Washington wanted to work their Ariza free agency deal into a sign-and-trade. This would give the Wizards a Trade Exception. The Rockets could then use some cap space in another deal before acquiring Ariza, if that proved useful, and maybe this was a condition of Washington not bidding higher for Ariza (or at least using that as a negotiation tactic). The Pelicans were already trading, so it did not affect them. In order to make the deal work, the Pelicans simply had to send an asset to Washington, and they are sending Melvin Ely. With that, each team is giving something, each team is receiving something, and each team “touches” two others, which is rule.

As a final wrinkle, the Rockets sent the Pelicans Omri Casspi in the trade. Since Casspi is on a minimum salary contract, his incoming salary can be ignored, per trade rules, and is absorbed using the Minimum Salary Exception. The same goes for Ely, which preserves Washington’s Trade Exception amount. Casspi’s addition also allowed Houston to treat this trade as one that allows them to go over the cap, should that be necessary.

Some details:

  • The Pelicans preserved every contract on their books at the start of the 2014-2015 season (along with any potential deals involving those contracts) and added Asik and Casspi. This brings the roster to 11, with Miller’s hold on the books and Aminu, Smith, and Southerland unsigned.
  • By going under the cap, the Pelicans lost access to a pair of exceptions, including the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception worth $5,305,000. As some speculate, this may have cost them a chance to retain Morrow. The alternative may have been to lose an asset such as Rivers, or perhaps the chance to simply trade Rivers suitably was not there.
  • Besides the cash that may have been net sent or received, and using up some of the cash-trade limit, the only assets given up by the Pelicans, other than the opportunity cost listed just above, was the top-55 protected Clippers’ 2016 second round pick and the 1-3 + 20-30 protected Pelicans’ 2015 first round pick. The first round pick has that same protection through 2020. Then, the pick is top-3 protected. If the protection triggers, it converts to a second round pick. As a consequence, the Pelicans can not trade another future first round pick until this pick is conveyed or the pick is converted to a second round pick.
  • Casspi’s salary being added to the deal allows Houston to make this trade using the Traded Player Exception, should that be necessary. Without Casspi, the Rockets were sending out only Asik’s $8,374,646, which allows a return of $12,661,969. Adding Casspi to the deal allows them to take back $14,257,045. Ariza, Gee, and Hopson have a total contract value of $13,050,878. It should be noted that Houston can retain these large expiring contracts for future trades, but they will have to wait to trade them in aggregate if this happens by way of an exception, as it appears it will.
  • Since Casspi was traded pursuant to an exception, unlike Hopson and Gee, the Pelicans can not trade him and aggregate his salary immediately. As such, they will likely give him a look at a minimum. Given the needs of the team and his strengths, it could be reasonable to keep him around were it not for a rumored future signing of John Salmons. Casspi can be traded immediately or later, but if they can’t use his contract or his talents, he may be waived.
  • As noted above, Washington is viewing this as a non-simultaneous deal, and is receiving a trade exception. Ely’s deal does not affect the size of the deal since he was traded into a minimum salary exception. Him going to Washington serves two purposes: Some asset had to be passed between Washington and New Orleans, and Houston did not need to send out even more salary.
  • Asik’s deal expires after this season, and the Pelicans will have his Full Bird Rights. Thus, they will be able sign him to whatever deal they see fit and go over the cap to do so. He is not, however, eligible for an extension since his contract was only 3 years in length.
  • At least one reason for the deal taking so long was the fact that Melvin Ely could not be traded for 3 months after he signed as a free agent. However, a large reason for this deal happening was the late-season signing of Ely. As it seems, the waiving of Stiesmsa at that time was not primarily an indictment of Stiemsma or an endorsement of Ely. Rather, it was made to facilitate a trade.
  • Babbitt is still on the roster and his fully non-guaranteed contract is still on the books. Dell also may have roster spots to get more such deals.


As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been quiet. This is for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I am not a paid writer, reporter, or journalist, so when life demands it, I must spend my time elsewhere, and this is still happening, but life is settling down (some). I am a fan. I write, but I’m more of an analyst and thinker. My talent for these and writing has let me to place where I talk to fans about my thoughts and get some access to the team, which is very nice, but a heavy responsibility.

We here at Bourbon Street Shots are an assorted group, but we set aside part of our lives to bring our thoughts, opinions, and more to you, the city, the team, and anyone who cares.

For that we get some nice praise at times, which is, at times, nice.

In the end, this is all we are, and I don’t think we pretend to be anything else. We are thankful that some give us the encouragement as assistance to do the best job we can, which is not perfect by any means, with the time we have.

What I do, as I said, is analyze, research, educate. This is what I do in my life . . . all of it . . . including this. In most cases here, my subjects are not the typical fare of basketball fans and enthusiasts, but the off-court stuff of salary, law, and business. While some focus on the players and Monty, I focus more on Dell and Dennis.

Sitting back for years and watching them work as I peek over the fence at others in parallel roles, and I know they are doing good jobs, especially given the state of the franchise 2 – 4 years ago.

Given all this and my background, I sit with patience and try to figure out what is going on using the data provided and the rules as I understand them. I try to figure out what Dell does and what he’s thinking. I don’t ask him. The last time I talked to him, I didn’t ask him what he was going to do, as that ruins the fun. I asked him to explain a couple of things past to me, and he did quite openly. These were small things, and they just helped me think in the manner I wanted . . . as Dell. This is not to say I wish to only think like Dell; I wish to add that arrow to my quiver.

I told him he was sneaky, and we moved on to other topics. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and he’s a fun subject of inquiry since he is so very crafty and so infuriatingly patient.

He is also a professional. He’s paid (a PILE of money) to do this. He knows the rules, he knows the options, and he knows the plan. Now, he may screw it all up, he may take the good gamble or the ridiculous risk and the dice just don’t work out, and he may be a genius with a horseshoe . . . somewhere. At any rate, it’s him that is the subject.

There is a choice any observer can make when trying to sort out Dell’s moves. One can discuss the moves, or one can discuss the discussion. I prefer the former, others prefer the latter. I find the latter to be simply wasteful after a point. Rather than trying to sort out all the comments about rumored moves, deciding if there were actually better options, getting upset about the idea of potentially better moves, I find it more useful to simply study what the man does, the rules he has to operate by, and the situation the franchise is in to understand the why’s of it all.

Others can make their own choice, but for a man in my position, I prefer to just focus on what that talented professional is doing so I can judge him correctly at the end of it all . . . the good and the bad. The story is not over, so any of my judgments (such as, “I like this move,” which I do), are scratched in sand, not etched in stone. When the movie is over, when the hero cries, when boy gets the girl . . . that’s when I will pronounce my nearly worthless judgment on the prowess of Dell Demps at a job I never had and never will have . . . because I’m not good enough at THAT to have it. Same goes for whose who are keeping him around.

In this case, I will take note of what Dell Demps gave up in order to trade for Omer Asik and Omri Casspi, how he kept the roster intact by trading away bookkeeping assets and players-acquired-for-the-purpose rather than clearing cap space, and how he gave up exceptions that could have been used to go retain some players and go after others.

I just jot them down . . . and watch.

]]> 27
Pelicans lose to Spurs by 2. Dangit. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 00:24:38 +0000 The Pelicans failed to capitalize on their strength advantage as the Spurs – a lousy rebounding team, controlled the boards and edged out a two point win.  My observations:

  • Russ wasn’t wearing his awesome pastel shoes tonight.  It made me sad.  I think it also affected his game.  His opening quarter was brutal.  Almost every time he got near the rim, something bad happened.  The truth, however, is the Pelicans looked awful offensively when Russ sat down as the team’s ability to get penetration sputtered.  Even if he mixed turnovers in with bad floaters, he also opened up numerous offensive rebounds and wing jumpers with his assaults on the rim.  He finished with 14 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers.  I”m not sure I believe it was only 3.
  • Russ’s ability to anticipate where a dribbler is going is awesome.  He beats people to their spot all the time.
  • The Miscues were comical early in the game.  I particularly loved the alley-oop that had two different players in position to dunk it.  Both saw it, thought it was for the other guy, and pulled back.  Turnover.
  • Joel Meyers voice is fantastic.  The Lakers have let a lot of talent go recently – but Joel might be the dumbest cut.
  • Fells is a shooter with a few moves of the dribble.  Not much to say about him except that his shooting made me cackle more than once.  Yes, I cackle.  Shut up.
  • Josh Carter?  Every bit the shooter Fells has been.  And better shoes.  I love eye-searing yellow shoes.
  • Everyone on the Spurs wanted to take 18-footers.  I mean everyone.  They did hit a lot of them.
  • The Pelicans tried riding Onoaku in the post whenever he was out there, and it didn’t work at all.  Sometimes he failed to seal, sometimes he caught and dribbled himself nowhere, spun a couple times, and passed out for no advantage.  He also missed 8,734 easy layups.  Give or take 8,730 o f them.
  • Of couse, Withey and Young made Onuaku look like a layup master.  I’m telling you - Rim brick-fest all night.  The Pelicans should have won this game at the rim, much less the line.  And oh, the line . . .
  • The Pelicans couldn’t hit a free throw.  At all.   Everyone was missing.  Game was even all fourth – but the Pelicans left 15 points at the line, including two bricks with 30 seconds to go that would have put the team up 3.  Sad face again.
  • In the fourth, the Pelicans stopped playing Young and Withey together out there, which helped because Austin Daye was destroying them as a stretch forward.  Then, for the last 2 minutes, they put both of them back out there, and Daye wasn’t really contained.  That made me make my sad face too.
  • DeQuan Jones is a pure slasher.  Even if he’s open, he’s taking the ball to the hole.  I wasn’t sure he even had a jumper until he buried a rainbow three pointer with 30 seconds to go.  If I was picking a SF to make training camp right now – I take Jones. (Though if he keeps forgetting what a rebound is, maybe I become a free agent SF promoter)

One day, I’ll learn not to make fun of the other team in my preview.  That never ends well.

]]> 4
Game On: Pelicans vs Spurs Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:28:22 +0000 Destruction in the Desert. Violence in Vegas. That’s right. Tonight, the Pelicans take on the Spurs in a game that means everything. Will the upstart young Pelicans defeat the veteran-laden Spurs squad this summer? Will they continue to play well and put down their old division rival and rise to the league playoffs?

Some of those questions will be answered tonight. At least, for the summer league teams they will. And I can safely say this game will probably be easier for the Pelicans to take than any regular season battle would be. The Summer League incarnation of the Spurs is pretty small. Dainty even. Veteran Summer Leaguer and 26-year old Austin Daye is their leading rebounder and if you’ve ever seen Daye you’ld know he could turn sideways behind a sapling and you’d never know he was there. Combine that with a team-wide 36% shooting percentage, and the Pelicans summer shooters/formidable front line should be able to take this easily.  You can also see if Kyle Anderson – the favorite of many Pelican fans this off-season – can make an impact and keep the game interesting.

Still – if you want to see the Pelicans smack around the Spurs, this is probably your most likely chance in the next 12 months – so watch this game! Russ Smith is fun, Courtney Fells is balding and knows how to shoot, Patric Young and Arinze Onoaku can bench press elephants and Jeff Withey has a full head of impeccably parted hair. Good stuff!

Oh, and the NBA is only charging you $4.99 to watch any games you want to. Take advantage. I did.

]]> 6
What does Lebron’s return to Cleveland mean for small markets? Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:30:38 +0000 For the past five years a growing sentiment around the professional basketball world has been the neglect of small market basketball franchises. This has been pushed mostly through the superstar movements around the league. When Lebron decided to leave Cleveland many fretted that it was only a matter of time that others followed. To some extent it was true.

Deron Williams left Utah, Carmelo wanted the bright lights of New York, Dwight Howard was sick of Orlando and Chris Paul wanted to raise his profile on a bigger stage. Years before, Kevin Garnett left Minnesota and Ray Allen from Seattle. Shaquille O’Neal forced his way to Los Angeles and don’t forget Pau Gasol too.

Yet here we are now with the best player in the world – the most marketable – heading back to Cleveland. Many thought it would not be possible what with an owner who completely vilified the superstar for leaving just four years ago. I guess that’s fair considering how much money James had made him.

Though the move is not easily straightforward to understand when applying to the issue of parity in the NBA. Cleveland was James’ home and its unique storyline means little when using it as a case study for more small markets to gather superstar players.

The alternative to the James move is to analyse the San Antonio Spurs. Many talking heads around the league love referencing their culture and citing it as the model for small market organisations.

But in the 10 years that the Spurs have been dominate, why has there been no replication on their way to success? It’s likely because each situation is unique on its own – even if common themes perpetuate across successful organisations a like.

The relevancy to the Pelicans is whether Lebron’s move has any bearing towards their situation and Anthony Davis.

The formation of superteams has been a well-documented media narrative. Yet there are few examples to cite it as a trend. It’s the irrational accusations of player collusion that spark untoward hostility in the direction of those who play the game of basketball so well.

Anthony Davis still has much to achieve before he becomes a free-agent. But should he get to that position and leave is there not a large amount of blame to be thrown at the organisation that had him for 5-8 years?

The Pelicans cannot harbor any self-pity because they’re a small market team. They must plan like they are one of thirty, trying to build towards a championship. If the players, coaches and staff don’t treat it as such then it’s only fair that superstars like Davis look at ways to make themselves happy.

Fans too must embrace the players and Pelican supporters need to continue to turn out for games. Bandwagoners will surely help if success increases, but the support starts today.

Davis’ hometown is in Chicago and the “threat” of big markets will only remain ingrained in New Orleans’ fans psyche so long as the organisation they support remains incompetent of putting a winner together.

The good news is they appear to be doing everything to improve and that is comforting. They now have several players all capable pros with an aura of upside.

Lebron’s move back to Cleveland is exciting for small-market fans. It gives optimism where pessimism was before even though each situation is so unique to each individual player. Some want the lime light others want championships, but all do what makes them feel happy.

The underlying takeout from Lebron’s move is that players will do what they want when given the chance. It’s up to small markets to stop feeling sorry for themselves and do everything they can to make their players feel happy, wanted and have the chance to fulfil their goals and aspirations.

]]> 10
In the NO Podcast Episode 185: Offseason Moving Mon, 14 Jul 2014 05:25:07 +0000 The Asik trade is finally done after a string of moves by Dell Demps, so Michael and I deliver grades? Who did the team have to let go? Who did they keep the rights to? Is there a small forward on the team? Are the Pelicans looking for a “Starting Small Forward” or a “7th Man”?

Then we also talk the first two games of summer league! Yeah, that’s right, basketball is being played! Young is fun, Russ is crazy, and Courtney Fells is Morrow 2.0?

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

]]> 6
Red Hot Start Helps the Pelicans Take Down the Lakers Sun, 13 Jul 2014 22:50:34 +0000 Courtney Fells called himself a “more athletic Anthony Morrow” last week, and for one day at least he didn’t look so crazy. Fells dropped 25 points on just 13 shots, going 4-6 from deep to help the Pelicans defeat the Lakers 90-73. Fells jumper was working early, and that helped the Pelicans race out to a double-digit lead early in the first quarter, but he wasn’t one-dimensional by any means. Fells was able to drive to the rim and finish with both hands and also got to the line a couple of times.

But Fells wasn’t alone, as Dominique Jones and Arinze Onuaku made big contributions after not playing in the first game. Jeff Withey and Patric Young also provided a physical presence to start off the game, as Coach Gates moved Young into the starting lineup, and as a result the Pelicans controlled the boards (33-23). Russ Smith struggled to find his shot and had a few head scratching turnovers, but you could not possibly question his effort or his desire to get his teammates involved (8 assists). And Patric Young joined him in the effort department, as he dove for any and every loose ball, while going 5-6 from the field (10 points) and grabbing 6 rebounds, leading the team with a +25.

It was a balanced effort on the offensive end combined with just enough defense today, as the Pelicans move to 2-0 in Summer League. There is a solid amount of talent on this team, but what really stands out is their effort. You never see a defensive possession where guys are just standing around or an offensive possession where at least one or two guys don’t aggressively crash the boards. They are a fun team to watch, and without a doubt, an easy team to root for.

Notes and Observations

- Jeff Withey got some opportunities in the low post and made the most of them, but the most impressive play to me came up in the 2nd quarter when Withey got the ball on the wing, faced up and drained a smooth jumper. Teams are going to give him the 14-16 footer this year, and while I don’t want him taking a bunch of them, it would be nice if he can hit them.

- Patric Young showed off a nice little jump hook early on, but he also air balled one from a little further out later in the game. But, this is not where he is going to impact our team if he makes it in October. Any offense is just gravy with Young. His defense is terrific already, and he will go after any and every ball, whether it is on the glass or on the ground. I don’t know if he could get any playing time if he were to make the roster, but just having that guy in your locker room and at your practices is valuable.

- Russ Smith was the spark plug early, as he got into the lane at will and made some great kick out passes for open threes. Where he struggles is when he tries to pass the ball in and across the lane. It’s going to be an adjustment for him with all the size in the NBA, but it is hard to believe that he won’t figure it out. The one thing that will be hard for him is when his man cuts back door on the defensive end. Several times in this game, the Lakers just threw the ball over his head as his man cut and it resulted in a layup or two free throw attempts. He is a terrific on ball defender, but I can see him struggling off ball, especially since he isn’t exactly a huge deterrent when he closes out on his man.

- Onuaku is still a beast. Not very skilled, but he is a physical presence, and he (along with Withey and Young) gave Julius Randle some problems in his first game. In fact, on the buckets Randle scored, he pushed off hard with his off arm and I have to think that will get called by NBA officials. Onuaku has no chance of making our team, but I would like to see him in the league. I mean, if Hilton Armstrong can get playoff minutes….

- Josh Howard shows flashes of a guy who can still play in this league. I am really curious to see if he gets a shot.

- The Asik trade should come any time now, probably tonight or early tomorrow. From there, it will all be about locking down a solid SF. Can’t wait to see who that guy is for Demps. Edit: The Pels have traded a handful of non-guaranteed contracts for Asik and Omri Casspi. They still have the Room Exception ($2.7 million) to lock up another small forward. Dell did amazing work this summer. Hats off to him. 

]]> 25
Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Los Angeles Lakers Sun, 13 Jul 2014 14:33:44 +0000 Is there any way that this Pelicans Summer League team can top that insane comeback from Friday night? Probably not, but beating the Lakers always feels good, even if it is just a collection of second-tier players on their Summer League team. Come to think of it, that basically is what the Lakers regular season roster is comprised of, so I will chalk this up as a legit win if Russ Smith and company can pull it off.

Obviously Russ Smith and Patric Young were the big stories coming out of the last game, but according to the Pelicans staff, this summer is supposed to be all about Withey. They got him the ball early on in the post, but he really couldn’t seem to do anything with it down there. Even though he added some strength since the regular season ended, he still had trouble getting deep position on a relatively undersized Select Team roster. But honestly, I don’t care if Withey can’t score in the low post, because he should never be asked to do that for this Pelicans team in the regular season. He is a garbage man on the offensive end who really needs to learn how to set better screens. And defensively, he is a fantastic shot blocker and changer who sometimes has a really hard time getting off the ground when he is in traffic and trying to secure a rebound.

Elsewhere, the battle continues on the wing , where James Southerland, Josh Carter, Courtney Fells, and Josh Howard are all battling for a training camp invite and a potential backup spot on the Pelicans regular season roster. Meanwhile, the Lakers are lead by a backcourt that features Kendall Marshall and 2014 second-round pick Jordan Clarkson. Kevin Murphy is another dynamic scoring guard and they have their own ‘name player’ from the past as Roddy Beaubois is on their roster. Remember, when Dallas declared Beaubois untouchable in trade talks after a decent first season? That was wise.

Julius Randle is unlikely to play, in part because of concerns with his foot and in part because he hasn’t signed with the team yet. The Lakers are likely hoarding every inch of cap room for now, and Randle’s actual deal will count for 20% more than his cap hold, so that is likely the reason that no deal has been agreed upon. It would have been great to see two SEC rivals in Randle and Young go head-to-head again, but we will just have to settle for Young eating guys like Jerome Jordan alive instead. Tip off today is at 3:30 Central, and has lowered their price for the SL package down to just $5. Must buy if you haven’t already.

]]> 9
Farewell, Anthony Morrow Sat, 12 Jul 2014 17:52:38 +0000 Anthony Morrow will be moving on from New Orleans, as he has agreed to terms with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Morrow spent only one year in New Orleans, but his effort, enthusiasm, locker room presence, and lethal shooting will be sorely missed. The exact details of Morrow’s signing have yet to be released, but it appears that he will be signing with the Thunder for multiple years.


Update on terms:


Morrow was a valuable role player and a positive influence on the younger Pelicans. Though his playing time fluctuated, Morrow’s effort was consistently present, and he was certainly never afraid to take big shots. We will miss you, Anthony Morrow.  


]]> 22