BourbonStreetShots.com http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion Tue, 09 Sep 2014 16:00:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 A Set of Pelicans Basketball Cards Lied to Me http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/09/a-set-of-pelicans-basketball-cards-lied-to-me/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/09/a-set-of-pelicans-basketball-cards-lied-to-me/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 16:00:18 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46388 I’ve held my breath for far too long. The basketball off season is far too long. It’s time to unleash the truth. The truth is that the Pelicans Basketball Card Pack offered by the Pelicans team store inside the Smoothie King Center duped me. Was it the pack itself that did the duping? Was it the person that organized these cards in this specific order that tricked me? Is it the team’s fault that something this sneaky sneaked past the merchandise guardians? I don’t have all the answers. All I have are these basketball cards pretending to be New Orleans Pelicans inaugural season basketball cards.

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Facts derived from the wrapping on this pack include the price ($10), the amount of cards (50), and what is inside (Pelicans History Pack). The only visible card without unwrapping the pack is the Ryan Anderson one pictured above. Facts derived from the Ryan Anderson card pictured above include that this is definitely a photoshop (look at his face), so this is therefore not a real photograph taken during a game (that basketball is definitely being bounced in a media day green screen type of way), and aw man did I just get bamboozled (keep reading).

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This is the second card in the bunch. It’s a minor reach as Austin Rivers played for both the New Orleans Hornets and the New Orleans Pelicans. Didn’t think much of this one, though. I can live with a former Hornet and current Pelican in my Pelicans History 50 card pack. It being the second card in the bunch gave me caution. I wouldn’t scoff at a Hornets card in the back half of the deck. But the second? I included the wrapping on this picture to hammer home the point that what I purchased was a “Pelicans History Pack.”

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Hello, Peja. Hello under-appreciated yellow third jersey. Hello…OKC patch? Okay, for the third card in my Pelicans 50 card history pack I get Peja Stojakovic setting himself up for a shot in which he has a 45% chance of making. That’s great. I really enjoyed those years we had a marksman like #16. Those years our guys had to wear that OKC patch? That’s not a fun memory. I’m not sitting over here on my merchandise high horse trying to customize my own pack of cards, I get that’s not how it works. But so far my Pelicans History Pack has one Pelican, one Hornet, and one Hornet wearing an OKC patch. This is progressive de-heightening. It’s getting worse.

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These cards are together to represent the only batch of the pack that ever laced up in New Orleans. Austin Rivers, Desmond Mason, Ryan Anderson, Baron Davis, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler. A hair over 8% of my Pelicans 50 card History Pack actually played basketball in New Orleans. Some of them also played for the Charlotte Hornets and some of them also played for the Oklahoma City Hornets. I understand that New Orleans basketball history is confusing, but this pack’s lineup is really shoving it my face. Let’s go to the last slide, class.

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Now, I can admit – part of the reason I purchased this “Pelicans History Pack” is that I was curious what was considered Pelicans History. I didn’t think there was going to be a Shoeless Joe Jackson card in the bunch but I also didn’t think there would be a bunch of North Carolinians. I definitely didn’t think they would outscore New Orleanians 44-6.  Imagine on opening day in Charlotte this year you purchase a “The Buzz is Back” Trading Card set. You open the set and you see Chris Paul in a Hornets jersey, Emeka Okafor in a Hornets jersey, and then Emeka Okafor in a Bobcats jersey. This shouldn’t have been called a Pelicans History Pack. This should have been called “Inventory Clearance Pack #1.”

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Chris Trew is a comedian, pro wrestling manager and Pelicans season ticket holder. His podcast, Trew 2 the Game, has new episodes every Tuesday and is available on Stitcher and iTunes. Follow him on Twitter here.

 

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In the NO Podcast Episode 187: Anthony Davis at the World Cup http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/01/in-the-no-podcast-episode-187-anthony-davis-at-the-world-cup/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/09/01/in-the-no-podcast-episode-187-anthony-davis-at-the-world-cup/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 03:14:29 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46414 Michael and I talk Anthony Davis and his showing at the FIBA World Cup! We address what he’s done so far, what he can take away from this experience, what we still want to see, and if I was right about him not breaking out. Then Michael loves him some Eric Gordon. Sigh. And then I ambush him!

Good times!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Like the Show or the Blog?

Like the music?

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The New Orleans Pelicans’ Most Intriguing Squadron http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/22/the-new-orleans-pelicans-most-intriguing-squadron-nba-basketball/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/22/the-new-orleans-pelicans-most-intriguing-squadron-nba-basketball/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:57:12 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46392 The New Orleans Pelicans’ addition of center Omer Asik answers a question that had no clear answer last season – who to start at center. A more uncertain question, however, is how minutes and rotations will be managed among the Pelicans’ three-headed front court monster of Asik, Ryan Anderson, and Anthony Davis. The default assumption is that two of those three will be on the court at almost all times, which should certainly be the case. However, there is another possibility that must be considered – can all three play together effectively?

On its surface, this idea may seem a bit suspect. None of those three players have been considered anything resembling a “wing” at any point in their respective NBA careers, and yet playing Davis, Anderson, and Asik together would require at least one of them to fill that role. However, every situation is unique, and the combination of each player’s skill set warrants a closer look at potential feasibility.

Lineup: Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Omer Asik


The Logic

Anthony Davis is a very special player, as his length and athleticism (not to mention his pre-growth spurt familiarity with playing on the perimeter) allow him to excel in a variety of roles. His individual skill set is most effectively utilized in the front court, but the Pelicans may be best served by moving part of his role within this lineup to the wing. First of all, the addition of Asik gives the Pelicans the elite defensive center that they have long been searching for, allowing them to utilize the wide range of skills possessed by The Brow in different ways which will have the greatest positive impact in a given situation.

This theory leads to the next point, which relates to how Davis and Anderson’s skill sets complement each other. Anderson possesses the long range shooting ability of a wing player, but is not agile enough to defend most of the wings in the NBA. Conversely, Anthony Davis possesses both the wingspan and athleticism to defend on the wing, but he is most effective offensively when playing closer to the rim. Combine the two, and a team possesses the ability to play both players together alongside another big man in the middle. Due to New Orleans’ prior lack of a center talented enough to justify playing alongside both Anderson and Davis, this idea was one that had little reason to be strongly considered last season. With Asik now filling that void, this “3 big” lineup is one that could be very dangerous.

Why it Could Work
  • Defensive versatility. With Asik protecting the rim, New Orleans can be pretty flexible in regards to who defends the 3 and the 4 between Davis and Anderson and make decisions based on match-ups. Against teams like the Thunder and Spurs, the Pelicans would likely be best served sending Anthony Davis out to match up with the likes of Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard on the perimeter (this would probably be the expectation for the majority of opponents). Conversely, the Pels could likely get away with keeping Davis in the front court against a team like the Grizzlies that isn’t going to beat you with its wings. Anderson’s height would be enough to help contest perimeter shots, and even if (when) his matchup gets past him, he will have to pull up for a mid-range jumper, dish it off to a teammate, or deal with the likes of Davis and Asik inside. Given those options, that match-up seems ideal against teams with more one-dimensional small forwards. Regardless of the direction that the team would decide to take, the main point is that a lineup with such solid defenders at both the point of attack (Holiday) and closest to the rim (Asik) - not to mention the defensive versatility of Anthony Davis – gives a team a ton of flexibility in regards to who fills out the remaining two spots.
  • Dribble penetration ability. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans combined for 18 drives per game last season, and each of their individual per-game drive averages ranked among the top 12 players in the NBA, per SportVU’s player tracking data. Furthermore, the Pelicans averaged almost 1.2 points per possession last season on drives from either of those two players, far more efficient than an average NBA possession. The importance of this inclination of both guards to attack the rim repeatedly cannot be understated, as this unit would lack a strong third ball handler. Davis is competent, but does not have the ability to consistently take his man off the dribble (yet). Connections exist between both drives and corner 3-point attempts as well as corner 3s and a team’s effective field goal percentage, so there is reason to get excited about the thought of Jrue or Tyreke drawing in the defense, then kicking it out to Ryan Anderson (or even Anthony Davis) in either corner.
  • Perimeter length. A defensive perimeter trio of Holiday, Evans, and Davis provides some serious length and athleticism, which could be really taxing on opponents. Jrue is one of the better defensive PGs in the league, and while Tyreke’s overall defensive numbers don’t look too great, his struggles have come primarily against spot up shooters. If Evans can learn to close out better – and he should be able to play a bit more aggressively knowing that Asik is protecting the rim – he can still be an above average defender overall. As for Davis, while moving him away from the rim on defense certainly takes away a bit of what makes him so special, there is upside that can be realized from doing so as well. Davis’ exceptional height and wingspan allows him to play further off of his assignments on the perimeter than others could justify, and his athleticism gives him the ability to stay in front of those same players when they put the ball on the floor. Between he, Evans, and Holiday, opposing guards and wings will have some serious difficulty protecting the basketball and getting into the paint.
  • Rebounding. Over the past two seasons, Al-Farouq Aminu’s most redeeming quality was his rebounding ability (in 2012-13, he led all small forwards in rebound rate by no small margin). With Anthony Davis filling that role, you get that caliber of rebounding (in addition to everything else he brings to the table) to add to Anderson (an above average offensive rebounder) and Asik (the second best rebounding center in the NBA over the past two seasons). Don’t expect opponents to get many second chances, and on the other end of the court, the Pelicans could see a bunch of their own.
Why it Might Not
  • Floor spacing trouble. Yes, this is a lineup that includes Ryan Anderson, but it also consists of two players (Evans and Asik) who have given little reason to date for their jump shots to be respected. Players can help off of Asik in the middle and likely still recover in time, and whoever defends Tyreke can sag off in favor of helping on either Jrue or Anderson to prevent open long range looks from them. If designed correctly and if Davis continues to make himself more and more of a threat, make no mistake that there should be enough shooting on the court to keep opposing defenses honest, but it must be designed properly. Speaking of that concept…
  • Offensive design. While historical data league-wide says that drives often lead to open corner 3s, creating those opportunities within the framework of a specific team is another beast entirely. The Pelicans averaged the 3rd most drives in the NBA last season, but attempted the third fewest corner 3-pointers in the league last season. Jrue and Tyreke can break down defenses all day long, but if A) they don’t look to kick the ball out to the corner frequently enough or B) there is no shooter there for either of them to pass the ball to, then it doesn’t really matter how much opposing defenses collapse.
  • Pick and roll defense. Anthony Davis has proven his ability to match up with opposing small forwards in one-on-one situations, but he often struggles when fighting through screens. While the news that he is up to 242 lbs should benefit him in this regard, a Pelicans lineup including three “big men” creates the potential for some serious mis-matches for talented guards resulting from pick and roll offenses. If the Pelicans defense gets caught in too many switches, a defense with some real promise could quickly be left completely out of sync. Furthermore, asking Davis to chase perimeter players around for extended minutes could result in him tiring much more quickly than he would otherwise, so that is something that would have to be consistently monitored as well.
Additional Questions
  • Who serves as the primary ball-handler? Under normal circumstances, Jrue Holiday is this team’s point guard, but this lineup does not present “normal circumstances.” With Holiday’s strong perimeter shooting ability, it could be in the Pelicans’ best interest to utilize him off the ball and play Tyreke Evans at point guard. Doing so could allow both wing spots on the court to be manned by a good 3-point shooter (Holiday) and a lethal one (Anderson), in addition to Davis’ proven ability to knock down shots outside of the paint. The main concern with doing so is whether or not Evans can get his teammates involved to the same degree as Holiday, but the ease with which Tyreke is able to get into the paint is a skill that could really help this group score.
  • How would this group fare against small-ball lineups? First things first – this group would dominate undersized lineups on the boards, as well as sufficiently defend the paint. That being said, there are certainly issues to be addressed elsewhere. The Pelicans experienced big problems defending perimeter shooting last season, and asking Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson both to cover shooters may not go over well. For example, envision this lineup going up against a Thunder unit of Westbrook, Jackson, Morrow, Durant, and Ibaka. Even if (when) AD gets matched up with KD, is Ryan Anderson really supposed to chase one of those guards around the perimeter? Obviously, any lineup featuring Kevin Durant is going to be difficult to stop, so that example is a pretty extreme one. But what about a Spurs group of Parker, Ginobili/Green, Leonard, Diaw, and Duncan? What about Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green, and Lee from the Warriors? The issue may not be how to “stop” those types of lineups from scoring, but instead to simply reduce their effectiveness and ensure that the mismatches created benefit the Pelicans more then their opponents.
Summary

When a team has a player as versatile and talented as Anthony Davis on its roster, it allows for (and should strongly encourage) creativity when it comes to how the rest of the lineup is filled out. The Heat followed this logic with LeBron James, a player who played all five positions on the court throughout his stint in Miami. While Davis isn’t going to play point guard for this Pelicans team anytime soon, his ability to capably defend any spot on the floor is something that New Orleans has not yet capitalized on to a large degree. Adding Omer Asik gives the Pelicans a new and interesting excuse to do so, and given the unique attributes of the other players within this suggested lineup, it is a group that has incredibly intriguing potential. Additionally, there is the unfortunate truth that Eric Gordon’s awful defense made him a net negative last year; while there is reasonable hope that he improves this upcoming season, a Holiday-Evans-Davis-Anderson-Asik lineup puts the Pelicans’ best five players on the court together as things currently stand. Whether or not this unit sees substantial minutes together is another issue entirely. What say you, Monty?

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Breaking Down the New Orleans Pelicans Schedule http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/13/breaking-down-the-new-orleans-pelicans-schedule/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/13/breaking-down-the-new-orleans-pelicans-schedule/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 23:11:22 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46369 In the NBA, not all schedules are created equal. In addition to playing your division foes twice as much as you play the other conference, you also have numerous other factors that can effect the difficulty of your schedule, including: number of back to backs, your non-division conference schedule, and differing lengths of East and/or West coast swings. Today, the New Orleans Pelicans got their schedule, so let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Interesting.

The Good

The Pelicans kick the season off with three of their first four games at home (including the first 2) and could easily start the season off 4-0, as their lone road game is at Memphis – a team they have owned as of late. Orlando comes into New Orleans to start the season on October 28th, followed by Dallas, then Memphis on the road and the Charlotte Hornets (still weird) at home. They could get off to a great start, which could give them confidence as they head into their next two games (at San Antonio, at Cleveland).

The Non-Division Conference Schedule. It broke down the following way:

Four Times: Thunder, Lakers, Kings, Wolves, Nuggets, Warriors,

Three Times (2 at home, 1 on road): Phoenix, Utah

Three Times (2 on road, 1 at home): Clippers, Blazers

It’s not perfect, but it is better than it could have been. The only one of the non-playoff contenders that we don’t get 4 times is Utah and we only have to go to Phoenix once – a tough place to win. One fewer game against the Clippers can’t hurt, even though we will only get to see CP3 once (on January 30th). Ideally I would have flip flopped Utah and Portland, and maybe OKC and Phoenix, but again, mostly good news here.

The final game of the season will feature the Pelicans at home against the Spurs. History says that they have usually shut it down by then, and with the West being so competitive, that final game could mean the difference in a playoff spot or perhaps a higher seed. Also, in two of the other match ups against the Spurs, San Antonio is on the second night of a back-to-back. Feel free to rest Duncan and Ginobli, Pop!

The longest East coast road trip features almost all of the cupcakes. People like to bag on the East, but it got better this summer. The Pelicans five-game East coast swing in mid-January features Boston, Detroit, Philly, Toronto, and New York. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see them go 4-1 on their longest East coast road swing.

The Pelicans get the Cavs twice early, which means that they could get the next potential powerhouse before they really start to gel. Remember that the Heat struggled early in their first season, and it is likely that the Cavs will be playing much better in March than they will be in December. The Pelicans get both of their games with the Cavs over with by December 12th.

The Bad

20 Back-to-Back dates. That is a little more than the average (usually around 18), and March and April look especially tough in that area. Although, this might be the new norm if teams get extended All-Star breaks in February. What’s really bad, though, is that 13 of the back-to-backs have a road game as the second game of the back-to-back, historically the hardest game to win.

Not enough Saturday home games – only 4 all season.

Eight NBATV games is nice, but spotlight games on ErSPN, ABC, or TNT are a whole different animal, and the Pelicans only have two of those – Home against Miami on February 27th (ESPN) and at Golden State on December 4th (TNT).

Mid-November through early January could be brutal, especially if the team hasn’t gelled yet. After those first four games, the Pelicans next 33 games will provide quite a test. The Pelicans will play San Antonio three times and OKC and Cleveland twice. They also have two mini West Coast road trips and six back-to-backs, with a couple of them being quite brutal (SA-Chicago, Phoenix-SA, etc.)

The Interesting

All-Star Weekend has turned into All-Star Week, as the NBA has given teams eight days off to recharge in mid-February. The Pelicans will host Indiana on February 11th, and then won’t have to play again until February 20th at Orlando.

Omer Asik will visit Houston for the first time on December 18th.

The Pelicans will be in New York for an afternoon game on MLK day.

If you are looking for the Pelicans to make a run, expect it to happen in January, and it can carry through until March. The Pelicans have that easy road trip I talked about and then follow it up with 10 of the next 12 games at home before hitting the All-Star break. The schedule doesn’t really get hard again until late March. Honestly, if the Pelicans can just make it to early January and are anywhere near .500, they could go something like 30-15 over their final 45 games.

So, what are your thoughts on the Pelicans schedule?

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Is Anthony Davis going to break out for USA Basketball? http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/07/is-anthony-davis-going-to-break-out-for-usa-basketball/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/07/is-anthony-davis-going-to-break-out-for-usa-basketball/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 20:12:55 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46371 I’m not sure how many people plan on watching Team USA play in the World Cup of Basketball this off-season.  I intend to watch most of it since Anthony Davis is going to be there, and I’ll take any excuse I can to see him play basketball.  Other than that horrific Paul George injury, which I will NOT link to, I’ve enjoyed the run up to the event so far.  Being a bit starved for basketball, it’s been fun to read various accounts about the team last week in their training camp.  It’s been made even more fun to read in article after article that Anthony Davis is a lock to start for a team that has access to roughly 85% of the best young talent this country can offer.

Now, we’ve all watched him for two seasons, so none of us are surprised by that, and the accolades are well deserved, but there is one part of the coverage that bothers me.  There are some people predicting that Anthony Davis is a candidate to break out and make his name in this tournament.

Whoa.  Slow your roll.

This is FIBA basketball.  FIBA big men do not score in bunches.  They do not rebound in bunches.  They do not dominate games.  I love Davis, but I just can’t see that happening at all.

Quick question:  How many Team USA big men have averaged a 14 and 8 in the Olympics?  Answer:  None.

In fact, how many Team USA big men were their team’s leading scorer?  Answer:  One.  Charles Barkley – who was operating as a small forward next to Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Larry Bird, and Karl Malone on the original Dream Team.

This is FIBA basketball folks, which in a lot of ways inspired today’s NBA.  FIBA encourages perimeter play, screens on the edges, and lots of drive-and-kick threes.  Big men who operate in the paint? No thanks.   The lane is wider, they must start further out, and really their job is to rebound and finish pick and rolls.  Dwight Howard was good for 11 and 6 in 2008 at the peak of his abilities.  Bosh went for 9 and 6.  In 2004, Tim Duncan posted perhaps the best big man statline ever for the US, posting 12.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in a losing effort.  Kevin Love managed a pretty impressive 11.6 and 7.6 in 2012, which is why everyone involved with USA Basketball were very, very sad when he took himself off the team.

It’s the guys with the ball in their hands that score for Team USA.  Carmelo went for 16 a game last time out.  Durant let fly for 19.  LeBron and Kobe each came close to 16 a game – and Vince Carter almost scored 15 a game while jumping over Frederic Weis in 2000.  MJ scored 17 a game back in college – and 14 when he was playing for the Dream Team.  Those guys do the scoring.  Not the big guys.

So, yes, Davis will be vital to this team.  With Love busy being traded, Aldridge busy being courted for an extension, Blake Griffin busy having a back injury and then not having a back injury, Andre Drummond not being able to make a free throw, and DeMarcus Cousins being DeMarcus Cousins, Davis is absolutely vital to a team needing size.

He will make a huge difference, and will be amazing to watch playing off of Durant, Harden, Curry, Rose, Kyrie Irving, and the other horde of perimeter stars this team will carry with them to Spain.

Just don’t expect a breakout.

(Seriously.  Look at those guys listed above.  You think Davis is getting the ball outside of a few pick and rolls and dump-off plays?  Not a chance.)

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Tanking and Conferences http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/01/tanking-and-conferences/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/01/tanking-and-conferences/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 16:27:46 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46355 I love the game of basketball – but there are three things that bother me about the current NBA setup.

  1. The last 2 minutes of a basketball game are too friggin’ long.
  2. Egregious tanking.
  3. Using conferences to determine the 16 teams is silly when one conference can have so many superior teams.

The first issue can easily be resolved by cutting down the number of timeouts teams get.  Everyone gets one timeout per quarter.  Use it or lose it.  Refs get their existing timeouts for commercial breaks.(league’s gotta make money, folks)  Done.  There is enough stoppage’s in the game via free throws and dead balls to let players sub in and out of games, so no need for more.  I doubt this will occur anytime soon, because all those commercials packed into the end of games are good for revenue, but I’d still love to see it happen.  Until then, I have TiVO and no need to watch a game live unless it’s a playoff game and I need to KNOW. (Hopefully this will be a problem for me this coming season.)

There are a lot of suggestions out there to fix tanking right now.  The league has a proposal on the table to make the lottery less likely to reward the absolutely worst teams by giving teams with better records in the lottery increased odds to win.  Personally I think this will be ineffectual as a tool to stop tanking.  Being one of the worst four teams still gives you a high chance – and it is damn hard to be one of the four worst teams in the NBA.  Philly stripped its roster of almost every real veteran it had last year – and it still took an epic 27-game losing streak to put them . . . 2nd from the bottom in the standings.  Milwaukee took the worst record prize only after force feeding OJ Mayo like a goose being prepared for Foie Gras, greasing the dance floor of Larry Sanders favorite night spot, Limiting Ilyasova to half a game, and playing Giannis Antetatkjaerojiasefjoij 24 minutes a game despite his 10.8 PER.  Do you remember the shit-sandwich the Hornets put out there en route to winning the Davis lottery?  Vasquez-Bellinelli-Aminu-Landry-Kaman anybody?

The lesson?  Teams are going to work to suck so they can get into those bottom few spots because getting a top 5 pick matters.  The result is their fan base is going to be treated to awful, soul-sucking basketball.  I sat through the Hornets 18-win season, watching Dan Dickau try to be an NBA player and Lee Nailon make sweet, delicious love to the dumb zone, but at least for half that season I thought Baron Davis had a chance of coming back.  Jamaal Magloire was injured and could return, right?  Jamal Mashburn couldn’t seriously have Vertigo keeping him from playing, right?

So at least for some part of the season I had hope I’d get to watch decent basketball.  If you are a Philly fan next year, do you have hope?  The Jazz?  Orlando?  Milwaukee?  These teams aren’t even trying, and it’s obvious.

And it’s good strategic planning for those teams.

So – what do you do if you don’t want teams to purposely suck that hard?  You make it bad strategic planning.

So here’s my solution, with parts of it ripped off liberally from various other places.  It also happens to fix the conference issue at the same time.

The Carrot and Stick

It all starts, really, with Bill Simmons Entertaining as Hell tournament.  That idea has its genesis in love for March Madness and giving teams who fall out of the race a reason to not shut down/trade/waive all their good players as the season goes on.  It also gives teams that start the season with a bad injury or two a chance to get back into the playoffs.  I think all of those make it a pretty attractive idea alone.  So, we take this basic idea, add some punitive measures, and here’s the proposal:

Step 1: The top 12 teams are seeded into the playoffs – 6 from each conference.  Hey, we get to keep conferences relevant!

Step 2: The next 16 teams in the league are seeded by record into a single elimination tournament.  This means teams like the 48 win Suns and 40-win Wolves aren’t stuck out in the cold in favor of the 37-win Hawks because their conference is crazy as hell.

Step 3: Those 16 teams battle down to a final four – two rounds, high-stakes games.  All other Playoff teams get to prepare and heal up for a few days.  Advantage!  The final four get seeded into the 7th and 8th spots in the playoff bracket, regardless of conference.  Playoffs kick off.  Champion Crowned.

Step 4:  Lottery time!  The lottery is changed so that teams get a chance to move up to any of the top five picks.  For those of you who paid attention to my Value of a Lottery Pick posts in the past – the top five picks of the draft perform significantly better than picks after that point.  So you set the bar there and let all teams in the lottery get a chance to move up into the top five based on odds set by their record.  Well almost all, because . . .

Step 5:  I left out two teams from the above steps!  12 playoff-bound teams, 16-tournament bound teams!  That leaves two awful teams left out of any chance at the post-season. Well, guess what?  Those teams continue to get punished for sucking that hard.  No post-season, AND they are left out of the drawing for the top five picks.  After the top five are drawn, the rest of the lottery is determined by record, so the worst team in the league will still get the 6th pick and their fans can hope for something – but if there is an obvious franchise player in the draft, they ain’t getting him.  Ouch.

This sets up all kinds of late season intrigue.  Teams at the bottom will be fighting to win extra games with one another just to make sure they don’t end up dropping 5 spots in the lottery.  Teams will be trying to get their players back from injury, rather than shutting them down.  If a veteran hits the waiver wire that might help?  Those bad teams will probably be trying to snap him up!  You think Philly’s front office lets its team lose 27 games in a row if that makes them fall below Orlando and into one of the two Spots of Death?  Not a chance.

So, in the end, you end up making it damn unlikely you don’t have the best 16 teams in the playoffs – or maybe 15 teams and a Cinderella.  You get a fun tournament,  good playoffs, and afterwards 12 of the worst 14 teams get a chance to get significantly better.  Oh and 2 teams realize they better spend a little money in the off-season to not suck so bad, helping out their fans. (which hopefully creates a chain reaction for teams 3 and 4 who also don’t want to suck so bad.)

That essentially defeats strategic tanking.  How do you ensure you are the 3rd or fourth worst team, and not the 2nd?  You can’t.  Teams will try.

 

What do you think?  Does tanking bother you or is it something else in the NBA game?

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Weakside Eyes: The Value of Heartbreak http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/01/weakside-eyes-the-value-of-heartbreak/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/08/01/weakside-eyes-the-value-of-heartbreak/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:58:35 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46348

When I walked into the room I started looking around . . . I wanted to see what kind of guys I was dealing with. I wondered how many of ‘em could handle an alley fight. Who could I count on if two thugs were pounding me into the cement?
– Benny Booms to Uncle Nicky in “The Bad Times Stomp”

I hear and read really, really well, but I see so much better. The older guys sitting on their bar stools had their own version of street philosophy. Some of them didn’t read very well . . . I added to the script so it would fit the use of the printed word.

Over the past few weeks I’ve read some of the wonderful and in-depth work some of my fellow members of this site have produced . . . excellent and informative. The numerical breakdowns related to salary cap and use of basketball analytics always make for good deposits into one’s knowledge bank.

All the contract stuff makes for a solid read and stretches the brain to points many fans have never dared travel . . . kind of like a “destination unknown” cruise. Once you get there, you realize it was worth the trip.

“Nicky, Mr. Reality is here to see you . . . he says its important”

You don’t need a hyped sales pitch to tell you that Anthony Davis is the guy that can “pop wheelies” over the long haul for Pelican fans. Without Davis all team goals become that shrimp poboy that you left under the seat in your car three months ago.

We can talk about the big money that changes hands, but young talents like Davis are more tuned-in to “roster scanning.” Their agents and friends monitor what teams are stocking up to chase the jewelry. The agents to the stars keep their clients fully informed as to who is doing what.

“What have they done lately? You telling me you can win the big one with that group?”

Contract-wise the Pelicans can lay out a nice financial package to keep Davis around for awhile. The key is making his eyes happy. He’ll hear a lot about what the plan is, but will Davis see the results of what he was told?

Everybody knows how the scene needs to play out. Eventually Davis has to believe that the Pelicans will be armed to give serious chase to multiple playoff rounds. A championship is further down the road . . . he must first experience the emotional crush of a playoff heartbreak.
That will further fuel him.

Dell Demps has displayed the creative ability to shake up the formula and address the current team needs with the hustle his position requires. The recent roster additions should be the start of something . . . right?

“Listen Nicky, the truth will set you free, but it can also piss you off, so deal with what ya got for now.J ust don’t stay on dat train too long cause you don’t wanna miss your stop” — Benny Booms

Here’s how the rule works:

What or who you attach yourself to during the prime years of your life or career will determine how many nights you will spend crying into your pillow.

Ya get my meaning?

V


Gerry V is a 21-year NBA analyst, 17-year talk radio host, a 16-year coach . . . also hosts “Gerry V’s “Talk Back Live on 99.5 WRNO New Orleans right after every Saints Sunday Game. Follow Gerry V on twitter (@GVTalk).

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Anthony Davis and His Next Contract With the New Orleans Pelicans http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/23/anthony-davis-and-his-next-contract-with-the-new-orleans-pelicans/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/23/anthony-davis-and-his-next-contract-with-the-new-orleans-pelicans/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:31:59 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46290 (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

Summary

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.

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In the NO Podcast Episode 186: James Ham on the Kingly Pelicans http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/21/in-the-no-podcast-episode-186-james-ham-on-the-kingly-pelicans/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/21/in-the-no-podcast-episode-186-james-ham-on-the-kingly-pelicans/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 05:30:43 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46292 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?

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New Orleans Pelicans End Summer League With Loss to Timberwolves http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/19/new-orleans-pelicans-end-summer-league-with-loss-to-timberwolves/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/19/new-orleans-pelicans-end-summer-league-with-loss-to-timberwolves/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 13:18:07 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46281 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.

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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Minnesota Timberwolves http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/game-on-new-orleans-pelicans-vs-minnesota-timberwolves/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/game-on-new-orleans-pelicans-vs-minnesota-timberwolves/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 00:14:28 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46272 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 nab.com with the SL pass. Or you can watch it at 8:00 am tomorrow on NBATV

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Why The New Orleans Pelicans Shouldn’t Play Transition Basketball http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/why-the-new-orleans-pelicans-shouldnt-play-transition-basketball/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/why-the-new-orleans-pelicans-shouldnt-play-transition-basketball/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 17:00:54 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46263 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.

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New Orleans Pelicans Add Shooters in Salmons, Fredette, and Miller http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/new-orleans-pelicans-add-shooters-in-salmons-fredette-and-miller/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/new-orleans-pelicans-add-shooters-in-salmons-fredette-and-miller/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:26:11 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46274 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.

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Farewell to a True Pelican, Jason Smith http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/farewell-to-a-true-pelican-jason-smith/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/18/farewell-to-a-true-pelican-jason-smith/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:30:04 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46254 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.

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Red Hot Hornets Take Down the Pelicans http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/17/red-hot-hornets-take-down-the-pelicans/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/17/red-hot-hornets-take-down-the-pelicans/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 22:17:02 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46249 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.

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Game On: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Charlotte Hornets http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/17/game-on-new-orleans-pelicans-vs-charlotte-hornets-2/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/17/game-on-new-orleans-pelicans-vs-charlotte-hornets-2/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:29:19 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46236 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.

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Pelicans Scoop: Asik, Playoffs, and the Starters http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/pelicans-scoop-asik-playoffs-and-the-starters/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/pelicans-scoop-asik-playoffs-and-the-starters/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:44:39 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46222 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.

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An Educated Guess on the New Orleans Pelicans Rotation http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/an-educated-guess-on-the-new-orleans-pelicans-rotation/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/an-educated-guess-on-the-new-orleans-pelicans-rotation/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:25:46 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46193 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

Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Asik

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

Holiday-Evans-Salmons-Anderson-Davis

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

Holiday-Rivers-Salmons-Anderson-Asik

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

Rivers-Gordon-Salmons-Anderson-Asik

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

Rivers-Gordon-Evans-Davis-Asik

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

Holiday-Gordon-Evans-Anderson-Davis

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

Conclusion

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.

 

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New Orleans Pelicans Sign Russ Smith http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/new-orleans-pelicans-sign-russ-smith/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/16/new-orleans-pelicans-sign-russ-smith/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 06:17:21 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46215 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:

Contract

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
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New Orleans Pelicans Acquire Omer Asik in Trade http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/15/new-orleans-pelicans-acquire-omer-asik-in-trade/ http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2014/07/15/new-orleans-pelicans-acquire-omer-asik-in-trade/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 19:24:41 +0000 http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/?p=46139 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.

Summary

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.

Release

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.

Commentary

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.

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