New Orleans Pelicans information, analysis and discussion 2018-07-15T13:21:50Z WordPress Michael McNamara <![CDATA[Do The Pelicans Need To Save Cap Space for Julius Randle?]]> 2018-07-15T13:21:50Z 2018-07-15T00:07:26Z It was all smiles at the introductory press conference. Julius Randle spoke about making New Orleans his home long term, and Dell Demps spoke of Randle as if he was a core building block moving forward. And while both men were being authentic, the NBA’s pesky little salary cap could put a thorn in the […]]]>

It was all smiles at the introductory press conference. Julius Randle spoke about making New Orleans his home long term, and Dell Demps spoke of Randle as if he was a core building block moving forward. And while both men were being authentic, the NBA’s pesky little salary cap could put a thorn in the reality of Randle being a Pelican for the foreseeable future.

Julius Randle signed a two-year deal, with a player option for next season. The contract starts at a little over 8.6 million dollars this year, and his option would be for a touch over 9 million dollars next year. If Randle has a season as good as the one he just had, or better, he is a lock to opt out of his contract and seek another one. The problem for the Pelicans is, that if they do not have cap space to use, then the most they can offer Randle for next season is $10.4 million. If the market for Randle is closer to 15 or 20 million dollars, and the Pelicans want to keep him, they will need to shed some salaries and operate under the salary cap to make an offer that high. And while that’s certainly possible, it is not optimal.

The Pelicans have Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday under contract for the 2019-20 season at a combined salary of $54 million (give or take a few million based on Holiday’s incentives). Everything else is moveable or dumpable, if need be. The projected salary cap for that season is likely to be between 108-110 million dollars, so if re-signing Randle becomes top priority, then the Pelicans can make it happen. But if they need to prepare for that future, then it limits how aggressive they can be between now and next summer. If the Hornets offer them an opportunity to get Kemba Walker for the price of taking on Nic Batum, they would have to pass. If Dallas is willing to give them Harrison Barnes for expirings and picks, Dell would have to say no.

And even if Dell passes on those kind of moves to maintain space, there are still opportunity costs over the following summer. He loses the right to use the MLE by being under the cap. He likely would have to sacrifice Mirotic’s bird rights, and he also would probably have to either dump Moore for free or use a pick to get someone to take Solomon Hill. If Randle is going to cost 15-20 million dollars, Dell Demps is going to have to face an incredibly tough decision: Build around a great, but expensive core of AD, Jrue, and Randle (with little else) or let a blossoming 24 year old Randle walk and have a balanced team with less upside.

It’s a quagmire, for sure. And it’s one the Pelicans have to start preparing for today, as they assess how aggressive they want to be between now and the February trade deadline. The optimal situation would see the Pelicans add talent between now and the deadline, operate over the cap next season, re-sign Niko and bring back Randle as well on another 1+1 that allows him to be paid $10.4 million in 2019-20, then opt out the following summer, where the Pelicans can use Early Bird Rights to sign him to a contract that starts around $18 million.

But if Randle gets offers in the 15-20 million dollar range from another team next summer, he can not pass that up, no matter how much he wants to make New Orleans home. But my question is: How realistic is it that Randle gets an offer like that? It obviously wasn’t there this year for the 23 year old Randle, who was coming off an amazing second half of the season. Yes, there will be more money available next summer, but there will also be more quality free agents absorbing all that money. If you are going to give a guy 15-20 million dollars, he is your prize gem in that free agent class. He is a major building block that starts and finishes games for you. Looking around at the league, are we sure that there is a team that is going to look at Randle and do whatever it takes to get him because they know he is the key to taking them to the next level?

Julius Randle is an undersized big man, with limited range on the offensive end. This is in a day and age where the league is moving towards playing wings at the 4, theorizing that if I am going to have an undersized 4 anyway, I want him to stretch the defense. So, no team looking to fill their 4 position is going to lob a ton of money at Randle. Unless, they have a Unicorn at 5 who can protect the rim and also hit from the outside. You know, a guy like Anthony Davis. And nobody is going to pay him a ton of money to be their full-time 5. He can finish games there, but nobody is going to start him there for 82 games, next to a traditional 4.

So, who will have the cap space, and the need, and the fit? Who will offer up the chance to win and all these other things that Randle will have to get from another team to leave Anthony Davis and New Orleans, if all they offer is the 1+1, starting at $10.4 million? Projecting forward, here are the most likely candidates.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are clearing the decks to go after two max players next summer, with their eyes apparently set on Kyrie, KD, and/or Jimmy Butler. But what happens when they (likely) miss out on them? Do they just turn to the next tier and get themselves 3 guys from the next level so they can be relevant again? If so, Randle could be a target simply because of his age and offensive output.

Dallas Mavericks

The Mavs will have cap space and a spot open in the front court after Dirk retires. He would be a young player that fits their timeline, and they can give him the uptempo style he prefers. But again, Dallas will have 8-10 other guys on their list ahead of Randle. Maybe they offer him a big contract if they miss out on all those guys, but what we have seen the last few years is that if a team misses out on their prize gem, they just sign guys for one year and kick the can forward. They don’t overpay guys on their B or C list for multiple years. They believe ‘Next Year Will Be the Year we Strike Gold!’

Philadelphia 76ers

They will likely be going after much bigger fish, but they are on this list because they have a big man and a style of play that Randle could flourish with. But again, he won’t be anywhere near the top of their list and even if they miss out, they aren’t likely to sacrifice all future flexibility for a guy like Randle.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are another team with a Unicorn that can pair with Randle. They will have cap room, and a coach in Fizdale, who would appreciate Randle’s toughness. But again, they will have their sights set on Kyrie and KD. They will be saving their space for the elite free agents. And if they don’t come, they would be another team likely to kick the can down the road because they are New York, and they likely believe that they will be a player in the summer of 2020.


Often times, people think too simplistically when projecting future contracts. They look at a good player who is young and assume he is going to get a big deal the following summer. But a team doesn’t hand over a huge contract unless they see the fit, and as good as Randle is, he doesn’t fit seamlessly with a lot of teams. Sure, every team would take him, but you give a guy 15-20 million dollars a year (for multiple years) because you feel that you NEED him. Not because you want him. I am not so sure that somebody will need him next summer.

Let’s look at the guys who received 15 million dollars or more, for multiple years, from another team this summer: Lebron James. End of list. Zach Lavine and Jabari Parker received stupid offer sheets from bad teams after free agency settled down, but that is not likely to be the case for Randle. Even dating back to last summer, let’s see the list of guys who changed teams – getting 15 million or more for multiple years. Danillo Galinari (in a S&T), Tim Hardaway Jr., George Hill, and Paul Milsap. That’s it.

So, based on logic and recent history, I am not so sure that the Pelicans needs to worry about losing Randle next summer. Even if all they can offer is a two-year deal for $21 million, with a player option for year two. It’s possible that one team just falls in love with Randle and the Pelicans lose him, if that’s all they can offer. But it’s unlikely. The smart move would be to be aggressive between now and February, building the best roster possible, even if that means that they will operate above the cap next summer. No path offers certainty. You have to run the numbers and take the path that gives you the best chance for success. The path that requires saving cap room for Randle offers little to no upside. Dell can not operate under the presumption that he will lose him next summer. Doing so would forgo the opportunity to be great, just to lock in the ability to be good.

Jesse Brooks <![CDATA[How Much Hype Can One Man Randle?]]> 2018-07-10T18:53:37Z 2018-07-10T18:53:37Z As one door closes, another one opens. The New Orleans Pelicans might have lost DeMarcus Cousins in Free Agency, but the overall fan base has not waivered. Excitement comes in the form of Anthony Davis’ freshly recruited big Julius Randle, that has joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $18 million deal. The former Laker surprised […]]]>

As one door closes, another one opens.

The New Orleans Pelicans might have lost DeMarcus Cousins in Free Agency, but the overall fan base has not waivered. Excitement comes in the form of Anthony Davis’ freshly recruited big Julius Randle, that has joined the Pelicans on a two-year, $18 million deal. The former Laker surprised many by signing down the Bayou, after his rights were renounced by LA in order to sign former Pelican Rajon Rondo. Because of this, the loss of two core New Orleans pieces just a year ago does not seem like the end of the world. The hype is real. Really real.

But what exactly should the hype be for Randle? How much hype is too much hype?

Julius will not completely replace Cousins. That is a given. Boogie put up over 25 points, close to 13 rebounds and shot 47 percent last year in his 48 games. Julius is not going to put those kind of numbers up. He is not going to be a dominant a threat inside the paint. Instead, the Pelicans are hoping Randle is going to be an addition to what New Orleans showed off in the playoffs.

While the Pelicans’ half-court offense is not the most expansive in the league, it does an incredible job at making the most of the pick-and-roll offense, something that Julius Randle did incredibly well last season. Alongside Lakers’ mid-season acquisition Isaiah Thomas, Randle took over in the pick-and-roll game as they shared the court together. Julius shot 62.7 percent in the pick-and-roll last season, with a scoring percentage of 58.2 percent. That’s higher than Anthony Davis’ 55.6 percent from last year. And that’s saying something considering Davis’ massive success in the P&R, especially against Portland in the playoffs.

Randle’s strong relationship with Thomas could be something that comes into play with Jrue Holiday in New Orleans and be death for Pelicans’ opponents. Jrue’s fire season came down to his ability to run a lethal pick-and-roll game with AD and Mirotic. New Orleans now adds along a third big man, who is capable of being an aggressive roll man towards the basket. It’s the “flexibility” the team hopes to have not just for the starter minutes, but the entire game.

The other main area New Orleans will see the immediate benefit is the offensive glass. Randle averaged 2.2 offensive rebounds per game in just under 27 minutes a game. That’s the same amount DeMarcus Cousins had for the Pelicans this past season. The faster tempo of the New Orleans could be tricky for those numbers to repeat exactly, but he’s still going to be a menace on the offensive glass. For a team like the Pelicans, who ranked 26th in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game last year, it will make a significant difference.

So what should the proper expectations be for Randle? Should Pelicans fans expect the same 2.2 offensive rebounds per game and stellar pick-and-roll offense? Or is the proper expectation more, since he’s moving from a lottery team to one of the semi-finalists in the Western Conference Playoffs? Without the entire Pelicans puzzle in place and no actual footage of Randle with this cast of players, it’s tough to get complete handle on Randle in New Orleans.

The numbers do reveal some consistency on his part. Not including his first season in the NBA, where he played just one game due to injury, Randle has put up at over 11 points, eight rebounds and over 70 percent shooting from the free-throw line. His shooting percentage did not take off until last season, but with the open looks he’ll generate from Davis and Holiday, it should not be too much a surprise if he keeps close to his 55.8 percent shooting from last year. The expectation should be a solid producer, whose going to fit pretty darn well with the Pels’ style. Randle played in the Lakers system, which was ranked third in fastest pace last season. New Orleans ended up leading that stat category, only a tenth of a point higher than Los Angeles.

The Pels’ entire 2017-2018 season became about their flexibility, especially when Cousins went down. Randle should not have a hard time fitting into that as well. After playing power forward for the first two seasons in LA, Julius switched to the center role for the majority of his minutes. This might be due to the Lakers feeling his lack of outside shooting suited him better as a center in the new age NBA.

Not only did Randle adjust, but he had his best numbers of his career in this past campaign. It’s a main reason the hype in New Orleans is so high. The idea of a bruiser big, one that can score the ball inside being paired alongside Anthony Davis, is something that seems oddly familiar in the original Boogie trade. Again, Randle is not Boogie, but this is a different Pelicans team than the one that pursued that trade. Julius creates a triangle of bigs New Orleans can use to handle whatever situation their opponents may bring.

While Randle might not be the “Fire” to AD’s “Ice”, he’s going to bring a different kind of element, that could end up balancing out the Pelicans. This is no longer a team of just two major elements, but a team that has an interchangeable and adaptable list of elements on their roster, each there to elevate Davis in some fashion.

Julius Randle is the next stage in this era of New Orleans Pelicans basketball. He’s a hard-working muscle big, who crashes the glass and bullies his way inside. His defense has drastically improved since his entry into the league and that will be key, alongside one of the menaces of blocks in the NBA. Consistency is the word with Julius. He’s not going to have crazy fluctuations in his score lines, either good or bad. Fans should expect Randle to bring the pain inside and be a frontcourt sidekick during Anthony Davis’ reign on the league.

It will be a while into the season before we see everything he can show. Learning a new dynamic on a new team takes time. That comes with any player. Having a training camp and preseason under his belt will give a bit of insight into what kind of chemistry we will see for New Orleans and Randle. But the hype is already high. After the deep playoff run and the addition of Elfrid Payton, it’s an exciting time for Louisiana basketball. Randle is a tough working big, coming off his best season of his career and motivated to make his first playoff appearance of his career alongside a fellow Kentucky star. To put it simply: The hype is pretty well deserved.

Michael McNamara <![CDATA[Trade Targets III: Setting Up the Next Trade]]> 2018-07-10T18:27:37Z 2018-07-10T18:27:37Z Some people play checkers, others play chess. Dell Demps plays chess. He might not always win, but he’s always playing chess. Most NBA fans are in a rush to judge every move in a vacuum. They rush to analyze a move the second it is made. But, in reality, each move is a domino that […]]]>

Some people play checkers, others play chess. Dell Demps plays chess. He might not always win, but he’s always playing chess.

Most NBA fans are in a rush to judge every move in a vacuum. They rush to analyze a move the second it is made. But, in reality, each move is a domino that is playing off another domino. It will knock over another domino and provide a sequence of events that paints a bigger picture than the one people see when looking at the singular domino alone.

Dell Demps is making calls right now, and he is seeing what every GM has seen in the past – It is hard to get a steal via trade in the summer. The fact is that this is the time of year where teams are their most optimistic. At least 27 teams think they are playoff teams right now. Ask the Mavericks front office. Talk to the Grizzlies GM or Steve Clifford with the Magic. They will all tell you about the young guys on their roster and how they are in better shape and improved since the season ended. They love their new acquisitions and the injuries that plagued them last season are healed and will never return!

So, imagine being a GM and trying to convince them to take your expiring contracts and a pick that they don’t get to use for 11 months. And what do you want in return? One of their quality players who is going to help lead them to the playoffs. Thanks, but no thanks, they tell you. But you know when that conversation changes? In January or February, when the season is lost and their scouts are telling them about all these great college prospects who can change the fortune of their franchise in just a few short months!

People are stupid.

But this is the reality of the NBA. We would like to think that these 30 GM’s are all purely rational and objective. But they all have bias and see what they want to see. It’s not until reality sets in that they will be willing to move on from the quality players that aren’t good enough to help their bad teams but are good enough to help put a very good team over the top. And that is when Dell has to be in position to pounce.

So, this summer should be about Dell putting himself in the best position to do just that. And what will those teams be looking for? First round picks (which the Pelicans still have) and expiring contracts (which the Pelicans don’t have enough of). Dell has some big expiring contracts in Niko and Randle, but those are quality players and trading them just to get another quality player would be a lateral move. He has Ajinca and Darius Miller, but those only total to 7.4 million going out. Dell needs more.

What he should be looking for right now are deals that allow him to package Ajinca, and perhaps even Liggins and/or Okafor in exchange for bigger expiring deals that can be part of a trade in February. And if that guy can give you a few solid games early in the year, even better. Per NBA rules, a team not in the tax can take back 175% of the salary they send out or $5 million more then they send out – whichever number is smaller. This means that the Pels can send Ajinca out and take back 9.1 million dollars. Now, let’s think about how that helps in February. That same 9.1 million can be sent out and the Pels can receive 14.1 million back, as long as it doesn’t put them over the tax.

On top of that, the Pelicans can use their exemption to add a 3.9 million dollar player to their roster without giving anything back. Lets add that back to the 9.1 million dollars in expirings they just got in this theoretical Ajinca trade. Now they have 13 million dollars in expirings, which could be used to take 18 million dollars back. Now, all of a sudden, you can put a bunch of expirings together with E’twaun Moore and get Kemba and the MKG contract the Hornets want you to swallow. You couldn’t do that if you just had Moore and Ajinca. Wouldn’t be legal. But with this series of moves in July, it is now possible in February.

Here are some deals that can help the Pelicans get both better in the short term and pull off a great trade at the deadline

Alexis Ajinca, Emeka Okafor, Cash, and a second round pick for Milos Teodosic and Wesley Johnson

The Clippers have a ton of guards and wings, and no need for either of these guys who are guaranteed 8.3 million combined this season. The Pelicans send them 7.5 million in salary that they will either cut or let insurance pay (Ajinca). Pels give them an extra 1.5 million in cash, so the Clippers save 2.3 million (maybe more if insurance pays Ajinca), get extra roster spots, and a 2nd rounder – which has a value of 1.5-2 million.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans get two expirings that total nearly 12.5 million. And two guys who can help this year at the Pelicans biggest positions of need. Then, come February, if the Mavs finally see they need to move on from Harrison Barnes – those two guys and E’Twaun Moore helps the Mavs save a bunch of money, open up space next summer when they want to be a player, and gets them a solid role player in Moore for cheap. The Mavs wouldn’t take Moore and Hill for Barnes. But Moore and expirings? Makes sense if they are 18-29.

Alexis Ajinca, Emeka Okafor, and Deandre Liggins for Markieff Morris and Jason Smith

The Wizards get under the luxury tax and open up the power forward position for Jeff Green and Otto Porter to play as they embrace their true destiny as a 1-in, 4-out team. The Pelicans solidify their big man rotation and pick up 14 million dollars in expiring to use in a trade later. When the Magic realize they stink and want to just dump Fournier and the years left on his contract, here are some expirings for them to take.

Ajinca, Emeka Okafor, and Liggins for Kenneth Faried

Remember how good AD was with Faried on Team USA? Let’s run it back! No, in all seriousness, Faried is just a contract for you to use in February. If he gives you some energy and minutes before then, awesome! But in February, he gives you a 13.8 million dollar expiring contract to use in a trade. And the Nuggets save over 4 million dollars in salary, which helps them immensely when it comes to luxury tax payments.

Too Long Didn’t Read Section

Basically, the Pelicans need to find teams who have motivation to save money and/or open up roster spots. Give them lesser expiring contracts for bigger expiring contracts and then roll over those contracts in February for bigger prizes when teams finally see the reality of their situation.

Michael McNamara <![CDATA[Trade Targets Part II: Zig While Others Zag]]> 2018-07-06T19:10:38Z 2018-07-06T19:05:38Z When you are a small market competing with 29 other teams, you need to find market inefficiencies. Either anticipate where the game is going next and/or grab up undervalued pieces while your opponents have their eye on another prize. The former is hard to do in a market with so many smart executives, but the […]]]>

When you are a small market competing with 29 other teams, you need to find market inefficiencies. Either anticipate where the game is going next and/or grab up undervalued pieces while your opponents have their eye on another prize. The former is hard to do in a market with so many smart executives, but the latter is possible.

This summer, teams are avoiding giving two years or more to non-superstars like the plague. Everyone wants to be players in the supposedly stacked 2019 free agent market, so they aren’t giving out multi-year deals in free agency and won’t take on multiple years in trades. 20+ teams will attempt to be players in the 2019 free agent market. Maybe 2-3 will succeed. And spoiler alert… the Pelicans won’t be one of those teams if they try. Klay isn’t coming here, either is Jimmy Butler or Kyrie. They will go to bigger markets and/or team up, and/or sign bigger deals than the Pels can offer with their current teams.

So why not be the team that goes after these guys with 2 or more years on their contract? Teams might be willing to give them up for much less than they are worth, just for the opportunity to chase the 2019 free agents. Pels lose out on the opportunity to chase those free agents, but they improve their team for the next two years and would still have major flexibility in the summer of AD’s potential free agency.

So, now that I have laid out the zig strategy, let’s take a look at some actual names that would fit this strategy:

Goran Dragic for E’Twaun Moore, Ajinca, Liggins, and a first round pick

Why the Heat do it: This basically lowers their obligation next year from the 19.2 million Dragic is owed to the 8.6 million Moore is owed and maybe another 2 mil or so for the first rounder. And Moore could be dumped easily if they want to move him. So, the Heat open up a ton of money for the following summer;

Why the Pelicans do it: I have said for a while that Dragic is the perfect backcourt mate next to Jrue. All of a sudden, you have one of the best backcourts in the league and an amazing three man big rotation as well. Pels give themselves a two year window to be great.

Maurice Harkless for Ajinca and Liggins

Why the Blazers do it: It saves them over 3 million dollars this year and over 11 million next year. This is important for them, as they are likely to be over the tax if they re-sign Nurkic. When you consider tax implications, this could be a 30 million dollar plus savings.

Why the Pels do it: Harkless gives the Pels another potential 3-and-D wing for just opportunity cost and nothing more. He can knock down the 3 at a much better clip than Solomon Hill and could actually give the Pelicans some rebounds from the 3 position as well.


Allen Crabbe for Solomon Hill and Ajinca

Why the Nets do it: Supposedly, the Nets want to be players next summer and trading Hill for Crabbe would open up an additional 6 million in cap room for them to try and get two max guys. Crabbe is probably the better player, but the Nets aren’t trying to win, so getting the inferior player is actually a win for them as well.

Why the Pels do it: Shooting. The cost this season is negligible, so you are basically adding 6 million to your books next season to grab a guy that can give them the skillset they need most right now.


Danillo Galinari for Solomon Hill and Ajinca

Why the Clippers do it: This deal would open up an additional 10 million in cap space for them next summer, when they plan to be major players. It’s that simple.

Why the Pelicans do it: Upside. If Gallo is healthy (a big if), then he is the exact player they need. He is a guy who can shoot and pass at high levels for a wing. If he returns to form, this is the best frontcourt in the league.


Evan Fournier for E’twaun Moore and Ajinca

Why the Magic Do it: The Magic get a player who might be a better fit for Clifford’s system and they also cut over 8 million dollars off their cap next year and 17 million dollars the following summer.

Why the Pels do it: If the Pels want size at the guard position, they need another guy who can share the point guard role with Jrue, who isn’t technically a “point guard”. The Pels can play Jrue and Fournier at the 1 and 2 or the 2 and 3, giving them tons of flexibility.


These are some examples of deals that both the Pelicans and the other team would at least have to consider. If the Pels want to take this path, they need to find a team who believes they can be major players next summer and don’t care much about their ability to win big this year. There are quite a few of those teams out there, with the Warriors essentially being declared the 2019 champs already.

Dell can go the other way, (which I examined in my last piece), but the odds of the Pelicans landing a major free agent are slim and none. And even if they do, they would have killed the depth on this roster to do so. This path has more certainty, both long term and short. Go get the right player, and the Pelicans are a 3 seed, with a legit shot at the WCF. Then, they can run it back the following year and hope for Chris Paul to break down, Boogie and KD to exit Golden State, and the Lakers to miss out on Kawhi. All that happens, and are the Finals beyond the rhelm of possibility?

That’s an unlikely sequence of events, but it is far more likely than the idea of clearing space to sign a superstar next summer in New Orleans.

Mason Ginsberg <![CDATA[Q-Pon Coupon Trade Candidates for the Pelicans]]> 2018-07-06T19:17:11Z 2018-07-06T18:18:13Z Last week, I wrote about the Pelicans’ $3.85 million trade exception obtained via sending Quincy Pondexter to the Bulls last summer in a move to clear salary. In it, I mentioned that the team would likely only use it if Boogie ended up elsewhere and the Pelicans didn’t sign-and-trade him for a player (or players) […]]]>

Last week, I wrote about the Pelicans’ $3.85 million trade exception obtained via sending Quincy Pondexter to the Bulls last summer in a move to clear salary. In it, I mentioned that the team would likely only use it if Boogie ended up elsewhere and the Pelicans didn’t sign-and-trade him for a player (or players) with similar salary.

Well, here we are.

One Julius Randle non-taxpayer MLE signing and one Elfrid Payton bi-annual exception signing later, the Pelicans are suddenly left with minimum contracts as their only remaining resources to upgrade the roster via free agency. Don’t get me wrong; given the exodus of Rondo and Cousins, both of these are strong and necessary additions. But the impact of these signings is that the Pelicans have to get very creative in order to fill out the rest of the roster. As a result, that Pondexter trade exception becomes an essential tool to do so.

Now, the important question – who should the Pelicans be targeting with that exception?

To figure out the answer to this question, the best place to start is to break it down into three unique categories: Restricted Free Agents, Salary Dumps, and Underpaid Assets.

  1. Restricted Free Agents: Players who are likely feeling the squeeze of the overall lack of cap space throughout the league, and as a result, the Pelicans may be able to bring them in via sign-and-trade on a salary that fits. Such players could only be acquired if their current team is willing to facilitate the trade, and as such, some small compensation may be required from the Pelicans to make it happen. (Note: players who are obtained through a sign-and-trade transaction must receive a contract of at least three years in length, but only the first year has to be fully guaranteed.)
  2. Salary Dumps: Players whose salary fits into the trade exception on teams that may be willing to give them away for close to nothing. This decision could be a result of salary cap concerns or simply a franchise moving in a different direction.
  3. Assets: Players who the Pelicans would not be able to simply take into their trade exception and walk away. Another asset or two would be required to bring in these players.

Below, I have identified a few players who fall into each of these three categories, along with some links to other NBA blogs/websites that provide a little more detail on them in case you are less familiar with what they bring to the table.

Restricted Free Agents

David Nwaba – 6’4″ guard/wing for the Bulls with an impressive 7 foot wingspan. Nwaba isn’t as good of a shooter as some of the other options discussed here, but he is improving in that regard and does a bunch of other things well (high motor, defense, rebounding). Per Mike Scotto of The Athletic, the Bulls’ negotiations with Nwaba are “at a stalemate” and they are listening to sign-and-trade offers as a result. Read more about Nwaba over on Blog a Bull.

Patrick McCaw – Even if the Pelicans were able to work out a deal with McCaw in restricted free agency, there’s no guarantee that the Warriors would be inclined to facilitate a trade to get him to NOLA. The deal would have to start at just under $4M to fit into the trade exception, and the Warriors could decide to match that, as the only cost to them would be a roster spot and luxury tax dollars. But if they end up with their pick of players who want to Boogie on board (see what I did there?) for a discount in order to add “win a ring” to their career checklist, then maybe the Pels could steal him away.

Bryn Forbes – Given the Spurs’ depth at shooting guard – especially if Ginobili decides to play another season by opting into his 2018-19 option – Forbes could be very much attainable for the Pelicans. On more than one occasion, Popovich has helped his departing players (of the non-superstar variety) get into the best possible situations for them, so it’s not out of the question to assume that the Spurs may agree to sign and trade him to New Orleans if it’s Forbes’ best or most lucrative opportunity.

Tyrone Wallace – A combo guard whose NBA career began on a two-way contract, Wallace is a name to watch, if for no other reason than to hear Joel Meyers say his name regularly. He isn’t a good shooter, but has good size, can guard multiple positions, and can make an impact both with and without the ball on offense. Furthermore, the Clippers have a great deal of rotation guards on the roster, so they may be comfortable letting him walk depending on the offer. Richard Flom has a good write-up on Wallace here, though he argues that the Clippers would be well-served to match most reasonable offers for him.

Honorable Mention – Yogi Ferrell, Rodney Hood (note: there is a good chance that these players either receive more than the Pels’ available trade exception or that they would be happy to pay them that low amount to keep them)

Salary Dumps

Jodie Meeks – Sharp-shooting 2-guard who is suspended for the first quarter of the 2018-19 season. Meeks was a rotation player for the Wizards last season, but given their upcoming luxury tax concerns, it is very possible that he could be acquired basically for free, and maybe even get a 2nd round pick in the process for taking him off of their books. Here is a review of Meeks’ most recent season on Bullets Forever.

JJ Barea – Veteran point guard for the Mavericks with a decent 3-point stroke. If the Mavs end up keeping Farrell to accompany their two most recent lottery picks (Smith Jr. & Doncic), Barea may be a player who they would consider unloading. While they may not give him away, the price probably wouldn’t be significant. Here is Mavs Moneyball reviewing Barea’s 2017-18 season.

Juancho Hernangomez – A stretch 4 (36.8% on his 163 3-point attempts in his NBA career thus far) who had a promising rookie season in Denver, but took a step back within the Nuggets’ deep front court rotation in 2017-18. Here’s Adam Mares, one of my favorite NBA writers, talking about Hernangomez and his fit in Denver.

Troy Daniels – Come on. After seeing me write about him at length last summer in reference to the Pelicans’ (since expired) Buddy Hield trade exception, you didn’t actually think I was going to omit him this time around, did you?

Honorable Mention – Jerian Grant, Ekpe Udoh


Tomas Satoransky – One of two Wizards players in this section, Satoransky is a favorite among the Pelicans community, as his size and skill set does fit in quite nicely with what the Pelicans still need at this point. A versatile guard/wing, he filled in at point guard last season while Wall was sidelined, and his team didn’t miss a beat. The Wizards wouldn’t part with him unless they got something valuable in return, but they may not be able to afford the salary for his next contract given all of their other long-term commitments.

Kelly Oubre – You can pretty much copy and paste the Satoransky section down here, except for the point guard comment. Valuable player on a very affordable contract, but he will be a restricted free agent next summer, so his salary will likely jump.

Tyus Jones – Similar to Satoransky, Jones filled in admirably for Timberwolves starting PG Jeff Teague while he was injured, but in typical Thibs fashion, received sparse playing time off the bench. Furthermore, the Wolves are re-signing Derrick Rose, so there are lingering questions about what Jones’ role will be next season. He wouldn’t come for free, but he may be more attainable than his age and talent level may suggest.

Stanley Johnson – Of all players mentioned in this column, none of them fit more perfectly into the Pondexter trade exception than Johnson, who makes just $13,529 less than the maximum allowable amount. The 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft hasn’t shown a ton of growth in his 3-year NBA career with the Pistons, but there are worse options for a 1-year trial run in advance of his restricted free agency next summer. Like Jones, his current team would not just give him away, but he could come for a fairly reasonable price if the Pelicans are interested.

Honorable Mention: Reggie Bullock, Justise Winslow


These players range from barely exciting to legitimate impact players, but the associated acquisition costs also scale accordingly. How the Pelicans plan to navigate this cost/benefit curve remains to be seen, but hopefully, they can use this trade exception to improve the team in some way before it expires on September 1st.

Have an opinion about who the Pelicans should target? Let us know in the comments section or on twitter!

Jesse Brooks <![CDATA[Elfrid Payton: Homecoming]]> 2018-07-06T15:03:59Z 2018-07-06T12:31:50Z By Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89) College and more: March 21st, 2014 Elfrid Payton, and Doug McDermott are squaring off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Payton’s 14th seeded Ragin Cajuns versus McDermott’s 3rd seeded Blue Jays’. Payton is 6’4 point guard guarding the 6’8 forward McDermott nearly the entire game, unusual, but Payton won […]]]>

By Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89)

College and more: March 21st, 2014 Elfrid Payton, and Doug McDermott are squaring off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Payton’s 14th seeded Ragin Cajuns versus McDermott’s 3rd seeded Blue Jays’. Payton is 6’4 point guard guarding the 6’8 forward McDermott nearly the entire game, unusual, but Payton won the Lefty Driesell-NCAA defensive player of the year award and this is a task he wouldn’t have any other way. There was a stretch in the second half where Payton held McDermott scoreless for 14 straight minutes, and the Cajuns got within 4 with 2:30 left, thanks to two Elfrid Payton free throws. If you can remember, nobody could guard Doug McDermott that year hence the nickname “Doug McBuckets”, but Payton didn’t shy away from the challenge. McDermott went on to hit 3 straight 3’s and seal the game, ending with 30 points and Creighton won 76-66. Payton ended the game with a line of 24 points 8 rebounds 3 steals and 3 assists. He gave a mid-major 14th seed a chance to win an NCAA tournament game they frankly had no business being in, and he fought tooth and nail every game of the season to get them to that point. Interestingly enough, three months later, Payton was drafted 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers before a draft day trade to the Orlando Magic. McDermott was drafted 11th by the Denver Nuggets and was also part of a draft-day trade to the Chicago Bulls.

The Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Bob Marlin often lauded Payton’s defensive efforts, tenacity, and most of all, his relentless work ethic. The week before the NCAA tournament he spearheaded a 13 point comeback in the Sunbelt tournament vs Georgia state to win in overtime and the Cajuns won their first NCAA tournament bid since 2005. Payton is a competitor.

My Dad has been sitting in the exact same spot, with the exact same people, at the exact same place for every Louisiana Lafayette basketball game since the Cajun Dome was constructed in 1984, and before that, he was sitting with those same people for Cajun games at the Blackham Coliseum. A lot of my childhood was spent attending these games. I called him immediately when it was reported that Elfrid Payton signed with the Pelicans on a one year deal. My dad is not an emotional person but, I could hear the excitement in his voice. He said he had to go to call all of his friends about the news. The next day, he said each one of his friends was talking about getting season tickets to Pelicans games. He also said he needed to call LUS fiber (one of the main cable providers in the Lafayette area) because, the year before they stopped carrying Fox Sports NOLA meaning, no Pelicans games and this had to be fixed. Why is this a big deal? The Lafayette area is largely removed from the scope of NBA basketball and the Pelicans, interest in them falls to the wayside. Sure, there was some buzz during the playoff run but if you walk into the Academy sports store there, you will not be able to find any Pelicans Merchandise, you can buy a Los Angeles Dodgers shirt though. Most of the time, before this year, if you went to Buffalo Wild Wings you would have to ask them specifically to put on a Pelicans game. The Saints, Cajuns, and LSU reign supreme in the Lafayette area. Some buzz for the Pelicans would be refreshing, and Payton’s signing can do exactly that.

Magic/Suns Saga 2014 – 18: Payton’s career with the Magic did not go ideally. The organization has been in flux since Dwight Howard demanded out and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012. With the constant roster and management turnover, Paytons’ defense seemed to have gone with it. He’s looked largely lost as a pro at the defensive level, this could be because of the roster changes and never had a steady coach or he could still be figuring it out. We know he has the tools 6’4 in shoes with a 6’7 wingspan and he showed the promise in college, it’s why he climbed up the draft boards from a pick projected to be in the 20s to the late lottery at 10 overall. Payton has never been a good shooter, but he can get to the line and facilitate. Below, is his career 2017-2018 heatmap chart from (

As you can see, he isn’t a good 3 point shooter but he can draw fouls and get to the line. He also isn’t a great free throw shooter (65% for the 17-18 season). What Payton does well are, play in pace, pass, attack the rim.

At this past year’s trade deadline, Payton was traded to the Phoenix Suns for a 2nd round draft pick. Many NBA fans were saying “All it took was a second-round pick for Payton, why didn’t my team do that!”). He went from a bad situation to a worse one. The Magic were simply just bad, the Suns were trying to be bad actively tanking at the time. The Suns best player, Devin Booker, missed a large majority of the time Payton was out on the floor for Phoenix. A nonshooting point guards best friend – is shooters. Payton struggled mightily often losing playing time to Tyler Ulis (who Phoenix also let go). Phoenix did not offer Payton his qualifying offer, letting him be an unrestricted free agent.

What’s Next: Elfrid Payton seems ready for a fresh start, cutting off his signature hairstyle this past summer and signing a 1 year 2.7 million dollar deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Payton is going to be getting his fresh start while seeing familiar faces. He’s returning home to New Orleans, where he played high school ball at John Ehret. After a tumultuous NBA start, he’s still only 24 years old and has a lot to prove, there’s no better place to do it than home. Payton was initially brought in to be the backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo but with Rondo unexpectedly bolting for the glamour of the Los Angeles Lakers and Lebron James, Payton could possibly be thrust into the starting role. Nylon Calculus projects him to garner 1.1 extra wins for the Pelicans and his on-court production can be comparable to Rajon Rondo’s as seen here.

Overall, Payton projects to be around a league average starter with upside. The perfect player does not come to a team for a portion of the Bi-Annual exception and Payton is by no means perfect. But he is still young and he is going to work his tail off every day. Payton is the only non-New Orleans jersey I own — a Christmas present from my little sister in 2014 because she knows what’s important to me. I’m looking forward to buying his Pelicans jersey – hopefully from that Lafayette Academy.

Jesse Brooks <![CDATA[Are the Pelicans better in the post-Boogie era?]]> 2018-07-06T14:24:18Z 2018-07-06T00:49:46Z NBA Free Agency is in full swing and one of New Orleans’s looming fears came into fruition this week as DeMarcus Cousins will walk away from the Pelicans, leaving the franchise no assets from the original deal that landed the big man in The Big Easy. Our emotions were further stirred when we learned that […]]]>

NBA Free Agency is in full swing and one of New Orleans’s looming fears came into fruition this week as DeMarcus Cousins will walk away from the Pelicans, leaving the franchise no assets from the original deal that landed the big man in The Big Easy. Our emotions were further stirred when we learned that Cousins will join the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors.

This week has been a whirlwind. The Pelicans lost their floor general, point guard Rajon Rondo, and when it happened, it happened in a flash. Rondo accepted a $9 million offer to join the now LeBron James led Los Angeles Lakers. For a fanbase that has suffered years of strange and unfortunate circumstances, uneasy feelings have been triggered. The loss of two big names in one week has many questioning how the Pelicans can even compete as other Western Conference powers seem to stockpile talent so easily.

However, now that we have adjusted to get past the emotional headlines, maybe we can assess the current situation for the Pelicans with a clear heart. After catching a breath, things don’t look so bad.

With Boogie on board, “#DoItBig” was perfect marketing on the Pels’ behalf. Not only were the tandem of Anthony Davis and Cousins entertaining on the court, but the alpha dog culture and roster featuring recognizable names were a boost to the New Orleans franchise. However, after Boogie’s exit in January, it’s impossible to deny that the team’s best parts of the season were the stretches of games Cousins was not on the floor. For the entire season, the Pels were a top 10 team in pace, but they solidified their stay in the number one spot from February on and progressed to whipping up on the third seeded Portland Trailblazers in a first round sweep in the playoffs. In Boogie’s absence, the Pels acquired veteran center Emeka Okafor, who was reviving his career in the G-League, and perimeter oriented big man Nikola Mirotic in a trade for Omer Asik, a first round pick and assets with the Chicago Bulls. This second half run resulted in one of the best finishes in franchise history.

Fans hear rumors about the eventual departure of Davis so often that when other free agents depart it’s hard to not assume the worst about his future in the Crescent City. However, it’s important to be realistic about the current state of Cousins, a big man coming off a major injury that might not see the floor until January. For the sake of #DoItBig, there was desire to bring back Cousins, but caution was necessary.

It also has been reported by multiple sources now that despite Cousins’ claims of receiving no interest from the Pelicans, the franchise offered him a $40 million deal over two years shortly after his injury during the season. He declined. From there, interest and market value for Cousins rapidly dropped. He will join the Warriors this season for $5.3 million.

Not keeping Cousins, in the end, comes off as a power move by GM Dell Demps and the state of the franchise whether the public realizes it or not. In terms of what they felt they “had to do” to keep Davis in New Orleans, the front office has given out some bad contracts in the past in efforts to keep certain cores together. In review, Demps awarded two lucrative contracts to injured big men Asik and Alexis Ajinca.. He recently dumped the Asik contract in a deal that became Mirotic so why create another situation that may hurt your options down the road? In this situation, the team’s success without Cousins actually became leverage. The franchise’s back was not against the wall this time, and making tough calls became a luxury.

By not picking up Cousins for too much money, Demps is making a statement that the franchise is committed mostly to the group that represented the best portion of last season. Fans need not to forget these stretches of games are what turned Davis into a MVP finalist and earned Davis and Jrue Holiday NBA First Team All-Defense honors. As much as Cousins excited this fanbase, the true cultural turning point for the franchise seemed arrive in the game three 119-102 win over the Blazers at home. From that moment on, it was apparent that not only would the Pels win the series but they would also likely complete a sweep.

Before we learned that Cousins would walk, the news broke that Julius Randle was quickly signed by the Pels for $18 million over two years after being somewhat surprisingly released by the Lakers. Randle is coming off of a career season where he averaged 16 ppg and 8 rpg. Randle is also a frontcourt fit for teams that like to run, and the Lakers finished last season second in pace just behind New Orleans. Considering the fact that the Pels would like to use Mirotic off the bench, maybe we should not think of Randle as replacing Cousins in the starting line up but rather Okafor. Which, in that case, the 23-year-old forward is a tremendous upgrade.

Admittingly, the loss of Rondo could be costly, but at the price of $9 million the Pels did not feel they could reach a deal after the surprise offer from LA. If the Pels had come to terms with Rondo, more than likely they would have not been able to bring Randle on board.

For the moment, the possible starting point guard replacement appears to be Elfrid Payton after signing a one-year deal. Payton comes into this situation as a question mark. He’s had an up and down career since he was a lottery pick out of UL-Lafayette in 2014. However, if there is one thing Payton knows how to do well it is push pace and he’ll be with a team that wants to run. Rondo’s intangibles and basketball IQ will be difficult to replace, but Payton’s game has shades of Rondo in it. It’s possible that playing with Davis may elevate his career numbers.

It’s entirely possible that the young Payton comes with upside, but Rondo does leave big shoes to fill. It should also be indicated that there may be a hole to fill in regards to point guard depth considering the questions around Payton and behind him are rookies Frank Jackson and Tony Carr.

As far as the conference landscape, everyone is kind of staying put. The Warriors gain Cousins. So what? At this time, no one is getting past them so nothing changes. Cousins may return by January, and when he does, he may around play 5-10 minutes a game. He may or may not showcase himself well enough for a max contract next summer. If he does, more power to him. But in the here and now, no one was going to beat the Warriors anyway.

Most teams in the West have not made their needle tick up much. We’ve mostly seen dramatic headlines. The only team that got significantly better was the Lakers and it remains to be seen how that new setting for LeBron will play out. Portland appears to be done. Trevor Ariza left Houston. There’s also noise suggesting Jimmy Butler wants out of Minnesota. Add in the fact that Kawhi Leonard’s soap opera in San Antonio is ongoing and this whole landscape could change tomorrow, or in February at the next trade deadline.

All Pelicans fans need to know is that the group from the best part of last season is coming back minus Rondo. That’s not bad to work with. There’s still time and the Pelicans have a few options as far as exceptions and trades they can work with to possibly add more depth to positions.

Now, get down from that ledge. The future is still fine.

Michael McNamara <![CDATA[What Makes Sense as the Next Step for the Pelicans?]]> 2018-07-03T16:00:53Z 2018-07-03T16:00:53Z July 2nd was a weird day. We can go into every minute detail and break it down several different ways, but let’s just say it was weird and move on. Some people want Dell to battle the false claims Boogie’s camp is spewing, but there really isn’t anything to be gained by that. His job […]]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Calmes <![CDATA[After Math]]> 2018-07-04T21:47:23Z 2018-07-03T15:00:31Z We’ll have the considered reactions from the guys later today, but, for now, here’s the New Orleans Pelicans’ cap situation and how it will affect the other 363 days of their cap year. Overall Situation The Pelicans are now over the cap, hard capped, under the tax, and that should not change. They have the […]]]>

We’ll have the considered reactions from the guys later today, but, for now, here’s the New Orleans Pelicans’ cap situation and how it will affect the other 363 days of their cap year.

Overall Situation

The Pelicans are now over the cap, hard capped, under the tax, and that should not change.

They have the minimum exception and trades to work with. There is not enough money left in the bi-annual exception left to sign anyone to a minimum deal, so it’s useless. The trades can involve current players, Ian Clark, Charles Cooke, Jordan Crawford, picks, draft rights, trade exceptions, and cash. With thirteen players under contract now (or committed to be), they also have the option to clear roster spots by ditching some non-guaranteed salary to get the players they want, complete transactions in the end.

Next season, the Pelicans are slated to be a room team at this point, or a least they could be. If so, they would have lost the bi-annual exception anyway, so using it this season for Payton, which comes with losing it next season (hence, the name), is not a net loss. Beyond that, it’s just Jrue with a single player option year, Davis with a guaranteed year following by his option.

The above ignores various holds and non-compulsory items along with the roster charge, other arcane CBA creatures.

Look for the Pelicans not to add major salary beyond a 2-year time frame unless it is for a quality or movable player.

Assorted Details

  • Hard Cap: The hard cap will likely not affect the Pelicans this offseason, saving the biggest, most lopsided imaginable, but legal, trades or multiple trades, each legally lopsided. The Pelicans are hardcapped, and, again, they have incentives that make it closer than it appears. Their apparent salary will top out around the tax line during the season for this reason. After the season, the salary can increase or decrease based on the actual incentives earned. It’s that top potential figure that factors into the hard cap, even once an incentive is impossible to meet that season.
  • Tax: The tax will likely not affect the Pelicans, this offseason. See above. The incentives calculation applies to the tax calculation, too. They can appear to be over, then go under, or the other way around, depending on how the incentives fall.
  • Minimum Exception: This is one way the Pelicans have to add salary and is available for all teams at all times, can be used as many times as they like, as long as everything else is legal. You can give 1-year or 2-year deals, but players will be more reluctant than normal to sign a 2-year deal. This is because the minimum salary for the second season locks in when the deal is signed. Cap changes do not affect it. With a bigger than normal cap increase projected next season, players stepping down into the minimum will be even less likely to take it.

    There are three exceptions to this minimum exception: Ian Clark, Charles Cooke, and Jordan Crawford. Them and only them. Each of the three C’s has some form of Bird Rights. Clark and Cooke each have Non-Bird Rights. Clark and Cooke are both Non-Bird free agents. They can all sign (or be signed-and-traded) for up to four seasons. Cooke can be given a first year salary between $1,349,383 and $1,619,259.6, Clark between $1,757,429 and $2,108,914.8. Crawford is an Early Bird free agent. His salary range is from $1,893,447 to $8,838,000. There are complications with Crawford, detailed here.

  • Typical Trades: The Pelicans will likely make a trade this season for one reason or another. No players on the roster have any trade veto power, save new signings not being trade eligible until December 15, Carr 30 days after he’s signed (if he signs). There are no trade kickers for a player that’s being traded. They have a range of salaries and value players available. With the current players under contract, they will be hard pressed to put together the kind of trade to put them near the tax. To add $10m in salary, they would need to send out something like $50m (due to the 125% rule for large trades to do so in a single trade. They could do so with two smaller trades with outgoing salaries starting a little over $6m. This is more likely, but rules about aggregation of salary and the current roster construction are barriers.

    Do not discount the potential to bring in a versatile, triple-threat, defending wing via trade.

  • Atypical Trades: The Pelicans may take advantage of some atypical trades. The Pelicans have a few trade exceptions laying around that can bring back: $3,953,931, $2,400,000, $1,571,382, $1,529,818. They expire over the season, with the earliest being the most valuable (September 1). They can not be combined. The Pelicans can use picks, cash, and draft rights (Carr and one other player) to complete these deals. Also, since the Pelicans have Crawford’s Early Bird Rights, he can be used in a sign-and-trade to bring back a player or enhance a deal with greater effect than Cooke or Clark, but they could be used to lesser effect. Crawford’s details, again, are here while Cooke and Clark can bring back up to $2,933,704.3 and $3,790,600.9, respectively. Sign-and-trades can be aggregated, as well. Moves like this can move the salary figure a good bit without losing a major player, which may be of considerable interest. The biggest of these assets is the Pondexter exception, which Mason has discussed. It expires September 1. The sign-and-trades go away at the start of the season. The other exceptions expire a little before the deadline.
  • Salary Dump: The Pelicans can partake in what will potentially be a decent little salary dump market. They can use the above to try to get a little asset or a shinier one as teams look to get out of the tax. Similarly for completing complex trades. The players acquired are likely not needle-movers here, but anything is possible. What is more likely is getting a project or a player with some cap implications next season. For instance, a player like Crawford that can be used in trades due to Bird or Early Bird rights. The Pelicans can keep Okafor or Liggins to create their own such chips, or waive them at some point. Miller and Diallo will likely end up fully guaranteed.
Kumar <![CDATA[In The No Episode 2: We Have An Emergency]]> 2018-07-03T12:54:55Z 2018-07-03T05:58:48Z   Shamit and Mason bring Mac out of retirement for this one. Boogie leaves the Pelicans to join the Warriors. Rondo leaves the Pelicans to join the Lakers. Oh hey Julius Randle, welcome to New Orleans. Oh boy. Listen on iTunes Listen on Spotify RSS Feed Direct Download]]>


Shamit and Mason bring Mac out of retirement for this one. Boogie leaves the Pelicans to join the Warriors. Rondo leaves the Pelicans to join the Lakers. Oh hey Julius Randle, welcome to New Orleans. Oh boy.

Listen on iTunes

Listen on Spotify

RSS Feed

Direct Download

Jason Calmes <![CDATA[2018 NBA Free Agency, Roundtable 2]]> 2018-07-02T00:16:43Z 2018-07-01T23:15:46Z What thoughts do you want to share about Free Agency so far? Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89): With the Pelicans being in a Demarcus Cousins led limbo, seeing them tied to almost every low-tier big man is slightly hilarious. Other than that, I hope this Cousins saga comes to a close soon because refreshing my twitter app […]]]>

What thoughts do you want to share about Free Agency so far?

Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89): With the Pelicans being in a Demarcus Cousins led limbo, seeing them tied to almost every low-tier big man is slightly hilarious. Other than that, I hope this Cousins saga comes to a close soon because refreshing my twitter app every 5 minutes gets exhausting. The Lakers meeting with Rockets restricted free agent Clint Capela before meeting with Cousins is interesting, hopefully they sign him to a large offer sheet and tie themselves up for a few days, though the Rockets will match. According to Larry Coon, the Lakers maintaining a max spot for Lebron James, then they can offer Cousins around 23 million dollars. This is just me speculating but I am guessing the Pelicans offer started somewhere around there and is being worked upwards. Wing targets are coming off the board, thought this is not a particularly strong wing class it will be interesting to see who the Pelicans target or if they address this later in free agency from trade.

Rick Stone (@RickStoneNBA): Nothing happening early on for the Pelicans should not be a surprise for anyone that’s kept up with the Dell Demps’ strategy. Sure, he did give AD and Asik those massive deals on Day One a few years back, but this is a different story. New Orleans’ strategy with Boogie will be one that takes time and not one that immediately happens. The other pieces will take a while to fall, as Demps will try to save money on players that can be a key cog to the team. The feeling is also that a lot of the big spenders in the NBA are still awaiting the news on Kawhi now that LeBron is going to LA, so this process could take some more time into free agency. Also, every guy the Pelicans seem to be talking to is to leverage their negotiations with Boogie, since everyone they’ve been linked to is a center. Once that gets solved, expect New Orleans to start to talk to wings and possibly backup guards.

Jesse Brooks (@jessecbrooks): It’s a poker game and we’re in the wild, wild west. We’re waiting to see who folds first. DeMarcus Cousins has meetings with the Pelicans and Lakers. However, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James have expressed interest in the Lakers. We likely don’t know anything going on with Boogie until both of those trains leave the station. All I can gather at the moment is that both the Pelicans and Lakers are in a bit of a leverage battle when approaching Boogie. Lakers schedule a meeting with RFA Clint Capela and Pelicans “express interest” in basically every free agent big man name in the book. It’s a House of Cards, and it’s likely other factors have to fall first.

It kind of looks like so much depends on how Kawhi and Coach Pop handle this potential trade thing. Kawhi wants to strongarm his way to LA, but he does not control his own destiny, the Spurs do. While the Lakers have assets, I still kind of see it as hard to believe the Spurs help out a Western power. There’s a lot of Philly talk. I’m holding on to hope Spurs give LA the bird by shipping Kawhi out East, LeBron never meets with Magic and Pelicans’ deal to Boogie becomes the best option.

42 (@42phd): With Dallas out of the picture and the Lakers reportedly in the picture, the market for Cousins has experienced a net-contraction. The Lakers got LeBron, so I do not see them going for Cousins at all, but that is, of course, up to Mayor-Elect James at this point. I can’t see them offering more than ~$25m total on a 1y deal if they make it that far down their list. Pelinka may also see the Pelicans as future direct competition and wants to put a thumb on the salary scale at no real cost to him, score points with Cousins, players, fans just in case. Their timetable is too short even without James. If they land just Kawhi, I feel the same, just less emphatically.

With max money off the table the natural nails in the market go from ~$18m (prior salary . . . so injury does no harm, no foul in raw salary terms), ~$22m from the sign-and-trade-market (roughly, and it’s complicated), ~$25m from the free agency market, set by non-bird-focused deals, and ~$30m (max) to just the first three of those. I’d pegged the market at ~$25m since that nail is close to the midpoint, pretty reasonable. Now I see it perhaps down a peg, more like ~$22m. Then, if LA goes away (or never comes), then it’s down to $18m. This can all be boosted up a notch or two with incentives. Deal length, options can affect it, too. As mentioned above and by me elsewhere: if you wait for the market, you are waiting on its timeline, not yours.

Even if the Pelicans want to move forward without Cousins, the best move it to sign him to a contract tied to the market, then try to further shine up his health and personality concerns. Once the value is increased . . . and maybe you find a different kind of magic with the new Cousins in the mix . . . you trade him then. This way you can help maintain your salary war chest and your options long-term, not just right now on the difference between a TMLE player and a NMLE player.

Jason Calmes <![CDATA[2018 NBA Free Agency, Roundtable 1]]> 2018-06-30T23:38:08Z 2018-06-30T23:38:08Z What thoughts do you want to share about Free Agency so far? Andrew Smith (@DruProductions): I think if Boogie comes on a 2-year, it’s a fantastic if it’s $60m or below. My biggest worry for Boogie’s contract was always giving too many years. I’m totally fine with paying a little more with nobody else bidding […]]]>

What thoughts do you want to share about Free Agency so far?

Andrew Smith (@DruProductions): I think if Boogie comes on a 2-year, it’s a fantastic if it’s $60m or below. My biggest worry for Boogie’s contract was always giving too many years. I’m totally fine with paying a little more with nobody else bidding if it means we can assess an injured superstar without giving him so many years. Basically, I just wanted to avoid a situation where the Boogie contract goes past 2021 when AD is up. As with every offseason for the Pels, I’m very interested in what kind of wing help they can find, especially on the defensive end.

Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89): Everything is a rumor right now, and every rumor is out there for a purpose. It doesn’t do much good to obsess over it, and it really doesn’t do good to get mad at your team before anything even happened. It will be interesting to see which meetings teams have scheduled with players. Tonight at midnight (EDT) dominoes will start to fall, and we’ll see where the Pelicans end up with the concurrent Rondo and Cousins moves. Cousins market is lowering with every single big man that hits the free agent market, especially with the recent news DeAndre Jordan opted out of his contract and that he and the Dallas Mavericks have made each other their top priorities. The Mavericks controlled the market for bigs almost entirely, and a shorter term deal is starting to make more and more sense for both the Pelicans and Cousins.

Rick Stone (@RickStoneNBA): There is not really much to take on free agency so early on. Until July 1st, everything is just going to be a guestimization. The Pelicans have a few big decisions to make on players like Boogie and Rondo. New Orleans has to hope Boogie gives some leeway on his max deal hopes, but they also have to realize just how important he can be to the chemistry of what happened this past season. It’s a tough decision for the team. Aside from Boogie, Rondo is one that was such a key player in the playoffs. What he demands will be interesting as it compared to what the Pelicans can be flexible with. The biggest Free Agency watch however will be Dell Demps’ quest for the next “Diamond in the Rough Role Player of Free Agency”. New Orleans is going to need to find some cheap players to take on big roles yet again, with Solo’s inflated contract making things difficult money wise.

Jesse Brooks (@jessecbrooks): Campaigning for Paul George of LeBron James to come to New Orleans was fun… and hilarious to an extent. But in all seriousness, I don’t expect any major shakeups for the Pelicans. I think their focus is to maintain the success they have had. With his market shrinking, I think DeMarcus Cousins signs a team-friendly deal. Keeping him here makes Davis happy, which is important. I’m hoping for a serviceable wing either using the MLE or the few trade assets available. I also think somehow Rajon Rondo returns, knowing NOLA is where he kind of got his groove back, consistently… somewhat. Fans also need to remember that Jrue Holiday returning All-Star form lessens the need to bring in top level talent.

42 (@42phd): I look around at the big pieces, and I just don’t see them coming to New Orleans. I also see Cousins back, Rondo back. So, to me, the big deal is Mr. MLE. Who will he be? As Kumar said, Dell will be after that guy at midnight, the other guys with set deals and instructions to come back with a better offer if they get one . . . or they will just take what’s been given and not risk the market dropping their contract. That little routine is settled, but when we will hear how it plays out is not (I’m ignoring the public negotiations and those facilitating it). Dell will be outside someone’s window with boombox at midnight (ET) blaring something. Let’s hope they feel special and that he chose wisely . . . song and target. In your eyes . . .

Jason Calmes <![CDATA[Benjamin Alterman Fandom Fanpost]]> 2018-06-29T18:30:29Z 2018-06-29T18:30:29Z Benjamin Alterman is long-time follower of the site and wrote this piece about Fandom. We hope you enjoy it. His twitter is protected, but maybe if you read this, you’ll get permission to follow @ben_alterman. — 42 I want Lebron James to play for the Pelicans. I also want Paul George to play for the […]]]>

Benjamin Alterman is long-time follower of the site and wrote this piece about Fandom. We hope you enjoy it. His twitter is protected, but maybe if you read this, you’ll get permission to follow @ben_alterman. — 42

I want Lebron James to play for the Pelicans. I also want Paul George to play for the Pelicans. Hell, I want any player that will make the Pelicans better to play for the Pelicans. I want fans to be able to put out crazy trade proposals and free agency wish lists. I want these things because I think sports are supposed to be fun. Talking about my favorite basketball team should be fun. Spending hours on Spotrac looking at contracts to see how a trade could work should be fun. I don’t need people on Twitter to then tell me that those trades will not happen because they are impossible or even unlikely and be extremely condescending in the process. Let people have fun.

I am aware that it is exceedingly unlikely that either Lebron or Paul George or both will choose to go to the Pelicans this summer. And I believe that most people that have tweeted about Lebron or insert star player here understand that he probably will not be taking his talents to Bourbon Street. What I don’t need is several notable bloggers on Twitter being rude and demeaning to fans that tweet about their desire for those players. Anthony Davis sure wants Lebron on his team based on his Instagram likes and follows. Dell Demps and Alvin Gentry and Gayle Benson sure as hell want Lebron to come to the Big Easy to create a super team and will try their best to make it a reality. They will likely fail and Lebron will probably go to LA or Philly or Houston or insert big market city here. That doesn’t mean that the attempt or the fan desire wasn’t worthwhile.

The Pelicans/Hornets have never signed a major star free agent in their history (ok maybe Peja counts but whatever). They have never even really been invited to the table to interview a star. While Lebron probably will not be taking his talents to the Crescent City, simply getting Dell and AD in a room with him as a finalist could be hugely important to the future of the franchise. Lebron’s influence in the NBA is that great. When the NBA was deciding how to handle the protests against police brutality and racial injustice during national anthem, they waited for Lebron to make a decision. Being one of the 5-10 teams that Lebron meets with would show that the Pelicans as a franchise are viewed as a destination by players around the league. That would allow the Pelicans to potentially acquire better free agents in the future or good veterans for the minimum such as David West, who went to the Spurs and then the Warriors chasing rings. Lebron James should be the goal. He is maybe the best basketball player ever and would make any team that he chooses to go to, outside of maybe the Nets, Magic or Kings (I’m not doubting him so who knows), an instant championship contender.

The front office making an attempt to get Lebron and the fan base clamoring for Lebron is a sign that the Pels are no longer the sorry franchise that lost Chris Paul due, in part, to actually not having an owner at the time and when they did have an owner, he was extremely cheap. This front office has said that they will pay the tax in order to contend for a championship. Acquiring a second superstar to pair with AD is the move that accomplishes that. This summer could transform the Pelicans into a truly elite team, but perhaps more importantly this summer could also prove that the Pelicans are a franchise that NBA players desire to play for and one that will have sustained success going into the future.

I want this fanbase to have the confidence displayed by fans of teams such as the Warriors, Celtics, and Lakers. Those fans believe that their favorite team will attract top end talent to help contend for championships. I am tired of seeing Boston fans putting out crazy AD trade proposals and even more exhausted of the national media members that talked about AD trades to the Lakers, Celtics, or even the Warriors, for example, around Monday June 11 (The Athletic, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, wherever Chris Mannix is currently employed). This fan base and the media that covers it (tv, radio, podcasts, and yes, the blogs) need to treat this team as a contender for stars. For that to happen, the condescension from several notable members of the community needs to end. We understand that Lebron James is probably not coming here. Don’t be rude. Allow fans to be fans, as irrational or as crazy as they might seem. Enjoy the excitement surrounding the team. I sure will.

42 Sense: Ben has a good point here. Discussion about trades, etc. from fans or even media members focused on these matters should not be responded to the same way as cap experts making the same claim. When I was having lunch at High Hat with my good friend Oleh Kosel, maybe you’ve heard of him, I said it’s like a professor treating an error in student homework like one in an academic paper. The correction, education, and encouragement goes to the enthusiastic student, and the person setting themselves up as a current expert gets treated with some professional courtesy but without the kid gloves probably. Experts need to let the amateurs or prospective experts have their kind of talk, and the experts need to be left along when they are having their boring, discouraging, nerdfest. No permanent barriers, but you have to be careful which mode of discourse you are in, especially if you are both a true fan and an expert. That said, let’s have some fun. We earned it.

Kumar <![CDATA[The Midnight Dance]]> 2018-06-29T17:57:38Z 2018-06-29T12:31:36Z Intro At midnight July 1, the gates to the NBA’s biggest ball fly open and everyone is looking for that special someone to take to the dance floor. Like any dance, your popularity and attractiveness play a huge role in finding a partner to tango with. If popularity were market size in the NBA, you […]]]>


At midnight July 1, the gates to the NBA’s biggest ball fly open and everyone is looking for that special someone to take to the dance floor. Like any dance, your popularity and attractiveness play a huge role in finding a partner to tango with. If popularity were market size in the NBA, you can guess where the Pelicans lie. The Pelicans have to be careful and strategic with who they choose to pursue. There is a definite opportunity cost to every minute spent chasing a free agent who may not be interested in you while others who may have given you a shot are being scooped up. A small market with limited cap room cannot afford to waste time chasing a free agent that will be high on the list of teams that can make better offers.

So how should the Pelicans approach midnight? For starters, they shouldn’t waste time meeting with Cousins and Rondo. Think about it. Boogie and Rondo are technically under contract until June 30th. The Pelicans face no moratorium restrictions on being able to contact them and their representatives to discuss contracts. In all likelihood, Cousins and Rondo have known what is on the table for them for a while now. Meeting with them at midnight wouldn’t accomplish anything – you let the market play out in this situation and adjust your offer as necessary. Likewise, as mentioned before, the Pelicans need to avoid guys who might find themselves a bevy of suitors. The game here is to find a guy that is the perfect mixture of attainable and discounted while other teams are busy chasing the mid-tier or high value guys. Guys that other teams will overlook. While teams tell a guy to sit tight as they are chasing their A, B, and C options, the Pelicans need to show their target that he was unilaterally plan A. THAT is the sell – we wanted you July 1st when no one else did. No one wants to feel like a leftover even if that is exactly what they are. Perhaps nothing illustrates how the Pelicans should approach this better than this scene from A Beautiful Mind.

The Pelicans need to not waste time chasing after the blonde, but just make their move decisively on one of her friends. This ensures the greatest probability that the Pelicans get lai– (ahem) their man.


Here are some guys I think are undervalued and are likely no one’s first choice. They will probably not command a large sum of money, but the Pelicans might have to pay a small premium given their market status.

Glenn Robinson III, 6’6’’, SG/SF: People may remember Glenn Robinson from taking home the dunk contest title right here in New Orleans a couple years ago. Robinson is a hyper-athletic wing who is discovering his shot. He was an extremely low volume player in Indiana, but sported a career 38.1% mark from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, Robinson was sidelined with an ankle injury for the majority of last year. He could very well fit the mold of a low value pick up to slide into the wing position. He doesn’t do much, as he averaged a mere 4 points per game in Indiana. But then again, neither did Solomon Hill. Don’t expect much rebounding or playmaking out of him.

Joe Harris, 6’6’’, SG: Joe Harris was a nice surprise in Brooklyn last year, averaging 10.8 ppg on a blistering 63.8% true shooting. His stats are not much different than E’twuan Moore’s this past year. Like Moore, Harris is limited athletically and doesn’t provide much on the way of rebounds or assists. But Harris is a workhorse off the ball. The Pelicans need shooting and Harris provides it.

Jerami Grant, 6’8’’, F: Grant played a pivotal role in OKC this past year and was only on a minimum deal. He will be seeking a raise for his services. Not only is he a small ball 4 who can switch across the perimeter, Grant is a tenacious defender and solid shot blocker. He isn’t much of a shooter, but in small lineups, he was aggressive on the boards. OKC even showcased Grant at center in super small lineups. From a hustle and culture standpoint, Grant would be a great addition to the front court.

Honorable Mentions: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Wayne Ellington. Thomas and Bradley are coming off injuries that took them out for the season. It is unclear whether they will ever be the same players again, and their market is severely depressed from a year ago. I’m also not the biggest fan of either player, but they could be a decent buy low gamble. Should one of these guys recuperate their value, suddenly you have an asset on your hands on a cost controlled contract. Ellington is coming off perhaps his best year in the league, but is already over the age of 30. I also expect him to have more suitors than the guys listed above.

Calling My Shot

I’m calling my shot for the Pelicans entire offseason here. Okay maybe not every single detail, but at least the major ones. I think the midnight meeting should be with Joe Harris. He is coming off a cheap 2nd round contract and he will probably have the least suitors compared to the guys above. Harris, at worst, gives you someone who makes E’twuan totally replaceable. I mentioned his off ball work rate above — just look how he relocates around the perimeter.


In a Finch and Gentry offense, and ideally with Rondo finding shooters, Harris will thrive. Last season Harris made 150 threes. That’s 3 more than the highest Pelican shooter, Darius Miller. The ability to take and make these shots is vital in today’s NBA, and especially to AD. Harris shot 41% on catch and shoot threes, and 50% on pull-ups (smaller sample). Harris excelled not only as a spot up shooter, but also one who could do damage off screens and handoffs. This offensive dynamic is one that is sorely needed on the Pelicans.

Should the Pelicans choose to go after Harris, or any one of these guys, it tells me that they are banking on Rondo taking the non-bird exception for his contract. The non-bird for Rondo comes in at $3.9 million this year and would likely be valued around 2 years, $8 million for the duration of his contract. The rumors you hear about Rondo wanting 2/16 are likely the results of the Suns sniffing around and Rondo giving them double his rate. After all, wouldn’t you throw out double your current offer if a bad team came asking? New Orleans provides a unique fit of playtime, freedom, and opportunity to compete and I think Rondo accepts the non-bird. If the Pelicans have to dip into their other exceptions to sign him, it could prove problematic when it comes to picking up other players.

In keeping with the 2 year theme, I think Boogie gets 2 years, $60 million, fully guaranteed. I don’t think his offer exceeds beyond 2 years in length, but he probably has a version with a player option on the table. I think the Pelicans want to line up everything with AD. Gentry is around for 2 more years, and the Pelicans front office was also given a 2 year extension. Solomon Hill and E’twuan Moore come off the books in 2 years (if they are still around). Given the trend, I think both Rondo and Cousins get 2 year deals, unless there is massive external pressure from an opposing team.

Finally, I think whatever money is leftover in the Pelicans’ mid level exception (tax-payer or regular depending on future moves), will be used to bring over Tyler Honeycutt from Europe, like they did with Darius Miller last year. Those of you who listen to the pod know my thoughts on Honeycutt and his fit with the team. This just leaves the Pelicans to fill out the team with some minimum level guards and bigs. It isn’t a flashy offseason, but continuing to fill the cracks with guys who can provide useful minutes on cheap contracts will help the Pelicans go further in the regular season.

Mason Ginsberg <![CDATA[How to Use the Pelicans’ Q-Pon Coupon]]> 2018-07-03T15:26:10Z 2018-06-28T19:59:53Z The NBA free agency period is fast approaching, which means that the Pelicans’ front office members have probably hardly slept recently. As is the case for most seasons, there are a great deal of variables at play; as such, the team has surely built out a multitude of scenarios, flowcharts, and other far more technical […]]]>

The NBA free agency period is fast approaching, which means that the Pelicans’ front office members have probably hardly slept recently. As is the case for most seasons, there are a great deal of variables at play; as such, the team has surely built out a multitude of scenarios, flowcharts, and other far more technical models to help inform the decisions that they’ll soon need to make. The Pelicans must look at their current assets (as well as their liabilities) in order to determine the best course of action with both the short-term and long-term in mind. Clearly, there is lots to consider in order to ensure sustained success for this franchise.

With this goal in mind, there are some clear resources at their disposal during free agency next month – Bird rights, cap exceptions, and other mechanisms. However, there are also other avenues to adding talent that are not as easily apparent, but still important in their own right. One such tool is a trade exception, which is a credit created by a non-simultaneous trade (see Larry Coon’s great explanation here). All trade exceptions last for one year, allowing a team to add salary (via trade, not free agency) without having to send out matching salary. The Pelicans obtained one such exception via the Quincy Pondexter trade last summer, and it expires on September 1st. The exception amount is $3,853,931 – the richest of the Pelicans’ four trade exceptions that they currently own – enabling the team to take back about $500K more than the 2018-19 bi-annual exception amount of $3,454,500 (teams are allowed to acquire an extra $100K on top of the full exception amount, but cannot combine exceptions together).

Now that we understand how this exception works, how can the Pelicans use it? First things first – if the Pelicans bring back DeMarcus Cousins or agree to a sign-and-trade that brings back similar salary to Cousins, then the exception will likely expire unused (which is not a rare occurrence with trade exceptions) unless the Pelicans are comfortable with paying the luxury tax. While the Pelicans would have until the trade deadline to get under the tax line, doing so could end up being quite costly from an asset perspective depending on how far they need to go to get under it. However, if Boogie gets an offer that the Pelicans don’t feel comfortable matching & therefore end up comfortably under that tax line, the exception could be another convenient avenue through which to add talent without being required to send out any salary in return. (In fact, if Cousins were to agree to sign with another team that has the requisite cap space to do so, the Pelicans could even attempt to work out a trade with that team to swap him and some other tiny asset for a much larger trade exception that they would then have a full year to use.)

A few players currently under contract who would fit within the Pondexter exception (+ $100K): Stanley Johnson, JJ Barea, Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre, Troy Daniels, Tomas Satoransky, Reggie Bullock, and a host of other players on rookie scale deals.

Let’s take it a step further now – the Pelicans could even use the Pondexter trade exception to bring in a player via a sign-and-trade this summer. Doing so would subject the Pelicans to the hard cap that we got to know so well last summer, so it would probably only be wise to do so if the team was so far under the apron that it could not conceivably reach that salary threshold. Now, a player who would fit into that exception likely wouldn’t be a guy who would be expected to play heavy minutes on a playoff team. That being said, if history is any indication, there will likely be at least a couple free agent rotation players left standing when the music stops given how tight the market is this summer, & that trade exception could end up being the most lucrative option.

How would using that $3.85M trade exception work in practice from a sign-and-trade perspective? A couple of players come to mind immediately, and there are surely other possible candidates elsewhere. For example, let’s say that Mario Hezonja he ends up stuck with nothing but minimum or bi-annual exception offers. The Pelicans could have the Magic sign him using their limited Bird rights and take him into the trade exception, sending the Magic a little cash for their troubles. Another possibility could be Seth Curry. The younger Curry brother turns 28 in August, and could prefer to move to a team a bit closer to playoff contention than Dallas. The Pelicans could capitalize on Curry’s early Bird rights and orchestrate a similar trade to the Hezonja example.

Obviously, scenarios such as these would be neither plan A nor plan B for Demps and the Pelicans. But the team needs to know all of its options for all realistic scenarios this summer, and as such, it’s not a bad option to have in their back pocket.

Kumar <![CDATA[In The NO Episode “1”: Shamit and Mason Discuss the Pelicans Offseason]]> 2018-06-25T01:40:12Z 2018-06-24T20:10:25Z   In the first installment of In The NO post Ryan and Mac, Shamit and Mason take a stab at the Pelicans’ offseason. We discuss the draft, European prospects, Boogie, and other offseason questions.]]>


In the first installment of In The NO post Ryan and Mac, Shamit and Mason take a stab at the Pelicans’ offseason. We discuss the draft, European prospects, Boogie, and other offseason questions.

Michael McNamara <![CDATA[Who Makes Sense at 51 and Does it Even Matter?]]> 2018-06-22T02:05:01Z 2018-06-20T13:00:48Z For years I have tried to crack the code to finding a gem in the second round. I looked back atthe history of the second round and the profiles of the guys who overachieved and tried to project who fit that mold in the current draft class. By using some simple formulas, I have had […]]]>

For years I have tried to crack the code to finding a gem in the second round. I looked back atthe history of the second round and the profiles of the guys who overachieved and tried to project who fit that mold in the current draft class. By using some simple formulas, I have had some hits (Malcolm Brogden, Josh Richardson, Paul Zipser, Wayne Selden) and have predictably had some misses when trying to project the diamonds in the rough (Tyler Harvey, Michael Qualis, Branden Dawson).

Now you all know me, and how humble I am, so this is hard for me to type but…. My track record in identifying a potential second round gem is better than anybody else out there. Literally, anyone. We all have a special set of skills, and this might be my only one, but it is what I am good at. So I am going to give it a try.

Here’s the problem, though. As I identified in my 2015 piece, there are really two different second rounds in the draft. The top 10-12 picks of the second round see 3-4 players a year become solid role players or better while the second half of the second round is usually a wasteland. As I wrote in the linked piece above, you usually only get about 1 player picked 50 or later become a starter caliber player every five years. And maybe you get 4 players from every five year period become a solid role player. So, basically, you have about a 2% chance of getting a starter/6 th man type. And a 8 10% chance of getting a 7 th -9 th man type.

And since I wrote that article in 2015, Abel Nader has been the only guy taken 50 or later that looks like he can be a role player at the NBA level. The Pelicans obviously recognized the overwhelming odds of getting a quality player after 50 just last year, as they sold the pick to the Pacers – valuing a couple hundred thousand dollars over the slight odds of getting a diamond in the rough on a cost controlled contact.

Perhaps the same will occur this season, and Dell Demps will sell the pick. As one of only three teams in the NBA without a G-League team, it might be harder for the Pelicans to develop a raw guy. They are looking to win, and win big right now and roster spots are valuable. It would be hard to carry a guy they can’t use on their roster, so that leaves two options: Trust another teams G League team to develop a player or stash the guy overseas. Or, maybe they get a guy who is NBA ready right now. Though the odds are long, it’s possible.

Because of the last two drafts, people feel like they know Dell’s second round philosophy and are starting to pencil in underachieving, raw McDonald’s All-American’s into the 51 st slot. But what some people don’t know is that Dell was poised to take Derrick White at 31 last year before the Spurs snagged him two picks earlier. White was a senior and a guy the team thought could contribute immediately. When the Spurs took him, Dell pivoted and took another guy he loved in Frank Jackson, knowing Jackson wouldn’t play his first year.

So, the Pelicans can go either route depending on who is there. Or, they can sell the pick again. With that in mind, let’s look at some guys who fit with the Pelicans roster and timeline, and who might be undervalued based on what history has taught us.


Malik Newman – E’Twaun Moore was drafted 55 th overall. Why? Because he wasn’t big enough to play the two and he didn’t have the handles to play the point. He was a good scorer without a position and that scared off a lot of people. Newman is just 6’3” and is definitely not a point guard. But the guy can shoot. 83% from the line, 41.5% from three this year at Kansas. And he had some of his best performances in the biggest games. He dropped 28 against Seton Hall in the second round of the tourney, then dropped 32 against Duke in the Elite 8 and 21 against Villanova in the Final Four.

Kostas Antetokounmpo – You can’t get much more raw than Kostas, but if the Pelicans are ever going to catch Golden State, it will be because they hit on an ultra long wing that can clog passing lanes and help AD protect the rim while also being able to hang with smaller guys on the perimeter when he gets switched. Finding that at #51 is almost impossible, but if any guy that late has a chance to give you that, it’s the Greek Freak II.

Justin Jackson and Bruce Brown – I will put these two together because there are so many similarities. They are both guys who would have been sure fire first round picks had they not gotten hurt in their sophomore seasons. They both had tremendous freshman years that saw them as potential lotto picks in early 2018 mock drafts. They are both long for their positions and have the potential to be very good defensive players while giving you explosiveness and shooting on the offensive end. Injuries are scary, but you are rolling the dice at #51 regardless. Might as bet on guys who have top-15 talent when healthy.

Billy Preston – To me, this is by far the most interesting guy in the draft. Preston was an elite five-star prospect who ran into some compliance issues with the NCAA and never played a single game at Kansas. So now teams really haven’t seen him play in over a year, but if he enters the draft coming out of high school last year, he probably is a top 20-25 pick. He is uniquely skilled – a 6’10 guy who can play with power or take guys off the dribble. He can handle in the open court and pass extremely well. Imagine a taller, smoother Draymond Green offensively. He is the ultimate boom or bust guy.


Jevon Carter – Point blank, this is the guy I would bet on if he was there at #51. Based on my research, you need to find a guy who gives you something at an elite level to have any hope of watching him stick. Like Josh Richardson, Carter can give you elite defense from day one. He reminds me a lot of a young Patrick Beverly and having a guy like that while Rondo coasts through the regular season could be extremely helpful. He is also a good shooter and a leader.

Yes, he is “older” but so what? Take the guy who can play over the guys who can possibly play years from now if everything breaks right.

Kevin Hervey – Dell Demps loves Jae Crowder, Draymond Green, and Demarre Carroll and has been actively looking for the next guy like that for years. Again, the odds are long that you can find that at #51, but if I were to bet on one guy it would be Hervey. If he shot 4-5% better from three, he would be a late first round pick. If Kawhi shot a little better from three, he would have been a top five pick. The Spurs felt they could improve him in that one area, and did. If the Pels feel they can make Hervey a 36-37% three-point shooter, they could find a diamond in the rough. Hervey can defend, he can rebound, he has solid vision, and he can score the basketball. Most importantly, he has the attitude and work ethic of the guys mentioned above, and that will make it very hard for Dell to pass on him.

Allonzo Trier – Another guy without a true position, Trier is a smooth scorer who can also make plays for others. Think: A very poor man’s James Harden, as he has the ability to get to the rim and also has a beautiful step back jumper where he can create space against bigger guys. I don’t think there is any way he can be a starter in the NBA, but he fits the profile of a great bench scorer who can carry a unit for 6-8 minutes a half while your stars rest.


Arnoldas Kulboka – This is perhaps the best pure shooter in the draft, and might be the best shooter to enter the draft in the last 3-4 years. His stroke is pure and if you are looking for guys who can space around AD and Boogie, Kulboka fits that profile. He lacks the quickness to defend on the perimeter and the strength to defend in the paint, so he will always be a liability on that end, but when you look at the shots Boogie and AD got Miller and Moore, you can only imagine how dangerous Kulboka could be offensively with those same looks.

Isaac Bonga – Again, I totally get the philosophy of just gambling on high upside wings who are long. If you hit on that, it can change your franchise because it is the hardest thing to find, the hardest thing to trade for or acquire in the NBA. So, why not spend all your lotto tickets on the big jackpot? Bonga fits that profile and maybe you stash him overseas for a few years and hope his game matures. His free throw numbers show that he has potential as a shooter and he also has playmaking potential as well.

Issuf Sanon – Another guy who is 2-3 years away that you can stash overseas, Sanon is another combo guard with big upside. He can handle the ball, has good vision and a good stroke that should see him become a good shooter as he adds strength and range. He is ultra competitive and can finish around the basket. If you are looking down the line for a guy who can give you minutes as Rondo heads off into the sunset, Sanon could be that guy if Frank Jackson never develops.


Look, the Pelicans will likely sell the pick and even if they keep it, the odds of the draftee ever contributing for the team are very, very small. But history says that it is possible to find a guy here, and if you do, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Personally, I take Jevon Carter if he is there but I wouldn’t blame the team for taking a chance on a wing with potential. And as a betting man, I think they take Hervey if he is there. Or they sell the pick. We will know soon enough.

Jason Calmes <![CDATA[Instant Ducats]]> 2018-06-16T20:03:55Z 2018-06-16T19:41:00Z I know it’s the season for copying research about late draft picks, free agency, or trade scenarios from others and passing them off as your own, giving takes on takes, and trying to twist rumor into news, smoke into fire, clicks into money, but I am going to do something a little different: I am […]]]>

I know it’s the season for copying research about late draft picks, free agency, or trade scenarios from others and passing them off as your own, giving takes on takes, and trying to twist rumor into news, smoke into fire, clicks into money, but I am going to do something a little different: I am going to deal with actual analysis about the Pelicans’ off-season.

Jordan Crawford Sign-and-Trade

As we move into the off-season, the Pelicans have some tough choices to make, and flexibility is a key commodity for them. One source of flexibility is Jordan Crawford.

When he was signed late in the season, the focus of discussion was on his on-court contributions, but his contract situation actually gives the Pelicans some salary flexibility because they have his Early Bird Rights. Though it may not be obvious, this is because he was with the team the past two seasons, did not change teams via free agency or waiver claims, and finished this season under contract with New Orleans.

Early Bird Rights come with an exception that can be used sign Crawford to a three-year deal up to about $8m, and he can be included in a sign-and-trade. Other deals are possible, but these are the deals of interest in this article. Early Bird Rights are key here, since they allow a three-year deal while Non-Bird Rights and the Minimum Exception do not, topping out at two-year deals. Sign-and-trade deals must be for contracts that are at least three years in length for the contracts being signed-and-traded. This also allows the team to preserve its exceptions that can be used on free agents not tied to New Orleans.

There is a complication that, in all likelihood, if he is signed for much above his minimum using his Early Bird Rights, then his salary counts fully for the receiving team but only half for the Pelicans (due to a rule called Base Year Compensation, or the amount the is prior salary, if that is greater). This is not an insurmountable obstacle in terms of salary matching, but it is something to keep an eye on in an already complex process. I won’t bore you with (too many) details here. I will let the follow-on work “inspired” by this work those out adding value along the way. Base Year Compensation would not be an issue if the Pelicans became a room team. It’s also not so much of an issue when the receiving team ends up under the cap, however, since such trades are less restricted (at least from one side). It’s also only an issue with sign-and-trades, not typical trades.

Back to the man of the hour . . . Instant Grits becomes Instant Ducats, a “tuneable” contract to send out, help bring salary back to the Pelicans. The Pelicans need bodies and can send out a pick to help draw value, but it’s hard to replace salary sent out in a trade, particularly when you do not quite have the reputation of a competitor that inspires quality players to take discounts. Picks have no salary value in trades, so pairing them with players can help align the various literal and figurative balance sheets, including the salary matching and the value matching. Crawford can help bridge that gap. Using non-guaranteed salary in later years can help make an above-minimum contract for Crawford palatable without drawing circumvention attention since the length restrictions are not in place to counter this sort of maneuver. The first year salary can be set to make a deal juuust work, give Crawford a little more for his trouble, help a team make minimum salary, whatever.

Using tools like good players on fair deals, draft picks, and a willingness to spend, the Pelicans have some mechanisms to make some moves if the opportunities arise. That is the challenge, as always. Bear in mind that sometimes the real cost savings for a trade partner is in later seasons, and that money is not factored into the CBA-legality of trades, which is the focus on this article. The ability to do something and the willingness to do it are quite different.


The following is technical. If you aren’t interested, just know that Crawford can be added to deals, skip to the Cousins section.

First, some background. Crawford has 6 years of experience, putting him in line for a minimum salary of about $1.8m after making about $1.7m (annual salary, of which he received a pro-rated amount). Base Year Compensation kicks in a little over $2m. So, if Crawford’s contract is between his minimum and, say, $2m, that full value will count in trade (though, if it’s the minimum, the receiving team can ignore his salary in the transaction). After that, we get into funny business.

Let’s work through three basic trade scenarios to give a sense of the issue: $5m outgoing, $10m outgoing, and $20m outgoing. What we are interested in is how much the addition of Crawford to a deal adds in value back to the Pelicans, how much cost-savings the Pelicans can then offer to the other team in the first year, since I think that is a possible assets this offseason. The scenarios below presume New Orleans ends up over the cap, under the tax line after the trade. If they end up over the tax line after the trade, the scenario is actually simpler. I’ll address that as a special case. There are other cases, such as Jordan’s additional moving a team from one scenario to another and every other outgoing salary possibility. I’m just giving the sense of his value and the complexity . . . and the possible value of those couple of signings Dell made.

  • If Crawford makes between the minimum and about $2m, his salary counts normally, as Base Year Compensation does not take effect until there is a raise of over 20% (which would be allowed using Non-Bird Rights).
    • $5m in other salary outgoing: Crawford can help bring back an additional ~$3m back, so ~$1m net savings to the receiving team.
    • $10m in other salary outgoing: Crawford can help bring back additional value equal to his own salary with no net savings compared to leaving him off (still $5m), but it may enable a deal that would otherwise not be possible.
    • $20m in other salary outgoing: Crawford can help bring back additional ~$2.5m back, offer an additional savings of $0.5m.
    • As you can see, this is the most likely case if a sign-and-trade of Crawford were to happen. The main effect is to increase total salary coming back.
  • Because Base Year Compensation reduces the effect of salary by half and our game is to have Crawford make a positive effect on trades, there is if is contract is between about $2m and about $4m, his effect is just at of a minimum contract for the Pelicans. These contracts can affect the receiving team’s legal outgoing salary, but I skip over this to a more interesting case, and leave the effects of these in-between contracts to be interpolated. So, at $4m, the effect is the same as with $2m. We’re starting to get into some scenarios that likely involve picks being included or the like. View this in that light. We’ll look at Crawford at $5m to get away from the boundary case.
    • $5m in other salary outgoing: This seems unlikely, but the Pelicans can actually go from taking back a little under $9m to taking back around $12.5m in this case. Notice, this increase is actually less than his salary, which differs from the case above. This is the effect of Base Year Compensation. Also, the potential savings for the receiving team is reduced from close to $4m to under $3m.
    • $10m in other salary outgoing: Crawford can help bring back additional $2.5m, but the receiving team’s savings is reduced from $5m to $2.5m.
    • $20m in other salary outgoing: Crawford can help bring back additional ~$3m back, offer an additional savings $2m to $3m.
    • As noted, the effect of Base Year Compensation not only makes the deal harder to get right in terms of the accounting, it reduces flexibility and likely starts to require other assets be involved. The trade-off for the increased return is all this complexity and a reduced cost-savings for the receiving team. Some may balk at the idea of paying Crawford a guaranteed $5m. This is about a $3m premium. A second-rounder, cash, or both could make that up. This is a viable option, but it would have to be compared to paying Crawford, say, $2m, and send out fewer assets.
  • The maximum contract Crawford could be given is ~$8m. We’ll check that just to deal with the extreme case, give a sense for the trending. In all cases, the amount of increased returning salary over the $5m-contract case is about $1.5m and the cost-savings is reduced to about $1m. $8m for Jordan Crawford is really about a $6m premium at least. The value of included assets, like picks, need to offset this; a second is not going to do it. However, if you are looking to take back big salary and keep your roster as intact as possible, here is an option.
  • If the Pelicans end up over the tax, the most helpful scenarios are off the table, as the inflation factor in the salary matching is limited to 125%. For instance, in the $10m case, the can normally bring that $12.6m (125% $0.1m) if the end up over the tax due the trade, givings a savings of $2.6m potentially to the other team. Adding Crawford at $5m changes this to $15m incoming for the other team and $15.725m outgoing. Next to no savings. It’s still an increase and a knob to turn, but it’s a significant complication. With Crawford making just $2m in this scenario, the situation is simpler, but the amount of salary back is reduced.

All that said, this one tool that Pelicans have to try to improve the team while not having to over-sacrifice in terms of value and their (currently thin) depth in order to complete a must-do trade higher up the line.

DeMarcus Cousins

You’ll also see some revised Cousins sign-and-trade scenarios now that this is out because Base Year Compensation will affect Cousins if he gets a contract that pays him much over $22m, and his outgoing salary will only count about $18m (his current salary) since his max deal is less than twice his current salary. This presents complications when trading with most teams on top of any other complications. So, you guys have fun with that.

For example, your favorite $25m contract sent by another team would allow them to bring back $30m in salary, but $18m in effective outgoing salary from the Pelicans’ perspective, such as in a Base Year Compensation deal, does not allow $25m to New Orleans. If the Pelicans send out $2m more to allow $25m to return, then the $25m going out from the other team does not allow $32m coming back to them. There are clearly ways to make it work, but it comes more complex and creates a double-thread-the-needle problems on the cap-side to boot.

Moreover, this is even more complicated if, as I think, Cousins ends up with some incentive-laden contract. Using rough numbers, he agrees to a three-year contract for $30m, with max raises, player option in the third season, with incentives. Let’s say the incentives are $3m in unlikely incentives and $5m in likely incentives. Such a contract would be worth $22m in trades (including sign-and-trade) and still in some sense be worth the maximum salary, and maybe even ACTUALLY be worth it, depending on those incentives. “Likely” is not based on actual difficulty-to-meet but rather on an assessment that is usually “Would this have been met using last season’s actual performance?” So, Cousins may be set to play in 50 games next season, but it would be considered unlikely for him to to do so since he only played 48 games last season. That third year could be an option year if it is not a sign-and-trade deal, and this kind of contract, with the proper incentives, that could go a long way to mitigating risk all around.

Tuning in the base compensation and incentive values is the trick, of course. I tend to think $25m base salary is a sweet spot for a few reasons, but I see some solid rationale for $22m in base salary, as using one scenario to set the salary in another scenario is not uncommon. I anticipate some interest in such a contract and base compensation in this neighborhood.

I’d make his Base Salary basically in that $22m – $25m range (and I’d go on the higher end for a few reasons), then split the and likely and unlikely incentives with triggers for “are you playing?” and “are you playing well and consistently?” respectively. I’d want triggers on games played at like 41 and 65 games, then some stuff about performance and minutes, minutes per game. You could pop in something for All-NBA or whatever. I wouldn’t make it hard for him to claim his max salary if he’s playing well. Not All-NBA well. Just well. You want to keep him happy and you want to keep sending the message that New Orleans is a good place for players to be. That does not need to be “special” to be the thing to do. In fact, if you are the only ones not doing it, that’s the real reason to do it: not to stand out.

Since the teams with cap room and looking for a max player may not be in the mix for a maximum free agent offer to DeMarcus, the effect of the sign-and-trade market on the negotiations should not be ignored, nor should the effect of Base Year Compensation on that deal.

I know there is a good deal of chatter out there, largely coming from the Pelicans, about how DeMarcus is not necessary or even not wanted. This is a good bit of damage control if they ever got a good deal for him or lost him to free agency. The best case is to sign him, keep him on the roster until his value is clear, see if he fits or not at that time, then look to move him if that’s the best way to improve the team. Why sell low, especially if your “chemistry” is sooooo special with the Playoff roster. You potentially delay the improvement, but any change is a risk to the “chemistry.” So, it’s all just spin, and writers who HAVE to leak what they are told (since their use is simply as a sock-puppet and that is the basis of their real utility) or they are so excited about some tidbit of “inside” info, it skews their analysis, keeping them from realizing that if someone is telling you something that benefits them, then there may be a reason other than “sharing truth” to say it, true or not.

Standing pat is a risk, just as messing with chemistry is. However, standing pat is not an option. Change is. Get over it, deal with it, manage it. You don’t get a guy like Boogie in, injury or no, and just write him off without trying. Special guys get special treatment, and Boogie is special. The sooner people just acknowledge that, the better off their analysis will be.

Jesse Brooks <![CDATA[Pelicans’ Success Has Earned Fans the Right to Dream Big]]> 2018-06-14T01:07:47Z 2018-06-14T00:49:56Z By now you have probably seen the massive Twitter tidal wave of New Orleans Pelicans fans calling for LeBron James to consider, at the very least, taking his talents to South Bayou. The idea holds its roots in fantasy and comedy, but now it has spread through the fan base like wildfire and it has […]]]>

By now you have probably seen the massive Twitter tidal wave of New Orleans Pelicans fans calling for LeBron James to consider, at the very least, taking his talents to South Bayou.

The idea holds its roots in fantasy and comedy, but now it has spread through the fan base like wildfire and it has some believing that it could be a real possibility. What started as a small blogger movement, the dream seems to have wings now. Once Jarrius gets ahold of something, we’re talking next level realness.

Let’s also not forget, New Orleans will also accept Paul George, please and thank you. Someone sound the horn and assemble The Hot Boys, Mannie Fresh, Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Emeril Lagasse, Ms. Linda’s Yakamein and that dude from Arcade Fire because we have a freakin’ pitch to make.

Now that locals have bought in, the national media is starting to look for a nibble. Check it out below!

This is amazing, right? EVERYONE is happy about the excitement, right?

Well, you’d think so. For reasons it’s hard for me to understand, I have actually seen a portion of Pelicans Twitter discouraging and discrediting fans that want to be a part of the #LBJ2NOLA movement, calling the sentiments impossible or even imply that it’s stupid.

Look, the most committed Pelicans faithful weren’t born yesterday. They aren’t stupid and they know that LeBron James, or even Paul George, is kind of a long shot. What they would like to know is why the other portion of the base hates fun? Every offseason, members of a major market fanbase throw out the most ridiculously annoying scenarios, and they are relentless about it. At least what #LBJ2NOLA is trying to do is just recruit a free agent, who happens to be the free agent. They aren’t plotting to discredit a franchise and force a trade for anyone’s cornerstone (*Cough* Boston, Warriors).

Pelicans fans have watched on the sidelines while Lakers, Warriors, Celtics, Heat, Rockets and even Thunder fans get to have all of the fun. It’s time for them to represent their city and get in the game because their team has earned them their right.

Sure, the Pelicans cap situation is, um, not great. But this is the NBA where sign-and-trades and working a soft cap can make creative ideas possible. There are slim chances to take avenues that make these moves happen. Just check out this spreadsheet by @ben_alterman in which he lays out a scenario where the Pelicans acquire both LeBron James AND Paul George.

This specific plan is highly unlikely, but Ben tells me he made this plan just to prove the fact that you can make the money work. It’s not impossible. If fans and bloggers can find ways to make the money work at their non-jobs then why shouldn’t we believe that NBA general mangers have yet to find the math themselves?

Why is it that Houston faces a terrible cap situation every offseason and yet they are floated as a media choice free agent destination? Don’t forget James’s choices to sign with Miami and return to Cleveland both came at kind of a surprise. Players control more destiny than realized sometimes. Cities like Houston are mega markets and New Orleans is not, I get that. But “doing it big” has finally “taken flight”.

Why is it so out of the realm of possibility that the world’s best players would want to play with another one of the world’s best players in Anthony Davis? Davis is coming off a season where he finished as a MVP finalist for the first time in his career, and he’s only 25 years old! Davis and guard Jrue Holiday also finished for First Team All-Defense. If you want a shot at the Golden State Warriors, why not join a team that’s a budding Western power? The Pelicans have the right tools to compete with the Warriors, they just need a talent boost. James could add to his legacy believing that.

Ultimately, most Pelicans fans totally get that acquiring a league star is unlikely this summer. They’re content with the ones they have. It’s just that fans experienced one of the most successful rides last season, and they are tired of being left out of the national conversation. If media wants to hand out the wildest of LeBron/PG offseason theories as much as Oprah likes to give away free cars then why doesn’t New Orleans get a mention? They feel their team is good now. Give them respect.

#LBJ2NOLA is not rooted in realism or fantasy as much as it is about highjacking the narrative to force the nation to realize that they are a presence the Western Conference has to deal with right now. The movement is radical. It’s punk rock, it’s gangsta rap and it’s protest art.

Stop ignoring the Pelicans and never disrespect Anthony Davis.


Kumar <![CDATA[Rules For a Boogie-Less Offseason]]> 2018-05-22T12:52:38Z 2018-05-22T12:53:53Z   Every organization needs a contingency plan if the primary option does not pan out. Make no mistake, DeMarcus Cousins is plan A. As I detailed last week, the Pelicans best path to talent is through Cousins. It is extremely unlikely that any player near Cousins’ caliber will be available to them this summer, and […]]]>


Every organization needs a contingency plan if the primary option does not pan out. Make no mistake, DeMarcus Cousins is plan A. As I detailed last week, the Pelicans best path to talent is through Cousins. It is extremely unlikely that any player near Cousins’ caliber will be available to them this summer, and if the Pelicans aspire to truly raise their ceiling in the playoffs, not just get there, Cousins is still the best bet. But in free agency, even the best laid plans unravel. Cousins could very much demand more than the limit the Pelicans have set for themselves, and the Pelicans need to think hard before complying with those demands and saddling themselves with potentially crippling future salary. In this piece I’m going to lay out a few ground rules for the Pelicans to follow should Cousins choose to walk. We will be operating off the cap sheet below.

Note, I am operating under the assumption that the Pelicans will function as an above-the-cap team should Cousins choose to walk. If you renounce all possible holds, the Pelicans have about $4 million in cap space with little opportunity to free up any significant space to sign players. The Pelicans gain the most amount of flexibility by operating as a below-the-apron, but above-the-cap team due the the MLE and BAE exceptions. Any additional space under the hard-cap can be used to take back additional salary than is sent out, pursuant with the rules of the CBA. One important thing to consider if the Pelicans choose to go this route is that the Pelicans are functionally hard-capped at the tax line due to about $6M in pending incentives that need to be baked into the frontend of this calculus. If you want to read more in depth about why this matters, make sure to check out Jason’s, The Pelicans’ Glass Salary Ceilingpiece from last year.  Current incentives can also shift the cap sheet slightly, but equally in both scenarios above.

Lastly, I chose not to include the hand full of traded player exceptions the Pelicans hold in the cap sheet because they do not impact the message of this post. The exceptions provide an additional layer of flexibility to the Pelicans but can be difficult to use. Roster charges were also not included for the same reason, but the Pelicans will need between 13-15 players rostered. Without further ado, here are the rules the Pelicans need to follow in order to maximize their cap space this summer.


Rule 1: Avoid the Sign-and-Trade

This rule may be the most counter intuitive of all the rules. Instinct screams that we cannot let Cousins walk for nothing in return, but I urge you to take a look at the Pelicans cap sheet above. Any trade that ships Cousins out will likely bring back a significant chunk of salary in return. Take for example the popular example of Otto Porter. Porter is slated to earn just over $26 million next year, a hair under Cousins’ cap hold of $27M. This trade in a vacuum would vault the Pelicans into tax territory, leaving the Pelicans only the taxpayer-MLE and minimum exceptions to fill out the roster. The Pelicans could attach picks to contracts like HIll’s to get under the tax, but then you are using assets to merely accommodate contracts financially and not getting better tangibly. Ask yourself, is Otto Porter worth this hassle? Is Porter worth going into the tax for? Porter is likely the best player available in any sign and trade scenario the Pelicans might face, and this doesn’t even consider the cap implications for the other team who will be subject to the hard-cap when receiving Cousins. There just isn’t a great market that is conducive to both teams. Unless the Pelicans are getting a bonafide star back, it just isn’t worth going through with a sign-and trade. There are better options on the table.

Rule 2: Rondo Must Be Signed Using the Non-Bird Exception

The non-bird exception allows you to sign a player, whose bird rights you do not possess, to 120% of their previous salary. For Rondo, this number translates to roughly $3.9 million and is equivalent to his caphold. Not only is this a slight raise, but it is more than the Pelicans can offer via the bi-annual exception. The moment the Pelicans use any portion of the MLE, tax-payer or full, they are hampering their ability to sign an additional player with that money. Rondo’s market is slim if he is interested in competing in the playoffs. Most playoff teams have established guard rotations and few teams will be willing to give him the freedom that Gentry afforded. The non-bird deal should be one that allows a happy compromise between both parties.

Rule 3: Avoid Consolidating Salary

The Pelicans have several small to mid-sized contracts that can be used as salary base to acquire a bigger contract. For example, the Pelicans could feasibly package Solomon Hill and E’twuan Moore to absorb the Nic Batum contract. The space under the hard cap allows the Pelicans to operate with a salary deficit in a trade and at a glance Batum seems like a solid addition to the team. However trades such as these are likely to be available even at the deadline. There is no reason for the Pelicans to rush and make a move which consolidates multiple contracts into one large contract. Every move the Pelicans need to make in a post-Boogie world needs to have an eye on the future. Ultimately the Pelicans need to put themselves in a position to trade for the next star on the market. Teams are more likely to take on multiple smaller contracts than one large albatross. Less medium sized contracts on the books also limit your ability to upgrade on the margins. The Mirotic trade worked because the Asik contract was a great fit, along with a few minimum deals, in terms of salary. Would it have worked if Asik was slated to make $17M per year? Likely not. Likewise, let’s say at some point in the future the Pelicans identify they need to upgrade at a particular position. Would it be easier to trade a $12M sized contract in Solomon Hill with a pick, or a $24M sized contract in Batum? The same logic applies in trade scenarios the involve more than 2 teams. There’s simply more flexibility to your moves when you don’t have over $80M of your cap committed to just 3 players, especially if one of them isn’t a star. Smaller contracts matter, you heard it here first.

Rule 4: Avoid Spending the MLE on a Big Man

With Cousins gone, the Pelicans will need a big man or big men to absorb about 27-30 minutes per night. They should be able to find suitable ones via trade or via the smaller exceptions. The market is depressed for big men as teams are finding them difficult to play in the playoffs. Big men need to be able to run, switch on defense, and perhaps shoot a little. If you are big man who can do all three, you are a max contract player. If you cannot, you are slowly losing value with each passing season. Looking at the list of unrestricted free agent big men, the best available ones are Brook Lopez and Derrick Favors. Both are fine players, but neither is likely to help you win a playoff series, and neither will be that much of a functional upgrade over the bigs that Pelicans can acquire for lower salary slots or via trades. With Cousins gone, the Pelicans need to fully commit to the Davis-Mirotic pairing and only need a big to spell the two without being a total liability. Last year 35 year old Emeka Okafor and Cheick Diallo were able to satisfy this requirement adequately. The Pelicans can likely find upgrades if they look around.

Instead the Pelicans need to do everything they can to bolster the perimeter with the MLE. Last year CJ Miles and PJ Tucker both received close the full MLE and this is the mold of player that the Pelicans should seek.

Rule 5: Trade Solomon Hill for a Functional Big Man

This one isn’t as much of a hard rule as the others. But if the other rules have been followed, trading Solomon Hill for a big is the best course of action. As mentioned above, the market for big men has been depressed over the past few years. Several teams have a $10M -17M big man they are just looking to get rid of. Hill looked rough coming back from injury in the playoffs, but his fit with Rondo remains questionable even at full health. Neither can shoot, but at least Rondo is far superior with the ball in his hands. In order to maximize Davis, you need spacing. Adding Hill to the mix makes this venture difficult. Instead, the Pelicans should look for a team who has a big on the market and perhaps has needs on the wing or is looking to shed some salary. Again, the Pelicans have space under the hard cap that should enable them to absorb more salary than they send out. A functional big that can play about 27 minutes per game allows the Pelicans to focus their resources on the perimeter. This should be the goal.

Potential Targets

Mid-Level Exception (All or Partial)

Trevor Ariza – Ariza has been a pivotal player on the Rockets over the last few years and has been called upon to be their best wing defender. Ariza shoots threes without hesitation, rebounds the ball adequately, and provides good size at the SF spot at 6’8’’. However Ariza is 32 years old and will likely be looking for his last payday.

Danny Green (PO) – Green is another versatile wing defender who can shoot threes. While Green’s shooting has fallen off over the last few years, Green remains a force on the defensive end, leading all guards in blocked shots. Green has a player option for about $10M and will likely have many suitors should he decide to opt out. It’s unlikely the Pelicans will be able to afford him, but it is worth a conversation.

Wilson Chandler (PO) – Chandler is in a similar situation to Green in which he has a player option for about $12M. However, over the past few years Chandler has expressed frustration in a lack of a consistent role in Denver. Chandler isn’t a sexy name, but he provides needed size at 6’8’’, some positional versatility, some scoring, and some rebounding. Chandler is 31 and has a bit of an injury history. Nevertheless, he’d immediately be the best wing player on the Pelicans if signed, and slide into a starting role.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – This 25 year old wing chose to gamble on himself by taking a 1 year, $18M deal with the Lakers. The season yielded mixed results a Caldwell-Pope finished with averages of 13.4 pts, 5.2 rebs, 2.2 asts. Caldwell-Pope shot a solid 38.3% from three on over 5 attempts and at times showed defensive potential.

Rudy Gay (PO) – I call this the conservation of achilles. Gay had a decent year in San Antonio and looked capable at times defensively. We know Gay can provide scoring, but his positional versatility could be very useful to the Pelicans. He isn’t much of a shooter and it’s unclear how he will continue to age.

Avery Bradley – Bradley suffered a disappointing season in which he appeared in only 46 games. Bradley was kept out with injuries to the adductor and rectus abdominis muscles which required surgery. In the previous year, Bradley only appeared in 55 games. It is unclear how much value an oft-injured and undersized 2 guard will command, but Bradley is known for being a defensive hound with the ability to score.

Rodney Hood (RFA) – Hood is a restricted free agent with the Cavaliers who has had a disappointing stay thus far. With reports coming out that Hood suffers stage fright in the biggest moments, Hood may not be welcome back on a team likely to make another finals run. In New Orleans, Hood can enjoy limited media exposure and a lack of national games. Hood is still largely potential. He’s a poor defender who can sometimes get hot offensively.

Tyreke Evans – We are all familiar with Reke. While I doubt either party has interest in a reunion, Tyreke provides the go-to scorer of the bench the Pelicans sorely lack. Tyreke revived much of his value in Memphis this past year and is likely looking to get on a good team. Memphis does not hold Tyreke’s bird rights and is also limited to offering him the full MLE.

Will Barton – Barton is another guy who can score in bunches off the bench. All indications point to Denver seeking to re-sign Barton, but the 27 year old wing could find himself a great home in a Finch based offense he has seen before.

J.J. Redick – Redick is another player who opted to take a large 1 year deal ($20M) the previous year. He showed he is still productive and a valuable floor spacer. Philadelphia has a lot of cap space and will likely be able to retain him with little struggle, but he is another name the Pelicans should try to have a conversation with.

Brook Lopez –  I know I said to avoid going after bigs with the MLE, but I included Brook in the event the Pelicans find suitable wings via trade. Brook is a legit 7 footer who can score in the post and step out beyond the arc. He would fit well with both Mirotic an Davis and provide additional scoring in the paint. If you’re going to throw money at a big (please don’t), let it be Brook.

Bi-Annual Exception

James Ennis – Ennis is another familiar name who had a decently productive year. Ennis brings size on the wing, athleticism, and the ability to knock down an open three.

Vince Carter – Carter is at the very tail end of his career and can provide some veteran stability and offense on the bench.

Nick Young – The Pelicans were interested in Young before. Young brings shooting and entertainment.

Seth Curry – another possible reunion. Seth would seamlessly fill the void left by Clark and provide additional ball handling.

Joe Harris – Harris is a 6’6’’ shooting guard who can really shoot the ball. He doesn’t provide much else, but the Pelicans can always use more shooters.

Michael Beasley – Beasley had somewhat of a resurgence in New York. He would bring a scoring threat to the bench who could play either forward position and rebound a bit.

Jerami Grant – Grant had a big year in OKC where he showed off his defensive versatility. Grant is a solid small ball 4 or 5 who isn’t afraid to contest shots at the rim. He isn’t much of a shooter though.

Mario Hezonja – After several seasons of disappointment, Hezonja showed flashes of improvement over the last 2 months of this past season. Still largely a question mark, he may be worth a flier.

Jahlil Okafor – Okafor has disappointed in both Philadelphia and Brooklyn. It is unclear if Okafor will ever piece together his underlying talent into production, but there is a chance the potential is there. He’s another young guy the Pelicans might want to take a flier on as their spot big.

Nerlens Noel – Another disappointing ex-Philadelphia big (see the theme here). He isn’t known as the best locker room presence, but maybe he can find a home next fellow Kentucky players in Davis and Rondo.

Alex Len – Len failed to show much of anything in Phoenix and chose to take the qualifying offer last year. He is fairly athletic, can rebound, and can fill a role as a spot big.

Trade Targets

Kosta Koufos  – Koufos has 1 year, $8.7 M left on his contract. Because of the Pelicans ability to take on more a salary than they send out, a trade for Ajinca, Diallo, and some cash might do the trick. The Pelicans could also add a 2nd round pick in order to sweeten the offer.

Jonas Valanciunas  – JV has about 1 year $16.6M left on his contract. The Raptors are moving in a different coaching direction and it is no secret that JV has been on the block. A trade centered around Hill, Diallo, and a top 18 protected pick might do the deal.

Nikola Vucevic –  The Magic have been on the mediocrity treadmill since Dwight Howard left. Never good enough to make the playoffs, rarely bad enough for a top 2 pick. Should they draft a big man in the draft, it might be time to move on from Vucevic. A package centered around Hill and a lottery protected pick works straight up.

Cody Zeller – A package similar to the one listed for Vucevic above would likely be necessary to make the trade work. Zeller provides fantastic mobility for a big man and does all the dirty work. Zeller and Davis would likely comprise the most mobile big man tandem in the league when it comes to defense.

Myers Lenoard  – Leonard has largely fallen out of the rotation in Portland. At $10.5M, Leonard could likely be traded straight up for Hill without a pick from either side. Portland might have to include some minor salary to offset the the minor salary differences. Calling Leonard a functional big is a stretch, but he does stretch the floor.

Gorgui Dieng –  Dieng comes with a pricey contract and is a questionable fit next to Towns. He can, however play adequate defense and is pretty solid from mid-range. The Wolves would have to throw in something to incentivize the Pelicans to take this contract. Hill+Diallo for Dieng and Tyus Jones is construct that works financially and saves Minnesota money in years and upfront. Jones would be nice bench piece to add for the Pelicans.

DeMarre Carroll – Carroll arguably had a career year in Brooklyn and is an expiring contract. It will likely take a protected pick to go with the Hill contract to acquire him. Carroll gives you a functional wing with some versatility and the ability to rebound.

Dennis Schröder – In another offseason event of unfollowing people on social media, Schröder deleted all traces of Hawks material on his Instagram. Shocking. Schröder is still fairly young and can get to the rim with the best of them. However it’s unclear how much value he actually provides to a team as analytics have painted a net negative every single year of his career. Schröder also potentially comes with a suspension due if convicted on  domestic battery incident he was involved in. He is a potential buy-low opportunity if the Hawks want to get rid of him at any cost and will accept Hill without any picks. Schröderr’s locker room fit is unclear, perhaps he can be mentored by Rondo who will eventually hand the keys to him. We know Rondo isn’t a long term solution, maybe Schröder can be?

Kyle Anderson – I’ll admit, this is more of a pipe dream. Anderson is a restricted free agent with the Spurs and would require a sign-and-trade to acquire. He likely isn’t coming for the MLE, and that amount is something the Spurs can easily match. However if the Spurs are not inclined to pay his market value, perhaps a trade can be structured around E’twuan+ Diallo traded for Anderson at a deal valued at $12M per year. Anderson provides size at the wing, defense, and some crafty playmaking.


The options without Cousins are not world beating. The likelihood the Pelicans strike gold in every area is slim. However, if Cousins is no longer an option, the Pelicans need pieces to push them across the finish line. In an 82 game season you need contributions from multiple players on the roster, especially in the event of injury. I’ve laid out some of the potential options for the Pelicans to pursue that will raise their current floor. None of these acquisitions replicate the ceiling Pelicans have with Cousins on board, but they do provide an opportunity for the Pelicans to move forward. The important thing here is to maintain flexibility and utilize the space under the hard-cap effectively. With how the close the West is, the Pelicans can’t afford to simply run it back and remain stagnant. Other teams will be looking to pursue some of these same opportunities for improvement and may have a better shot than the Pelicans. What I do know is that these moves could potentially set the Pelicans up in a more favorable position to acquire a future star. Retaining multiple mid-sized contracts and demonstrating sustained success in the win column is a a good recipe moving forward. We saw how Cleveland was able to retool on the fly with several mid-sized and expiring contracts. The Pelicans can eventually put themselves in a position to do much of the same.