Thoughts on the Pelicans Draft

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Published: June 27, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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