Can the Pelicans put a Free Agent next to Davis?

Published: March 1, 2016

It’s nothing new to hear that this off-season will be crazy.  Teams will have something like 500 million dollars to spend across the league, and anyone who watches the NBA can tell you that in any given year, only a few teams have the patience to keep the powder dry if they can’t find a difference maker.  They will spend that money on a guy probably not worth the cash – or if they are forward-thinking like Boston or Houston, will sign guys to short deals that are a little oversized, but can easily be traded because of their length and the fact they are attached to a guy who usually can play.

It does seem self-evident, however, that the Pelicans will not be a team keeping the powder dry this off-season.  They will be moving to get better now.  That may involve moving the pick.  That probably will involve trades.

All of that will be fascinating, but I wanted to just take a moment and actually assess the teams who will be looking at the Free Agency market and see just who the Pelicans will be likely to be competing against for talent.  First, a couple assumptions:

  1. $92 million is the Cap
  2. I went through all 29 other teams and adjusted cap numbers up for significant guys who will likely be coming back to that team next year. (LeBron, Wade) I ignored all the lesser guys, even though in this market they probably will command deals in the $3-5 million range and will actually make differences in cap space for some teams.
  3. I assume the Pelicans will be looking for a wing first and foremost.  I don’t care if they pick a rookie at that spot, they should be going after a true wing this off-season.  Therefore, I also ranked other team’s interest in acquiring a wing.
  4. The Pels are going to go big after a wing free agent, and not try to sign 3 low-price dudes.  They want to win a press conference and give the team a boost.

Armed with those assumptions, I put the teams into the tiers you see below.  Enjoy!

Teams we probably can Ignore

  • Golden State Warriors
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Detroit Pistons
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • Toronto Raptors

Golden State will stand pat or swing for the Durant fences.  They aren’t going to care about anything less than that.  The Clippers and Cavs are in Cap hell, and the Spurs may have a little room if Timmy and Manu retire, but then, only about 8 mil, and they have pretty good wings.   The Pistons have a little room – but will be looking to fill multiple positions before shooting over the cap when they sign Drummond.  The Raptors have some room – but will have to re-sign DeMar DeRozan.  So either they let him walk for a different wing – which is a net neutral to the Pels – or sign him and become unimportant.

Not super likely to be a player

  • Miami Heat
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Sacramento Kings

The Heat could go for a wing, but have Wade and Whiteside to appease(leaving Deng as a take it or leave it proposition) – plus have Winslow in the wings.  So they are probably not likely to spend big on someone else.   I have a hard time believing the Hawks will move on from Horford(the only way to get big space) – and if they do, they’ll be looking for a center/power forward type.  They also need to worry about getting Bazemore or another wing – but will probably be looking to get cheaper sets of guys, not go big on a wing.  I can’t entirely rule out the Kings because they are a bit nutty, but they don’t have much cap space and have traded the picks that could get them cap space.  They are probably limited to making more edge moves.  Besides, who is taking the Kings money?


  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Washington Wizards
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Utah Jazz

Some of these teams could enter the conversation – but I just don’t see it as that likely.  If OKC loses Durant – they probably will be in the market for a wing in an attempt to keep Westbrook.  So they could quickly move to Real Competition, since playing next to Westbrook could be an attraction.  I just don’t see KD moving.  Milwaukee already has Giannis, Parker and Middleton to take wing minutes.  They will be looking for a PG with their money.  The Bulls already have Butler and tend to give their rookies real time to develop. (McDermott) They will be focused on fixing their frontcourt and PG situation and I doubt will spend big money on a wing.  The Wizards will have to pay Beal – but will still have room afterwards.  They have Porter and Oubre on the wing too – but Nene is on the way out and their frontcourt is really thin.  It just feels unlikely they’d commit even more big resources to the wing, since they have no prayer of getting Durant now.  The Suns are going to go after the biggest free agent names they can.  Then, once they are turned down after signing someone they think those stars might like, sit tight and try again later.  It’s what they do.  For the Pacers, they have a lot of money tied up in George, Ellis and Rodney Stuckey.  I just can’t see them going big on a fourth wing.  Instead – they will probably try to fill the hole at center and fight George Hill’s heir apparent.  Utah has to worry about the big salary bumps Favors, Gobert, Hood and Hayward are going to command after next season, and will probably work around the edges.  Or go in on a point guard.

Asset Collectors

  • Houston Rockets
  • Boston Celtics

The Rockets will probably part ways with Dwight – but won’t be coming hard after anyone that isn’t a superstar after that.  They will be one of the teams that just wants to get reasonable contract guys they can trade for a star.  They won’t be in someone’s living room at midnight of the free agency period.  The same can be said for the Celtics, and although the Celtics look good in their own right, they have Bradley and Crowder and I doubt will go big on anyone.

Meh Competition

  • New York Knicks
  • Denver Nuggets
  • Orlando Magic
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Brooklyn Nets
  • Philadelphis 76ers
  • Charlotte Bobcats
  • Memphis

The Knicks are in New York and Porzingis is interesting.  They probably will go after guards, though.  The Nuggets have a bunch of wings already signed, and are they really that attractive of a destination?  The Magic have a team of meh and cap space.  I’d rather go somewhere and play with AD and Jrue than Vucevic and Payton.  The Timberwolves are going to win 20 games and have two young guys who should be playing the wing in LaVine and Wiggins.  And they are in Minnesota.  The Nets are a well-publicized mess.  The 76ers will probably start spending money now – but I think free agents will stay away until they prove they want to win.  The Bobcats aren’t bad, but if you could play with Kemba and Frank Kaminsky or Davis and Jrue, who are you picking?  The Grizzlies have been a good team for a long time, you get to play with Gasol, and even if they pay Conley, they can pay someone else too.  Of course, Conley and Gasol are getting long in the tooth.  Is that a better situation then the Pels?  Probably not, right?

The Real Competition

  • Portland Trailblazers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Los Angeles Lakers

Portland has a star and is young – have a hole at small forward – and will probably have made the playoffs.  They also have a great crowd.  These guys are the scariest competition.    It’s hard to see the Mavs as a great situation, but their owner and team have a good reputation, they have BIG money, and they can sell things hard, even if they don’t have AD.  I wouldn’t pick them, but someone else might.  The Lakers may be out out this conversation after the draft – but they are still in LA, so they will get to pitch to anyone.  Plus, Kobe will be gone. _I_ see that as a plus, at least.


So that’s my take on the league and the Pelicans competition for a wing.  With probably only 3-4 unrestricted FA’s on the wing that could make a difference this year, what do you think about the Pels chances?  (Though if they can stay healthy, anybody would probably make a difference for THIS team)  Bleak?  Decent?  Am I way to optimistic?  Including too many teams or too few in the Real Competition section?

Let me know in the comments.


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