Trade Targets Part II: Zig While Others Zag

Published: July 6, 2018

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.


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