Waiting on Wings

Published: July 24, 2018

By Ryan Hebert (@RyanHebert89)

The NBA offseason has slowed down and aside from a few minor transactions, and it is hard to see the Pelicans making a major trade or acquisition at this point. That is, until the February trade deadline. If you asked most fans what the Pelicans need right now to solidify themselves as a major Western Conference player they would say “they need a starting caliber small forward”. I don’t believe much in positions, but I do believe in skill sets, and when I think of this player it’s somebody who can defend guys that are 6’6-6’9 and switch on to anyone in a pinch. This player can also shoot, rebound, cut, and pass. The problem with this is that it is the scarcest type of player in the league, and even the mediocre ones can make over 20 million dollars. It is doubtful that a trade involving your Khris Middletons, Otto Porters, and Harrison Barnes of the world will manifest itself for the Pelicans before the season. At least, not one where the Pelicans are sending out more assets than they have to. Most teams are heading into the regular season with the idea that they can compete, or see what they have to eventually be able to compete. It’s also impossible to evaluate your current team without seeing it on the floor.

The best move may be to wait. The Pelicans wing situation is actually better than the start of last year, believe it or not. They began the year with a rotation of Dante Cunningham, Tony Allen, and Darius Miller. Cunningham played nearly 1200 minutes for the Pelicans in 51 games, including 24 starts, Tony Allen played for 22 games eating up 275 minutes. Both the play of Cunningham and Allen left a lot to be desired.
The projected Pelicans 2016-17 starter, Solomon Hill, was out with a hamstring injury until the last few games of the season, which makes it unfair to evaluate Hill on last season. A full training camp and being farther removed from the hamstring injury will do him wonders. The Pelicans will go into this season with a rotation of E’twaun Moore / Solomon Hill / Darius Miller. Significantly better than last year.

The Pelicans proved last year that they don’t need this prototypical wing player to be successful. Moore had one of the more efficient seasons scoring wise in the NBA (career-high .585 efficient field goal %) and did everything he was asked to, including starting 80 games. The only thing Hill has to do is defend and hit a shot every now and then. Miller spaced the floor well all season, though he struggled a bit more from long distance after the Demarcus’ Cousins injury. The addition of Julius Randle should give some of what Miller lost back. If you look at the Pelicans most efficient lineups and sorted the top ten with over 10 games played, one of E’twaun Moore or Darius Miller is in it, it’s not as dire as we think. The All-NBA defensive tandem of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday cover a lot of what a big wing is wanted for, each is able to guard up or down multiple positions, something a lot of other teams do not have the luxury of. The Pelicans will be better off on the wing to begin this season, even if no major move is made.

I see a lot of people wanting to trade Solomon Hill just for the sake of his contract. It’s not his fault he makes the money he makes. An immediate trade still would not offer a solution. A contract dump for the sake of a contract dump is not the right approach here. The Pelicans are over $10 million away from the luxury tax and even have the ability to make uneven trades, meaning taking back more money than they send out, there’s nothing to get away from. His value is only going to go up.

The way I see it, don’t make a trade in the summer that you would not make at the trade deadline (unless it sets you up for this deadline move), an example would be Hill and Ajinca for Kent Bazemore. Then you’re trying to trade Kent Bazemore next offseason for another 6’6+ person. Making a trade for the sake of a trade rarely works out. Waiting is an approach to something, though it is boring, a team will realize that somebody isn’t a part of their future plans, they won’t be able to or want to pay him, they’re not doing well in their conference so it’s time to collect picks. The motivation to trade and not just for salary purposes, increases towards the deadline. So unless a great deal presents itself, the February trade deadline is the Pels’ best bet for a wing.

Until then, we wait.

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