As the trade deadline approaches, close followers of the Pelicans were wary that General Manager Dell Demps would potentially mortgage the future of the franchise in order to secure his job for the coming years. In a surprising twist of fate for supporters of the perennially lackluster New Orleans team, the front office managed to come out on the better end of a big deal for the first time in years. DeMarcus Cousins will be pairing up with Anthony Davis in what could be the most dominant front court since David Robinson and Tim Duncan.
DeMarcus Cousins reaction as soon as he found out he had been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. #DeMarcusCousins #NewOrleans #Pelicans pic.twitter.com/SDKuE2ZEAY
— Manny Vieites (@manny_vieites) February 20, 2017
Last night may have been the biggest night in the last decade for the Pelicans. Anthony Davis takes the All-Star Game MVP at home and the team emerges as the obvious victor of one of the largest NBA trades in recent memory. Not only does this make the Pelicans relevant in the short term, it makes New Orleans a very attractive free agent destination in the long term…if the pieces and contracts can fit properly.
The trade officially consisted of the following:
–New Orleans receives:
-DeMarcus Cousins (C)
-Omri Casspi (SF)
-Tyreke Evans (SG)
-Langston Galloway (SG)
-Buddy Hield (SG)
-2017 1st Round Draft Pick (Top 3 Lottery Protected – I mean, what?)
-2017 2nd Round Draft Pick
What I found particularly shocking is the rapidity in which this deal seemed to progress. Logic says that the Pelicans’ offer would have been on the table on Wednesday and that there was no way this is the best Sacramento could have gotten out of the All-NBA Center (SAC turned down an Andre Drummond for Cousins deal with Detroit last offseason). But, after an increasingly callous relationship between Cousins and just about everyone west of Texas, it was time for a change.
This begs two interesting questions:
1. Does New Orleans legitimately have North Carolina’s HB2 to thank for the potential success of their franchise?
2. What does the future look like for the Pelicans?
To answer the first question, it sounds ridiculous, but it could be possible. For those that follow the NBA closely, this is a deal that might even be too scolding of a take for your friend who does nothing but spew hot air to suggest. ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine as well as NBA 2K17’s operating systems laughed at the prospect of this exchange.
The NBA moving the All-Star Game to New Orleans due to the controversy stemming from North Carolina’s HB2 bill provided a unique recruiting opportunity for the home franchise. I am certainly not suggesting this is what happened, but this weekend appeared to be the last impetus the Pelicans needed to get this blockbuster deal in place. Cousins playing in front of his future fans, with a former teammate and superstar (in a place where he does not have to shoulder all of the blame) may have been the perfect recipe to change the course of history for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Shifting from the hypothetical and delving into the practical – unsurprisingly, it all comes down to money. The future success of this team will be determined by how monetarily committed the front office is to winning. I have come up with a detailed breakdown of the next five years of the Pelicans, assuming Boogie an Jrue resign (which is the ideal plan of action). Yes, this model operates on a lot of assumptions, but that is necessary when attempting to project more than five years into the future.
Items to note:
-Stay tuned to the “Under Tax” number for each year. Spending at the luxury tax for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 seasons would put the team in between the 8th-12th highest payroll. This is effective, but still a little high for the NBA’s smallest market team. Spending over the tax just does not seem 100% practical at the moment.
-Boogie left at least $30M on the table by signing with the Pelicans. Due to the Kings possession of Cousins’ Bird Rights, they would have been able to sign him for 5 years/$209M, while the Pelicans can only offer him 5 years/$179M.
-Terrance Jones may end up off of the books before free agency in a trade. I would assume it would be for back court help.
2017 Offseason Needs:
-With no draft picks (unless the team misses the playoffs and snags a top three pick, which would just be crapping on the chest of Sacramento), the Pelicans will likely turn to free agency to fill their back court holes. It is assumed the team will try to resign Jrue Holiday. Holiday should thrive in an offense with two big men that are this skilled and mobile. Playing at an All-Star level of late, Holiday is on pace to move into the Top 5-7 highest paid point guards in the league. This would place him between $18-22M a year over four years. It is likely Dante Cunningham opts out of his contract due to lack of playing time, so the Pelicans would be looking at about $15M to spend in free agency to remain under the luxury tax.
-New Orleans looks like their number one priority will be shooting guard, since they gave up three to the Kings. Signing one bigger name player or two players around the value of the mid-level exception could provide legitimate depth for a team with newfound potential. Yes, the market dictates the value of the free agent and not vice versa, but I provide a few projections as to shooters who could end up in New Orleans over the summer.
-Patty Mills: may be too pricy, but would fit very well.
-Kyle Korver: this is most likely dictated based on the Cavaliers success this postseason.
-Anthony Morrow: this is more on the more practical side. The former Pelican would provide a necessary three point shooting threat.
2018 Offseason Needs:
-The resigning of Cousins will be the club’s number one priority. Again, assuming everything goes according to plan, the club will be locked into $80M+ in Davis, Cousins, and Holiday, but that is nothing to scoff at if the correct bench can be assembled.
-If the team is able to lock down a shooting guard in the 2017 offseason, the 2018 offseason should be focused around a solid wing player. The Pelicans will have a 2018 first round draft pick (again, ideally it is a non-lottery pick) plus as much as $14M (minus the value of any moves made during 2017 free agency) in space under the luxury tax.
-Tim Frazier: yes, he is a point guard, but if he continues to produce solid Per36 numbers on a team-friendly contract, it may behoove the team to resign.
-Trevor Ariza: An unrestricted free agent after the 2017-2018 season, Ariza is still a quality perimeter defender and a serviceable scoring threat.
-Marco Belinelli: Listing nothing but former New Orleans players, here? Again, Belinelli falls into the serviceable wing likely under $10M/year. He provided a bit more of a scoring option over Ariza.
While there are millions of different scenarios (because I’m not quite sure I believe this one yet. Kyrie may be onto something with this flat earth theory…) it is nice to see a snapshot of what the team would like to set themselves as in a few years. Building a core of Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jrue Holiday could make basketball in New Orleans fun for some time.