Coming off an offseason in which they lost DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo, many people expected the New Orleans Pelicans to struggle. That has not been the case so far.
Led by MVP-candidate Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are off to a 3-0 start with convincing wins over the Rockets and the Kings, and another victory over the Clippers. The roster the Pelicans have is very well fit to center around their superstar, Anthony Davis. Coach Alvin Gentry has done a good job making sure they play with Davis as the focal point of the offense too.
There are still questions regarding the talent available to the Pelicans, mainly on the wings. Currently, it seems as if E’Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill, Darius Miller and Ian Clark are the players comprising their wing rotation, and that group has a lot of question marks. The rest of the roster is sound though, with Jrue Holiday and Elfrid Payton combining to be a good point guard duo, and their frontcourt trio of Anthony Davis, Julius Randle and Nikola Mirotic is among the best in the league.
While the frontcourt and backcourts have impressed, a trade for a wing could propel them to better contend. The Pelicans have been active at the deadline the past two seasons, acquiring DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Mirotic at the 2017 and 2018 trade deadlines, respectively. I believe that they should build on their hot start and make moves to bolster their chances this season.
The Trade Package
New Orleans has very little to offer towards trade bait. They only have one expiring contract over $5 million (Wesley Johnson), and they only have their picks to play with. They don’t have many young players with loads of potential, so if the Pelicans want to make a move, they will probably have to part with their third consecutive first-round pick. They will also likely have to include Solomon Hill in all of their trade talks to match salaries, and teams are probably not willing to take on the $24 million Hill is getting over the next two seasons.
Player 1: Kent Bazemore
Kent Bazemore is the quintessential “3-and-D” NBA wing. Last year Baze shot roughly 39 percent from three while showing the ability to be a multipositional defender. Adding Bazemore would improve the Pelicans perimeter defense, and would add another catch-and-shoot wing to pair with E’Twaun Moore. An underrated part of Bazemore’s play is his slashing ability and his finishing around the rim – 63.6% shooting from within three feet last year. With New Orleans’ ability to spread the floor, Baze can utilize catch-and-drive opportunities if the paint is open.
Trading for Bazemore would also add multi-year security, as he is under contract until the end of next season. The Pelicans would hate to see another first-round pick leave, but with the pick likely being a mid-to-late 20’s first rounder, they could part with the pick to pick up Bazemore and dump Solomon Hill’s contract.
Player 2a: Jonathon Simmons
Jonathon Simmons is a player who wouldn’t add as much impact as someone like Bazemore, but he also wouldn’t cost as much. The Magic could possibly accept Wesley Johnson’s expiring contract and a second round pick in order to lose Simmons. Simmons isn’t off to the best start of the season so far, but given his first three seasons, he can still be a quality pickup for New Orleans.
After signing with the Orlando Magic last offseason, Jonathon Simmons showcased his ability as a scorer. He averaged just under 14 points per game, shooting fairly well. His defense was worse than expected for the Magic last year, but given that he was constantly beaten up and playing through injury, he’ll likely improve on that front this season.
Player 2b: Justin Holiday
(This would be a fun trade no matter what, because this would pair brothers Justin and Jrue together)
Justin Holiday is a quality bench wing who can add above average three-point shooting and defense. One positive to note about Holiday is that his three-point accuracy has improved nearly every season, and last year he shot 36 percent from three. He also saw a career year in points per game last year and played his best defense to date.
He is currently on an expiring deal with the Chicago Bulls, which means he might be easier to acquire. The trade would have to wait until after December 15, as Ian Clark is part of the deal and he signed a contract this past offseason. Giving the Bulls a throw-away contract in Ian Clark alongside a young player like Cheick Diallo, or Jahlil Okafor if the Bulls want to take that risk, could probably get the job done.
Player 3: DeMarre Carroll
After a not-so-glorious stint with the Raptors, DeMarre Carroll was sent as a salary dump to Brooklyn. He thrived last year and reminded everyone why he was an integral piece to the 60-win Atlanta Hawks team. Last year, he was a good third or fourth option scorer, getting 13.5 points per game with solid perimeter shooting. His defense is the best part as he has always been renowned as a great defensive player.
Carroll is currently injured and doesn’t have a timetable for return, so this trade will probably come at the deadline. The trade to get Carroll would probably cost the Pelicans Solomon Hill and their first rounder. DeMarre Carroll has an expiring contract, and the Nets are probably loving the $65 million in cap space they have this offseason so they probably don’t want to take on the $12 million owed to Solomon Hill next year. The Pelicans’ first-round pick might be enough to entice the Nets to take on that offer as they continue to rebuild.
Player 4: Bogdan Bogdanovic
In his rookie year with the Kings, Bogdanovic impressed as a scorer and defender. One of his biggest strengths last year was his man-to-man defense, which combined with his scoring, makes him an attractive prospect. He also offers the offense that the Pelicans would love to have. He scored around 12 points per game on nearly 40 percent shooting from three, and he finished above 60 percent of his shots at the rim.
Bogdanovic is likely the most difficult player for the Pelicans to acquire though. He is only 26 years old and on a team friendly contract. The Kings also may view him as an integral part of their rebuild. However, as the Kings do not have a first-round pick this year, they may be more inclined. A package slapping the Pelicans first and second round picks on top of Wesley Johnson’s expiring and the youngsters of Cheick Diallo and Frank Jackson might get the Kings to bite, but it’s still unlikely.