The New Orleans Pelicans, with Anthony Davis at the helm, are just 20-22 after 42 games. This is a major disappointment, as they were expected to make the playoffs. Right now, they stand at just 11th in the western conference. With trade rumors surrounding Davis, the Pelicans need to acquire some more talent around him in order to make him want to stay. Looking at the Pelicans roster, there are a few places for upgrades. The Pelicans have the 25th best defensive rating so a defensive minded player would help. They could also use another shooter. The Pelicans have a hole at point guard and at small forward. The Pelicans should look to trade for Otto Porter, Kent Bazemore, or Tyus Jones.
Three Players the Pelicans Need
2018-19 stats: 28.3 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.479 fg%, 0.383 3pt%, 0.778 ft%
With the Washington Wizards losing John Wall for likely the entire season, their playoff hopes essentially went down the drain. Since the Wizards likely aren’t making the playoffs, they may want to trade away one of their players to acquire assets for the future. Otto Porter fits all of the Pelicans needs. He is a pretty good defender and an elite shooter, as well as being a wing. He has however been having a pretty bad season thus far. For example, his three-point percentage has dropped from 44% to 38%. In the 2017-18 season, his defensive real plus-minus was fourth in the entire NBA. This season, he is just 16th amongst small forwards and 95th overall. A change of scenery may actually be what he needs to regress back to his previous form. If he can play like he did last year, he would be a very welcome addition to this struggling Pelicans squad.
One problem with Otto Porter though is his contract. He is making 26 million dollars this season and has 2 years and 55.7 million after this season (assuming he accepts his player option in 2020-21 worth 28.5 million dollars). Fortunately for the Pelicans, they have a few players that are making a decent amount of money. Solomon Hill is making 12.3 million, E’Twaun Moore is making 8.8 million, and Wesley Johnson is making 6.1 million. If these were the pieces in the trade, the Wizards would have to add in either Chasson Randle or Ron Baker in order to have under 16 players. While these players work for the trade, the Pelicans would certainly need to add in picks to make the deal work. The problem is, it is impossible to know what the Wizards value Porter at. On one hand, he is one of the more impactful players in the league. On the other hand, he averages just over 12 points per game and is making over 25 million dollars. The final trade would be Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Wesley Johnson, a 2019 top 6 protected first round pick*, a 2021 top 25 protected first round pick**, and a 2020 top 15 protected second-round pick for Otto Porter and Chasson Randle.
*If not conveyed it becomes a top 5 protected 2020 first round pick, if not conveyed then it becomes nothing.
**If not conveyed it becomes a 2022 unprotected second round pick.
2018-19 stats: 27.4 mpg, 14.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 0.441 fg%, 0.327 3pt%, 0.752 ft%
Bazemore is a similar player to Otto Porter as he is a 3 and D wing. Unlike Porter though, he is very easy to acquire. The Atlanta Hawks have actually been trying to trade him for quite some time now. Bazemore is known around the league as a 3 and D player, but he hasn’t shot the three ball well. He is shooting just 33% from three this season on 4.7 attempts per game. Last year, he shot 39% on 4.2 attempts per game. This may be because of the change in the head coach. The Hawks let go of Mike Budenholzer and hired former Philadelphia 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce. Budenholzer is known for getting a lot out of his players, as he turned Kyle Korver into an all-star in the 2014-15 season. The change from one of the better coaches in the NBA to a much worse coach likely is hurting Bazemore. Alvin Gentry may not be as good as Budenholzer, but if he can be a step up from Lloyd Pierce then Bazemore may return to his 2017-18 form. Bazemore’s defense has also fallen off just a tad. Last year he was seventh in defensive real plus-minus amongst shooting guards. This year he is just 15th amongst shooting guards but he is pretty close to being in the top eight this year.
Bazemore’s contract is more than many think he’s really worth, but the Pelicans can still match the salaries. Bazemore is making 18 million dollars this year and has a player option for 19.3 million dollars next year. The Pelicans would have to ship off Solomon Hill and Wesley Johnson to match contracts. Hill has a player option next year for 12.8 million dollars and Johnson is a free agent in the offseason. Since the Pelicans are losing about 6.5 million dollars in salary cap next year in this trade, they wouldn’t need to give up any picks. In fact, the Hawks may have to give up a second-round pick because they are gaining cap space at the Pelicans’ expense. The Hawks likely wouldn’t want to get rid of their own second round pick though. Fortunately for the Hawks, they have multiple second-round picks incoming. They could send Charlotte’s second-round pick and the least favorable between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers. The final trade would be Kent Bazemore, Charlotte’s 2019 second round pick, and the least favorable second-round pick from Minnesota or the Lakers for Solomon Hill and Wesley Johnson.
2018-19 stats: 20.3 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.9 apg, 0.385 fg%, 0.286 3pt%, 0.818 ft%
Jones has far too long been underutilized on the Minnesota Timberwolves and it’s time for a fresh start. This is his first year averaging at least 20 minutes per game and he’s at just 20.3. Ironically, he is actually playing a little worse than last year, or at the very least hasn’t made an improvement. He’s a pretty good defender, which is something the Pelicans need. He ranks fifth amongst point guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus this year and ranked second last year. He almost never turns the ball over as he leads the league in assist to turnover ratio. The only issue with him is that he is not a good shooter.
The good thing with Tyus Jones is that he is making next to nothing. He is only making 2.4 million dollars this year but is a restricted free agent after this season. The Pelicans can match contracts by adding Frank Jackson and Kenrich Williams. Tim Frazier could also be substituted for Jackson if the Pelicans want to move him instead. One issue with this trade is that it’s hard to evaluate how much Jones is worth. Similarly to Porter, he provides better impact than his stats show. However, Jones likely isn’t worth a first-round pick. Seeing as the Timberwolves already have Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague at point guard with Josh Okogie and Andrew Wiggins at shooting guard, they would probably be okay with trading Jones. Moreover, they also wouldn’t have to Pay jones in free agency. The Pelicans would definitely have to put in a 2nd round pick, and they may have to put in another. The final trade would be Tyus Jones for Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams, unprotected 2019 2nd round pick, and top 18 protected 2020 2nd round pick*.
*If not conveyed it becomes nothing
There Are More Options
While the Pelicans have been getting back on track- winning their last three and four of their last five games- they are still 2.5 games behind the 8th seeded Lakers. They are certainly in the playoff hunt, but they may need to make a move soon. While the players mentioned are the most likely, there are certainly more options. The Pelicans could try and trade for a star player like Bradley Beal, or just try and get a few more role players. Some role players could be Shabazz Napier, Glenn Robinson, or Jeremy Lin. They also should be monitoring Anthony Davis’s impending free agency. If he is on the fence about staying, the Pelicans should make a move to upgrade their roster.
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