Offseason In Review: New Orleans Pelicans

November 28 2013 at 3:23pm CDT By Luke Adams

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Trades

  • Acquired Jrue Holiday and the No. 42 pick in 2013 from the Sixers in exchange for the No. 6 pick in 2013 and a 2014 first-round pick (top-5 protected).
  • Acquired Tyreke Evans from the Kings and the rights to Jeff Withey from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Greivis Vasquez (to Kings), Robin Lopez (to Blazers), and Terrel Harris (to Blazers). Evans was signed-and-traded for four years, $44MM. Withey was signed for two years, $1.31MM via the minimum salary exception (second year is non-guaranteed).

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Michael Lewis’ Moneyball was the belief that the Oakland Athletics’ strategy always involved targeting the same specific kind of player. In fact, the Moneyball approach outlined in Lewis’ book (and later on the big screen) revolved around targeting qualities that had been undervalued by the market. In other words, zigging when the rest of the league was zagging.

In that sense, the Pelicans’ first major move of the offseason could be viewed as a Moneyball-type deal. Even on the night of the 2013 draft, many fans and pundits were already looking ahead a year, salivating at the prospect of landing a top pick in what should be a loaded 2014 draft. But while the rest of the league may have been trying to find a way to trade into the 2014 first round, the Pelicans recognized that trading out of that first round gave them the opportunity to land a player who was already an NBA All-Star.

So New Orleans made perhaps the NBA’s biggest splash on draft night, essentially announcing that the club was moving away from its rebuilding stage and intended to become a playoff contender. That meant the Pelicans sent the sixth overall pick (Nerlens Noel) and a top-five protected 2014 pick, two assets that wouldn’t help the team for another year, to the Sixers in exchange for up-and-coming point guard Jrue Holiday. The move certainly doesn’t reduce New Orleans’ window for contention — after all, Holiday is just 23 years old. But it gave the club a 2013 All-Star in Holiday to pair with a player who could be a 2014 All-Star (Anthony Davis), which looks like the start of an excellent core.

To go along with Holiday and Davis, the Pelicans also entered July with Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers, and Ryan Anderson as key pieces. Question marks surrounded Gordon and Rivers, due to health concerns and a disappointing rookie year, respectively, but there was enough talent on board that New Orleans could use its assets and cap flexibility to add another piece; an impact small forward or a true center looked like the most likely targets.

Instead of addressing one of those positions though, the Pelicans aggressively pursued Tyreke Evans, a restricted free agent and a player whose best fit is in the backcourt. New Orleans liked Evans enough to offer him $44MM on a four-year deal, and to give up Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez in a sign-and-trade on top of that. The idea of a Holiday/Gordon backcourt with Evans as a dangerous sixth-man scorer off the bench is intriguing, but the team’s focus on the ex-King was a little perplexing, given the more pressing areas of need on the roster.

Having committed most of their available cap room to Evans, the Pelicans found more modest solutions at small forward and center, re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu and inking Greg Stiemsma to a one-year deal. Aminu, who has been in the starting lineup for the first few weeks of the season, will have a larger role in the rotation than Stiemsma, but neither player should have a big impact on whether or not the Pelicans earn a playoff spot.

Lucking into the first overall pick in 2012 and drafting Davis was a huge boon for New Orleans, and I don’t even mind the decision to acquire Holiday for what could be end up being two top-10 picks. He’s an above-average point guard signed to a fair contract, and the draft never offers any guarantees. However, the Pelicans’ other major decisions in the last two years have been questionable. Gordon has yet to show he can be healthy and productive for a full season in New Orleans, and the cost to Evans was greater than I would’ve liked. Both players are locked into expensive long-term deals, which will reduce the Pelicans’ flexibility to add complementary pieces around them — the lack of a 2014 draft pick will also hinder the team’s ability to acquire young talent.

The Pelicans will likely take until at least this season’s trade deadline to see how the current roster gels, but in my opinion, it makes sense to seriously consider shopping Gordon or Evans at some point. Based on the club’s aggressive offseason pursuit of Evans, I’m guessing he’s not going anywhere, so perhaps Gordon, who has been the subject of trade rumors before, will find himself on the block in February. His injury history remains a concern, but he’s started every game for the Pelicans so far, so if he stays healthy into the new year, that multiyear contract should start to look a little more palatable for potential trade partners.

I don’t think the Pelicans turned themselves into a playoff team with their offseason moves, but the team did add plenty of talent to a roster that already featured one of the most promising young players in the league, in Davis. Although it remains to be seen if the current core will stick together in New Orleans long-term, the next few months should provide plenty of evidence for whether or not more significant changes are required for a team that underwent some major offseason changes.

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