Pelicans Seeking Center, Dangling 2018 Pick

The Pelicans were at the center of an interesting trade rumor on Monday night, having been linked to the Sixers in a possible Jahlil Okafor deal. However, those Okafor discussions weren’t the only talks New Orleans has engaged in recently, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. According to Wojnarowski (all Twitter links), the Pelicans have been active on various fronts in their efforts to add a center, dangling multiple assets, including their 2018 first-round pick.

In addition to the Okafor discussions, New Orleans’ search for a center has resulted in a pursuit of Nets big man Brook Lopez, according to Wojnarowski, who reports that the Pelicans have been exploring larger deals in the hopes of unloading Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca. Asik and Ajinca, who will earn a combined $15.56MM next season, are under contract for multiple years and aren’t a part of the team’s rotation.

The Pelicans still own their 2017 first-round pick, but the team is reluctant to move that selection. This year’s draft class is expected to be one of the deepest and most talented in the last decade, and New Orleans is on track to have a lottery pick — our reverse standings show that the Pelicans are currently tied with the Kings for the NBA’s seventh-worst record.

While the Sixers are said to have some interest in a deal with the Pelicans, it’s not clear if a reported offer of Ajinca and New Orleans’ 2018 first-rounder will be enough for Philadelphia. Sam Amick of USA Today tweets that the protection on the 2018 pick is a sticking point for the Sixers, who may be looking for more value anyway. Meanwhile, various reports have suggested that Philadelphia would like to find a way to include Jrue Holiday in any deal.

As for the Nets and Lopez, multiple outlets have reported in recent weeks that Brooklyn wants to secure two first-round picks in any deal for its standout center. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wrote this morning that Brooklyn is seeking a 2017 lottery pick – plus an additional first-rounder – in any package for Lopez, so the Nets would presumably be interested if the Pelicans wanted to discuss this year’s pick.

I’d be surprised if New Orleans is willing to meet the Nets’ asking price, and it remains to be seen what sort of deal the Sixers would accept. Still, the Pelicans are actively scouring the trade market, and appear to be a good bet to make a deal in the coming weeks.

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