E'Twaun Moore

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Pelicans trying to keep up with all the problems they’ve created for themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The entire operation could have cratered if Jrue Holiday left in free agency, as the Pelicans would have had only moderate cap space to replace him.

That didn’t happen.

Otherwise…

Years of roster mismanagement caught up to New Orleans, which had its meager wing depth eviscerated when Solomon Hill suffered a long-term injury. Complicating matters, the Pelicans had already hard-capped themselves by signing Rajon Rondo and Darius Miller to a combined salary above the taxpayer mid-level exception. Holiday used his leverage to get a massive contract – worth up to $150 million over five years – that pushed New Orleans close to that hard cap.

Rondo might be a decent value as a $3.3 million backup point guard. But his ego complicates the situation, and the Pelicans will start him at point guard – pushing Holiday to shooting guard, where the team’s third-best player will make less of an impact.

Miller washed out of the NBA two years ago after three seasons in New Orleans. The former second-rounder went overseas and then drew a salary above the minimum. I’m curious to see what the Pelicans see in him now.

In a pinch on the wing – where Hill, best at power forward, was already playing out of position – New Orleans sent a second-rounder and cash to the Bulls to dump Quincy Pondexter. Presumably, the injury problems that have kept Pondexter from playing the last two seasons meant he couldn’t help the Pelicans on the wing this season. Otherwise, this deal was a farce. But it allowed the Pelicans to sign Tony Allen and presumably one other player. Re-signing Dante Cunningham would help, but even he is better at power forward than small forward.

Allen is still a strong defender at age 35, but he’s a poor shooter. Rondo generally has been, too.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have to be comfortable from deep for this team to have adequate spacing. The situation behind those two stars is woeful.

New Orleans spent a lot of time picking around the edges at point guard, though. In addition to re-signing Holiday and signing Rondo, the Pelicans traded effective backup point guard Tim Frazier (on a reasonable $2 million salary) to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick. Then, New Orleans essentially dealt the Nos. 40 and 52 picks and $800,000 to move up to No. 31 for injured point guard Frank Jackson, who’s already hurt again. The Pelicans also signed Ian Clark (defends point guards, handles the ball and distributes like a shooting guard). Combo guard E'Twaun Moore returns, too.

Between Davis, Cousins, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans is paying $57,396,659 this season to players most effective at center.

Meanwhile, small forward is a wasteland.

This is not the team I’d want to send into battle during Cousins’ contract year. Lose him, and how will that color Davis’ long-term view of the franchise?

The Pelicans keep bandaging major wounds, and it’s already catching up to them. The difficult situation entering the offseason must be taken into account.

They started the summer in a jam. Then, they got jammed.

Offseason grade: C-

Ian Clark wants, will get chance to show what he can do with Pelicans

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When you buried on the depth chart behind the best backcourt in the NBA — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — minutes and opportunities can be hard to come by. Ian Clark will get a ring for his efforts with the Golden State Warriors last season, but what he longed for was more opportunities. And that was going to be hard to come by with the deep Golden State roster.

Clark signed with New Orleans in free agency — a team where good guard play and shooting will get him a lot of the opportunities he seeks. He spoke about it with the Pelicans team website.

“Being able to show what I can do in the minutes I get, I want to be able to expand on that this year,” said Clark, who averaged 14.8 minutes last season for the 67-15 Warriors. “I want to show that I can do that in extended minutes and be consistent at it, and help my team win, whether that’s on the defensive or offensive end. I want to show that it wasn’t just because of that team (that I played well).”

The Pelicans need shooting and perimeter defense around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Coach Alvin Gentry is committed to starting the season with a Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday backcourt, but facing tremendous pressure to win and win early we will see how long that lasts. If Clark or E'Twaun Moore or Tony Allen play well early, they will get a lot of run. Clark will get a chance with the ball in his hands.

“Utilizing my shooting and scoring ability is something I do well,” Clark said. “I’ve never really been a true point guard, but handling the ball and initiating offense are things I can do. I couldn’t do too much of that in Golden State, but that’s how I view myself. Also being able to defend multiple positions is important. Obviously there are bigger wings in the league, so being able to make sure I can defend different matchups is something that can help the team.”

Clark has shown flashes of being able to run an offense, but he’s also been turnover prone. He shot 37.4 percent last season from three, and he can be better. If he can take his game to the next level, he can be part of the future in New Orleans (whatever that looks like).

Clark is one of those players who bet on himself this summer. He’s going to get the chance to prove that was smart.

Report: Pelicans will sign Tony Allen to one-year contract

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Shooting? Who needs shooting in today’s NBA?

The New Orleans Pelicans were in a bind with the injury that will sideline Solomon Hill for most of the season — he has proven to be a solid wing defender, and they were going to count on him for that and a little shooting. Without him, the Pelicans were woefully thin at the three spot and have been looking for help. They have found it in Mr. grit n’ grind Tony Allen, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Earlier in the day, I had called Allen the second best free agent still on the market. He makes sense for the Pelicans in that he can defend the opposing team’s best wing player and do a good job. Also, a one-year, minimum contract is not a bad deal for a guy who can contribute.

But I’m glad I’m not Alvin Gentry trying to figure out the Pelicans’ rotations. The Pelicans have committed (as of now) to starting Rajon Rondo next to Jrue Holiday in the backcourt (and the front court is, of course, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). With those four the Pelicans cannot start Allen — he and Rondo are non-shooters, and that will allow teams to pack the paint on Davis and Cousins. I expect E'Twaun Moore will get start and get a lot of run because he’s more of a shooting threat, but he’s not the same level of defender. Ian Clark is getting a real opportunity and needs to come up big for the Pelicans. Allen helps the defense, but he plays better with guys who can space the floor around him.

If things go sideways early in New Orleans — and a lot of people around the league expect them to — it is going to get interesting. Including Cousins possibly being traded again.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry: Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo will both start

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After signing Jrue Holiday to a massive contract, the Pelicans added Rajon Rondo while putting out word that the two point guards would play together.

They won’t just play together. They’ll start together.

New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry confirmed the plan on Dunc & Holder then expanded (hat tip: Mason Ginsberg of Bourbon Street Shots):

I like Jrue off the ball to start the game as a scorer. I like Rondo being on the floor as a leader. Now, obviously, Jrue is going to play some where he’s the primary ball-handler. I spoke to Jrue at length about this, and I think it’s something that can really help us.

Holiday’s value is maximized at point guard. He’s better than Rondo, and it’s generally better to give the ball more often to the better point guard.

But Holiday can defend multiple positions and work off the ball. Rondo can’t. New Orleans is short on wings, so shifting Holiday there is a reasonable option.

Rondo is a minus shooter for his position, but Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins have improved their range immensely. This won’t necessarily be a prohibitively cluttered starting lineup. Paying a starter just $3.3 million is a bargain – one the Pelicans needed considering their self-inflicted constraints. They couldn’t afford someone who’d create no complications. I just think the difficulties causes by starting Rondo are manageable.

The bigger question is what New Orleans does on the wing beyond E'Twaun Moore. Solomon Hill and Dante Cunningham (who’s unsigned but whose Bird Rights are still held by New Orleans) are better at power forward. Darius Miller is far from a proven NBA commodity. Quincy Pondexter can seemingly never get healthy.

If Quinn Cook is ready for the rotation, that could help. He could play when Rondo sits and allow Holiday to spend all his time at shooting guard. But I’m not sure Holiday is ready to cede all his minutes at point guard, the higher-profile position. (I’m also unsure Cook is ready to play regularly.)

Starting Holiday at shooting guard mitigates the wing problem, but it doesn’t solve it. There are still too many wing minutes to go around, and New Orleans is running out of money to spend – both with exceptions and below the luxury-tax line.

Report: Celtics expected to pursue Anthony Davis if Pelicans crumble

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Anthony Davis has stated nothing but loyalty to the Pelicans.

But it’s easy to see how the team around him could crumble.

DeMarcus Cousins will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and before New Orleans dealt for him, his agent threatened he wouldn’t re-sign with any team that traded for him. The Pelicans just committed at least $126 million to Jrue Holiday, who has an extensive injury history. The rest of the supporting cast is lacking, and with so much money tied to dead weight (Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca) and underwhelming players (Solomon Hill and E'Twaun Moore), it’ll be hard to upgrade.

The vultures are swarming.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

In addition, rival executives expect Boston to be keeping close tabs on New Orleans, which is entering a critical season. The Pelicans are committed to seeing if an Anthony Davis-DeMarcus Cousins frontcourt can work, but if the season goes awry, it’s widely believed the Celtics will make a strong run at Davis, who is under contract through 2020.

Do these rival executives know something about Boston’s plan, or are they just supposing from afar? The Celtics are so asset-rich, they’ll be connected to any star who plausibly becomes available. It doesn’t take inside information to predict that.

But a pursuit of Davis might not get off the ground. If he makes an All-NBA team this season or next, he’d be eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension that only the Pelicans can offer. That might keep him in New Orleans for the next seven years.

On the other hand, if the Pelicans fall to the point Davis rejects the super-max extension, that’d be a huge flashing warning sign. Many teams would try to poach the star, and you can bet the Celtics will come up frequently in rumors.