Jrue Holiday

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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.

Anthony Davis said he’s heard, is ignoring trade rumors

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The New Orleans Pelicans are not trading Anthony Davis.

Why? Because they are not stupid. Nobody sane would trade a first team All-NBA player who averaged 28 points and 11.8 rebounds a game, who is a defensive force, a true franchise cornerstone player, who is just 24-years old and has four years left on his contract.

Yet this summer, the wet dreams of Boston fans (and management) led to rumors that the Celtics were trying to get Davis. The rumors bubbled up to the point that one of the children at Davis’ youth basketball camp in New Orleans asked him if he was going to Boston, Davis told the New Orleans Times Picayune. He said he heard the rumors and found there to be nothing to them.

Davis said that he spoke with his agent, Thaddeus Foucher, and Pelicans general manager Dell Demps about the rumors earlier in the offseason and he was assured that there was nothing to worry about.

“I understand it’s a business, but if I don’t hear anything from Dell or my agent, I don’t pay attention to it,” said Davis, who averaged 28 points and 11.8 rebounds in 2016-17.

“Once I first heard (the rumors), then I heard it again, then I heard it again, I just wanted to make sure. I found out it wasn’t (true), and that was the beginning of the summer, so I haven’t paid attention to it since.”

Davis said his focus is on playing well with DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday and getting the Pelicans to the playoffs. Davis’ Pelicans have only made the playoffs once in his five seasons, while Cousins has never made the postseason.

If the Pelicans miss the playoffs in a deep West — a very real possibility — and maybe even if it does, there will be a major basketball operations house cleaning in New Orleans. If the Cousins/Davis gambit doesn’t play off, expect GM Dell Demps, coach Alvin Gentry and plenty of others on the basketball side of things to be gone. This has created a real pressure on the team this season.

If that happens, does anyone think the new GM is going to trade Davis? No. At that point, Davis will be a 25-year-old franchise player with three years left on his contract and that new GM will try to rebuild around him. And even when that next contract ends, the Pelicans will be able to offer Davis the designated veteran super-max contract to seek to retain him. A small-market franchise like the Pelicans can’t give up on Davis, guys like that are too hard to replace.

Is it possible that in a couple years more years of losing Davis goes to the Pelicans and asks to be traded? Yes. It’s also possible that in a couple of years the Pelicans will realize he will leave at the end of this contract — turning down the super max deal — so they need to move him to get something in return. However, even those fever dreams are a couple of years away, at best. For the immediate future, Davis is a Pelican, and that’s not changing.

Kyrie Irving could become one of youngest stars ever to change teams

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Kyrie Irving knows, as well as anyone, the value of being an All-Star – how the status validates on-court performance, sells shoes and can be flipped for even more exposure. Irving is comfortable in that environment, promoting his brand at four All-Star weekends already and winning All-Star game MVP in 2014 in New Orleans.

He was back in New Orleans for this year’s All-Star game when he was asked to name his all-time All-Star team.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

As Irving announced his team — he was responding to a question — he said “I’d put MJ at the 1, Kobe at the 2, Ray Allen at the 3, gotta space it out, got to have a spot up 4, so I’m probably going to go with KG, he’s going to rim-run, do the dirty work. I’d put Shaq at the 5.”

What about LeBron?

Irving, via Vardon:

“Yeah, yeah, yeah well, I mean, he (James) understands,” Irving told cleveland.com, as he walked off the podium.

Foreshadowing? Perhaps.

Irving has requested a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly to escape LeBron’s shadow.

But take a step back from Irving’s answer, and his mere presence in New Orleans as an All-Star – again, already – foretold immense demand in the trade market.

Irving is just 25 and a four-time All-Star. Only two players have reached so many All-Star games and changed teams while as young as Irving is now: Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady.

Here’s every All-Star to switch teams before turning 26 and their age when the transaction occurred, Irving included for reference as if he were dealt today:

Player All-Star berths Year From To Age
Jrue Holiday 1 2013 PHI NOP 23 years, 1 month, 0 days
Terry Dischinger 2 1964 BAL DET 23 years, 6 months, 28 days
Jason Kidd 1 1996 DAL PHO 23 years, 9 months, 3 days
Ray Felix 1 1954 BLB NYK 23 years, 9 months, 7 days
Jamaal Wilkes 1 1977 GSW LAL 24 years, 2 months, 9 days
Shaquille O’Neal 4 1996 ORL LAL 24 years, 4 months, 12 days
Stephon Marbury 1 2001 NJN PHO 24 years, 4 months, 28 days
Don Sunderlage 1 1954 MLH MNL 24 years, 8 months, 29 days
Mel Hutchins 1 1953 MLH FTW 24 years, 9 months, 1 day
Andrew Bynum 1 2012 LAL PHI 24 years, 9 months, 14 days
Tracy McGrady 4 2004 ORL HOU 25 years, 1 month, 5 days
Chris Webber 1 1998 WAS SAC 25 years, 2 months, 13 days
Bob McAdoo 3 1976 BUF NYK 25 years, 2 months, 14 days
Billy Knight 1 1977 IND BUF 25 years, 2 months, 23 days
Len Chappell 1 1966 NYK CHI 25 years, 3 months, 0 days
Len Chappell 1 1966 CHI CIN 25 years, 9 months, 25 days
Kenny Anderson 1 1996 NJN CHA 25 years, 3 months, 10 days
Kenny Anderson 1 1996 CHA POR 25 years, 9 months, 14 days
Butch Beard 1 1972 CLE SEA 25 years, 3 months, 19 days
Frank Selvy 1 1958 STL MNL 25 years, 3 months, 7 days
Kyrie Irving 4 2017 CLE ? 25 years, 4 months, 5 days
Otis Birdsong 3 1981 KCK NJN 25 years, 5 months, 30 days
LeBron James 6 2010 CLE MIA 25 years, 6 months, 10 days
John Johnson 1 1973 CLE POR 25 years, 6 months, 6 days
Frank Selvy 1 1958 MNL STL 25 years, 7 months, 22 days
Sean Elliott 1 1993 SAS DET 25 years, 7 months, 29 days
Dennis Johnson 2 1980 SEA PHO 25 years, 8 months, 17 days
Alonzo Mourning 2 1995 CHA MIA 25 years, 8 months, 26 days
Andrew Bynum 1 2013 PHI CLE 25 years, 8 months, 22 days
Baron Davis 2 2005 NOH GSW 25 years, 10 months, 11 days
Bernard King 1 1982 GSW NYK 25 years, 10 months, 18 days
Vin Baker 3 1997 MIL SEA 25 years, 10 months, 2 days
Kiki VanDeWeghe 2 1984 DEN POR 25 years, 10 months, 6 days
Frank Selvy 1 1958 STL NYK 25 years, 11 months, 13 days
Kevin Love 3 2014 MIN CLE 25 years, 11 months, 16 days
Mike Mitchell 1 1981 CLE SAS 25 years, 11 months, 22 days

Irving didn’t sneak into only one All-Star game like Jrue Holiday and Andrew Bynum. Irving is a near-perennial selection.

And unlike several players on the above list, he’s also doing it in era where there are more NBA teams than All-Star spots. In the 60s, when the league was smaller, NBA teams averaged more than two All-Stars each.

Irving is under contract for two more years before he can opt out, and his salaries – and $18,868,626 and $20,099,189 – became bargains when the new national TV contracts caused the salary cap to skyrocket.

The timing of Irving’s trade request becoming public has certainly contributed to the frenzy, as other NBA storylines have quieted for the summer. LeBron’s enormous profile also draws attention to anything involving him and his team.

But players like Irving – young established stars – rarely become available. No matter when this story leaked or whom Irving was playing with, this is a special opportunity for whichever team acquires him.