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How Can the Pelicans Maximize Their Future?

The next two Pelicans veterans who are a topic of discussion are J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors. Redick’s availability is being gauged by many teams in the league he is currently under contract this year and the next for around $13 million. 

I think Redick has to be traded this year, as of now he should bring back a first-round pick. It is not a guarantee this will be the case next year; his shooting is still elite, but the defense has taken a step-back. As he gets older, you can only expect his defense and shooting to gradually get worse, with the potential of a big drop off. 

With that being said, some trades for him this season might look like:

Trade 1:

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D.J. Wilson is an interesting, versatile, young big, his outside shot and defensive range would help Zion flourish. He could work as a lesser version of the Myles Turner/Brook Lopez rim-protector/floor-spacing center. Donte DiVencenzo has an all-around game and has the versatility to be a future rotation player. He has a similar game to Josh Hart; those are the type of players a team can’t get enough of. Two potential future 5th-8thish caliber players, plus a second that will end up around 45-50 seems to be fair value for 1.5 years of J.J. Redick. 

Trade 2:

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Denver is one of the teams that have been linked to Redick. This trade allows the Pelicans to swap out Redick for a young shooter. Beasley will be great paired next to Zion. The Pelicans are taking back Plumlee’s inflated deal and losing the best player of the trade, the first round pick evens up the value. 

Trade 3:

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This trade brings the Pelicans an expiring contract in Courtney Lee, a young wing, and the Warriors second round pick this year that will likely fall before 35. Justin Jackson has continued to get better on defense every year and he has shown flashes on offense. He shoots well enough that even if his other skills don’t develop, he has 3-and-D skills. 

Derrick Favors has not been able to stay healthy and is on a somewhat bulky expiring contract, I don’t expect him to get moved. There are plenty of teams who could use him, but his contract will not be easy to match for the teams that need him, coupled with his injuries this year and likely being a half-season rental, there will likely not be a market for him. 

The Pelicans have a few other interesting young players like Lonzo Ball and everyone they drafted this year. Lonzo is an eye of the beholder type player. His defense and slowly getting better shooting skills give him a solid baseline to add to his elite passing vision, and so I think he is worth keeping around as a sixth-man type guard. He has serious offensive issues, but if he can hover around league average from three, while likely being able to find Zion for easy buckets and being above average on defense, I think he can be a net positive for this team going forward.

Zion is set to get his max contract at the start of the 2023-2024 season. That means if the Pelicans trade both Ingram and Holiday, or just one of the two, they will have up to four more offseasons with cap space. They can fill out the roster with quality role players, while searching for the right superstar to put around Zion. 

The Pelicans will also have one of the best asset pools in the league from the Anthony Davis trade and the tearing apart of the current roster. They will be positioned to strategically sign short-term slightly inflated deals so that they can have the option to trade for a superstar as well. These inflated deals will help them reach the required salary amount in a trade for a superstar. For example, the Pelicans did this to a smaller-extent last offseason when they signed Darius Miller to a contract that had an average annual value of around $7 million. Miller was recently playing overseas and has clearly been a minimum level player in his NBA career. However, his contract can now be aggregated at a higher amount and that $7 million allows the Pelicans to bring back around $10 million more in a trade. Another example is what the Nets did with Taurean Prince for his rookie extension, he extended for 2 years and $29 million. Most would consider this contract a slight-overpay, but now the Nets have the ability to bring back a $20 million player in a deal with Prince, while no team will sweat taking on a short-term slight-overpay if it is necessary to make the deal work. One of these style contracts, plus an interesting role player, and draft picks is a package that can bring back at least a starter-level player, maybe even All-Star depending on the picks attached. 

While having the ability to set themselves up to trade for a superstar, they also will have the ability to sign one. The Pelicans are looking at scenarios where they have easy paths to two max contracts.

The Pelicans will basically have four off seasons to get this right. If they are going big-game hunting they can look to sign a superstar like: Giannis, Rudy Gobert, or Victor Oladipo in the summer of 2021. 

In the summer of 2020 there is an abundance of rotation players who could fit with the final version of this team they can look into signing, such as: Fred VanVleet, Bogdon Bogdonavic, Joe Harris, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Dario Saric (RFA), Thon Maker (RFA), Malik Beasley (RFA), and others. 

In the summer of 2021 there are even more potential great fits; some who could fit with a contending team and others that can fit with a team that’s still rebuilding; such as: Danny Green, Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Richardson, Lauri Markkanenn (RFA), Malik Monk (RFA), and Luke Kennard (RFA). 

If the Pelicans decide to bet on their current vets, the development of their young players, and a healthy Zion and lottery pick in 2020 they still will be a good team with a good future. They can probably make the playoffs by year two or three of Zion playing while their vets are still good, but then what? Brandon Ingram, post-prime Jrue Holiday, and Zion are supposed to lead a dynasty? LeBron + Brandon Ingram did not make the playoffs, prime Jrue Holiday + Anthony Davis made the playoffs once. Sure, they have the assets from the AD trade as well, but what if the Lakers continue their success and those end up being two end of the first round draft picks? How much better do those assets actually make this team in the future?

Now close your eyes, picture a Pelicans future where they traded Brandon Ingram for a similarly skilled player(s) that makes more sense, like a D’Angelo Russell, Myles Turner, or Aaron Gordon/Mo Bamba. Now add in a first round pick or a quality young player like Justin Jackson, or Donte DiVencinzo and D.J. Wilson received in exchange for J.J. Redick. Next, add either Jrue Holiday or a combination of young players/picks into the core. Lastly, add cap space in the amount of around what is needed for 1-2 maxes depending on if Holiday is kept. 

If the Pelicans play their cards right, they can surround Zion with two other stars and multiple other perfect-fitting rotation players. They can be a perennial championship contender for the next era, all they must do is trust THEIR process. Pelicans, you’re on the clock!

Chandler Harper
Former college basketball player at LaGrange College. NBA writer and basketball trainer.

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