For the New Orleans Pelicans, one or two good signings this summer can move them up the ranks in the Western Conference. Conversely, making bad choices with their significant cap space could hinder the team's bright future.
That is why it is imperative that the team makes wise decisions in adding to its young core and avoids any reckless mistakes. With just under $35 million in salary committed for next year, the Pelicans can be real players in the free agent market this offseason.
Last summer, general manager Dell Demps batted .500 in his efforts to rebuild the franchise. He saved the team a ton of money by unloading the contracts of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor to Washington for Rashard Lewis (who was bought out).
Demps also made a couple savvy moves to steal Robin Lopez away from Phoenix to be the team's starting center, and he signed one of the game's best reserves in forward Ryan Anderson.
Demps isn't without his faults, though. His decision to match Phoenix's four-year, $58 million offer to shooting guard Eric Gordon was an act of desperation that may come back to haunt him. He also may have swung and missed on last year's No. 10 overall pick, Austin Rivers.
This year, Demps has plenty of needs and plenty of money to fill them. Between the draft and free agency, the team must walk into next season with a new starting small forward, as well as upgrades at point guard and center.
New Orleans got a bad draw at the NBA draft lottery, selecting sixth in what appears to be a very weak draft. Hopefully a player like Georgetown's Otto Porter or Indiana's Victor Oladipo slides down to the Pelicans.
As for the open market, the team has some options at point guard in the form of Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings and Hawks restricted free agent Jeff Teague. There are also plenty of talented big men, like Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic and Utah's Al Jefferson.
Signing any combination of those four men would be a huge boost for the franchise. However, there are some players the team should steer clear of.
A few things you should know before you proceed. There aren't going to be a ton of big names on this list.
Why, you ask? Because the Pelicans could use any of the marquee free agents. Even Atlanta's Josh Smith would be a nice addition, despite the fact he plays a position currently commandeered by franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis.
You also won't find any of New Orleans' own free agents on here, despite the fact I believe the team should avoid Al-Farouq Aminu at all costs.
All of the guys you will read about fit the team's particular needs but, for reasons you will soon be made aware of, aren't the wisest moves for Demps and company to make.
Lamar Odom nearly played for New Orleans two years ago as he was a part of the Chris Paul trade with the Lakers that the league eventually squashed. In the time since then, Odom has been a shell of the player who averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game during the 2010-11 season for the purple and gold.
After missing out on becoming a Hornet, Odom was shipped to Dallas. The shock of being away from Los Angeles put the big man in a funk, and he moped his way through most of the season with the Mavericks. Eventually, Odom and the team decided to part ways.
Last season, Odom went back to Hollywood, but as a member of the Clippers. Even with him logging nearly 20 minutes per game, the Rhode Island product didn't make much of an impact. He averaged four points and just under six boards a night in 82 games with Los Angeles.
At 33 years old, Odom has two choices entering free agency. He could continue to latch on to the wagon of established contenders in hopes of winning another ring, or he could spend the twilight of his career as a mentor for a younger franchise.
If Odom chooses the latter, New Orleans should avoid obtaining his services.
On the one hand, young forward Anthony Davis could learn a thing or two from a veteran big man with a similar unique skill set. Davis' ability to create off the dribble has been likened to Odom's own ball-handling skills.
On the other hand, the Pelicans can't afford the effects of Odom sulking in the locker room. As evidenced by his short stint in Dallas and his early career with the Clippers, Odom can be a bit aloof when things aren't going his way.
The Pelicans don't need that kind of attitude poisoning a young franchise. They already have a disruptive presence in Eric Gordon.
Odom would be a slight upgrade over what the team had at small forward last year, and he might be productive with starter's minutes. However, given his age, attitude and lack of ideal defensive ability for a big man, he's not worth the risk.
On paper, adding Corey Maggette would give the Pelicans another reliable scorer and would allow them to fill a huge gap at small forward.
Unfortunately, the game isn't played on paper.
Coming off an unproductive season in Detroit (5.3 points a night in just 18 games), Maggette is basically a one-dimensional player on a steady decline. He's an athletic slasher who can score, but he can't do much else.
Maggette's not a great defender. He seems almost allergic to passing the ball (averaged a little over two assists per game for his career), and he isn't a terrific shooter from behind the arc (career 32 percent shooter from three).
Like Lamar Odom, he's a better option than the Al-Farouq Aminu/Lance Thomas/Darius Miller trio the team utilized last year, but he isn't much better. He's also not worth the hefty price tag.
Maggette is coming off a five-year contract he signed in 2008 that paid him $48 million. During that span, he played for five different franchises. In 14 years in the NBA, he's made just over $78 million. At 33, it shouldn't be about the money anymore.
Even if the former Duke Blue Devil is willing to take a pay cut, his services shouldn't be needed in New Orleans. Head coach Monty Williams needs guys who can be team players and, more importantly, be active on defense.
Maggette is 0-for-2 in that regard. As nice as it would be to have another scorer on the floor, the Pelicans don't need a one-dimensional gunner who will frustrate fans, coaches and teammates with his poor shot selection.
The Pelicans should do to Maggette the one thing he's been unable to do his whole career: pass.
It seems like just yesterday that Devin Harris was an emerging young point guard with a bright future.
However, the Wisconsin star hasn't been the same player that he was back in 2008-09, when he averaged 21.3 points per game as a 25-year-old with the then-New Jersey Nets.
Now, Harris is 30 years old and coming off playing for his third team in as many years. He hasn't come close to matching the big numbers he put up during that fateful '08-'09 season. Last season with the Hawks, he averaged just 9.9 points in 58 games.
The Pelicans are in the market for a new point guard. Starter Greivis Vasquez had a solid season, but the team would be better served finding someone with better defensive skills. With his big frame and slow feet, "Gravy" struggled against quicker point guards last season.
Unfortunately, Harris isn't much of a defender either. Arguing who's better defensively between Harris and Vasquez would be like debating who's a better actress between Katherine Heigl and Jessica Simpson.
Harris is a bit more athletic and can come up with the occasional steal, but he's not what New Orleans is looking for as its starting point guard. Even as a backup, the team could find better alternatives.
Even if the team misses out on the likes of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings or Jeff Teague, there are better secondary options out there that will come cheaper than the $8.5 million Harris made last season.
Mo Williams, who essentially replaced Harris in Utah, would be a better choice as he's a more efficient scorer and better defender. The team could also find someone in the draft, be it Michigan's Trey Burke or Lehigh's C.J. McCollum.
Harris could be productive again if he finds a team willing to give him starter's minutes. That team just shouldn't be the Pelicans.
Chris Andersen has been a nice story in this year's playoffs, going from an under-the-radar midseason signing to a solid contributor off the bench for the Miami Heat.
You can always count on "The Birdman" bringing energy and solid defense when he's on the court (except, of course, when he's getting dunked on by Paul George).
The question is, what does the future hold for Andersen after this season? You'd like to think he wants to parlay this late resurgence into a steady role somewhere going forward.
The Heat have $85 million committed for next season.They also face the possibility of "The Big Three" opting out in 2014. An extended stay in South Beach doesn't appear to be in the cards for Birdman.
If Miami does manage to repeat as champions, the 34-year-old could always decide to hang 'em up and go out on top.
As well as he's played in the postseason (7.8 points and 1.4 blocks per game in roughly 14 minutes), it's evident he still has a lot left in the tank.
The Pelicans, as of right now, are set at center with Robin Lopez and Jason Smith. However, Smith battled a myriad of injuries last season, and the team eventually signed Lou Amundson for frontcourt depth.
As for Lopez, the team could use his cheap contract (team option for just $5 million in each of the next two seasons) and breakout season (11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, all career-highs) as a trading chip.
That would put the Pelicans in the market for, at the very least, a backup center. Still, there are reasons to worry about bringing Andersen back to New Orleans.
For one, it's one thing to put up decent numbers playing alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It's another thing to try to replicate those numbers when your teammates are Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez.
As infectious as Andersen's energy and personality is, it's wise to be mindful of the fact that he's a role player playing for a new contract on the best team in basketball.
Whether he's the starter or backup in New Orleans, Andersen won't go under the radar, and defenses won't have that many other options to focus on.
History has seen players parlay postseason success into big contracts that they never lived up to. It happened with Boris Diaw after his early stint with the Phoenix Suns. Most recently, it happened with Trevor Ariza after his championship run with the Lakers.
There's a risk involved with paying for last year's numbers. With his comeback performance in these playoffs, Andersen will be a hot name on the market.
The Pelicans would be better served with a younger, safer alternative in the event they need a new big man.
Tyreke Evans certainly passes the eye test. He has everything the Pelicans would be looking for in a potential point guard. The problem is he's not a typical point guard.
In the three seasons since his 2009-10 Rookie of the Year campaign, Evans has been a rising star without a position. The Kings have tried him at point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
At 6'6" and 220 pounds, the former Memphis University star has all the physical tools to be an excellent NBA player. He's been productive during his entire NBA career, averaging at least 15 points a game the past four seasons.
The problem with the Pelicans rolling the dice on Evans is three-fold. First, he's a 23-year-old restricted free agent. Even with Sacramento refusing to give him an extension, they aren't going to let him walk away for cheap.
To get an idea of what Evans will cost, take a look at what some of the other young guys in his draft class have made recently.
To acquire Evans' services, New Orleans would have to sign him to an offer sheet that would pay him roughly $8 million to $10 million annually. That's a pretty hefty price tag for a kid with no defined position.
That brings us to the second point. If the Pelicans sign Evans, where do they play him? They have a glaring hole at small forward. He'd also be an upgrade at point guard. Defensively, he would give opposing point guards nightmares with his size and athleticism.
At small forward, he'd be too quick for bigger forwards trying to guard him. The problem is he's not a natural fit at either position and, unless the team moves Eric Gordon, there isn't any minutes for him at shooting guard.
Finally, there's the issue of Evans' shooting. He's a career 27 percent shooter from behind the arc. He may be able to get his share of points attacking the basket, but that style would conflict with Gordon's.
How can you space the floor playing two guards, who are at their best going to the basket, at the same time?
It is easy to look at Evans and wonder "What if?". Kings fans have been doing it for four years. He's an incredible talent who can be a star in the right situation.
The Pelicans aren't the right situation, and it would be a better idea to spend the money Evans would command on someone with a natural position.