Could Tony Allen solve the Pelicans' defensive woes?
The New Orleans Pelicans will take a long, hard look at the free-agent market this offseason.
General manager Dell Demps has accumulated a team led by newly named Team USA assistant coach Monty Williams and a young core centered around Anthony Davis. Players see the direction this team is headed and will want to be a part of it. Those looking for a new home will be attracted to the Big Easy.
The primary concerns for Williams’ team include perimeter defense as well as small forward, center and the backup shooting guard positions.
Currently, the Pelicans have just under $34 million in guaranteed contracts for next season. With another $9.466 million in non-guaranteed contract options, that totals a $43.42 million investment for 2013-14.
The non-guaranteed players include Robin Lopez, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas, Brian Roberts, Darius Miller and Terrel Harris. It is probable that not all of these players will be retained this summer.
So, with at least $15 million to spend (for the 2013-14 season) in the offseason, there are a handful of free-agent options that would fit perfectly in the Pelicans’ system.
J.J. Hickson is a fairly cheap option to provide depth to the Pelicans’ frontcourt. While not possessing ideal size for a center, the 6’9” Hickson posted a 20.6 player efficiency rating at the 5 for the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012-13, per 82games.com.
The 24-year-old has played for three different teams in five years in the NBA and will be looking to settle down. He established himself as a great rebounder (10.4 per game) and effective scorer, connecting on 56.2 percent of his shots last season.
Robin Lopez is not a great rebounder. He has a career average of below four per game (3.9), and while Davis will eventually mold into a force on the glass, Hickson's rebounding abilities would fit perfectly in the Pelicans' rotation.
Hickson was sixth in the NBA with a rebounding rate of 20.7, ranking him fourth among centers. In comparison, Lopez was tied with Ronny Turiaf for 45th among centers in rebounding rate at 12.9, per ESPN’s Hollinger Stats.
Hickson is a long, versatile big man who can run the floor in transition.
His addition could open the door to trade Lopez and allow Davis, Hickson and Jason Smith to man the frontcourt.
Earning $4 million on a one-year contract with Portland, Hickson will be seeking a pay raise. If Lopez is traded and his $5.1 million come off the books, it would benefit New Orleans in the future if it gave Hickson that money.
Andre Iguodala is a defensive-minded player who is capable of playing both shooting guard and small forward.
He currently possesses an early termination option, which he is likely to exercise due to the departure of head coach George Karl.
The Pelicans’ front office will have to dig into its pockets to sign a player like Iguodala, who is coming off a six-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers ($16.2 million would be left on the table if he opts out).
If New Orleans can sign him for around $10-$11 million per year, there’s no question Demps will be interested.
The 6’6” Iguodala was snubbed out of the All-Defensive honors this past season and has been a consistent perimeter defender throughout his nine-year career. He held opposing small forwards to a 9.9 player efficiency rating in 2012-13, according to 82games.com
Iguodala has great court vision and puts his explosiveness on display with ferocious finishes at the rim. Teaming up with Anthony Davis, Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon could be enough to lure Iggy to New Orleans.
The 29-year-old has shot 46 percent from the field in the NBA. He has scored more than 12 points per game every year since his rookie season in Philadelphia and has been fortunate enough to remain healthy throughout his career.
He would fill the need at small forward for the Pelicans and be a great clubhouse presence. He can play multiple positions and is an all-around player. He's averaged over five rebounds his entire career and over five assists the last five seasons.
If I were Dell Demps, Iguodala would be priority No. 1.
Tony Allen was the leading vote-getter for the All-Defensive team and a big part of the defensive success of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The 6’4” shooting guard averaged 8.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in the regular season, but his “grit and grind” defense is what makes him so valuable. He is a great on-ball defender and uses his quickness to force turnovers and create pressure.
His 2.71 steals per 48 minutes was eighth in the league.
Allen’s energy and enthusiasm is just what the Pelicans need. If New Orleans wants to compete for the playoffs, his perimeter defense could be the factor to push them over the hump.
Allen made $3.3 million last season and is in line for a pay raise. The Pelicans could offer him somewhere in the range of three years, $13 million ($4.33 million per year) and still have plenty of cap space.
He would be a great addition for New Orleans and insurance at the 2-guard in case Eric Gordon misses any more time with injury.
If indeed Tony Allen stays with the Grizzlies, a viable option for the Pelicans would be J.J. Redick.
Not as good a defender as Allen, Redick is still above average on the defensive side of the ball. The difference between the two is where Allen struggles with his shooting, Redick excels.
He is a threat from long range every time he touches the ball. A career 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc, Redick averaged a career-high 14.1 points in 2012-13 playing for both the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks.
Redick has developed a head fake which he uses to create space and drive to the basket. This has enabled him to get to the foul line, where he is an 88 percent free-throw shooter.
A great pick-and-roll player with a keen eye on the floor, he gets the big men involved on offense with his entry passes, which would benefit Davis' production.
His three-point shooting will spread out the defense, leaving Davis open on the inside.
There is also some familiarity with the Pelicans' sixth man, Ryan Anderson. The two played together and formed a friendship in Orlando, even going as far as creating their own rap group. Anderson could do some recruiting to get Redick to the Big Easy.
With Redick making $6.2 million last season, the Pelicans have enough wiggle room to make Redick an offer.
The 28-year-old would be a leader in the locker room, and he’s had experience playing on winning teams.
His dynamic shooting will be enough for Demps to entertain the idea of adding Redick to the roster.
As perimeter defense remains a primary need for New Orleans, Corey Brewer is a solid bench option who could come in as a mid-level exception if the Pelicans sign a top-tier free agent. He made $3.24 million with the Nuggets last season.
Brewer is an excellent wing defender with a knack for getting in the passing lanes. He had a career-high 118 steals in 2012-13. Possessing great energy, Brewer has been a solid contributor off the bench throughout his six-year career.
He is quick and can cover multiple positions on defense. While his ball-handling still needs some work, Brewer has become creative with his offensive production. He has learned to get around traffic and create space or use his speed to get to the rim.
The 6'9" athletic swingman posted a career-best 14.76 player efficiency rating while scoring 12.1 points in 24.4 minutes last season.
With Darius Miller still unproven, Brewer would provide much-needed depth on the wing.
The quickness the Pelicans currently have will increase Brewer’s value if he’s brought in. His speed on the court and explosiveness in transition allow him to make highlight-reel type of plays.
If the price is right, Demps should go after Brewer to bolster the bench, add a positive personality for the clubhouse and bring veteran guidance to the team.