The New Orleans Pelicans significantly improved their roster on draft night by trading for Jrue Holiday. The next step is filling in the remaining cracks and building around their new franchise point guard.
In addition to Holiday, the Pelicans also recently acquired restricted free agent Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade with Sacramento. The deal, which also involved Portland, sent Greivis Vasquez to the Kings and Robin Lopez to the Blazers.
THIS JUST IN: Tyreke Evans to Pelicans, Greivis Vasquez to Kings, Robin Lopez to Blazers in 3-team NBA trade. (via @ESPNSteinLine)— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 4, 2013
Evans will be the team's key reserve off the bench and may also play in a smaller lineup with Holiday and guard Eric Gordon. The other hidden gem of the trade was rookie Jeff Withey, a second-round pick out of Kansas who was sent to New Orleans from Portland.
Withey gives the Pelicans another shot-blocking big man to develop, as well as a cheap replacement for Lopez.
With Holiday, Evans and Withey on board, the focus now shifts to the team's top offseason priority: small forward. With so much money tied up in the backcourt (Gordon, Evans and Holiday will make a combined $36 million next season alone), New Orleans has very little cap space to go shopping for a new starter at the 3.
That means Andre Iguodala, who had an offer from the Kings earlier in the week before Sacramento pulled it away, is out of the picture for the Pelicans.
There are still a few cheap alternatives out there who could fill New Orleans' hole at small forward.
Word is Corey Brewer, on top looming sitdown w/Rockets, drawing interest from New Orleans and Atlanta as well. Also: Denver wants him back— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2013
The big knock on Brewer is his lack of touch from behind the arc. The former Florida Gator converted less than 30 percent of his attempts from three-point range last season, which matches his career percentage.
He also doesn't rebound as well as last year's starter in New Orleans, Al-Farouq Aminu.
Still, Brewer has finished in the top 10 in steal percentage the past three seasons, including finishing second in 2010-11. On a team that could be dangerous when they increase the tempo, he would be a solid addition to replace Aminu at the 3.
Another possibility is former Warriors and Sixers sharpshooter Dorell Wright. Wright is Brewer's polar opposite. He doesn't have Brewer's defensive chops, but he would give New Orleans another good outside shooter.
He shot 37 percent from behind the arc with Philadelphia last season, which has been par for the course during his nine-year career.
The Pelicans could use another shooter who can space the floor and hurt opposing defenses when they pay too much attention to Anthony Davis. Wright would also be good insurance if Gordon's shooting woes from deep continue (25 percent from three in 2011-12, 32 percent last season).
Wright has received offers from Oklahoma City and Portland, but neither of those teams can offer him the chance to start like New Orleans can. The Pelicans may not be the contender that the Thunder are, but they have the potential to be very good for a long time.
Besides Wright and Brewer, there are other lesser candidates. Knicks restricted free agent Chris Copeland has garnered some interest and there's always the chance the team brings Aminu back.
The New Orleans Pelicans will likely pursue restricted free agent Chris Copeland, league source confirms. The Pelicans like the 29-year-old.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 30, 2013
With the team finally having a point guard with the speed to push the pace, the Pelicans are going to be fun to watch. Davis and Holiday will be a great inside-outside combination to watch for the next few years and it will be interesting to see how Gordon fits in with this group.
With Evans on board, Holiday has a bevy of options at his disposal. He has an extremely athletic big man in Anthony Davis as well as a great shooting forward in Ryan Anderson. He also has a fellow guard in Eric Gordon who can be one of the best when he's healthy.
All that is left for New Orleans is adding someone at the 3 who can either provide some solid defense or be an option for Holiday to kick it out to when things get congested in the paint.
This has been arguably the greatest offseason in franchise history, kick-started by an unlikely draft-day trade. For the first time in a while, the Pelicans could be relevant again.