Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reported recently that the Pelicans are "aggressively" trying to get back into the first round. The team traded this year's first-rounder to the Philadelphia 76ers last year as part of the Jrue Holiday trade. Meanwhile, Minnesota owns the Pellies' 2014 second-round pick.
According to NOLA.com's John Reid, New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said:
Players that are coming into the league are so young now. I like the guys that we have on our roster. Obviously, if we can get a draft pick that improves your roster. But most times, you look for a veteran guy or you might get an older college (four-year) player.
According to Spears' report, New Orleans will be looking to fill either of their holes at center and small forward if they can manage to strike a deal. While the Pelicans' plan has merit, it may be easier said than done.
For starters, the Pelicans don't have many trade chips that will draw a ton of interest. Shooting guard Eric Gordon is the most sensible candidate to be dealt, but good luck finding a taker for the two years and nearly $31 million left on his contract.
Sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson could net some offers, but he's more valuable to the team as a big man that can space the floor than as trade bait. There's also former No. 10 overall pick Austin Rivers, who has been a disappointment in his first two seasons.
The more likely scenario is New Orleans using last year's second-round pick, Pierre Jackson, to get into the bottom half of the first round. Jackson was the D-League's regular-season scoring champion, averaging 29.1 points per game with the Idaho Stampede.
However, given Jackson's lack of pro experience, the Pelicans will likely have to throw in a sweetener (such as future picks) to entice a team to take a gamble on the former Baylor star.
With so much uncertainty as to who is going where after the first three picks, New Orleans would be wise to wait and see who drops before striking a deal. If the Pelicans can pull off a trade, it likely will be between picks 19 and 30.
In that range, there will be plenty of solid wing players available. A few teams to watch as potential trade partners for the Pelicans are the Chicago Bulls (No. 19), Toronto Raptors (No. 20), Houston Rockets (No. 25), Miami Heat (No. 26) and the Los Angeles Clippers (No. 28).
The Bulls could use someone like Pierre Jackson as insurance in case Derrick Rose's knees continue to hinder his career. The Raptors could lose starting point guard Kyle Lowry in free agency. The Rockets always seem to be looking to strike a deal on draft day.
The Heat and Clippers might also have a hole at the point that Jackson could fill. Miami's Mario Chalmers is a free agent coming off a subpar showing in the NBA Finals, while Los Angeles might let backup Darren Collison walk in free agency.
Out of that group, Chicago makes the most sense since they already have the No. 16 overall pick. BourbonStreetShots.com's Michael McNamara pitched the idea on Twitter of the Bulls sending No. 19 and Mike Dunleavy to the Pelicans for Jackson and a future first-round pick:
Dunleavy could fill the Pelicans' hole at small forward, allowing the team to address the center position at 19. Chicago, meanwhile, gets a cheap backup point guard and a pick that could have value if New Orleans winds up disappointing again.
Potential Draft Targets
Let's say New Orleans gets its hands on pick in the bottom half of the first round. Who should they target?
The guy that I've liked the most since the end of the college season has been Clemson small forward K.J. McDaniels. He's a little short for a prototypical 3 at 6'6", but he makes up for it with a 6'11" wingspan. He also possesses a 37" vertical.
Beyond his obvious athletic prowess, McDaniels showed he could fill a stat sheet last season. He averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.1 steals for the Tigers. His outside shot needs work (30 percent from three last year), but he could develop into a solid two-way player in time.
Michigan's Glenn Robinson III is another prospect with the potential to be a factor on both ends of the court. He's a great athlete (41.5" vertical) with solid physical tools (6'7" with a 6'10" wingspan and 8'4.5" standing reach). He also comes from great stock as the son of former NBA All-Star Glenn Robinson.
Robinson's perimeter offense needs to get better as well.
A few other small forwards worth watching: UCLA's Kyle Anderson and Wichita State's Cleanthony Early. Also, if North Carolina State's T.J. Warren or Duke's Rodney Hood were to somehow fall into the 20s, the Pelicans should pounce on either of them.
As for big men, the pickings get pretty slim. Switzerland's Clint Capela, LSU's Johnny O'Bryant, and Spain's Walter Tavares all have promise, but are all projects as well. It's unlikely that any of them could fill the Pelicans' hole at center and contribute immediately.
If New Orleans wanted to move superstar forward Anthony Davis to center, they could take a look at Michigan State's Adreian Payne as the team's new power forward.
Other Moves to Anticipate
After making a huge splash on draft day with the Jrue Holiday trade, this year's draft will be a little more tame for the Pelicans. How high of a pick they end up with will depend on how much they are willing to give up.
The biggest step in improvement will likely come during free agency or via trades. If Eric Gordon is willing to decline his $15.5 million option for 2015-16, he becomes a bit easier to move and the Pelicans would suddenly have more cap space to play with (assuming they don't take big money back in return).
If the Pelicans are willing to take back money for their oft-injured "franchise" shooting guard, a Gordon-for-Roy Hibbert deal could be interesting. Hibbert would fill the Pelicans' hole in the middle, while Gordon could return home to Indiana and be the Pacers' potential replacement for free agent Lance Stephenson.
If New Orleans chooses not to bring back any of their key free agents like guard Anthony Morrow or center Jason Smith, they'll have a little bit of cap space to grab a mid-level free agent like Phoenix Suns restricted free agent P.J. Tucker.
If the Pelicans clear even more space by ridding themselves of Gordon's albatross contract, they could make a run at someone like the Houston Rockets' Chandler Parsons or former NOLA forward Trevor Ariza.
Several teams are expected to show interested in the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Monroe who averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds while starting all 82 games last season. Among those teams could be the New Orleans Pelicans, who will enter the free agency period in search of upgrading their center and small forward positions.
Regardless of what direction the team goes in, they are going to be aggressive. Last season was supposed to be their breakout year, but injuries derailed their coming out party.
This season, the Pelicans must find a way to be competitive in a deep Western Conference. It all starts with what they are able to pull off on draft night.