New Orleans Pelicans 2014 NBA Free Agency Big Board: Top Targets Post-Draft
The New Orleans Pelicans have a bit of cap space, and we’re going to try to figure out whom they should target to spend it on.
Prior to delving into the free-agent pool, it’s important to understand New Orleans’ endgame. The Pelicans will likely want to compete for a playoff spot next season given that that’s what they were shooting for during the 2013-14 campaign, per Grantland’s Zach Lowe.
That’s a tall order in the Western Conference considering that the franchise has a few needs. It’s probably fair to say that New Orleans’ approximate $5 million in cap space won’t allow the team to address all of its issues.
New Orleans requires perimeter defense and size. Again, a few areas of concern, thus prioritizing will be extremely important.
The fastest path to the playoffs requires a top-shelf defense. Fourteen of the 16-best defensive teams last year made the postseason. The exceptions were the Phoenix Suns (48 wins) and Minnesota Timberwolves (40 wins), and they happen to play in the West.
Since the Pelicans share the same conference, they might as well get with the program.
One quick note: New Orleans has the $5.305 million mid-level exception they can use in addition to its $5 million in cap space.
In outlining the free-agent targets, we’re going from worst to best options.
Shawn Marion and Trevor Ariza
The players we have in this spot are guys the Pelicans would love to get a shot at but that are unlikely to join them.
Shawn Marion is a really good defensive player who covers a multitude of positions. However, he will be 36 years old when next season tips off and probably wants to spend his last few years in the league competing for titles. New Orleans doesn’t fit this criterion, which suggests Marion will take his services elsewhere.
The other player the Pelicans would surely love is one they’ve traded away before: Trevor Ariza. He’s a solid perimeter defender, and he also converted 40.7 percent of his three-pointers last season.
The real kicker is that he made $7 million last year with the Washington Wizards and will probably be looking for a similar salary or perhaps even a raise. The Pelicans can’t afford him unless he’s willing to take a pay cut, which seems unlikely.
Kent Bazemore could be a steal for whichever team gets him, and the Pelicans should inquire about his willingness to relocate to New Orleans.
Bazemore is a high-energy player that can be quite disruptive on the defensive end. He gets into passing lanes and does a good job of understanding his responsibilities within the scheme.
Even when he’s late or gets beat, Bazemore reacts quickly enough to get himself back into the play and challenge offensive players.
The beauty of it all: He made a mere $788,872 last season. Bazemore will probably be looking for a pay increase coupled with some security. New Orleans can probably get him with a three-year deal worth $4.5 million ($1.5 million per season).
It’s a fairly low salary because Bazemore is a train wreck on offense. He’s far too eager to shoot, mishandles the ball every now and then and he’s an awful shooter (41.4 percent career field-goal).
The Pelicans could use him in spots with shooters all over the floor to avoid sinking the offense. Potentially signing Bazemore allows New Orleans to still go after more talented players to fill out the roster.
The Pelicans need size to compete in the West, and Kevin Seraphin might give New Orleans just enough of it to do so.
The Pelicans have agreed in principle to a trade that will bring the Houston Rockets’ Omer Asik to New Orleans, which gives the Pelicans a stud defensive center, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. However, there isn’t much size elsewhere on the roster other than Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
The Pelicans might as well go after Seraphin, who will be 24 years old when the 2013-14 campaign starts. He’s a solid finisher and serviceable defensive player. Seraphin averaged 15.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes during the 2013-14 season, according to Basketball-Refence.com.
Acquiring him would help fortify the big-man rotation and help out a defense that was subpar last season. I initially considered Emeka Okafor in this spot, but he missed the 2013-14 season with a neck injury and was already on the decline prior to being shelved.
There is one hitch with Seraphin: He’s a restricted free agent after receiving his qualifying offer from the Washington Wizards, per Mark Deeks of Sham Sports. That means Washington has the right to match any contract a team offers Seraphin, which means the Wizards can retain him unless some team swoops in with an outrageous offer.
The deal for him would probably be something along the lines of a three-year contract worth $10 million, but the Pelicans might not want the hassle associated with waiting on Washington to match (it has three days to mirror the offer).
I have an unhealthy appreciation for Brandon Rush’s talent, which is how he ended up here. Make no mistake, he has game.
During the 2011-12 campaign, Rush averaged 13.3 points per 36 minutes on 50.1 percent shooting from the field. He also drilled 45.2 percent of his treys while providing stellar perimeter defense for the Golden State Warriors.
He tore his ACL in the ensuing season and was then packaged to the Utah Jazz so the Warriors could bring in Andre Iguodala. Rush struggled last year with the Jazz in his return from injury, due to lack of conditioning.
He acknowledged in March that he might have to work out for teams this offseason to Jody Genessy of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, which is perfect for New Orleans. The Pelicans can work him out and go from there. If he looks anything close to the player he was during the 2011-12 campaign, management should lock him up for three years to a deal worth around $13 million.
If he’s a shell of his former self, New Orleans should simply pass.
Marvin Williams could give the Pelicans a wing defender as well as a small-ball power forward. He usually gives offensive players enough space to shoot but quickly takes away daylight with his 6’9" frame.
Williams isn’t a great defender, but he’s a good option against scorers (think Carmelo Anthony) because he does just enough to bother opponents. The one matchup where his team will undoubtedly grow worrisome is when he is tasked with guarding shooters.
Williams gets hung up on screens far too often to keep track of snipers. Also, shooters easily blow by him because he plays them tight, but he usually lacks the lateral quickness to stay with “small” shooters (2-guards and small forwards).
Still, he’s a good option against bigger perimeter players, and the Pelicans would be better for it. It’s worth noting that Williams didn’t have a good anchor behind him with the Utah Jazz, but he was still an effective defender. One can only wonder what he will be able to accomplish with Davis and Asik behind him.
Williams earned $7.5 million last season, so he might want something in the range of the full mid-level exception. New Orleans should look to give him a two-year deal at $4.5 million annually or stretch it out to three years at around $3.5 million per season with a player option for the final year.
All salary information comes courtesy of Sham Sports