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With no draft picks added in the last two years, the New Orleans Pelicans must look to free agency as their primary means of rounding out the roster.
Notable players who are in danger of leaving are Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Morrow and Greg Stiemsma. Losing the first two of those players would deliver a serious blow to the Pelicans' transition offense and three-point shooting ability. If Steimsma were to walk, it would weaken an already anemic frontcourt, an area where depth is needed the most.
Veteran Josh Howard and former University of Florida standout Patric Young are a couple of players on the team’s 2014 Samsung NBA Summer League roster who could get general manager Dell Demps off to a good start of addressing voids, but it can’t end with just those two.
With the acquisition of Omer Asik, this team is in a tight financial bind. Even without the Turkish center’s $14 million price tag, the franchise is already on the books for $55.5 million in salary obligations for 2014-15, per HoopsHype.com. Not only is Demps going to have to move some of his bigger contracts, he is also going to have to rely on cheaper talent to fill in the remaining vacancies.
Luckily, the free-agent pool is teeming with athletes who can be productive on the court and easy on the books. Let’s look at five players who would be great economical and beneficial additions for the Pelicans.
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It is not a stretch to say that Michael Beasley has not lived up to the expectations that come with being a second overall draft pick. While his first three seasons showed a lot of promise, his recent campaigns have been underwhelming.
The former Kansas State Wildcat’s 2013-14 run was his second stint with the Miami Heat; it was an experience far different from the one he had when he was first selected by the club back in 2008. In the 55 games he played during this past season, Beasley averaged 7.9 points per game and shot a respectable 49.9 percent from the field, including 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.
While not stellar production, the biggest plus was that he was playing on a non-guaranteed contract and managed to earn a permanent spot. He even made an appearance in the 2014 NBA Finals.
Beasley’s pit stop in South Beach seems to have helped tremendously with his maturity and focus, and the Pelicans could benefit greatly from what could be his productive second wind.
They would be landing a player who could play both forward positions, stretch the floor and bolster their fast-break offense. Seeing as how he made only $884,293 this campaign, he could probably be had for a good price (salary per ShamSports.com).
Adding Beasley could be considered a bit of a gamble, but if the rate is right, the upside would overshadow any reservations about his acquisition.
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Although his height leaves a lot to be desired considering that he plays power forward, the size of DeJuan Blair’s muscles and heart make him a solid addition to anyone’s frontcourt.
There is no need for the Pelicans to bring in players to strengthen the starting unit; for them, it’s all about making sure that the reserves can get the job done in the limited minutes they play. Blair is especially adept at that.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, the five-year veteran averaged 6.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and had a 28.8 player efficiency rating in just 15.6 minutes of play last season. That is making good use of playing time.
All-Star forward Anthony Davis played 35.2 minutes per game during the 2013-14 run. Someone like Blair backing him up could result in more rest for the budding superstar.
The former Pitt Panther is efficient, durable, brings energy and, most importantly, is a high-character guy. All of those attributes would make him a phenomenal addition to the Pelicans roster.
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Rasual Butler is a bargain pickup for a number of reasons.
First, at this stage of his career, he comes with a very manageable price tag. Second, should Anthony Morrow find a new team, Butler’s shooting ability could help fill the void of his departure. Third, and most importantly, the 11-year veteran could be great mentor to the Pelicans’ young backcourt.
Butler was not expected to make the Indiana Pacers' roster when final cuts were made back in October 2013, but he managed to land one of the last spots. His main role would be serving the team in an adviser capacity. In an NBA.com article by Pacers beat writer Scott Agness, Butler explains how Pacers management laid out their expectations:
They referenced Juwan Howard, talking about how he was really valuable to the Miami Heat, but they also wanted me to stay ready to play. Be that good locker room guy, be a good veteran leader and help out guys like Lance Stephenson, Orlando Johnson and Solomon Hill, and helping those guys stay focused.
Here is a breakdown of the Pelicans' primary guards:
That’s a very talented group whose average age is 23.5 years. They did not get much opportunity to play as a complete unit last season. Butler’s veteran presence could work wonders for further developing their chemistry and understanding of the game’s nuances.
Bringing on the former La Salle Explorer would be more about enhancing the future than expanding the present.
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Epke Udoh has always played a steady number of minutes since being drafted back in 2010. While he was never an offensive stalwart, his defensive presence was enough to justify his court time.
If the focus can be limited to just making Udoh a rebounding and shot-blocking specialist, then he would be a solid addition for the Pelicans.
This squad was not a good defensive unit last season, allowing 102.4 points per game. Other than Anthony Davis, there was no interior threat for opposing offenses.
With Omer Asik on his way to New Orleans, Udoh would be a bench player who could ensure that the Pelicans' defensive presence is not diminished if the starters are not in the game. His 7’4.5” wingspan would be enough to give anyone pause when considering a high-percentage shot attempt.
Even though Udoh was selected sixth overall, his lackluster play on the offensive end has shown that his value is far below the scale for players in his draft slot. The Milwaukee Bucks declined to extend a qualifying offer further lowering the former Baylor Bear’s market worth.
Despite his anticlimactic exit from Wisconsin, Udoh could be a solid paint protector for a team that is in dire need of defensive help.
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Xavier Henry was one of the few bright spots of the Lakers’ disastrous 2013-14 season, averaging a career-high 10 points and playing 21.1 minutes per game. His year was cut short by surgeries to repair wrist and knee injuries.
Henry’s play was a testament to his resolve. The former 2010 lottery pick came into the season with a non-guaranteed contract but proved to be an asset.
The four-year swingman would give the Pelicans a legitimate slasher to complement sharpshooter Ryan Anderson. Than kind of balance should help open things up for other players on the court.
One thing that should also work in the team’s favor is familiarity. Henry played under Monty Williams from 2011 to 2013. Granted, those were not very productive years, but now that the former Kansas Jayhawk has broken out, the head coach might have a better idea of how to include him in the overall scheme.
A player like Henry could provide a more balanced offensive attack. Given the dynamic scorers already on the roster, that would great for the Pelicans and awful for opponents.