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Trilly Grades Your Rebuild: New Orleans Pelicans Edition

Welcome back,

Today we’ll be taking a look at the Pelicans. You can find past entries here but I’ll warn you now, there’s only nine.

The rules are the same: I’m going to be taking a look at three things they did well, three things they failed miserably at and three things they could do this summer to stop stinking. I’ll be issuing one of two grades based on my findings: Oh hell yeah (good) or Oh no (bad). This is the internet, things are classic or trash with no in between. You wouldn’t expect nuance on Twitter so please do not expect it here. Thank you.

New Orleans Pelicans (33-49, 13th place Western Conference)

1. Jrue Holiday

John Havlicek. Larry Bird. Gary Payton. Chris Paul. Dwyane Wade. Lebron James. Jrue Holiday. That’s the list of people who have averaged at least 21 PPG, 5 RPG, 7 APG and made an All-Defense team in the same season. Three current Hall of Famers, three future Hall of Famers. And Jrue Holiday. That’s how good he was this season.

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He appears to have kicked the injury bug (65+ games in four straight seasons) and keeps getting better. He can be your primary/secondary creator on offense and defend the other teams primary/secondary creator on defense. His TS% is right ahead of Lou Will’s (55.5 to 55.4) so just think of him as if Lou Will was locking up on the perimeter. And they have him signed for at least the next two seasons.

2. This isn’t as dire as it could be

Last year this team had a +1.3 point differential and went 48-33. This year, they were a -1.3 and went 33-49. Last year, they were first in the league in pace. This year they were third. Last year, they were 3rd in PPG and 29th in opponents PPG. This year, they were 3rd in PPG and 27th in opponents PPG. The biggest difference is the 900 fewer minutes that Anthony Davis played this year, almost 19 full games worth.

That’s a strong sign for the Pelicans IMO. Most teams up against the wall with trading their star are doomed with no secondary star or no draft picks. They’re capped out long after the star has left (see Cleveland, either time LeBron left) and have no young pieces because they were probably in “win now” mode with a coach on the hot seat and title aspirations. None of that applies to New Orleans.

Holiday is locked up. The team had every reason to fall off the cliff with all the drama this season and didn’t, I think some of that credit goes to Alvin Gentry who basically just did what he did last year. Solomon Hill is the worst contract they have on the books and there’s only one year left. They have all their own future first-round picks and a couple of extra second rounders. The other pieces they have aren’t exactly Durant/Harden/Westbrook in terms of young talent, but they beat Jordan Clarkson/Tristan Thompson/JR Smith in terms of guys left behind.

Last year, the team that had Boogie/Mirotic/Rondo, got AD’s best season, and stormed to the second round of the playoffs was 25th in attendance. This year, with the AD drama, injuries galore and the Elfrid Payton show, a 33 win team was 25th in attendance. They’ll probably be fine!

3. There is…..stuff there

Frank Jackson played in 61 games this year after missing all last year with a broken foot. He averaged 16/4/2 on 46/38/72 shooting in 13 March games before a concussion shut him down for the year. Cheick Diallo played more than 20 minutes in a game 15 times this season. In those games, he averaged a 13/10 on 67% FG shooting and 80% from FT (in 24 MPG). Jahlil Okafor had his best season since his rookie campaign, a low bar to clear but still encouraging. Each of these guys was a 5-star HS recruit that went one-and-done in college. These might be empty numbers on a terrible team, or they might be talented guys that needed a couple of extra years to find themselves due to injuries (Jackson), allegations (Diallo) or whatever the fuck (Okafor), etc. We’ll see, but I’m glad the Pelicans are taking on these kinds of projects.

Kenrich Williams was an undrafted free agent that finished between Josh Richardson and Jaylen Brown in Defensive Real-Plus Minus as a rookie. This is a season after plucking Darius Miller from overseas and watching him drain 39% of his 3Ps, on 5 per game, over two seasons. These are the kinds of gambles a rebuilding team needs to take to find pieces and the Pelicans have done reasonably well this season.

Bad Things

1. Bad Front Office

Danny “Why can’t I say it too?” Ferry just pulled out of their GM search and David Griffin is apparently the hire. He built the title team in Cleveland and deserves credit for that, but can he build a team that doesn’t include the best player of his generation? If Magic doesn’t get credit for getting Bron to LA because Bron just wanted to live there, does Griffin get the credit for Bron going back to Cleveland when Bron just wanted to go there? Griffin built that team and then overpaid wildly to keep it together. He gave JR Smith and Tristan Thompson a combined $139 million dollars. He traded a first round pick for 124 games of Kyle Korver in a Cavs uniform. He had Dwight Powell, Seth Curry and Joe Harris on the roster and traded them. He drafted Tyus Jones and immediately traded him for Cedi Osman/Rakeem Christmas. He hired David Blatt and chose the “the signing old guys instead of developing young role players” route.

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It won Cleveland a title and a lot of those moves were probably under pressure from LeDan Gilbert. I get it. He did what he had to do for a team with the greatest player of his generation. He steps into this Pelicans job having to trade the greatest player in Pelicans history and we’ll see how he does. We keep hearing the Pelicans ownership is so focused on the Saints they don’t care about the Pelicans, which sounds like a win. They won’t be over your shoulder with every move, and if that’s the case I would have called Sam Hinkie.

2. Mid City

We got another Mid City sighting. Because of the expectations going into this season from last season and the way they burned out, the Pelicans neither got to really compete or tank. They landed right in the middle which is the worst place to be. 33 wins gets you most likely the 7th pick in the draft. Congrats.

Julius Randle opting out and a few contracts expiring will open up some cap space but for what? They drafted AD and traded for Jrue and Boogie. The last time they had cap space it went to Solomon Hill/Tyreke Evans/Eric Gordon tier free agents. And with A CERTAIN SOMEONE on the way out, I can’t imagine they’ll be a hot free agency destination.

3. He Whom Shall Not Be Named

Seeing as this is a UK Baby Boy™ slander free zone, I will let you use your imagination here. Glad we discussed this.

Smh ok fine. Fair is fair because if AD was doing all this shit and went to Louisville, I’d write a blog laughing about him every hour on the hour. I’m stern, handsome, charming and handsome….but I’m fair. So here it goes.

I can’t remember a trade request handled more poorly in any sport. Trades happen in basketball, quite a bit. Requesting them is even pretty commonplace (Kyrie, Kawhi, Oladipo, Blake, D’Angelo, Vucevic, Harden, George. All 2019 All-Stars, all traded under varying circumstances). But the way he’s handled it has been awful.

From the timing of the trade request to leaving a team game early for the All-Star game, to saying all 30 teams are on his list at the All-Star game, to blindly wearing clothes given to him, there are some very Dwight Howard vibes with this. At the time Howard left Orlando, he was a perennial All-NBA first teamer and All-NBA defense guy. Davis was a better talent but Dwight had more hardware/team success and was much more popular. AD just turned 26 and Dwight was 26 going into his last season in Orlando. Dwight reversed course and stayed for the extra year on his contract before getting Stan Van Gundy fired and being traded. We’ll see how AD handles this summer, but he does have another year on his contract and could just reverse course as Dwight did. Who knows but if he nails this next move, nobody remembers any of this. If he doesn’t, he might be fake Dwight 2.0.

This is only a bad thing here because of what it did for his trade value and what NO gets in return. If he requested a trade before this past season, he’s probably in LA a year early and the Lakers are in the playoffs. The Pelicans would be looking at some sort of Ingram/Ball/Hart/picks package I’m guessing and if you guys can keep a secret, I’ll share something with you. I don’t hate that as a core to rebuild around for New Orleans. Lonzo/Jrue defensively is a nightmare and while Jrue can run an offense, he’s had his best years playing off another PG who can’t shoot worth a damn (Rondo/Elfrid). Enter Lonzo! I think there’s enough playmaking left for Ingram to get his feet without getting lost in the shuffle in LA when LeBron/Rondo/Lonzo were all getting touches before him. Alvin Gentry loves playing at a high pace so there’d be enough for everybody. Hart’s a fine piece and with what we know about the Lakers front office there is no guarantee they could even build around LeBron/AD, so those picks might not be terrible.

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Maybe they can still get that deal. Maybe they can get better. Or maybe AD keeps doing clown shit before they have to trade him for pennies on the dollar. I, for one, hate to see it.

Trilly’s Summer Prescription

1. Make a good Anthony Davis trade

You’d think this would go without saying but then Kawhi “Healthy as Hell” Leonard ends up getting traded for Jakob Poetl, who averaged 6 PPG this season, and Demar Derozan, who hit seven 3-pointers this season.

You have to wait until the draft lottery because the #1 pick trumps any realistic offer on the table. Every single one of them, and if the Knicks/Lakers get it you may be cooking with grease. Conversely, if the Pelicans get it I think AD should just say “nevermind” and stay to play with Jrue/Zion. Life funny like that.

Either way, I’d take a page out of the Sacramento Kings playbook and fire my coach after the best season since W was president just find the piece you like the most and trade for that, the way they did getting Buddy Hield for Boogie. It didn’t look like a great deal at the time and now it does. There will be a random team that comes out of nowhere for AD the way Toronto did for Kawhi. Go roster for roster, find the piece(s) you want the most and get to work.

Maybe you can get John Collins/the 5th and 6th picks in this year’s draft. Or Jamal Murray/Michael Porter Jr as the Mick Man has suggested. Or Jarrett Allen/Caris Levert/picks. Or Bam/Richardson/every pick Pat Riley has ever had. Whatever it is, find your blue chip piece and go get it. The trades of “stars for stuff” rarely work out. An ideal trade for me would be the Knicks getting the #1 pick and needing to make a splash so they give up Mitchell Robinson/the #1 pick, but there are plenty of solid returns out there considering the disadvantage you’re trading from.

2. Don’t overreact

Maybe Griffin will have a sitdown with AD to see if anything can be done. The Pelicans front office has failed Davis, but Griffin had nothing to do with that. Maybe he can mend the fence. Maybe that ship has sailed and he wants out regardless. Either way, don’t overreact and try to spend to patch things up with AD. If he’s gone, he’s gone. Splurging on keeping Ju Randle and betting on Derrick Rose’s shooting being legit won’t keep him or help anyone.

Same with the draft pick. The #7 pick isn’t great shakes but don’t trade it for Mike Miller and Randy Foye (Wizards rebuild soon cometh). Just take it easy. The fans can understand a trade request or a rebuild. What they can’t understand is being played as dumb or a GM overreacting and doing something like firing a coach to keep a player that doesn’t want to be kept, like Dwight/SVG in Orlando.

3. The draft lottery will be telling

There’s a route here for the Pelicans to go scorched Earth, Leonard Washington style. If AD is out for sure, maybe Jrue wants out too. He said AD was 90 percent of the reason he stayed so him wanting out isn’t unreasonable. With two years and a player option on his deal, they could get a nice haul for him if they moved this summer. But I’d only do it if he wants out, otherwise, I want to build with/around Jrue.

As is, they have a 26% chance at a top-four pick which isn’t terrible. Fun fact: If they lost one (1) more game this season, those odds jump to 37%. Either way, them snagging a top-four pick isn’t impossible and you can probably trade AD for another top-four pick depending on how the lottery shakes out. You could do a lot worse than adding Ja Morant and De’Andre Hunter to Jrue Holiday and Frank “Basically John Stockton” Jackson. Or maybe David Griffin does his old pal LeBron a solid and sends him to LA, who knows. I don’t think the Pelicans or their fans are too broken up about this either way and that alone almost changes my grade. Almost.

Rebuild status: Oh no

P.S. – When Hot Pie starts his march to the throne this Sunday, you won’t want to be underdressed and thus:

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