The New Orleans Pelicans thought they had hit it big a few times in the last two offseasons. General manager Dell Demps had the assets and the cap space to make a rebranded franchise relevant, but so far, odd fits and injury problems have stamped out any chances of budding success, even with the blossoming of second-year forward Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans were even more ambitious this past offseason, when they gave up a lottery pick that became Nerlens Noel and their 2014 first-round pick in exchange for one-time All-Star Jrue Holiday and a second-round pick that would become Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson. Additionally, the Pelicans ironed out a three-team deal that sent Robin Lopez to Portland and Greivis Vasquez to Sacramento as New Orleans acquired Tyreke Evans in a sign-and-trade that netted the guard a $44 million contract for four years.
But the Pelicans have reportedly been open to dealing both Gordon and Evans, who combine to make up about $26 million of New Orleans' $66 million total payroll in 2013-14.
Being over the salary cap will limit what New Orleans can do at the trade deadline, and though the Pelicans are sellers, the difficulty of convincing another team to pry away either of the Gordon or Evans contracts makes a significant move hard to fathom.
Slim chances of a deal
The trade market values draft picks more than ever. The 2014 class is well-regarded and the current Collective Bargaining Agreement definitely doesn't make long-term contracts, and big ones at that, highly sought-after -- not unless those well-paid players will turn a team into a contender.
Gordon and Evans haven't made New Orleans a contender, even if there are other quibbles regarding the roster makeup and coaching as a whole. So it seems highly unlikely a team would be willing to take on the multiple years remaining on their respective deals. The Pelicans might be open to trading either player and it's easy to see it as addition by subtraction. Brian Roberts, second-year guard Austin Rivers and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow give head coach Monty Williams enough firepower to overcome such a deal, but even interest from a team like the Milwaukee Bucks might not lead anywhere.
So where does that leave the Pelicans?
It seems that they must continue forward with the roster Demps envisioned, even if the results aren't there. Finding success in the next few years, however, will be essential if the franchise wants Davis to stick around past 2015-16.
The most likely trade
From a value perspective and assuming Davis and Holiday are untouchable, forward Ryan Anderson might have been the most movable player considering his shooting talents and reasonable $8.5 million per year contract. However, a back injury that'll cost him the rest of the year ended any chance of New Orleans examining the trade possibilities there.
Perhaps the move the Pelicans make won't involve a member of their 15-man roster.
Guard Pierre Jackson has not suited up in an NBA game after being selected by New Orleans in the second round. While the team could open up a roster spot for him with another trade, it also could examine trading him to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Denver Nuggets, who CSN Northwest's Chris Haynes reported were interested.
Jackson is averaging 29.1 points and 6.2 assists per game playing for the D-League's Idaho Stampede, and he's also discussed the possibility of signing with a team in Europe if he doesn't work things out with the Pelicans.