New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps took a lot of swings last summer. Most of them were misses.
Between hemorrhaging draft options to acquire point guard Jrue Holiday and making a sign-and-trade deal to acquire the pricy Tyreke Evans, things didn't pan out for the Pelicans in 2013-14. New Orleans finished with 34 wins and never found cohesion with a skilled guard rotation that also included Eric Gordon. Injuries to most every player -- from Holiday to Anthony Davis to forward Ryan Anderson -- didn't help. Nonetheless, pressure is building.
Coach Monty Williams will need to find fixes, but he'll also need his best players locked into next year to remain healthy. From a management perspective, the Pelicans could be open to dealing most anyone outside of Davis, who put in jaw-dropping numbers during his second NBA season. It's unclear if New Orleans can move Gordon or Evans, but there's no question the franchise will be looking to build a team that can compete in the Western Conference.
Draft picks: None
Free agents: Al-Farouq Aminu (UFA), Jason Smith (UFA), Anthony Morrow (player option), Greg Stiemsma (UFA), Darius Miller (RFA)
Projected cap space: $4.9 million
PG: Jrue Holiday, Brian Roberts (RFA), Austin Rivers
SG: Eric Gordon, Anthony Morrow (player option)
SF: Tyreke Evans, Luke Babbitt (non-guaranteed), Darius Miller (RFA)
PF: Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu (UFA)
C: Jason Smith (UFA), Alexis Ajinca, Greg Stiemsma (UFA) Jeff Withey
It's pretty clear the Pelicans could use a number of changes, if not a major overhaul, outside of their two best players. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are the two younger pieces who will have their places locked down over the next several years. New Orleans is reportedly attempting to trade into the 2014 draft. With a loaded backcourt that also includes Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans if he isn't playing small forward, the Pelicans would likely be able to target a small forward, a position with a lot of options in the middle of the first round.
A center will also be a position of greater need, though the depth in the draft isn't nearly that of the small forward crop. Jason Smith was a fine pick-and-pop option for the Pelicans this past season, but he and Greg Stiemsma are unrestricted free agents come July. Alexis Ajinca showed promise as a shot-blocker and Jeff Withey could develop into a rotation player, but neither bring much experience.
New Orleans could also look to add another guard with Anthony Morrow having decided to opt out of his contract and the impending free agency of Brian Roberts, a stop-gap who filled in for the injuries to Holiday and Gordon.
The Pelicans are looking for support in the paint for Davis and stretch power forward Ryan Anderson, who is recovering from a spinal injury. There have been reports of Brooklyn's Andray Blatche being a target after he opted out of his contract, though that rumor has been refuted.
According to The Times-Picayune, New Orleans could be eying a bigger name. Detroit Pistons restricted free agent Greg Monroe is up for a pay raise, and even though the Pelicans don't have the cap space, they inquired about working out a sign-and-trade with the Pistons. It might be tough to pull Monroe from Detroit's clutches, but it's possible they let him go in one way or another with the financial future focused on fellow big Andre Drummond. In any case, the Pelicans' inquiry suggests they hope to win sooner rather than later.
One player to watch in the offseason is Pierre Jackson, the Pelicans' second-round pick from the 2013 draft who never signed with the team. Jackson played overseas, but made a case for New Orleans to sign him by dominating as a rookie in the D-League.