New Orleans Pelicans big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins were both named starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Jrue Holiday is putting together his best season in the Big Easy, and arguably his career. E’Twaun Moore has emerged as one of the Association’s better shooters from long-range and Darius Miller is providing a good pop off the bench.
The team is also 24-21, and only has one game up on the eighth seed Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference playoff picture. While many teams would be happy to be in the Pelicans position right now, most teams do not have the caliber of players listed above. Also, despite the fact that some may argue head coach Alvin Gentry has been the problem, his surrounding staff (highlighted by assistant coaches Chris Finch and Darren Erman) have been outstanding, helping to mitigate most problems under the Gentry regime. What then, if not the coaching, is the Pelicans problem?
It should come as no surprise to those who have kept up with the Pelicans: Rajon Rondo is not the answer at PG. While he is leading the team in assists, the nine-year NBA veteran has been undeniably bad on defense. This, mixed with his pedestrian shooting numbers, shows that the Pelicans greatest need resides at the one.
In comes a tweet from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski putting the league on star PG notice:
ESPN Sources: Charlotte making All-Star guard Kemba Walker available in trade talks. Story: https://t.co/4u3mLpmHcH
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 19, 2018
Yes, Kemba Walker, already one of the all-time great Charlotte Hornets, is available for trade. Teams are already chomping at the bit for the former all-star. However, most teams will be running into a glaring issue: Charlotte is mainly looking to offload some of its large and lengthy contracts, so acquiring Walker is a tricky situation for the teams that could use him. This will assuredly plague any trade talks across the Association.
Despite the issue arising from a pursuit of Walker plus, The Pelicans do have ways to make the hypothetical a reality. See this prospective trade as visualized by ESPN’s Trade Machine.
Omer Asik is only guaranteed his approximately $11 million a year through the 2018-19 season. However, thanks to his ETO, his contract is only $3 million guaranteed in the 2019-20 season. This helps to encourage Charlotte in this prospective trade, as it adheres to their goal of cutting salary in the long-term. Moore and his $8 million could easily be flipped to a team looking for another threat from distance. While they would have to eat the salary of Alexis Ajinca, $5 million is not a bad trade-off for clearing out the big, multi-year contracts of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker. Essentially, they will only be tied down to $8 million from Ajinca and Asik, plus the contract of whoever they get in a Moore trade.
While this does put the money in order, draft picks would be required to offset the loss of Walker for the Hornets. Fortunately for all involved, New Orleans has all of their first round picks available. With some combination of these picks, a deal between the Hornets and the Pelicans is both logical and fair for both side of the bargaining table.
If they manage to pull this trade for Walker, New Orleans would be a threat against any team in the NBA. While the loss of Moore would hamper their threat from the trey, Walker is a guard with range, and would help take the load off of Cousins, Davis and Holiday. Aside from now having four legitimate threats to score in their starting line-up, the Pelicans will be able to greatly improve their bottom 10 defense with the addition of Kidd-Gilchrist.
The addition of Walker would send the Pelicans into contention, and therefore should be aggressively pursued by the powers-that-be in New Orleans.