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Pelicans Off-Season Plan v3


SUCCESS

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Pelicans

Pelicans

+3 players ($52.9m),
Cap Impact + $10.8M

+3  Wins

+30.33  MPG

+1.65  Off.

-1.23  Def.

Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers

+3 players ($7.4m) +2 picks,
Cap Impact - $10.0M

+1  Wins

+24.92  MPG

-3.88  Off.

+2.34  Def.

Cavaliers

Cavaliers

+1 player ($36.0m),
Cap Impact + $6.2M

-3  Wins

-36.26  MPG

+1.29  Off.

-1.11  Def.

TL;DR

  • Trade Ingram for Allen

  • Trade Dyson and picks for Simons

  • Draft a backup forward with pick #21

  • Try to bring back Naji at less than the MLE

  • Let Zion cook

Details and depth chart below!

P.S. For everyone who has seen v2, the explanation will be very similar for the most part, save some updated draft and team analysis. This will be my final attempt at this big plan until either A) the draft happens, or B) big news comes out about an Ingram trade.


Assumptions Made

For clarity, I am operating with the following assumptions for this trade:

  • New Orleans wants to trade BI.

  • Cleveland wants an elite wing and think that Mobley can flourish at the 5.

  • Portland will let Sharpe & Scoot be their backcourt of the future and will move on from Simons.

Detailed Explanation

Problems to address

What did we learn from this year? Below are the four largest problems I think need to be remedied, in order of importance:

1. The Center position

JV and Nance are not bad players, they just cannot be starters next to Zion. I think to be Z's frontcourt mate, you need to either be A) an elite floor spacer (KAT) or B) be a defensive anchor who can play above the rim and in DHO sets (Chet, Mobley, JJJ). The two current bigs fit neither mold and as a result negatively impact the team too often. A replacement is needed.

2. BI & Zion fit

BI & Z are both elite scorers and point forwards. They both are not volume three-point shooters and love to penetrate to the interior. This means that they arguably hold each other back from reaching their full potential. Having both on the court means that there is not enough spacing for them to operate effectively. I love both of the guys but Zion can lead a team to a chip (blissful ignorance and delusion maybe) which makes BI the expendable one. It's time to trade BI for a better fit next to the franchise player.

3. Lack of primary ball handler when Zion is off

CJ has done exceptionally well tailoring his game to be the #3. At the end of the regular season he was lighting it up. You could argue that given his volume (#6) and his efficiency (#6) from three, that he is a legit top five shooter in the NBA. Now, he 100% disappointed himself, his team, and us fans in the postseason. But, I think that simply proves that he belongs as a secondary ball handler and shooting threat, at which he exceeds. Even with BI, it has been clear at points that a PG is needed on this squad, with his departure, some creation and ball handling is needed to supplement Zion's game.

4. Absence of supplementary shooting

There were only two rotation players at the end of the year who are true knockdown shooters. Trey and CJ. Herb has improved, BI can shoot when he feels like it, Dyson was hot to end the year, but that's not enough.


The solutions

Here's how I think our problems can be solved with an effective off-season.

1. A new starting big

Jarrett Allen is a defensive monster. He can anchor your defense as well as anybody. He is also mobile and is involved in a lot of DHO and screening sets for Cleveland. While he does not space the floor horizontally, he can finish lobs and score bunnies inside with the best of them. He is also a big body and a horse on the boards so you don't lose the physicality that JV has brought to the team. Nance can still be the backup since in limited minutes, I think he has his role. Karlo Matkovic can also get some garbage time minutes and maybe become the backup in 2025-26 after Larry's contract expires.

2. Ingram is shipped out

The way New Orleans gets Allen is by sending out BI. Zion will now be the definitive #1 option and will not be deferring that status anywhere. Trey can enter the starting unit and maybe take another leap this year and even possibly be a MIP candidate.

3. Adding ball handling and creation

Though Zion will rightfully have the reigns most of the time, it is important to have some other guys to take the load off him in BI's absence. Even if Trey does not make that leap ever, New Orleans here trades away some of their draft capital to acquire Anfernee Simons from Portland. He will finally get to be the lead guard on a good NBA team with good teammates. He can either be a creator by himself, in the PnR, or be an off-ball threat zipping off screens or spacing on the opposite wing to Trey when Zion is attacking. This means that CJ will take the sixth man role and be the main guy off the bench.

Why Simons?

In my view there are five point guards who New Orleans may look to acquire this off season.:

  • Anfernee Simons

  • Collin Sexton

  • Dejounte Murray

  • Malcolm Brogdon

  • Tyus Jones

I know that many are super interested in Murray, however, I think he is too similar to BI to work with Zion. Even if he does shoot more threes, he still is a ball dominant player who loves the midrange. Though he has the best defense of the five, it will likely take a member of the core to get him, and I don't see him being THAT much of an upgrade to the current squad.

Sexton is good option in terms of shot creation but he is only in the 65th percentile in 3PT Shooting Talent per BBI.

Tyus Jones is a name that I have also suggested before but his defense and shot creation is negligible. His elite passer rating of 8.7 per Thinking Basketball is awesome but his Box Creation figure is only 7.8, lowest of these five.

Brogdon is another option I like, but I just think he is an older, regressing version of Simons. Brogdon is probably a bit more active on defense but the scoring is undeniably in Simons favour.

Overall, out of the five, Simons ranks first in 3PT Shooting Talent (97.4th percentile), first in Overall Shot Creation (86th percentile), and first in Off-Ball Shot Making (96.5th percentile) (All per BBall Index) and second in Finishing Talent (BBI) along with Box Creation (TB). His defense is not on the level of Murray and Sexton but it is still decent. Especially considering he will have to be the worst defender in the starting lineup, I think he can be adequate on that end while being a beast on offense.

Note: those percentile are just amongst guards from this season.

4. More shooting in the lineup. (Pick #21 analysis)

Trey will be in the starting lineup with BI gone, Hawkins will get backup guard minutes, Simons is a SHOOTER ranking near the 98th percentile in BBall Index's 3PT Shooting Talent. That's already some enormous upgrades. It's a good start. But to get some more:

The Naji Marshall Situation

My hope is that Naji can come back to New Orleans on around ~$8 Million annualy, though I think New Orleans should be prepared to spend close to the non-taxpayer MLE. He provides a level of grit and hustle that cannot be taught. He represents exactly what the team should value. He took a leap with his three point shooting this year and there is no reason why he can't keep it up, or even improve again in years coming. Giving Naji a 4 year/31.5 Million dollar deal will provide him some stability, keep him in New Orleans and get the Pels some energy, shooting, defense, and motor off the bench. If a team happens to offer him more than New Orleans is willing to pay and he takes that, I would try and reroute Georges Niang from Portland to New Orleans in the trade to plug that gap.

Whether Naji leaves or not, a forward off the bench who can defend and knock down threes at a high clip is an essential addition. I think the Pels' pick in this year's draft is a great way to make that happen.

Who to select at #21
  1. My favorite option is Tristan da Silva. He has gotten comps to Kyle Anderson, a player who can be picked up and placed anywhere and be effective. TdS has a really solid three-point shot, a the ability to be a plus defender, a good finishing ability and a high IQ. His four years in college mean that he can contribute right away, which is just what New Orleans needs.

  2. I'm not positive that da Silva will be available at the Pels' pick, a lost of mocks have him going just outside the lottery. If TdS is off the board at #21, I really like Bobi Klintman out of the NBL. I think he is New Orleans' best realistic pick an I seem to be as high on him as just about anyone. A more raw prospect than TdS but he has a bigger frame at 6'10" and is a whole lot more athletic. I see some Cam Johnson in him, others have said Joe Ingles with defense as a ceiling. Whatever the case, I think he has a place in New Orleans as a two-way floor spacer.

  3. If Tidjane Salaun slides down the board for whatever reason, he would be an awesome pick as an athletic guy who has the tools to be an all-around excellent player on both ends of the floor.

  4. Though he is still raw, Trentyn Flowers is super intriguing to me and could develop into something in the future.

  5. Pacome Dadiet is the same as Flowers, a lot of potential but still raw.

  6. Kyle Filipowski can also be a good pick here. He is bigger and hence cannot guard quicker guys on the perimeter but he can allow New Orleans to run some true five-out offense around Z if he toughens up a tad.

After those, other guys can fill the role though to me they each have some glaring flaws:

  1. Kevin McCullar Jr. (only 6'6", would make the bench tiny. He could be a perfect pick but would require either Naji or Nance being exchanged for a bigger guy);

  2. Tyler Smith (maybe TOO raw, needs development);

  3. Johnny Furphy (cone on defense).


The new-look Pelicans

Here is how the Pels would look with these changes:

Starting Five

The starting unit would now have Zion surrounded by three shooters (Simons, Herb, TM3) , and a mobile big (Allen) who can screen for the perimeter guys, or be a PnR partner for Z. Simons and Herb can help initiate some of the offense too.

The bench

CJ McCollum would immediately be a sixth man of the year candidate. Taking on a smaller minute load will be beneficial for him in the long run and will mean that there is always firepower on the floor. Hawkins has some minutes open up for him which means that he will get to develop into a good NBA player. Larry can be an effective small ball big for around fifteen minutes a night behind Allen and maybe some Zion center minutes. The twenty-first pick in the draft (hopefully Tristan da Silva, otherwise Bobi Klintman) will provide some spacing and defense to the unit to complement a hopefully returning Naji Marshall. Jose is still there to provide grit and a spark when needed as the eleventh man.

Improvements from 2023-24

In this new lineup, there is exponentially more shooting, and now a near-perfect unit around Zion. Some legit scoring threats to take the load off him and two defensive beasts in the starting lineup with Herb & Allen. New Orleans may be the best defense in the league with those two.


The other sides

Here's why I think this deal works for the two other teams involved.

Cavaliers

Cleveland has had a disappointing showing in the playoffs these last two years. Even though they beat the Magic, I can't see how you can call this series a success. The offense has STRUGLED way too much. If the end goal is to win a championship, I think change has to come. Reports seem to indicate that Donovan Mitchell will be the arbiter of some of that change this off season. No matter what, to me it's clear that one of the Garland / Mitchell backcourt has to go for the team to be as effective as it can be. In my mind, the Lakers will be suitors for both of them, whether it would be this deal centered around Spida or this one around Garland, the return will be fairly alike (Rui, Reaves, + picks).

Obviously those are just ideas and many other teams (Brooklyn and Orlando) will want those guys. I think Ingram as a return piece to replace a lot of that scoring would be a welcome addition. A long, athletic guy on the wing is what Cleveland has been missing for far too long and BI plugs that gap as well as anybody while also being able to alleviate some of the playmaking duties from the guard spots, he is an excellent passer and can find guys really well. I also have him here signing an extension in the trade, so that Cleveland has some security for the next five years.

Trading away Allen also gives Mobley the reigns of the frontcourt and gives him more room to work. I am super high on Evan and think he has All-NBA potential, this to me is the best way to achieve that. Again, the assumption this trade is based upon is that Cleveland wants to run Mobley as the big in the future, and they want an elite wing to complement him and one of the two little guys (whoever stays) and an elite scoring wing.

I'm also conscious that Ingram's value has decreased slightly these playoffs (though I think it is slightly overblown, A) it's just one series, B) he is allegedly still hurt, and C) he has a top 5 defense zeroing in on him as the only legit scoring option).

As a result, I've reduced the Cleveland part of the deal from what I have presented in the past. It is basically now just an Allen for Ingram swap, which to me sounds fair for both sides. Obviously super_boosted won't be happy but you can't please everyone I guess.

The Cavs could roll out a lineup of:

Donovan Mitchell / Caris LeVert

Max Strus / Austin Reaves

Brandon Ingram / Isaac Okoro

Rui Hachimura / Dean Wade

Evan Mobley / Vet-min C or draft Yves Missi


Trail Blazers

Portland is in a rebuild. Their backcourt of the future has been found. Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson are a perfect fit next to one another and Simons is consequently the odd man out. The return they get in this deal is quite reasonable to me and similar to what I've seen Blazers fans suggest on this site. Two UFRPs and a young raw guy in Dyson who has shown signs of developing into an ELITE role player. If the Blazers still won't budge I think the most you could throw in would be another pick for New Orleans, maybe '29 with a lottery protection on it. That being said, I think the Blazers would be happy with the offer in the trade above. I think they could also probably flip Niang to a contending team for a late-first or second round pick if they wanted to as well.

The Blazers could tank for Flagg with a lineup of:

Scoot Henderson / Dyson Daniels

Shaedon Sharpe / Matisse Thybulle

Matas Buzelis / Kris Murray

Jerami Grant / Toumani Camara

Deandre Ayton / Duop Reath


Pelicans Depth Chart

PG. Anfernee Simons

SG. Herb Jones

SF. Trey Murphy III

PF. Zion Williamson

C. Jarrett Allen

  1. CJ McCollum

  2. Jordan Hawkins

  3. Naji Marshall

  4. Bobi Klintman (Pick #21)

  5. Larry Nance Jr.

  6. Jose Alvarado

  7. Dereon Seabron

  8. Matt Ryan

  9. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

  10. Karlo Matkovic


I hope everyone can be pleased with this! Open to feedback as always! Please keep in mind the assumptions I made at the top. If you read the whole description thank you!

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