Stars will get you to the playoffs, but quality role players can win you championships. That’s what New Orleans will need to look at this summer.
After going 34-48 in 2013-14, the New Orleans Pelicans are ready for the offseason. Despite their record, there’s plenty of reason for hope in the Big Easy. Anthony Davis‘ dominance, Tyreke Evans‘ late season emergence, and key contributions from a supporting cast are just a few examples.
New Orleans was one of the most active teams last offseason, acquiring Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday. While they might not make anymore bombshell trades this time around, there are a few moves to be made to solidify the squad
Signing a Rim Protecting Center in Spencer Hawes
Proposed Deal: 2-years, $14 million.
2013-14 Stats: 13.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 15.77 PER
The Pelicans were one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA last season. They gave up an average of 102.4 points per game, 19th in the NBA. A final ranking of 27th in the league in points per possession (110.1 per 100) shows that despite Anthony Davis, there’s much more work to be done.
Bringing in Spencer Hawes gives them a legitimate starting center next to Davis. Hawes, who spent last season in Cleveland and Philly, is one of the better defensive player sin the league as well. He averaged 1.2 blocks per game, while only committing an average of 3.0 fouls per game. Hawes had a defensive win share rating of 2.3, and a defensive rating of 107. With Philly, Hawes held opponents to a 52.3% success rate at the rim. He may not be an All-Defense player, but paired next to Davis, a strong paint presence could be found.
Cleveland is going to want Hawes back, so New Orleans will need to throw a solid deal his way. Bringing him in is the type of move that would solidify their roster, and turn them into a contending team.
Trading For a Bench Scorer Like Louis Williams
Atlanta Sends: PG/SG Louis Williams
2013-14 Stats: 10.4 points, 3.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds, .849 FT%, 14.24 PER
The Pelicans ranked 18th in team scoring this season and 12th in bench scoring. Bringing in a player like Louis Williams, a former runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, could raise both those rankings.
Williams can play both the point guard and shooting guard position and would fill the role of backup for either Jrue Holiday or Eric Gordon. Williams has averaged over 14.0 points per game three times in his career as a bench player and would look to get back to that level with New Orleans.
Atlanta is one of those teams caught in limbo. They don’t seem to have the roster to win championships anytime soon, but they’re not bad enough to land a top draft pick. Trading for a younger player like Austin Rivers gives them a talented two-way guard who could compete with fellow youngster Dennis Schroder for playing time off of the bench. Jeff Teague is clearly the better point guard between himself and Williams, and is the man that Atlanta would rather build around. The Hawks certainly have two All-Star level big men in Al Horford and Paul Millsap. Behind them, however, 31-year old Pero Antic might be their only quality reserve. Jason Smith enters as a legitimate option to be one of the first players of Atlanta’s bench. Averaging 9.8 points per game in 2013-14, Smith would help boost an Atlanta bench which only averaged 30.1 points per game this season.
Improving Their Poor Plus/Minus Differential By Signing Marco Belinelli
Proposed Deal: 2-years, $8 million.
2013-14 Stats: 11.4 points, 2.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds, .430 3PT%, 15.09 PER
The Pelicans ranked 21st in the NBA in total plus/minus differential at -2.7 overall. For a team that was 14 games under .500, this shouldn’t be a shocking fact.
Marco Belinelli finished the season with a +3.3 rating. While that’s not an astounding number, it shows that Marco is the type of player that’s playing quality minutes while he’s on the court. A .430 3PT% in 2013-14, Belinelli brings a dominant deep shooting ability to a team that was already pretty great with a .373 3PT %. He was one of the best bench players in the entire NBA season, and helped San Antonio into the playoffs. Marco is one of the free agents flying under the radar heading into the offseason, but he will bring a valuable skill set to whomever signs him.
The Pelicans should probably be thinking playoffs next season, so bringing in some key role players is for the best. They have their star in Anthony Davis, and with a team starting to form around him, New Orleans has much to be excited about come this fall.
Shawn McFarland covers the New Orleans Pelicans for HoopsHabit.com