Mar 30, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik (3) reaches for a rebound against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
As the New Orleans Pelicans look towards the future and building the team into a legit contender, some current players will become expendable. Below we’ll take a look at the likeliest candidates.
The remaining 11 contracts scheduled to be on the books for the 2017-18 season will account for a shade more than $89 million (assuming Dante Cunningham does not exercise his player option).
If Holiday is indeed retained, his current cap hold of close to $17 million for the 2017-18 season will come into play; which would increase the Pelicans cap number to a little more than $106 million — about $4 million above the projected NBA salary cap of $102 million.
To continue to build the roster, the Pelicans will have to open up some space and to do that players will have to be moved.
So with that on our minds, let’s take a look at a few players the New Orleans Pelicans may be inclined to move this summer.
Dec 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) drives the ball defended by New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik (right) during the third quarter at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Clippers won 133-105. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Omer Asik was brought in prior to the 2014-15 season as a defensive specialist whom the Pelicans thought would be a good fit to play alongside Anthony Davis. The experiment has largely failed.
But that didn’t stop Dell Demps and company from rewarding Asik with a hefty five-year, $58 million ($43 million guaranteed) contract after a surprise playoff appearance following that same season.
Perhaps the decision was made while the Pelicans brass was still basking in the glory of getting swept in the first round by the Golden State Warriors — but the future to them apparently looked bright when the decision was made.
Since then, Asik has mostly underwhelmed while his skills have seemed to diminish. He’s been in and out of the lineup due to injury and poor play. This season, Asik has only appeared in 31 games thus far and has been out since the All-Star break with a bacterial infection.
Prior to the trade deadline, as we all now know, the Pelicans were looking to add a big man to pair with superstar Anthony Davis. In addition to that, the Pelicans were also trying the impossible task of unloading Omer Asik’s ridiculous contract, which you can read about more here.
The Pelicans were unable to to pull off a deal, so Asik remained.
The New Orleans Pelicans will no doubt once again attempt to unload the remainder of Asik’s deal in the summer.
Dec 18, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) shoots the ball as San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Danny Green (14) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Alexis Ajinca is another guy the Pelicans were rumored to want to move at this year’s trade deadline.
Ajinca is an energy player off the bench who, as of late, has maximized his limited opportunities. He’s a big-body defensive player who blocks shots and can step out and hit the 15-footer on the offensive end.
He’s at his best without the ball in his hands on offense as the guy on the receiving end of good playmaking.
His numbers won’t jump out as it’s the energy that he brings to both ends of the court that has become his most valuable trait.
Since the All-Star break, Ajinca posts a top-four offensive rating on the team with 105.7 and the best defensive rating with 94.2.
Unfortunately, Ajinca has been caught up in the numbers game all season and with the addition of Cousins, his opportunities have remained limited.
Ajinca is playing 14 minutes per game on the season and only 10.5 minutes per after the All-Star break.
Alexis Ajinca is a big who can still provide value to a lot of teams looking for a guy who can protect the paint while proving energy off the bench. When you take into account his cap hit in 2017-18 at more than $5 million, he’ll likely be a candidate to be moved during the offseason.
Feb 15, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Solomon Hill (44) goes to the basket between Memphis Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons (25) and guard Mike Conley (11) during the second half at FedExForum. New Orleans defeated Memphis 95-91. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not saying much, but Solomon Hill will likely have the most trade value of the three guys mentioned.
He’s mostly under-performed the four-year, $48 million contract signed last summer, but he remains an intriguing player because when he has it going, it’s hard not to envision him as a good and important two-way player on a playoff roster.
Consistency with aggressiveness on both ends of the court and consistency shooting the ball are the major issues with Solomon Hill.
On the season, Hill is only averaging 6.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 29 minutes of play. In addition, Hill is only shooting 39.2 percent from the floor and 34.7 percent from three.
He’s a “three-and-D” guy who can create for himself, but carries a salary of $11.7 million next season and $36.7 million over the next three years at an average of about $12.2 million over that same span.
When Solomon Hill decides to be aggressive, you can see some potential he possesses. And if he can live up to that potential, then his aforementioned salary would look like a bargain in today’s financial NBA landscape.
Hill has the ability to become a lockdown defender while providing scoring on the other end and is exactly the type of player the Pelicans will need going forward.