After a devastating injury to New Orleans Pelicans superstar DeMarcus Cousins, the team will reportedly pursue options to replace him.
There is no such thing as replacing a player at the caliber of Cousins, especially in the middle of the season when options are seemingly limited. But the Pelicans are still in contention for the postseason (they are now just one game out of the fifth seed in the Western Conference) and their general manager Dell Demps is fighting to keep his job with the franchise.
If the team is able to find someone capable of a starting spot, they must be able to pair well with All-Star big man Anthony Davis.
Even though the Pelicans do not have any significant assets to offer in a deal, expect these players to be rumored in potential trades to New Orleans.
Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers
Randle is on an expiring contract, which is ideal for a front office in pursuit of replacing Cousins. His cheap deal makes it somewhat easy to find a salary to match up with Los Angeles and the team can re-evaluate whether to keep him long-term once the offseason negotiations come along.
Davis, however, has been reluctant to play center for New Orleans and he’d obviously have to slide over to the five, with Randle starting at the four in this scenario.
Perhaps the Lakers are more interested in packaging Randle with Jordan Clarkson to get rid of the money owed to the guard. But unfortunately, the Pelicans simply don’t have enough expiring contracts for Los Angeles to take back in a trade.
If the Pelicans offered a draft pick, it might make some sense for the Lakers rather than letting Randle walk away as a free agent without getting anything back.
It’s worth noting that the Pelicans have been attracted to former Kentucky players (they currently have five: Davis, Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins). Randle would give them another starting frontcourt duo that features two former Wildcats.
Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz
During his recent podcast appearance with our own Alex Kennedy, USA TODAY’s Sam Amick explained that the Jazz are eager to make trades this deadline (via HoopsHype):
“My understanding of Utah’s situation is that they’re as much of an open shop as there is in the league right now. Whether it’s Derrick Favors or Rodney Hood or even Ricky Rubio, they want to turn the page … I think Rodney gets moved. I think Derrick will draw decent interest … I think [a lot of contenders are interested in Rodney Hood]. Even a team like New Orleans comes to mind.”
New Orleans would be wise to contact Utah, especially considering Favors seems to be a more natural center. This means that he and Rudy Gobert will continue to have trouble playing at the same time moving forward, so a trade may make sense for the Jazz.
Amick mentioned the Pelicans as a potential destination for Hood, but any package that included both players could be tough to execute financially. It seems entirely possible that the front office offers E’Twaun Moore (who is on a great contract) and either Darius Miller or Dante Cunningham to land a rental of Favors.
The better question is whether they could also somehow land Hood, a valuable sharpshooter for their offense, in the same acquisition.
Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls
In this scenario, New Orleans would run into a similar problem explained above in the deal for Randle in that Davis prefers to play power forward instead of center.
Mirotic, however, allows the Pelicans to spread the floor since he is an accurate shooter from long range. In fact, the Chicago big man who has remained on the trade block has averaged 0.6 more three-pointers per game than Cousins.
However, it’s unclear if the Bulls would have the same interest in Moore that the Jazz may have, as Chicago is already loaded with players in their backcourt. The front office for the Bulls would be foolish to take on a bad long-term salary just to dump Mirotic, as they could demand more value from another team.
Omer Asik, the prime example of a contract to avoid for Chicago, played his first two professional seasons in the NBA for the Bulls. It feels unlikely they would bring him back now that he’s considerably more expensive.
Channing Frye, Cleveland Cavaliers
Even though Davis is reluctant to play center, perhaps no player makes more sense for the Pelicans than Channing Frye.
The 34-year-old is 6-foot-11 and he has a very strong relationship with head coach Alvin Gentry, as detailed above. He has postseason experience and could be a great locker room presence for the Pelicans, who are likely feeling down on their luck without Cousins moving forward.
If the Kings eventually trade George Hill to Cleveland in exchange for Frye and Iman Shumpert (as has been reported), expect Frye to seek a buyout and for him to potentially land in New Orleans. Among those with as many possessions, the veteran was the second-most efficient spot-up shooter in the NBA last season.
He played nearly 19 minutes per game last year and this year, he leads the Cavaliers in plus-minus.
Other Trade Candidates
Robin Lopez — He has experience playing in New Orleans and did well alongside Davis. His contract is also relatively affordable. Chicago is rebuilding, so perhaps they move the veteran center at the deadline.
Greg Monroe — The 27-year-old still has value, especially on offense. Would the Phoenix Suns be willing to buy out his contract?
Brook Lopez— Lopez has an expiring contract, but it would still be nearly impossible to match his $22.6 million deal in a trade.
Nerlens Noel — While he is a strong defender and has shown flashes of his potential on offense, he might not be ready to play significant minutes right away due to his injury history this season.
Dewayne Dedmon — Atlanta reportedly has him on the trading block and he is assuredly the cheapest option out of anyone on the market. But how much does he help New Orleans?
Kosta Koufos — Sacramento would be willing to listen, though it does not seem like it would be worth it for New Orleans to trade Moore to land him.
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