Going into the offseason, the New Orleans Pelicans have the ability to fill several of the holes in their roster. With a the 6th overall pick and plenty of cap space, the Pelicans will be able to address short term needs, but may choose to maintain long term flexibility. Here is a look at some of the significant roster needs and a reasonable resolution.
Starting Center: Robin Lopez is a decent player. He was functional offensively in a limited role, with a 57.3 percent true shooting percentage on a 20.0 percent usage. He is able to convert opportunities created by others, though not at an elite rate. He had a damaging 12.0 percent turnover rate, and is not an elite rebounder. However, the true problem with Robin Lopez as a starting center is that he is simply not effective enough defensively. His rotations are inconsistent and he struggles to contain the pick and roll. Lopez is an okay stopgap starter, but the Pelicans will likely look for a long-term replacement.
Though it appears increasingly unlikely, the Pelicans primary option for a long term starting center may be Alex Len. Len is a physically imposing prospect out of the University of Maryland. Though “raw” Len has the size and mobility to be a dominant defensive presence capable of a positive offensive impact. Paired next to Anthony Davis, Len could potentially complete a defensively dominant frontcourt, and ease the rebounding load on Davis.
Backup Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon will likely forever be liable to miss a significant portion of the season with injuries. Both in preparation for this possibility and to bolster the bench when Gordon is healthy, the Hornets will need a backup shooting guard capable of stepping in as a starter.
The Pelicans may look to resolve this issue internally. Though he struggled mightily as a rookie, Austin Rivers did show signs of offensive potency, and could potentially serve as a combo guard off the bench. Though I would not expect the team to go this route, there are a number of shooting guards available in free agency. Many, such as Marco Belinelli, Wayne Ellington, and Wesley Johnson, would be available for low-level salaries, while players like Gerald Henderson would be significantly more expensive and effective.
Small Forward: Small forward was an issue for the Pelicans throughout the season. Though I am a fan of Al-Farouq Aminu’s contributions, his poor shooting limits the Pelicans offensively as other players are impacted by decreased spacing. The Pelicans chose not to extend Aminu the qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent. Though they may choose to keep him, the team is likely in the market for another small forward.
In the highly unlikely even that Otto Porter falls to the 6th pick, the Pelicans search will become much easier. There are several veteran small forwards available, including Shawn Marion and Paul Pierce, however the Pelicans would have to sacrifice their significant cap space. Unlike Marion and Pierce, whose high salary deals only last another year, in pursuing Andre Igoudala, likely the best available wing, the Pelicans would commit to a long term contract.