Making sense of the New Orleans Pelicans Core Moving Forward

(Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images) /

Dell Demps is out, and Anthony Davis is presumed to be traded this offseason. What can fans expect on opening night next season from the New Orleans Pelicans?

Everything the media has said about the New Orleans Pelicans organization and fan base has lit a fire. Some are incensed the Pelicans did not cave to LeBron’s, err… the Lakers’ whims by trading Davis at the deadline. Gayle Benson is livid that folks forgot who created the Pelicans. The players who had their reputations burned have played like their NBA lives depend on it (and they might).

Everyone who made the decision to fire Dell Demps has made a concerted effort to alert the league: The Pelicans will do what is best for the Pelicans.

Doing that is exactly what the team and city need. Gayle Benson has always came out, turned up, and shown passion for Pelicans basketball in the Crescent City. She helped make the team a reality and, by almost all accounts, determined the team’s branding. Gayle is going to revitalize this team.

She’s been adamant there’s no plan to relocate the team. She’s firm on not being bullied into trades that are imminent failures. It seems she also wants to prove she is capable of doing things on her own to many people, including the other owners in the league and her late husband Tom Benson’s estranged family who fought the Bensons in court. She firmly believes in herself and her abilities as a businesswoman to run the Pelicans (and the Saints).

Some are trying to get the Pelicans branded as a second rate club; one to be avoided. But Benson will spare no expense to get a competent basketball hierarchy together. She and the Pelicans have said as much publicly, with a WojESPN article containing this statement:

"“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department. This will include a comprehensive, but confidential, search aided by outside consultants to identify a new leader of our basketball operations, directly reporting to me.”"

Once this new front office structure is in place, they’ll need to focus on next season. We can all admit now that this season has been a “dumpster fire,” as Alvin Gentry aptly stated. Gentry is on a contract ending July 2021. With two more seasons of salary owed and no better options on the market, the new front office will likely have to settle for Gentry as coach next season.

Fans can ask a lot of Benson when it comes to spending money on the Pelicans. There is no reason to burn money just for change’s sake. Gentry is a well liked coach with a system that fits where the league is trending. He has also shown to be flexible with his approach with the talent available. Sticking with Gentry is the smart play, at least for one more season.

The Pelicans’ future front office decision makers and Gentry will need a team that is competitive. New Orleans only knows one type of tanking, and even then will still aim to win. Losses will all still tend to be close, because the team never quits, for better or worse.

Jrue Holiday will keep the competitive spirit alive in the Pelicans locker room. Holiday is on a steady salary through the 2021-2022 season. Where most toxic contracts have massive escalation, Holiday’s hovers at a nice wage for a borderline offensive All-Star and definite defensive All-NBA player. For the next few seasons, there is no need for Holiday to leave New Orleans. Both the player and city have helped each other through dire times and had their greatest highlights together. 

Even at his greatest heights, Holiday will need help getting past the first round of the NBA playoffs. The stigma around the New Orleans Pelicans organization and small market teams as a whole makes things difficult in finding another star, but Jrue serves as the best lead man the Pelicans could ask for right now and next year.

Jrue has the longest contract on the Pelicans’ books. In fact, only eight Pelicans have any type of contract connection to the Pelicans for next season. Of course, Anthony Davis is one of those contracts, as is Solomon Hill. Davis figures to be moved, while Hill will be an expiring $13 million contract next season.

Pelicans fans may have to face the irony that the only good time to keep Hill is after three years of wanting him gone. If he can play well and raise his value, great. If not, some team may need to absorb him before the Pelicans shed his salary.

Either way, that anchor of a contract will be gone. Perhaps he serves as a viable wing defender in a contract year, or he may bring back a second round pick and warm body over the summer in a trade. Any usefulness from that spot is better than recent production.

E’Twaun Moore has been a valuable revelation, and for $8.6 million next season, should be kept in the fold. Moore will be more valuable as a veteran voice to start next season that can be dealt at the deadline than he would be as a trade add-on this summer.

Julius Randle has a player option, which he is likely to decline. If Randle and Jahlil Okafor can form a bond, perhaps the two can be brought back to form another Twin Towers experiment. Okafor will likely have his $1.7 million team option picked up, but Randle will want a raise from his current $9 million.

Frank Jackson and Kenrich Williams will bring cheap, young, energetic depth for one more season. New Orleans fans have enjoyed their enthusiasm so far this year. Sometimes even in a loss, a team can find a breath of fresh air, and these two have supplied plenty of oxygen.

Jrue, Jahlil, Jackson, and Kenrich. The Pelicans have those four plus the Davis haul to build around. Worse teams have had worse situations and done better than Demps did in his eight plus years. Those teams even made the second round of the playoffs too, for what that’s worth.

The breath of fresh air for Pelicans fans is that either Davis will be convinced to recommit to this marriage, or New Orleans can move forward with Jrue Holiday and effectively a blank slate. Next season will be tough if Davis is moved. Even the best trade will leave the Pelicans a year away from contenting for a playoff spot. However, the Pelicans would have money to burn and assets to flip for a star.

If the Pelicans want to run wild with a misfits theme, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony are contending for most toxic free agent this summer (non-Dwight Howard category). The Pelicans have a year to experiment, and just having one extra star next to Jrue would help bring in eyeballs and attention.

Next. Ranking Anthony Davis offers from all 29 teams. dark

Either way, there should be no tanking unless you’ve had too much fun at Mardi Gras. Even when we are down, true New Orleans folk do not stay down long. With just a couple smart moves, the New Orleans Pelicans of the future can bounce back into the playoff party much like a local day drinker after a change of clothes and a rejuvenating stop at a Smoothie King.