New Orleans Pelicans: The Pels were right to not make any huge trades

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
James Johnson and Wes Iwundu
(Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans’ trade deadline was lackluster and maybe even underwhelming to some extent, but it should not be alarming.

The Pels’ activity on Thursday amounted to keeping Lonzo Ball at least until the end of this season and trading JJ Redick and Nicolò Melli to the Dallas Mavericks. Redick and Melli departed New Orleans in exchange for James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, and a second-round draft pick.

Redick is undoubtedly the centerpiece of this deal. He surrounds Luka Doncic with more shooting, even if his shooting numbers have declined this season. Redick was a valuable presence in the locker room, but the Pels are unlikely to miss him on the court.

His shooting numbers had fallen off this season. Redick shot 36 percent from three for the Pelicans in the 31 games he played prior to a heel injury. Stan Van Gundy never found a way to ease him into his style of play and his absence allowed for Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr. to play the minutes they need to develop.

Melli had seen a very, very relative uptick in play over the last week, but was largely awful for New Orleans all season long. The Italian big came to the big easy to theoretically stretch the floor and play smart basketball; in practice, Melli made seven threes all season and was a turnstile on defense. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and Melli will be fighting for an NBA future if he doesn’t decide to return to Europe.

Related Story. The Pels have 3 options with Lonzo. light

The Pels’ front office did a good job ensuring some return for Redick (and Melli), who otherwise would have walked at the end of the season for nothing or been bought out over the next few days. It isn’t the flashiest of exchanges, but New Orleans got some decent items in return.

James Johnson is likely an upgrade on Melli, even if his stats this year don’t reflect that. Johnson is shooting 25 percent from three, but his average over the previous five seasons hovered around 33 percent. Even if his ability to stretch the floor is intermittent, I consider him more reliable than Melli and he will also add some much-needed toughness to a young Pels squad.

Iwundu has the potential to be a sneaky great acquisition, although the likelihood of that isn’t massive. Still, Iwundu is a 6-foot-6 wing with a pterosaur-esque 7-foot-1 wingspan. He adds defensive tools to the Pels that were impossible for Redick and Melli. The key for Iwundu will be his shot—he is 3-of-23 on three-pointers this season. Maybe Pels assistant coach Fred Vinson could help him in that regard.

With these moves, the Pels’ odds of making the playoffs probably just went sideways or, at most, slightly up. Yet, I’m adamant that this is not discouraging if one takes a long-term view. I’m hoping that is what New Orleans’ decision-makers considered yesterday.

The Pelicans remain in an enviable position compared to most NBA teams. They have Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson locked down for the next few years, are still in control of Lonzo Ball’s future, have three interesting young players on their rookie deals, and have myriad appealing draft assets.

Some might argue that the trio of Ingram, Williamson, and Ball is “losing” this season, but they have been the team’s three best players. They are not the problem and should not be seen as that. The pieces around them need tweaking, but the core should be kept.

It would have been tempting for the New Orleans Pelicans to make a significant move for a big name such as Aaron Gordon and make the rest of the season more interesting, but this quiet trade deadline also did not put New Orleans’ bright future at risk.

Next. How the Redick trade helps the Pels. dark