Recent news circulated regarding restricted free agent guard Josh Hart. The versatile wing is rumored to want off the New Orleans Pelicans with a fresh start on his mind. A key cog in the rotation this season, Hart was almost irreplaceable at times.
Hart brought a lot to the table an elite rebounder, astute defender, and overall great locker-room presence. New Orleans will have to turn elsewhere to find their glue guy if he does force New Orleans’ hand or receive an inflated offer that cannot be matched. Here are a few potential free-agent signings that could replace Josh Hart.
New Orleans Pelicans: NBA Free Agent Kelly Oubre Jr.
Of all the players soon to be mentioned, Kelly Oubre Jr. has the greatest upside. The former Jayhawk struggled immensely out of the gate shooting below 30 percent for December and January before turning it around later in the season.
At times it did seem like Oubre Jr. struggled with the new system, which is expected in an offense that heavily relies on Steph Curry and Draymond Green. Nonetheless, Oubre Jr. proved he was capable of being a starting level forward on a quality team. Similar to Hart, his rebounding at his size is elite. Oubre Jr. ranked inside the top-15 for rebounds per game for guards.
Defensively, Oubre Jr. thrives under tough matchups. A fearless competitor, he enjoys that challenge of taking on elite wings, and with his size, he can guard all positions except centre. His offense will have to improve, but Oubre Jr. can fit into the same role as Hart or even an extended one as a starting guard.
New Orleans Pelicans: NBA Free Agent Reggie Bullock
The 30-year-old swingman came off his best season as an NBA player this year with New York. Starting all but one game this season, Reggie Bullock cemented himself as a knockdown shooter and capable defender within Tom Thibodeau’s system. Shooting a blistering 41 percent on 6.1 attempts, Bullock provided New York with much-needed spacing in a lineup where both Julius Randle and RJ Barrett were not respected shooters.
This season, players shot a measly 30.2 percent from three with Bullock as the primary defender. The only player on the New Orleans roster who had a better rate was Naji Marshall. The defensive upside and three-point shooting from Bullock are desperately needed in New Orleans. The 3-and-D player has always been desired yet the New Orleans Pelicans are still searching.
New Orleans Pelicans: NBA Free Agent Tony Snell
Tony Snell’s 50/50/100 season will not be replicated next season wherever he is, but the New Mexico guard has proven year after year to be a lethal shooter. Snell does not contribute in many other areas across the court, but the shooting provides much-needed spacing for any franchise.
He has shown he can play in a starting or bench role and still be as effective. A low-usage and maintenance player, Snell is comfortable working his butt off on the defensive end and providing spacing without demanding touches. With a team like New Orleans, which has so many ball-dominant players, a guy like Snell may be better suited than a wing like Oubre Jr. or Hart.
In addition, his size provides flexibility for Stan Van Gundy, although he will have to improve areas of his defense if he is to crack the rotation. Still, Snell can be an affordable piece for a roster short on shooting.
New Orleans Pelicans: NBA Free Agent Kent Bazemore
Kent Bazemore’s calling card has always been on the defensive end. The 31-year-old was coming off his second stint at Golden State and averaged a career-high in three-point percentage whilst maintaining his high defensive output. Posting similar defensive win share numbers to Oubre Jr., Bazemore proved to be a valuable player in his minutes (19.9 per game).
At this point in his career, Bazemore is a spark plug player who, now and again, will heat up and win you a basketball game. His best role is the third wing/guard off the bench and within a team looking to provide more minutes to Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis Jr., which is perfect for Bazemore.
Serving as a mentor to Jordan Poole and Juan Toscano-Anderson, Bazemore can have a similar effect on Didi Louzada and Naji Marshall.