The New Orleans Pelicans were considered a near-lock to make the playoffs prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. But injuries and underwhelming play have them sitting at 14th in the West, where they should be thinking about being sellers at the trade deadline.
It’ll be an uphill climb to make the postseason (although they’re only three games out of the weakened Western Conference), and all that awaits them if they make it is a first-round shellacking at the hands of the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
If they decide now to put everyone but Anthony Davis on the market, they could have a chance to add LSU’s Ben Simmons to Davis. They probably can’t catch the Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers in the race to the bottom, but a 15.6 percent chance at Simmons (the odds for the team with the third-worst record) beats Western Conference purgatory.
They have a few attractive trade assets at their disposal, should they choose to be sellers. The best may be Ryan Anderson, a stretch 4 on an expiring contract worth $8.5 million.
Any team in need of some shooting from the frontcourt would be wise to inquire about Anderson’s availability. Here are a few that make sense.
The Pistons are currently 23rd in the NBA in Offensive Rating and 29th in True Shooting Percentage. Anderson could be the perfect stretch 4 to provide some space around Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick-and-rolls.
That role was supposed to be occupied by Ersan Ilyasova, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Marcus Morris, but the latter two have struggled to hit consistently and Ilyasova’s one year older and less efficient than Anderson.
Losing Brandon Jennings will hurt the Pistons, as backup point guard might be their most immediate need, but there’s no telling exactly what he’ll bring after suffering a ruptured Achilles’ tendon last season.
And this deal helps Detroit avoid a point-guard controversy when Jennings returns from injury. He’s started all but one game since he joined the Pistons, and there’s almost no chance he’s winning that job back from Reggie Jackson.
Perhaps most important, Anderson and Stan Van Gundy have history with each other from their days in Orlando together, and SVG’s been not-so-subtly trying to reconstruct the basic framework of his roster there.
For the Pelicans, this is a two-month flyer on Jennings and a free second-round pick. If the 26-year-old point guard is effective, New Orleans can add him to the next core. If not, you just let him walk when his contract expires this summer.
The Washington Wizards came into this season trying to speed things up and embrace new-school offense. And in that quest, they attempted to turn Kris Humphries into a stretch 4, an experiment that blew up in their face.
Humphries started the first 13 games of the season, launching 3.2 threes per game and converting at a rate of 36.6 percent (he was just 38 percent from the field).
A straight-up swap of Anderson’s expiring contract with Nene’s doesn’t work because the salaries don’t match and Anderson is a significantly better player. So Washington would have to include either a pick or an intriguing young asset to make this worth it for the Pelicans.
Kelly Oubre Jr. was a lottery pick just this past summer and is shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range as a rookie. At 2o years old, he could be a valuable part of the Pelicans’ future core.
Andy Bailey is on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.