The NBA All-Star Weekend has come and gone, which means we have officially entered the second half of the NBA season. Many teams use the break in the action to evaluate their position in the standings and make adjustments based on where they would like to be versus where they currently are. This method is no different for the New Orleans Pelicans who look to move up from the 11th seed in the Western Conference.
This season, the NBA has incorporated a Play-In tournament structure. Per pelicans.com, “The Play-In Tournament, which will take place after the regular season and before the first round of the playoffs, will include the teams with the seventh-highest through the tenth-highest winning percentages in each conference.” With this new structure, the teams seeded 7 and 8 will only need to win one game while the 9 and 10 seeds would need to win two consecutive games to make the 2020-2021 playoffs.
If the Pelicans want to move up in the standings and have a shot in the Play-In tournament, they will need to outperform some great teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs who are all ranked ahead of the 11 seed. These 4 teams would make up the Play-In tournament if the season were to end today.
Potential Moves On Trade Market
One thing the Pelicans can do to increase their chances of moving up the rankings would be to remain active prior to the NBA trade deadline on March 25th. Moving players such as JJ Redick, Nicolo Melli and Eric Bledsoe would free up some much-needed cap space to extend Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. It will also allow the team to bring in some role-players who will attack the rim and play stout defense on some of the league’s best. A few players who could make great additions to this Pelicans team include Jae Crowder of the Phoenix Suns, Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics, and Taurean Prince of the Cleveland Cavaliers. These 3 players all could offer solid minutes off a bench or slide directly into the starting lineup.
Crowder is the definition of a 3-and-D player who will get hot from long range and defend some of the league’s most athletic players. He is averaging 37.6% from 3PT range as well as 10 points and 5 rebounds off the bench, per ESPN.com. His ability to stretch the floor allows for wide-open lanes to the rim which could pair perfectly with the play style of star Zion Williamson. I propose a trade of JJ Redick and two second round picks or a first round pick for Jae Crowder.
Marcus Smart is widely known across the league as being one of the best defenders around. Although his 3-point shot is still in the works, he has been working on his range and with time can stretch it out. He is currently averaging 13 points and 6 assists per game, per ESPN.com. He has the ability to score in the paint as well, allowing players like Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart to drain shots from the perimeter. I believe a trade of Eric Bledsoe and some picks may be enough to entice the Boston Celtics to part ways with Smart.
Finally, Taurean Prince would be a fantastic stretch-forward who has been providing valuable minutes off of the bench for teams like Brooklyn, Atlanta and Cleveland. He has the ability to heat up quickly from outside and push the paint if needed. Prince is currently averaging 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game according to ESPN.com. Clearing out Melli for Prince would be a smart and reasonable trade for this New Orleans team.
As the season slowly creeps towards the end, the New Orleans Pelicans may need to make a few roster moves if they would like to move up in the standings.