After a disappointing season that could easily be seen as a failure across the board, the New Orleans Pelicans entered the 2016 offseason with a plethora of needs that needed addressing. The team ranked 28th in defensive efficiency last season, and if they plan on getting back to the playoffs anytime soon, that mark has to be improved upon.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the team’s offseasons moves were dictated by that ideal.
They didn’t waste any time finding players to help turn that idea into a reality either, signing former Pacers swingman Solomon Hill to a 4 year, 48 million dollar contract on the first day of free agency (while contracts cannot technically be signed on the first day, terms can be agreed upon). Hill, 24 years old, was nothing more than an afterthought for the Pacers in the regular season, averaging only a little over four points and playing only 14 minutes per game.
In the playoffs, however, his playing time nearly doubled and he responded to the uptick by shooting 57.9% from deep. Nothing Hill does jumps off the page, but he represents the type of positional versatility that a team needs to be successful on defense nowadays, and his presence should allow the Pelicans to play a variety of lineups.
In addition to Hill, the team also snatched up Knicks fan favorite Langston Galloway, and he brings a similar defensive mindset.
He’s probably become a little overrated by a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years, but he is a scrappy player who uses his 6’8 wingspan to envelope opposing point guards. But, unlike Hill, Galloway doesn’t necessarily provide much in the way of versatility. He’s got the height of a point guard, but he isn’t much of a ball handler or playmaker. He’s only an average shooter as well, as he only managed to knock down 35% of his catch and shoot 3 pointers. He did manage to knock down about 47% of his corner threes, however, and that no doubt played a part in the Pelicans interest. If he can improve as a secondary ball handler and continue to knock down corner threes, he should be a nice compliment to a player such as Anthony Davis.
In other move to bolster their back court, the Pelicans signed E’twaun Moore to a 4 year, 34 million dollar deal.
Moore, staying consistent with the other signings, won’t wow you with any particular aspect of his game, but there are a few things he does well. For starters, he shot 45% from three last season, albeit on a relatively low volume. His 6’4 frame also allows him to switch between either guard spot, and while he isn’t the defender Galloway is, he is an upgrade over most of the players the Pelicans have been deploying as of late.
As you may have noticed, none of these players are going to take the team over the top, and they will likely only be as good as the players around them. They’ve all only had moderate success at best, and it’s probably a bit of a reach to say that any of them has much room for improvement. But, in a year where money was being thrown around to anyone and everyone, the Pelicans’ front office did a good job on getting actual basketball talent on the cheap. Hill signed for 12 million a year, Moore for slightly over 8 million, and Galloway for a tick over 5 million.
Getting these guys on cheap, long-term deals allow them to remain flexible in the future and should help the team build a defense first mentality.
When it comes to evaluating the offseason signings, it should be all about how the team did in relation to the expectations. Nobody expected the Pelicans to land Kevin Durant or Al Horford, or even Harrison Barnes for that matter. They did well to not go out and overpay players like Timofey Mozgov or Chandler Parsons as well.
For that, I’ll give them a B+ in the free agency department. We won’t truly know how well they did until the team takes the court, but if two out of the three major signings happen to stick, you’d be hard-pressed to call the offseason a failure, and for a team that’s had a lot of those recently, that can go a long way.
Of course, the offseason actually starts with the draft, and the Pelicans made out with some interesting prospects on draft night. Buddy Hield, arguably the most prolific college performer last season, was the team’s first-round choice, and he should slot nicely into the role formerly filled by the departed Eric Gordon. Hield was a prolific three-point shooter in college and you can never have enough of that, especially in head coach Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo spread ‘em out system.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hield take over the starting role sooner rather than later either.
In the second round, they selected Kansas Jayhawk freshman, big man Cheick Diallo. Diallo is as raw as it gets, and many experts felt he should have stayed in college for an additional season. Still, he has incredible physical gifts and a nonstop motor. He won’t be playing major minutes anytime soon, but for a team that has placed so much emphasis on winning with a roster ill-equipped to do so, it was nice to see them make a move with the future in mind.
The Pelicans didn’t make any splashes on draft night either, but just like in free agency they made solid and smart decisions. That warrants a B grade from me, and it would be higher, but I’m not as sold on Buddy as some others. He should be a nice role player from day one, but it is unclear if he has the ability to grow into anything more., and you want more than that from your top ten draft pick.