New Orleans Pelicans trade rumors and speculation as we approach the 2017 NBA trade deadline.
Will Barton, Denver Nuggets, SG
The Pelicans reportedly reached out to Denver right before Christmas, feeling out the availability of the offensively gifted wing. Washington was another team that had interest, but the rumors quickly dissipated—Barton had a few quotes expressing his desire to remain with Denver, apparently informing the front office of that same conviction. Keep an eye on this one. Barton makes sense for a Pelicans team struggling on the offensive end, and he's currently in the second year of a quite friendly $11mil/3yr contract.
Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks, PF
In early January, it was reported that the Atlanta Hawks were shopping their 31 year old forward. The Pelicans were one of the teams who expressed interest. Millsap, having recently been named to the all-star reserves, is still a quality player who could substantially improve this Pelicans team. Alas, an issue reportedly arose with his expiring contract and the expectation that Millsap will command upwards of $140 million in the free agent market this summer. Ramona Shelburne reported that the Pelicans front office was unwilling to cowboy up the trade assets only to pay that kind of money to a 31 old in a few months, and thus withdrew. A few weeks later, the Hawks pulled Millsap off the market—although they could certainly revisit a Millsap trade before the deadline depending on how the Hawks' front office views the team's position.
Dwight Howard, Atlanta Hawks, C
The Pelicans have been playing their best basketball since they switched to a small-ball lineup on December 26th. Consequently, Zach Lowe's article revealed last week that the Pelicans had engaged in early discussions with the Hawks regarding Howard's availability aroused a collective "huh?" from fans and pundits alike. It's not really clear how interested the Pels were, and Atlanta soon pulled Howard off the market (along with Millsap). Still, it's an interesting rumor and may disclose the organization's future intentions of playing Anthony Davis at the 4 as opposed to the 5 (a notion The Brow himself shares).
Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans Pelicans, C
Not much to this, only that news surfaced reporting Ajinca wasn't happy. This came subsequent to Ajinca expressing frustration over his lack of playing time to French newspaper L'Equipe (if you follow soccer transfer rumors, this isn't your first run-in with L'Equipe!) He later told ESPN's Justin Verrier that he didn't want to be traded, but regardless, his frustration at his lack of playing time is evident. I doubt there is much interest in the French big man.
In addition to Barton, the Nuggets just have so many pieces to shop around. And, just like the Pels, given their participation in the pitiable crawl for the West's 8th seed, there's a good chance they'll be sellers around the deadline. Denver is actively shopping Jusuf Nurkic, and wings such as Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari or high-motored power forward Kenneth Faried could potentially be had. Chandler or Gallinari would be especially appealing to the Pels and their system—Chandler is in the second year of $46.5million/4year contract extension (the last year is a player option), while Gallinari has a player option for next year for $16million.
To Pat Riley's chagrin, the Heat are widely considered to be in full tank mode. Let the stockpiling of picks begin! Much of their roster could be considered available if a team is willing to part with picks or other young assets. Someone like James Johnson, a player on a cheap expiring contract who's been playing well, could probably be had on the cheap, possibly as low as a second round pick.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported that the Cavs were interested in Tyreke Evans in early February of 2016. I have reason to believe they have renewed interest in Tyreke this season, based on my humble opinion that Evans fits LeBron's definition of a playmaker. The issue, however, is that the Cavs are strapped of assets to trade. They don't own any of their picks this year, and much of the team is composed of veterans. Still, Tyreke is likely leaving this summer after his contract expires, so Pelicans GM Dell Demps should get whatever he can for him. The Cavs do have 21-year-old Cedi Osman stashed overseas, and he received the Greek Freak's praise. Maybe Osman and the Cavaliers' 2018 first round pick would do it? Demps should be asking at least, or possibly trying to bring in a third team.
Believe it or not, Philly might actually be selling players this year. It's easy to envision them clearing out front court space—if desired, Nerlens Noel or Jalil Okafor could be had. The 76ers could also create playing time for Dario Saric by trading Ersan Ilyasova, who's on an expiring contract. Lowe reported that Philly will pursue Jrue Holiday this offseason, so if things go south for the Pelicans between now and the trade deadline and they want to try and get value for Jrue, this may be a place to look.
What can the Pelicans trade?
The Pelicans will try to shop Tyreke, and if they're smart they'll play the long game and move him for anything they can get. But how strong is the market for a ball dominant player who can't really shoot and is coming off of three knee surgeries? Teams are always looking for shooting, and for that reason, Langston Galloway on a good contract (player option for next year) could be a trade piece. E'Twaun Moore is the type of 3-and-D player every team would love to have and is also on a decent contract. Tim Frazier is a quality back-up point guard and was named a bargain trade target by ESPN's Kevin Pelton (Pelton gives the Hawks and Wizards as possible destinations), and they do have their picks this year, their first likely being their most valued asset.
Other than their first round pick, and maybe Hield, depending on how you value him, the Pelicans really don't have any assets that are going to move the needle in a trade. To make a real splash, they'll definitely have to at least include their first round pick.