The worst place an NBA team can be is stuck in Mediocrity Hell, and while it’s unrealistic to expect every team’s fans to have a “win the title or blow it up” mentality, it is not unreasonable to expect even small-market teams to have designs on at least the second round if not the conference finals year in and year out.
Meanwhile, in the seven years Anthony Davis has been in the league, the Pelicans have only even so much as made the playoffs twice, lucking into the 8 seed after Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant couldn’t stay on the floor for Oklahoma City in 2014-15 and making the second round last year only because they drew an equally suspect in the postseason Portland Trail Blazers team that nearly choked their way from third all the way down to out of the playoffs in March and April.
When New Orleans ran into Golden State, they got straight-up pantsed in five games, outscored by an average of 15.5 a game in the four losses. A Game 3 home win only further reinforced the maxim that bad teams win Game 3 at home in five-game series.
This year, the Pellies are 16-20 despite the addition of Julius Randle and a continued four-man star-driven onslaught on what seems like a nightly basis from Randle, Davis, Jrue Holiday, and E’Twaun Moore.
The net result of all this is that the Pelicans are rumored to be considering trade offers for “The Brow”, as he simply hasn’t succeeded in being anything other than a Great Stats Bad Team guy, with more in common than Chris Bosh in Toronto than with guys like Paul George, Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, and LeBron James, guys who dragged G-League teams to the playoffs (and in LeBron’s case, the Finals.)
If you can’t win with a guy, and the best you seem to do is drafting in the mid-first round every year, you’re in Mediocrity Hell and it’s time to blow it up and start over.
There are two ways you can do this.
The other is to trade the star for effectively nothing, bottom out, and be steaming hot garbage for four or five years while returning to prominence by way of the draft.
In other words, to “trust the process.”
That’s right—it’s time for the Pelicans to Hinkie up the place, since let’s face it, even though Sam Hinkie is a charlatan and a fool, even a charlatan and fool can tank his way to year after year of top-tier draft picks and end up building a 50-win team.
And the Process starts in New Orleans with clearing cap space, getting as cringe-level awful as possible starting in the 2019-20 season, and getting those sweet, delicious draft picks.
Who has what the Pellies need? Well, you don’t need to see the blue-and-gold blood of your intrepid columnist to know the answer to this one.
That’s right, it’s the Indiana Pacers.
A quick trip to the ESPN Trade Machine reveals that the Pacers could send Thaddeus Young, Tyreke Evans, and a future first or two in order to sweeten the deal, match the salaries, and get back Davis, who then slots into Thad’s starting spot at the 4 while Evans’ departure means Aaron Holiday gets some run with the second unit.
Young and Evans both have contracts that expire after this season; Davis is under contract through 2021. And the Pacers have roster space to move a guy like Alize Johnson or Edmond Sumner up from Fort Wayne onto a proper NBA contract for garbage-time minutes and practice time with the big club.
Getting rid of Holiday’s four-year extension might be a bit tougher, and Randle and Moore are under contract for two more years on fairly team-friendly deals. In theory, this should’ve been a 50-win team or better with Davis anchoring it.
But the first step in New Orleans tanking and starting over is getting Davis out the door for as little value as possible in return.
When everyone sees the Pelicans having a fire sale, offers of future draft picks will doubtless come in from teams who want to add a piece like Randle, Holiday, or Moore to appease their own fans (Portland, Utah, Denver, Boston, looking at all of you…)
And New Orleans? They’ll be in perfect position to go 10-72, out of Mediocrity Hell and into a special form of fan flim-flam that even Sam Hinkie couldn’t screw up.
Five years from now, when the Pacers have two championships and New Orleans wins more games than they ever did with the Brow on their roster, you can all thank me.
But for now, the Pelicans need to think long-term and make like Mega Maid.
Say it with me in your Louisiana drawl…”Suck! Suck! Suck!”