The New Orleans Pelicans barely beat the trade deadline buzzer, acquiring point guard Norris Cole as part of trades with the Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday afternoon.
Cole is the headlining piece of a busy deadline day that concluded with the Pelicans firing off two different deals to gain four players, according to a league source.
“Thank you (Miami) Heat Nation for the opportunity!” Cole tweeted. “Many great memories! 2 championships in 3 years! (Pelicans) I’m ready to work!”
First, New Orleans swapped with the Heat and Suns as part of the high-profile trade that moved guard Goran Dragic from Phoenix to Miami. This allowed the Pelicans to add Cole, former LSU forward Justin Hamilton and forward Shawne Williams in exchange for rarely-used John Salmons.
The move adds depth to a thin Pelicans’ backcourt, which recently announced that starting point guard Jrue Holiday re-aggravated a stress fracture in his leg, forcing him to miss at least an additional three weeks recovering from an injury that has already cost him the past 16 games.
Considering the Pelicans are in the midst of a playoff race with Oklahoma City and Phoenix, and 1.5 games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference, the backcourt boost could help keep New Orleans afloat.
Cole has ample experience as a four-year contributor for the Heat, playing in all but two games during the team’s run to the NBA championship in 2012-13 and appearing in every game last season, concluding with Miami’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.
He’s averaged 6.2 points per game on 40.5 percent shooting in 21.9 minutes over four years and ranks 13th in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.84) in 47 games this year. The pass-first guard has struggled to shoot throughout his career, but has been particularly bad from 3-point range this year, making a career-low 26.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
While New Orleans has tried to plug its weak guard depth with a series of 10-day contracts, including recently released Toney Douglas and previously cut Nate Wolters and Gal Mekel, Cole gives coach Monty Williams a reliable backcourt option beyond starters Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans while he waits for Holiday’s return.
Cole’s contract currently costs $2 million, and comes with an approximately $3 million qualifying offer for the 2015-16 season, which the Pelicans can choose to extend in an effort to keep him in New Orleans next year.
Meanwhile, John Salmons, who joined the Pelicans this offseason and is headed to Phoenix, proved to be largely ineffective in a backup role. The 12-year veteran appeared in just 21 games and scored 42 total points, while making just 16 of his 48 attempts from the field.
Shawne Williams’ contract is expected to be bought out, according to Yahoo Sports. Hamilton’s future with the Pelicans is still unknown at this time.