In the end, there was only a whimper.
The balloon that is the NBA trade deadline didn’t exactly pop on the New Orleans Pelicans, but it also didn’t reach the heights that many expected. The franchise made one, small, mostly financial move to obtain reserve power forward Jarnell Stokes from the Miami Heat, but the rest of the Pelicans roster is static.
Power forward Ryan Anderson is still on the roster. So is shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Both have 29 games remaining on their Pelicans’ contracts, the first of which comes at 7 p.m. Friday in the Smoothie King Center against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both were the subject of chatter across the league and Anderson’s name was tied to multiple, specific trade rumors with his potential destinations ranging from the Cavaliers, to the Wizards, to the Raptors in recent days.
Instead, he’ll be spending the remainder of the season in New Orleans, as part of a team exiting the All-Star break with a 20-33 record, 6½ games out of the Western Conference playoffs. The Pelicans opted to stand in place, despite long odds to reach the postseason and the threat of limited salary cap space denying them the ability to re-sign both Gordon and Anderson this summer.
Still, it’s a fate Anderson said he was ready for, trying his best to ignore the news swirling around him.
“You know me, I’m not going to read into this stuff,” Anderson said three hours before the 2 p.m. deadline. “It happens. It’s part of the game. I’m not a newbie to it. They’re rumors.
“I don’t even know what’s legit or not. I’m not a part of the meetings. You just have to be prepared and ready for whatever. It’s part of the game.”
Several teams across the league found themselves in a similar position Thursday afternoon, as well-circulated rumors failed to net trades on a multitude of high-profile players including multiple-time All-Stars like Houston’s Dwight Howard and Chicago’s Pau Gasol.
“I think every individual team and trade situation is exactly that, an individual one,” Gentry said. “I don’t think there’s any philosophy or anything that anyone has. It’s obvious that when you make a trade you’re doing it for the betterment of your team, and if you don’t make a trade it’s because you don’t think that you could make your team any better. That’s the way it is. It’s just simple.”
And the Pelicans’ lone move was a quiet one.
Several sources confirmed to The Advocate that New Orleans traded a “very protected” draft pick that’s unlikely to ever change hands to the Heat in exchange for Stokes. The bruising power forward has played for four teams (including the NBA Developmental League) in the past two years, after starring for three seasons at Tennessee.
A former five-star recruit from Memphis, the 22-year old Stokes has played in just 26 career games, scoring 67 total points. He’s best known for his physicality in the post and rebounding ability, earning first-team all-SEC honors in 2014.
However, a source familiar with the situation said it’s still “to be determined” whether Stokes is on the Pelicans’ official roster by the end of the week. The move saves Miami from a significant tax payment and the draft pick is unlikely to ever actually change hands because of the strong protections.
It was a low risk, low reward, low profile trade.
ESPN reported the Heat sent New Orleans more than $700,000 alongside Stokes, meaning even if the team decides to buy Stokes out of his guaranteed contract, the franchise still nets an overall profit.
It leaves the Pelicans with a decision to make regarding its final roster spot. Starting shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, whose second 10-day contract expired prior to the All-Star break, is still available and worked out at the team’s facility on Thursday.
But if New Orleans opts to keep Stokes, it will fill the 15th and final spot on the roster, leaving Dejean-Jones out.
Now, the Pelicans must face the remainder of the season without a significant shakeup while still submerged in the standings and facing a summer of uncertainty. All-Star forward Anthony Davis said he believes in the front office’s ability to build the team around him and said he’s privy to the moves being made.
“They run it by me,” Davis said. “But at the same time, I trust in what they’re doing. I don’t want to be all up in their business, like I don’t want them all in the locker room’s business or whatever. But anything that happens, they try and make sure they come and run it by me.”