In the tail end of a wild NBA trade deadline day, the New Orleans Pelicans made a move of their own.
They traded veteran forward Dante Cunningham to the Brooklyn Nets for guard Rashad Vaughn in a straight swap.
Understandably, it didn’t garner much attention on social or national media. Considering it occurred within the same hour the Cleveland Cavaliers re-engineered their entire roster around LeBron James, and some playoff contenders added pieces, the Pelicans' slight tweak didn’t exactly stand out.
But, it was a move the Pelicans sought to make for the last several days.
Cunningham was relegated to the end of the bench earlier this week, not even taking the floor during the end of a blowout loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday.
Sources indicated the relationship between the Pelicans and Cunningham had soured in recent weeks, accelerating the desire to move him by the deadline.
Coach Alvin Gentry confirmed Cunningham had been traded Thursday, but declined to elaborate.
“We traded him,” Gentry said. “That’s really it. There’s not a whole lot else we can say about it.”
It comes just months after New Orleans re-signed the combo forward in the offseason, outbidding the Minnesota Timberwolves for his services, adding depth to the frontcourt.
Yet, unlike his previous three seasons with the franchise, Cunningham never found a meaningful role this time around. Although he played in 51 games, Cunningham averaged a career-low 5.0 points and 0.3 blocks, shooting 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point territory.
In return, the Pelicans add a former first-round pick in Vaughn. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard has logged 133 NBA games, since being taken at No. 17 overall in 2015.
All but one of those came with the Milwaukee Bucks, who selected him out of UNLV and inserted him into their rotation as a rookie before bouncing him back and forth to the G-League in 2016.
The Bucks eventually traded him to the Nets on Monday for a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for Tyler Zeller. Three days later, Vaughn is headed to New Orleans.
And his stay may not even start. Gentry wouldn’t confirm whether Vaughn would be joining the Pelicans or would be waived before his arrival, as many other teams did to their new acquisitions Thursday.
“We’ll see,” Gentry said. “We’ll see.”
If the Pelicans opt to part ways with Vaughn, New Orleans would save nearly $400,000 in the deal and clear a roster spot, opening the opportunity to shop on the buyout market.
It’s where the Pelicans found DeAndre Liggins last month. And now the former Bucks forward is entering the starting lineup, taking Cunningham’s spot as a versatile and lengthy defender who can cover opposing wings.
“We are going to continue to do whatever we can to make this team better,” Gentry said earlier in the week. “We are always looking for opportunities that come up and trying to improve the team. Sometimes those guys are on the open market, and sometimes they’re in trades. We are just always trying to find help.”