Dell Demps is not forthcoming with the plan.
The Pelicans general manager held a news conference last month, and the closest he came to laying out a blueprint for the franchise in free agency was a 42-word answer addressing New Orleans’ needs.
“I think we need to improve our defense,” he said. “We want to make sure that we become a better defensive team. I think we’re going to score points. And going into the offseason, we want to get players that’s going to impact winning.”
The Pelicans acted quickly to secure two players they think can do that.
While neither forward Solomon Hill nor guard E’Twaun Moore — who agreed to contracts with the Pelicans on Friday — is a household name, they address some of New Orleans’ needs to varying degrees.
Here’s a look at how:
Both Demps and coach Alvin Gentry have addressed the need for defensive upgrades, and there’s no mystery why.
Last season, the Pelicans allowed 107.3 points per 100 possessions, third-most in the NBA. That number was even worse over the final 14 games after New Orleans shut down Anthony Davis.
But even before Davis was lost for the stretch, the Pelicans were 25th of 30 NBA teams in defensive rating. This was perhaps New Orleans’ most pressing need, and the Pelicans addressed it right away.
Though the jury is out on Hill as an NBA starter and all-around offensive player, defense has been his strong suit, and he has proved adept at guarding the kind of big, ballhandling wing players who are en vogue in NBA offenses.
In his look at potential free-agent bargains, ESPN’s Zach Lowe wrote that Hill “guarded everyone from Draymond Green to Russell Westbrook in the regular season.”
Moore also has some defensive versatility. He’s solid on the ball, is strong enough to defend guards who look to post up and is a smart help defender.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Hill’s defensive win shares — an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes with his defense alone — was 1.3, and Moore’s was 1.0. The only Pelicans perimeter player above 1.0 last season was Jrue Holiday (1.2).
In his postseason news conference, Gentry said, “I think we need that 6-7, athletic guy that can also be somewhat of a facilitator. As to names, I have no idea who that is, but I know that he’s out there.”
So far, the 6-foot-7 Hill hasn’t shown he’s that kind of playmaking wing. According to analysis website Nylon Calculus, he contributed an assist, potential assist or free-throw assist on just 6.8 percent of Indiana’s plays last season.
That’s well below teammates Monta Ellis (14 percent), Rodney Stuckey (11.6 percent) and Paul George (10.2 percent) but higher than Dante Cunningham (3 percent) and Alonzo Gee (3.7 percent), who saw significant time on the wing for New Orleans. It’s comparable to Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon (7.2 percent).
At 7.5 percent, Moore wasn’t much higher, but he bolsters New Orleans in another area.
Need: 3-point shooting
It’s clear that Pelicans free agents Gordon and Ryan Anderson are headed elsewhere. Those two combined for 244 3-pointers this season, 34.7 percent of New Orleans’ makes from outside the arc.
Neither Hill nor Moore figures to make up for the sheer volume of those numbers, though the hope for New Orleans is that rookie Buddy Hield can help offset some of the 3-point shooting loss.
Still, there’s evidence that Hill and particularly Moore can be dangerous enough to keep defenses honest, which was a problem with some Pelicans lineups last season.
Moore had a strong 3-point shooting season, making a career-best 45.2 percent. That’s an outlier season for him, but he has been a consistently above-average 3-point shooter, making 36.9 percent of his career attempts.
Hill isn’t the same kind of 3-point threat, despite making 11 of 19 in the Pacers’ playoff series against the Raptors. He shot 32.4 percent from 3-point range last season and shoots 32.5 percent in his career.
The Pelicans shot 33 percent on corner 3-pointers last season, 28th in the NBA. In a small sample size, their two new additions have shown the potential at least to boost that performance. Hill shot 12 of 27 from the corners and Moore 22 of 48, a combined 45.3 percent.
Gentry declined to say much about positions of need for the Pelicans, saying after the draft that New Orleans needed “basketball players” in free agency.
Though neither Hill nor Moore will offset the scoring losses of Anderson and Gordon, they do provide the kind of versatility the Pelicans were seeking.
According to Nylon Calculus, Hill played an estimated 62.6 percent of his 2015-16 minutes at small forward. He logged 33.9 percent of his minutes at shooting guard. He averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes at small forward, his most productive position.
And there are those around the league who believe Hill — who played 2.2 percent of his minutes at power forward — still is best-suited as a matchup problem power forward in the kind of small-ball lineup the Pelicans can deploy when Davis plays center.
Moore also provides some versatility, playing an estimated 58.2 percent of his minutes at shooting guard and 41.3 percent at point guard. And Moore showed the ability to adjust to his position, averaging 3.4 assists per 36 minutes at point guard compared to 2.4 at the two.
Both Hill and Moore have reputations as hard-working players who bring energy, a key element in the Pelicans’ postseason plan. Draft picks Hield and Cheick Diallo enter the NBA known for hard work and effort in college.
There’s an argument to be made that, even in a free-agency season with so much money flying around, Hill’s four-year deal worth at least $48 million — there are additional incentives — is a stretch.
But given the length of time the Pelicans have eyed Hill — dating to the draft in 2013 and extending through this season, when they tried to trade for him — and their need for wing help, it was a logical, if considerable, expense. Moore was in high demand, and a four-year deal worth $8.5 million per season is in keeping with this summer’s spending.
Hill and Moore are good fits for New Orleans’ needs, leaving the franchise room to perhaps pursue another player and/or match offers to restricted free-agent point guard Tim Frazier. They don’t put the Pelicans back in the playoff picture, but they look like steps in the right direction.