The New Orleans Pelicans have struggled mightily the past two seasons on and off the court. The Pelicans have some important decisions coming up, so they are a team to watch at the NBA trade deadline on February 23.
New Orleans has one of the best young big men in the game in Anthony Davis to go along with some talented guards in Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Yet, the Pelicans are just 46-76 since the start of the 2015. A big reason for their struggles has been injuries.
New Orleans used 21 players last year and only two players — Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee — appeared in at least 70 games. Davis, Evans, Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon missed a combined 111 games for a team that won just 30 games a season.
This season, the Pelicans have already used 18 players with Davis, Evans and Holiday combining to miss 45 games. Forward Quincy Pondexter has yet to play this year as he is still dealing with a lingering left knee injury.
Despite its injury troubles, New Orleans (16-26) is currently in 10th place in the Western Conference. The Pelicans are just a game and a half out behind the Portland Trail Blazers though they are also three games out of the conference’s cellar.
New Orleans has three players who are slated to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. And Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler believes that the Pelicans may attempt to trade them before they are able to walk away for nothing. Kyler specifically mentioned point guard Jrue Holiday and combo guard Tyreke Evans as two players that the team may look to trade.
The guys to watch as the deadline nears are Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, both are would-be free agents and could walk for nothing. https://t.co/H7qxDezOds
— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) January 12, 2017
Both Holiday and Evans have missed an inexorable amount of time since being acquired by the team. New Orleans acquired Evans in a three-day trade on July 10, 2013. A couple of days later, the Pelicans acquired Holiday from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Nerlens Noel.
Evans has missed 97 games in his four years with the Pelicans, including 27 this season. The 26-year-old has had his minutes limited since coming back from a knee injury though he has seemingly turned the corner recently. In his last four games, Evans has averaged 16.7 points, 4.2 assists and 3.0 rebounds. He has scored in double-figures in each of those contests, making 26 of his last 52 (50.0 percent) shots.
Evans had 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in the Pelicans loss to the Indiana Pacers on January 16. It was his sixth game of scoring 10 or more points in his 14 appearances — all coming in the last nine games. Evans’ best game of the season came last Thursday in a 104-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets where he pumped in a season high 29 points, on 10 of 15 shooting, to go along with four rebounds, three assists as well as four steals.
Holiday has been plagued by injuries even more than Evans the past four seasons. The 26-year-old has missed 122 games overall with 16 of those absences coming this year. Holiday has struggled with the consistency of his shot in 27 games this year.
Holiday was terrific in his first seven games of the season after missing the initial 12 games of the season to spend time with his family. He scored double-figures in six of his seven November games, including three 20-point games, as he shot 49.5 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from beyond the arc to go along with 6.3 assists.
Since November, Holiday is averaging 12.75 points and 7.3 assists while shooting around 39 percent from the field. Holiday has 14 double-figure scoring games, scoring 20 or more points on seven occasions. However, he has topped the 20-point plateau just once in the past 10 games. Holiday has increased his playmaking recently, racking up double-digit assists in three of the last 10 games — he accomplished the feat twice in his first 17 games.
Terrence Jones is the other player that will be a free agent at the end of the season. Jones has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2015-16 season, averaging 10.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.
Should the Pelicans trade either Holiday or Evans or both?
So, should the Pelicans trade Holiday and/or Evans?
In all reality, it all depends on how the season plays out and what direction the Pelicans sees the franchise going. If the Pelicans fall out of playoff contention, then they should look to deal both players as neither one figures to be in the team’s future at least at their current salaries.
It also might come down to what the Pelicans can get for Evans and Holiday in a trade? Which is not expected to be a lot since both players are making over $10 million and injury plagued. Although several teams playoffs teams will be interested as their is minimal risk.
New Orleans is certainly better when Holiday and Evans are on the court then when they are not as Fansided pointed out. As can be seen in Basketball-Reference’s table, Holiday and Evans are extremely valuable. The Pelicans are 14-13 since Holiday has re-joined the lineup.
That is not to say both teams don’t have major flaws. Holiday is not a great shooter though he has improved his three-point shooting throughout his career. He is a good distributor and has the ability to create for himself as well as others. Holiday is also a-plus defender.
Evans is probably the least likely of the two players to be back with the team, if a trade is not consummated. His production has slowly declined since his rookie season in 2009-10. Evans has become a capable ball-handler since being inserted in as a point guard though he looks to create more for himself than others. He also struggles on the defensive end.
New Orleans is 221-307 with two playoff appearances since the start of the 2010 campaign.
[Featured Image by Michael Dwyer/AP Images]