It had the same feel as the buildup to the Kentucky Derby. The free agency period for the NBA officially started at 6 p.m. Sunday and leading up to it, there was so much intrigue as to where some of the big names in the league were going.
And almost immediately when the clock struck six, big names started being mentioned as players involved in big deals. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Brooklyn Nets, Kemba Walker to the Boston Celtics and Kristaps Porzingis staying in Dallas, just to name a few.
But there was one that caught my attention and it immediately made sense. And that was the Pelicans getting a key piece in JJ Redick. Despite all of the recent moves made by the new front office of Executive Vice President David Griffin and General Manager Trajan Langdon, the Pelicans still lacked one vital piece to their team — a shooter.
Redick not only excels at that, but at 35 years old he is the veteran presence that this new, young team needed. Another important aspect is that the $26.5-million deal is only for two years, so the team won’t get bogged-down with a long-term contract. Redick averaged 18.1 points last season while shooting 40-percent from from beyond the arc and 89-percent from the charity stripe.
But Redick was not the first move of the day for the Pelicans. Earlier Sunday, New Orleans agreed to terms with Nicolo Melli who shined in the EuroLeague last season, leading the league in scoring. Also, the 6-foot-9 Melli is another body to add to the front court rotation, an area of need. And like Redick, Melli can shoot the three as he has a 38.7-percent career average.
Langdon and Griffin added more to the front court late Sunday night, making yet another splash, this time via a trade. The Pelicans sent future draft picks to the Utah Jazz for forward/center Derrick Favors, who was the third overall pick in 2010 by the Nets. Favors is coming off of a season where he averaged 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. I really like this pick because he could be a great mentor for another high pick in Zion Williamson. Also, Favors is 6-foot-10 and could thrive in Coach Alvin Gentry’s fast-paced offense. Look for him to start at the five this fall, next to Williamson.
Sure the Pelicans didn’t sign any of the ‘sexy’ names out there to max contracts, but I believe that the moves that they made in the mere seven hours of free agency on opening day certainly pushed this team into talk about being contenders in the ever-tough Western Conference. I also believe that, thus far, David Griffin has put his name at the top of the list for NBA Executive of the Year.