Pelicans address shooting, big man needs quickly as NBA free agency begins

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Redick Melli
J.J. Redick and Nicolo Melli are capable long-range shooters who will help the Pelicans will floor spacing on offense.

The New Orleans Pelicans quickly attacked two areas of need and kept their financial flexibility in the early hours of free agency on Sunday, signing veteran shooters Nicolò Melli and JJ Redick to a pair of two-year deals.

David Griffin followed those moves up with a coup late Sunday night, nabbing 6-10 center Derrick Favors from the Utah Jazz for a couple of second round draft picks; picks that the team acquired from the Golden State Warriors during last month’s NBA draft.

By acquiring Favors, the Pelicans filled one of their few remaining holes in the roster, and did it by playing their position perfectly.

At 28 years old, Favors is a nine-year veteran and former top-five selection of the then New Jersey Nets. Over the last five seasons he has emerged as one of the league’s most efficient interior scorers and one of its best interior defenders.

While he may not be a household name, Favors is a favorite of basketball junkies and an advanced stats superstar. He makes plays that help teams win basketball games.

Since the 2014-15 season, only Anthony Davis (5) and Karl-Anthony Towns (4) have more seasons with a Player Efficiency Rating better than 21, a true shooting percentage of at least 55 percent, a total rebounding percent greater than 14 percent, and seven or more win shares than Favors’ three in that span.

Favors can slide right into the starting lineup at center, having played out of position at power forward with the Jazz due to the giant shadow cast by Rudy Gobert.

He can play 25-30 minutes per night protecting the rim, and starting the Pelicans fast-break with his elite defensive rebounding.

Playoff experience is an added bonus with Favors. He’s reached the postseason four times, including each of the last three seasons.

Favors has one year remaining on his contract, paying him $16.9 million.

Melli averaged 7.3 points on 47.5% shooting and 4.1 rebounds in just under 26 minutes per game for Fenerbahçe Beko Istanbul last year. He made 37 of his 96 three point attempts (38.5%).

Over his last four seasons, Melli has been a 42.1 percent shooter from deep.

A 6-9, 235 pound stretch four, the 28 year old Melli helped Fenerbahçe advance to the 2018 EuroLeague Final Four. His 28 points in the deciding game were the most by any EuroLeague player since 1985.

In New Orleans he can be a weapon used in a similar manner as Niko Mirotic was during his tenure, though Melli is not as good a rebounder as Mirotic right now.

He also possesses the ability to operate out of the post, either as a scorer or passer.

Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon had been watching Melli since his days with the Nets according to several reports, and he finally landed him.

New Orleans will pay Melli $8 million guaranteed over the next two seasons.

JJ Redick joins the growing Duke contingency (Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Frank Jackson, Jahlil Okafor) in the Pelicans locker room after spending the last two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.

At 35 years old, Redick should be in decline, but he was able to post career highs in scoring (18.1 ppg) and three point attempts (605). His 2379 minutes were the second most of his career.

Redick has long been one of the NBA’s premier three-point shooters, making better than 41 percent of his attempts during his 13-year career. He currently ranks 18th all-time in three-point percentage and 21st all-time in made threes with 1704.

New Orleans will pay Redick $26.5 million through the 2020-21 season.

Almost as valuable as his shooting is the experience he brings to the roster. Redick has played 110 playoff games, including 70 starts.

With Redick, Melli and the recently acquired Josh Hart; David Griffin is surrounding his racehorses on the wings with some snipers to create enough space to allow them to attack the rim.

By limiting the deals to two years, Griffin is betting that Melli and Redick will help make the Pelicans competitive on the court immediately, and that by the time the team’s young core begins to mature, New Orleans will still have the cap space to potentially pursue a big name down the road.

The 2021 free agent class, which potentially includes Jrue Holiday, could be filled with both big names and rising stars.

Giannis Antetokoumpo, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, Blake Griffin, Victor Oladipo, Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Otto Porter Jr, and Joe Ingles could all be available, and depending on how the Pelicans progress in that time, New Orleans shouldn’t be counted out as a possible destination for a true difference maker.

The signing of Reddick alone shows that the perception of the franchise is changing. After being a shooter’s bounce away from the NBA Finals a few months ago, Reddick could have signed with a number of teams poised for deep playoff runs.

He chose New Orleans. He chose the Pelicans.

Though there have been a flurry of moves announced in just a matter of hours, the few decisions that the New Orleans brain trust has made in the last 24 hours are clear wins, making the Pelicans sudden media darlings.

David Griffin is doing exactly what he was brought in to do, and has avoided any missteps thus far. Right about now, I’d be surprised if Griffin isn’t able to walk across the Mississippi River, eating a shrimp po’boy, while wearing a white suit, and still come out clean.

When Zion Williamson was drafted, Pelicans fans were hoping for an entertaining team that could compete on a nightly basis. With the additions of Redick, and now Favors, expectations will be that this team could compete immediately and challenge for a spot in the playoffs in a rapidly changing Western Conference.

These last few weeks have been a whirlwind for New Orleans basketball. I just have two questions:

How did we get here? And how long can we stay?

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David Grubb

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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…

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