It's understandable why most would think "reset button" when they see the upcoming 2015 contract situation on the horizon. It's a pretty easy conclusion to draw. Most of the team's contracts expire, we have the option of not resigning those players, they can then walk, and the team has thusly been blown up. Pretty simple stuff. While it is true that N.O. could allow just about every player outside of Batum, Lillard, and Aldridge to walk, I don't think that was necessarily Plan A - or Plan B for that matter. If I were N.O, and I were thinking through all of the potential contingencies when deciding how to structure my roster - I would have to have at least 2 or 3 plans in mind prior to moving forward with a plan like that. Let's be real - whose plan A is blowing up a team, right? If you're building a team and trying to assemble a contender around LMA and Lillard, why would the first thing you do be to structure the pieces in such a way that you can blow it up in 2 years? Wouldn't you have a Plan A that consists of something a little more hopeful? To me, blowing it up is a Plan B or a Plan C. What I'd like to present to you today is what I believe to have been N.O.'s Plan A.
Right now these are the pieces we have (or will have once we can sign Kaman):
4 Perfect Fit Starters:
Lillard / Batum / LMA / Lopez
2 Perfect Fit Backups:
Matthews (3 and D wing off the bench) / Kaman (scoring, defense, and size at the 5 off the bench)
2 Solid Backups (in 1-3 years):
Robinson / CJ (though he has to prove it this year, which I believe he will.)
I have a feeling we're going to bring in a 2nd string PG with the BAE this season - which, again, is probably part of Plan A - which will leave 1 role on our roster that needs to be fulfilled: a high quality, starting caliber, score-first, defensive wing. Preferably a starting SG that can play both the SG and SF roles. I think that N.O. may not have known at the beginning that the final piece would be a wing - but I wouldn't put it past him. He's been very active in trying to bring in a 1 and a 5 - so it would stand to reason that if he can count, the wing position would be the last domino to fall.
With that in mind, I think that N.O. has structured the roster in such a way to perfectly position us to be the prime trading partner for a team that, midway through the season, decides to blow it up and enter the "rebuilding" or "retooling" stage. Additionally, we could also be a fit for a team that is cap conscious, realizes they're not going to contend for a title, and decides to trade away an expensive piece in order to get under the luxury tax threshold. What I'm saying is, N.O. designed our roster to be jam packed full of tradable, combinable expiring contracts that will allow us to trade for that last piece. Think about it - to bring that player in, we could trade any combo of:
* Robinson: $3.6M
* Wright: $3.1M
* Freeland: $3.1M
* CJ: $2.4
* Leonard: $2.3M
* Claver: $1.3
* 2015, 2017, 2019 1st rounders (in light of how the Nets did it)
Furthermore, if we're above the salary cap, we can bring back 125% of the outgoing salary plus $100K. This means that if we did something like: Wright, Freeland, Leonard, and the 2015 1st rounder, we could bring back a player making $10.7M while only $8.5M is going out. The team trading with us would then be able to let those contracts expire, and they'd essentially have cut $10.7M, created a $2.22M trade exception, and obtained a 1st round draft pick. Again - it's important to note - teams that are trying to cut salary, obtain draft pick assets, and create future flexibly for themselves, don't necessarily care about who is coming back. That said - you could also see something like Robinson, Wright, Freeland, and a pick - and the team could then keep and re-sign Robinson (assuming he makes a step forward this offseason and becomes a desirable asset). For a team that is re-tooling rather than rebuilding, cutting $6.3M in salary, gaining a 1st round draft pick, gaining an asset like Robinson, and creating a $2.55M trade exception would be a great way to re-tool their roster without sacrificing too much.
So with that in mind, I would then argue that N.O. had a much grander, much more flexible plan in mind than just throwing away what he's built. This plan has a lot more possibility and opportunity than we're giving him credit for. With our expiring assets all coming to fruition at the same time, our future 1st round picks all on the table for trading, and our roster's salary being so low, we're in a prime position this season to make a huge splash before the trade deadline. As much as I'd like to, I'm not going to spend the time figuring out who that wing might be. To be honest - I have no clue who it might be. All I know is the need and the assets that we have in place to meet it.
Here's to hoping that N.O. has a player in mind and can execute the plan well enough to get us over that hump!