Since it's over, I thought people might like to use this thread to talk about how they feel they did (since the Commish would like to keep the other thread clean). I'll start, with an essay about my time with the Pelicans.
Coming into the situation, I had a healthy DeMarcus but a terrible cap situation. When I took over, if the Pels let all their free agents walk, kept Cousins at the max, their 1st round pick, and filled in the rest of the roster with four minimum salary players next year, they would have a payroll of about $133 million, or $11-12 million over the tax line. That was unsustainable, and even stretching Asik and sending a 2nd for someone to take on Ajincaís salary would still have left the team above the tax. So I knew I needed to make significant changes. I briefly inquired with teams about Cousins, and the market was soft because of his free agent status and a belief LA would make a strong push for him.
Then he got hurt, and it was clear to me what the solution was Ė I had to trade Cousins. And although the return was criticized, I really liked what I got. Clarkson is overpaid, but the Pels were playing Jameer Nelson and Ian Clark a combined 30 minutes a game in January, and Clarkson could take all of those minutes at better production. Given that next year those roster spots would still be filled by minimum salary players at similar production as Clark and Nelson, Clarksonís inflated salary is still a decent spend, because he is better than the alternative. I love Nance Ė he can play the 4 or 5, and really gets after it on the defensive end. Heís also cheap and will be pretty easy to keep around either via extension or restricted free agency.
The Pels also have no wings, currently. Theyíve been starting 2-3 PGs a game (Holiday, Moore, and Rondo). My goal was to help get some cheap 3&D players, and I really like Josh Hart as someone whoís immediately able to help with that role 15-20 minutes a night. Finally, when you look at a real-life trade that was made, the Cavs sent the Lakers an injured star looking for a big payday this summer and received Nance and Clarkson. But instead of also receiving Hart, the Cavs instead sent back a first-round pick, so I feel I came out ahead of the real world.
The Cousins trade also gave me a sizable trade exception, which I used to further increase depth by getting Ilyasova, and also acquired a minor pick. Between that 2nd, another 2nd acquired in this process, and a 1st, I was able to turn Omer Asik into Nikola Vucevic. This gave the Pels the center they need to start next to Davis, especially given Davisí stated reluctance to play the majority of his minutes at the 5. While certainly not as good as Cousins, he offers a strong inside game both offensively and defensively, and has added some 3-point range as well, thus keeping the Pels offense from being too packed into the paint.
Finally, I was able to acquire some more youth. Giving up the 1st for Vucevic was difficult, and not something I was initially willing to do, but acquiring Josh Hart made that somewhat more palatable. I also got Damyean Dotson, a 3&D wing prospect, Jabari Bird, another 3&D wing, and Dakari Johnson as a younger big. I also gained a late 2nd this season, which was desirable, as the real Pels had already traded away this yearís 2nd in a salary dump move. While not high-end prospects, Dotson, Bird, and Johnson all have a chance to move into a rotation in the next 1-2 seasons, which is important given the salary situation described above, and the dearth of young players on the roster.
All told, I think I improved the team this year and next year. When I took over, the Pels rotation looked like this:
Guards: Holiday, Moore, Rondo, Nelson, Clark
Wing(s): Miller, Liggins (10-day contract Ė the Pels signed him to a rest of season earlier this week, but my Pels will not)
Bigs: Davis, Cunningham, Asik (although he was largely unplayable)
Infimary: Cousins, Hill (due back after ASB), Ajinca, Allen
Prospects: Jackson, Diallo
So the Pels had an 8-9 man rotation, two of which the real Pels salary-dumped in the last 10 days (Nelson and Cunningham)
My Pels look like this:
Guards: Holiday, Moore, Rondo, Clarkson
Wings: Miller, Hart
Bigs: Davis, Nance, Ilyasova,
Infirmary: Vucevic, Hill (both due back after ASB), Ajinca
Prospects: Jackson, Dotson, Johnson, Bird
This upgraded all parts of the rotation. Furthermore, 13 of these players are under contract next season for $114 million, which means the Pels will be able to use most or all of the full MLE and still stay under the tax. This yearís roster is now a shade under $117 million (it was at $119 million when I started), which means it is also possible to use the almost $2.5 million DPE they have for Ajinca and stay under the luxury tax if they are able to convince a bought out player to come (Johnson would be released).
Unlike the real Pels, whoíve quickly fallen from the 6th to the 9th position in the West after Boogie went down, my Pels should be able to make the playoffs this season, thanks to the quick arrival of Nance, Clarkson, Hart, and Ilyasova, as well as the eventual arrival of Vucevic. Next seasonís team should also be a playoff team. And while the playoffs might seem like a modest goal, being able to make it, especially with a chance to advance if they finish 6th or better, is very important for the long-term success of the franchise. Anthony Davis almost certainly will be eligible for the supermax in the summer of 2019, and we feel two consecutive trips to the playoffs, especially if the team advances at least once, will be important in convincing him to stay long-term. If he does, weíd hope to keep Vucevic and Nance, while using draft assets and Clarkson and Hillís expiring contracts to trade for another star player. If he doesnít, that would be the time to trade him and start a full rebuild. (That said, we did receive a very tempting offer from Philly early in this process that we had in the back of our mind the entire deadline, and if we had not been able to acquire Vucevic might have pursued in earnest)
All in all, I was handed a lot of lemons early on, and am really happy where I ended up. I met virtually all of my goals Ė I did have to concede trading a first-round pick, but it is reasonably protected and Vucevic seems like a player worth using it on. Thanks to all who participated.