The New Orleans Pelicans were the surprise team in the Western Conference last season. They finished sixth in the conference and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. With momentum rolling into the conference quarterfinals, their playoff magic came to a halt after losing in five games to the Golden State Warriors. One reason they were no match for the Warriors was their lack of production on the wing. After multiple transactions this summer, that remains their biggest issue.
The Pelicans biggest move this summer was adding depth to a position of strength. They gave Julius Randle a two-year deal as Anthony Davis’ and Nikola Mirotic’s backup. Even though they now have arguably the best front court rotation in the NBA, Randle doesn’t fix their biggest need.
Looking at the Pelicans current depth chart, E’Twaun Moore is their starting small forward. At 6’4″, he’s playing out of position. Backups Darius Miller and Solomon Hill also provided little production last year. Neither averaged more than eight points per game nor posted a PER over 10. The Pelicans need wing help if they want to become legitimate contenders in the Western Conference. Luckily, there’s a 25-year-old wing who’s still available in free agency.
That wing I’m talking about is Rodney Hood. The 6’8″ forward formerly played for the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers. As a member of the Jazz last season, he was on pace for a career season. He averaged a career-high 16.8 points per game while shooting 39 percent from three. Most young scorers with those numbers normally aren’t on the market in late August, but when he was acquired by the Cavaliers he fell off a cliff.
Hood’s scoring numbers plummeted in Cleveland. He averaged 10.8 points per game over the remainder of the regular season and 5.4 in 17 postseason games. His rebound, assist, and three-point shooting totals also declined. Most players who play alongside LeBron James see a statistical dip, but not to the point where they’re a non-factor in the rotation. His new role frustrated him to the point where he rejected Tyronn Lue when asked to play on the wrong side of a playoff blowout.
Now Hood’s in position to sign a prove-it contract. There may not be a better landing spot than the Big Easy.
If Hood signs with New Orleans, he’d sign with a team that gives him a legitimate shot at cracking the starting lineup. He’s primarily a shooting guard, but Alvin Gentry’s small-ball, position-less system, now without DeMarcus Cousins, allows versatile players to play to their strengths. Hood has the height of a small forward and is an above average passer for his position. He’d be back in a system that plays to his strengths.
Last season the Pelicans offense ranked among the best in the NBA. They finished third in the NBA with 111.7 points and 26.8 assists per game. Their three-point shooting ranking slipped to 13th with 36.2 percent. With new point guard Elfrid Payton coming off a season only making 30 three-point shots and no Cousins, the Pelicans could use another offensive weapon. Hood gives them that weapon while staying below the luxury tax.
Payton, Jrue Holiday, Moore, Hood, Randle, Mirotic, and Davis would be their seven-man rotation in the playoffs. There aren’t many situations better than New Orleans for Hood to earn his next contract.