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NBA AM: Pelicans Will Be Buyers This Summer

Pelicans GM Dell Demps says he will be very active working the draft, trade and free agency markets this summer to help get the team back in the playoff picture.

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Pelicans GM Dell Demps talks about improving team roster

The New Orleans Pelicans haven’t reached the postseason since the 2010-11 campaign when the franchise recorded 46 victories under the direction of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, before being ousted in the first round. But Paul was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers before the 2012 season and the Pelicans would go on to win just 48 total games in 2012 and 2013.

It became obvious New Orleans had no interest in a long-term rebuilding project last summer when the club traded out of the lottery to secure former All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia. The Pelicans then acquired 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans from Sacramento in a three-team deal, giving the franchise additional firepower.

While the moves didn’t thrust the Pelicans into the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings, the team showed promise during the 2014 campaign, winning 34 contests, behind an emerging star in second year forward Anthony Davis.

But the 34 victories left many wondering what could have been if the club hadn’t suffered so many injuries. Holiday played in just 34 games, sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson missed 60 contests and Davis, guard Eric Gordon and Evans all missed over 10 contests each.

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was disappointed he didn’t get to see his core group on the floor more this season and the veteran executive hinted at targeting the draft, free agency and trade markets to improve his roster.

“We like our core,” Demps said during his end of season press conference. “We would like to have a bigger sample size in seeing them play together. Obviously we’re going to be creative and do everything we possibly can to improve our roster. We’re going to give ourselves the best possibility moving forward. Can I come in here right now and say we’re going to get this guy, we’re going to add this guy or trade that guy? No I can’t say that right now. What I will say is that we will be looking at every opportunity to get better.

“It’s tough because we didn’t a chance to see the group together. We’re expecting to have everyone healthy at the start of next season and training camp. But we also want to add some things to it because the West is tough. You have to win 47 or 50 games just to make the playoffs and our goal isn’t to just make the playoffs. We want to obviously get there but we want to have some staying success and play at an elite level.”

The Pelicans have $54 million in guaranteed salaries on the books this season and will need to make free agency decisions on Al-Farouq Aminu, Brian Roberts, Darius Miller and Jason Smith. Veteran guard Anthony Morrow has a player option for 2015, while Jeff Withey and Luke Babbitt’s deals are non-guaranteed for next season.

The goal coming from Demp’s office is clear. He wants a return to the postseason sooner rather than later.

“I’m not happy right now at all because we’re not in the playoffs,” Demps said. “So until we get there we’re going to keep trying to improve.”

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Suns’ Channing Frye mum on player option for 2015 season

The Phoenix Suns exceeded expectations this season, finishing with 48 wins and narrowly missing out on a playoff berth. Not bad for a franchise most expected to be headed for a spot in the top three of the draft lottery. But now the offseason begins and the challenge of maintaining the successful momentum will fall in the hands of general manager Ryan McDonough.

There are a few items on McDonough’s checklist heading into the summer:

The team has just $23 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for next season, but will have to open up the wallet for dynamic guard Eric Bledsoe, who is headed to restricted free agency. The contracts of veterans Emeka Okafor and Leandro Barbosa will also expire, giving the team flexibility and freeing up $15 million in cap space in the process.

The Suns could gain even more cap space if veteran forward Channing Frye opts to decline his player option worth $6.8 million for the 2014-15 campaign. Frye, who didn’t play in 2013 because of health reasons, appeared in all 82 games for the Suns this season and was a key piece of their nightly rotation.

Frye maintains he hasn’t put much thought into his looming contract decision but is sure both parties will open up conversations on the topic during the offseason.

“I’m still focused on resting and decompressing from this season,” Frye told the media during the team’s exit interviews. “For me it’s something I will take care of a little later. Right now I’m just enjoying my time in Phoenix.

“I’ve been through this two or three times already and it’s a business. You have to allow them to make an assessment of what they want and I have to figure out what I want and what’s going to work for both of us. You just have to be professional about it. So when they’re ready to talk and we’re ready to talk we’re going to continue to have a dialogue. But until then I’m going to enjoy my vacation.”

Frye averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in just over 28 minutes per game this season. The eight year veteran connected on 160 three-pointers on 37 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

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Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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