Best Possible MLE Free Agents for the Pelicans


The Mid-Level Exception is a beautiful thing.

As part of the new CBA, it allows teams a small fund which they can use to sign free agents while being over the cap. You can’t use to get guys like Marc Gasol and Jimmy Butler, but it’s perfect for filling holes in a roster or adding depth.

The MLE varies depending on your cap situation. The exact numbers on this seasons MLE won’t be available until July, but here’s the general amount it will offer, depending on your team’s financial situation.

More from Big Easy Believer

If your team is under the cap, they receive about a 2.5 million dollar MLE. If your team is over the cap but under the tax, they receive a 5.3 million dollar MLE. If your team is over the cap and the tax, they receive a 3.2 million dollar MLE.

Odd are the Pelicans will bring back most of their free agents including Omer Asik and Norris Cole. Additionally, Eric Gordon is most likely be accepting his player option for 15 million dollars. This means they will end up exceeding the cap, while remaining under the tax. This grants the Pelicans a 5.3 million dollar MLE to use on whoever they want.

Here’s a list of candidates who would be the best fit for the Pelicans, and fit their MLE price range.

1. Gerald Green

Jan 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Gerald Green (14) celebrates a dunk during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Suns defeated the Sixers 124-113. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Green is the most appealing candidate.

He’s getting close to his 30s but he’s still a monster athlete and a respectable outside shooter. His defense, passing, and rebounding are all lacking, but he averaged 22 points per 36 minutes last season and is a perfect fit for an Alvin Gentry offense.

If Gentry decides that Tyreke Evans should play a Manu Ginobili role off the bench, then Green would likely start at the three.

He’s not going to help the Pelicans defensively, but the idea of Tyreke, Green, and Anthony Davis sprinting down the floor in transition might be too deadly to pass up.

2. Mike Dunleavy Jr.

Jan 27, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls small forward Mike Dunleavy (34) is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Corey Brewer (13) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Dunleavy isn’t as flashy as Gerald Green, but he’s more fundamentally sound and has gained a lot of experience in his 13 year NBA career.

Dunleavy shot a lights out 40+% from deep this season, and was able to stay competitive even though coach Tom Thibideau played him almost 30 minutes per game.

Dunleavy is a surprisingly solid defensive player, and would bring a lot of veteran value to this extremely young roster. Assuming the Bulls let him go, he would be the 2nd best option.

3. Jared Dudley

Dudley is another seasoned NBA veteran.

He is one of the smartest players in the league, and has experience playing under Head Coach Alvin Gentry in Phoenix.

He’s lost his athleticism in the past couple years, but he’s still a more than serviceable wing player. Dudley shot 38% form three this season and an impressive 1.5 steals per 36 minutes.

Dudley isn’t a flashy fast break terror, or an elite outside chucker, but he’s a smart cerebral player who has the best all-around game available. Furthermore, if Demps asks Gentry who to go after, Dudley would likely he his #1 choice.

4. Corey Brewer

Brewer is a very solid player. Per 36 minutes last season he averaged 17.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals. He’s a very athletic defensive wing, who does best in fast paced tradition settings.

His only real weakness is his shooting. Brewer has a career average of 29% from deep, and shot 28% last season. He might be the best player available, but his lack of spacing hurts the team too much.

Playing Tyreke, Brewer, Davis and Asik would leave the team with only one solid outside threat, and frustrate Alvin Gentry.

5. Jae Crowder

Crowder is a fantastic hustle and energy player.

He emerged as a legitimate small-forward this season after being traded from the Mavericks to Celtics, but his shooting holds him back as well. Crowder isn’t a bad shooter, he’s just below average.

He shot 28% from three last season, with a career average of 31%. He’s a better finisher, rebounder, and defender then Dudley or Dunleavy, but his shooting will hurt Gentry’s spacing.

He’s basically a younger version of Corey Brewer, who struggles in the same area.

6. KJ McDaniels

KJ is a wildcard.

He was the worst of all these candidates last season, but he’s a rookie and could very well surpass them during his sophomore campaign. He has shown intense defensive potential, and is a freak athlete on the break.

Like Crowder, he shot 28% form deep last season, but since he’s only 21 he will likely improve from that area. He shows flashes of being an elite 3-D wing, so the Pelicans might decide to offer him a 2-3 year deal and hope he turns into something significant.

It’s not the safest option, but it could pay off long term.

7. Tayshaun Prince

Tayshaun Prince 10 years ago would be a dream come true.

In his prime he was a perfect 6’9″ defensive floor spacing swiss army knife who could run in transition and slide down to the four when needed. Since then Tayshaun has dropped off significantly.

Prince is still a smart defensive player, but he’s lost too much athleticism to make a difference. The one surprising thing is that he shot 46% from three last season, which was his best career percentage.

Prince would be solid veteran leader, and could stand in the corner and shoot, but outside of that he is slow, and too far past his prime to start or make an impact.

Mar 12, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) is guarded by Memphis Grizzlies forward Tayshaun Prince (21) during the second half of a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Grizzlies defeated the Pelicans 90-88. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

This is all based on the assumption the Pelicans roster stays relatively the same. Depending on the role Tyreke Evans assumes, it’s possible that the Pelicans get a starter out of their MLE. Gerald Green would be the best, and most fun fit, but he’s not the only option.

This free agent class has a multitude of solid options for the Pelicans front office. Weather they will try to clear cap space and make a splash is still unclear, but regardless the MLE could provide some much-needed flexibility.

This is what we could do with just 5 million, stay close to BigEasyBeliever to see what our options would be if Eric Gordon were to opt out…….

Next: Meet New Pelicans Assistants Darren Erman and Robert Pack