Williams: Pelicans open to possible deals for NBA draft pick

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams yells to his players during the second half against the Boston Celtics on March 16 at the Smoothie King Center.
Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams yells to his players during the second half against the Boston Celtics on March 16 at the Smoothie King Center.

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t have a selection in the NBA draft June 26 — but that could change, coach Monty Williams said Thursday.

“If there’s an opportunity for us to get back into the draft, we’ll take it,” Williams said while doing charity work at Covenant House in New Orleans. “As for (whether we are) aggressive, every team in the NBA is aggressive right now. They may not say they are, but they are.

“So we’re not different. The one thing we don’t want to do is be aggressive and put ourselves in a position where we’re hamstrung for a while and can’t make moves in the future.”

Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans could be targets of teams for a trade involving a pick. That is certainly nothing new. Such reports surfaced last season.

The period to sign NBA free agents begins July 1. The Pelicans have the opportunity to clear salary cap space because they have a number of players whose contracts have expired, or because the team holds an option.

New Orleans could use help at center, and the Washington Wizards’ Marcin Gortat would appear to be a good fit. At small forward, the Phoenix Suns’ P.J. Tucker and the Lakers’ Wesley Johnson are among those available.

“We have looked at a number of guys that we feel can help us on the floor,” Williams said. “Now whether we can get them or not remains to be seen.”

The Pelicans haven’t had NBA free agents in for visits, he said, focusing on the team’s own player development workouts. Things could heat up after this weekend, though.

First, seven teams have multiple picks in the first round; they could use one to acquire a veteran from the Pelicans. Then, because this is a relatively deep draft, undrafted players could be good, inexpensive additions for teams.

“We have guys that teams want, so I’m sure the phone is going to be ringing in the next few days,” Williams said. “We have some opportunities that may come up. ... Even after the draft, once teams figure what they couldn’t get in the draft, free agency becomes more important.

“Our focus has been on the moves we think we can make, whether it be in the draft or free agency. We’ve watched a lot of film, and I’ve had a lot of discussions with Dell and his (staff) about what we can do to help our team.”

Last season was impacted by injuries to key players such as forward Ryan Anderson, point guard Jrue Holiday and center Jason Smith. And Evans, who came on strong in the last quarter of the season, had surgery to clean out his left knee after the season ended.

Williams said Anderson, Holiday and Smith are all on schedule with their rehabilitation. Evans is one of seven players who is a fixture at the team’s practice facility. Williams said it’s important that Evans, signed to a four-year, $44 million contract last summer, be here.

“He’s been rehabbing, working on his shot, working on his body,” Williams said. “I talked to him last year about adding to the pot. We call it corporate equity. When you’re able to build the relationship, whether it be working in the gym, being in the city of New Orleans as a representative of our team.”