Pelicans deal way into NBA Draft for Smith

Associated PressJune 27, 2014 

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Pelicans had made trades on NBA draft night six of the last seven years. This time, they got a 24-hour head start.

But they didn't stop there. The Pelicans entered Thursday without a draft pick for the first time since 2002, but were wheeling and dealing on Thursday night.

New Orleans general manager Dell Demps couldn't confirm the trade that the Pelicans reportedly agreed by acquiring the rights to Philadelphia 76ers second-round pick Russ Smith in exchange for the rights to guard Pierre Jackson because the deal had not been approved by the league.

"All I can say at this time is we are in conversations, but a deal has not been finalized," Demps said.

Smith, a point guard from Louisville, was selected 47th overall. He averaged 18.2 points per game and shot 38.7 percent from three-point range as a senior at Louisville, a year after leading the Cardinals to the 2013 national championship.

New Orleans shipped its 2014 first-round pick to Philadelphia last year as part of the deal that brought guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans. Coincidentally, the other incoming piece of the Holiday trade, the rights to Jackson, went back to the 76ers in the Smith trade.

New Orleans had already made a big splash on Wednesday, sending a 2015 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for veteran center Omer Asik, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the deal cannot be completed until July due to rules in the collective bargaining agreement and salary cap issues.

Asik, who has career averages of 5.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, addresses one of the Pelicans' two biggest needs heading into the offseason -- center and small forward.

Though Asik will make nearly $15 million in 2014-15, the final year of a back-loaded three-year, $25 million deal he signed with the Rockets in the summer of 2012, he will count $8.3 million against the Pelicans' 2014-15 salary cap.

Asik's salary will put New Orleans above the projected $63.2 million cap figure for next season, setting the stage for other moves before the cap takes effect July 10.

"We're always looking to improve our roster," Demps said. "I think we're in a really good position financially."

In free agency, the Pelicans can use the mid-level exception, which allows for a contract of up to four years with a first-year salary of up to $5.3 million.

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