The New Orleans Pelicans are in the perfect position to go in a myriad of directions. The Pelicans among a few teams with cap space can elect to absorb bad contracts, accumulate more assets, add talent via trade or continue its slow rebuild.
President David Griffin and GM Trajan Langdon did a wonderful job since Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. Zion Williamson made the All-Rookie First Team, Brandon Ingram became an All-Star, and Lonzo Ball took strides in his development. New Orleans was on the cusp of the 2020 post-season before fading late in the year.
Offseason Options for the New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans Cap Space
The New Orleans Pelicans will be one of a few teams with cap space this off-season. The Pelicans have seven guaranteed contracts valued at approximately $76-million-dollars. New Orleans have around $60-million in cap holds and Darius Miller‘s $7-million is non-guaranteed.
NOP cap situation in 2020-21
Jrue Holiday 25.3m
JJ Redick 13m
Lonzo Ball 11m
Zion Williamson 10.2m
Jaxson Hayes 5.1m
Nico Melli 3.9m
Josh Hart 3.5m
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 3.1m
Darius Miller 7m (Non-guaranteed)
Cap holds: 52.5m
Luxury Tax Space: 49.5m
— Thunder Moneyball (@geola388) September 20, 2020
By renouncing the rights to its players and waiving Miller, New Orleans has approximately $29-million in cap space. Should they elect to go into the tax space but stay below the luxury line, they have approximately $49-million to play with.
New Orleans has the opportunity to absorb bad deals and accumulate more assets to add to the kitty. As it stands, the Pelicans own 18 picks over the next six drafts.
NOP Future NBA Picks
No. 13, 39, 42, 60 picks
1RP (own), 1RP (1-7 via LAL), 2RP (own), 2RP (via CLE), 2RP (via WAS)
1RP (own), 1RP (LAL if not conveyed in 2021) 2RP (own), 2RP (via CLE)
1RP (own), 1RP pick swap (LAL)
2024 – 2026
1RP (own), 2RP (own)
— Thunder Moneyball (@geola388) September 20, 2020
Adding more assets only concretes the Pelicans’ ability to swing a big trade should a star come available. Griffin will be waiting in the wind to make a deal if teams get desperate to move a bad contract.
Lonzo Ball on the Trade Block
Rumors around Lonzo Ball’s future re-emerged following a poor showing at Disney. Ball averaged 7.1 points, five rebounds, and 6.6 assists on an abysmal 30.5 percent shooting and 28.1 percent from three. It was unfortunate since Ball improved markedly from deep, converting on 37.5 percent of his three’s this year while playing elite-level defense. He remade himself into a high level, three and D guard.
Ball recently changed agents, intensifying speculation he might be on the move.
Lonzo Ball is signing with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, per @malika_andrews
"I wanted to lead my career… It was the right time to make that call." pic.twitter.com/eNdAaAoDgq
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 14, 2020
There will be a lot of interest in the former number two overall pick. At 6’6 with a 6’9 wingspan, Ball has elite physical tools and tremendous vision for a point guard. In the right situation, he could still develop into what he was projected to be – an All-Star.
Too Early to Shoot for the Playoffs?
Many fans prefer taking things slowly believing the draft is the best course of action. However, this is usually a method used when searching for a star in the draft. New Orleans has two in Williamson and Ingram so the hard part is complete.
Others suggest it is too early to place Williamson under the strain of playoff action. While this is certainly fair for most rookies, Williamson is no ordinary rookie. In 24 games, the big man averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds on 58.8 percent shooting.
The biggest perk of playing alongside Ingram, Holiday, and Redick is that Williamson is not the primary option. Superstars Kevin Durant and LeBron James were both 21 or younger when they received their first taste of playoff basketball. They turned out just fine.
Trading Assets and Cap Space Flexibility
There is genuine fear among fans of New Orleans trading assets for veterans. David Griffin won a Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers and has proven to possess one of the savviest NBA minds. Griffin knows how to construct a championship contender and was successful during his stint on The North Coast.
I suspect Ball, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Josh Hart are three names expected to garner interest this off-season. Ball and Hart are solid players while Alexander-Walker, cousin of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is a relative unknown. Griffin will have his own agenda and will ultimately make the final call before trades are complete.
The other concern regards long-term contracts. New Orleans has ultimate flexibility over the next few seasons thanks to Williamson’s rookie deal. Additionally, Holiday is contracted through to the 2021-22 season while Redick’s contract expires next season.
The Pelicans can afford to take on a big two to three-year deal and will need to meet the salary floor. Griffin is likely to explore this option and veterans like Chris Paul and Mike Conley are sure to interest him.
Those who are a fan of the tank or prefer to live in suspense love this choice. Sure, there are elements to a rebuild that are appealing. You get to save money, fans get to watch players possibly evolve into stars and the idea of landing a star late in the lottery satisfies fans taste for mystery.
The New Orleans Pelicans have picks 13, 39, 42, and 60 in this year’s NBA draft and are full to the brim with future assets. They possess eight first-rounders and 10 second-round picks from 2021-26. Griffin will pull the trigger for a big name at some point and are poised for big-name should they come available.
Verdict on the New Orleans Pelicans
There is tremendous value in surrounding young players with quality veterans. Chris Paul did an amazing job in Oklahoma City, playing mentor to young gun Gilgeous-Alexander while garnering more playoff experience. This type of leadership could elevate Williamson and Ingram’s game exponentially.
Additionally, Williamson and Ingram have yet to taste the post-season, and playoff experience is invaluable to young players. At 20 and 22 years of age, there is plenty of time but why wait? The sooner they experience the playoffs, the better they will become. There is no replacement for post-season experience or veteran mentoring so why not kill two birds with one stone.
No matter which way the New Orleans Pelicans pivot, they control their destiny. Make a trade, stay young, or make a run, Langdon and Griffin are set for an interesting off-season ahead.
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