At the conclusion of the 2019-2020 NBA Season, the New Orleans Pelicans had a record of 30-42 which placed them at 13th in the Western Conference and 21st in the league. The New Orleans Pelicans have had a disappointing end to their season, putting up, at times, embarrassing performances in the bubble. Despite this there is some serious hope that the Pelicans can improve and make a push at the playoffs in the next season. As a result of the Anthony Davis trade, the Pelicans are owed multiple future first-round picks from the Lakers which could become valuable depending on how long LeBron and AD stay in LA. Brandon Ingram had a breakout season for the Pelicans and will be up for a max extension this offseason after earning himself the most improved player award as well as his first all-star appearance. The number one pick in 2019, Zion Williamson, also had impressive debut season after spending much of it on the sidelines and the Pelicans hope he can remain healthy enough to become an all-star in the coming seasons. The Pelicans recently hired Stan Van Gundy as their next head coach, and it will be up to him to develop this young team into a playoff contender next season. This offseason, New Orleans will focus on firming up their center rotation as this has been their main weakness outside of Derrick Favors. With Favors in the line-up, the Pelicans were 24-27 and without him, they were 6-15. Without a solid defender at the center position, the Pelicans will struggle to make any noise in the western conference moving forward.
Currently, the New Orleans Pelicans have eight players with guaranteed contracts for the 2020-2021 NBA season. Darius Miller has a $7 million non-guaranteed contract which I don’t expect to be confirmed. Miller has suffered through a long period of injury and it is unknown how well he can bounce back from that. Due to this unknown, it is unlikely the Pelicans will guarantee his $7 million contract for next season. The Pelicans have several restricted free agents in Brandon Ingram, Frank Jackson and Kenrich Williams as well as two-way players, Zylan Cheatham and Josh Gray. The most important of these will be Brandon Ingram who will be up for a possible max contract this offseason. The Pelican will also have bird rights on their unrestricted free agents, E’Twaun Moore, Jahlil Okafor and most importantly, Derrick Favors. The Pelicans will have the $9.2 millions mid-level exception available as well as the $3.6 million bi-annual exception.
Depth Chart –
The New Orleans Pelicans will enter the 2020 free agency period as one of the few teams with salary cap space. They project to have approximately $23 million in cap space available to them. While this is much higher than most teams, it is most likely that the Pelicans will use almost all of this to resign Brandon Ingram to a long-term contract. While it is possible that Ingram would sign for a deal worth slightly less than the max, it is not worth risking other teams such as the Atlanta Hawks putting pressure on them by offering Ingram a max contract. I expect the Pelicans to re-sign Ingram for 4-5 years at the maximum salary. The next most important free agent for the Pelicans is Derrick Favors. As mentioned earlier, Favors was key to the team winning games despite not being the most offensively gifted player and he provides a defensive anchor at the five. The Pelicans are expected to explore a potential trade involving Jrue Holiday. Holiday’s contract is close to ending and if they are ever going to move him on, this offseason is the time with Holiday turning 31 and earning $26 million next season. He is a lockdown defender who can become a third star on any championship team. Holiday has been gaining interest from contending teams around the league and the Pelicans are expected to field offers for him during the offseason. The Pelicans could also use their mid-level exception on a player like Tristan Thompson who can provide stable defence and rebounding of the bench which is an area the Pelicans struggle in.
The New Orleans Pelicans will have the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft along with 3 second-round picks. While they make include the first-round pick in a trade involving Jrue Holiday, it makes the most sense to draft with this pick to add to their young core of players. As this is a weaker than usual draft class, there is no defined order of talent and teams are therefore expected to select based on team need. With the 13th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans should select Aaron Nesmith, a 6’6” shooting guard out of Vanderbilt. Nesmith is a pure shooter who put up incredible stats in his second season in college before being sidelined by with a foot injury. He excels at creating his own shots and can light it up off the dribble. He is also a solid defender who uses his wide wingspan and intense effort to defend smaller guards and record steals. Drafting Nesmith will provide a backup in case the Pelicans decide to move Jrue Holiday and over time can develop to be a solid starter who will pair along nicely with Lonzo Ball who prefers to create rather than shoot.
The New Orleans Pelicans will enter the 2020 offseason as one of the few teams in the league with cap space however, it will likely all be used on retaining all-star, Brandon Ingram. They will also need to firm up their center rotation if they are hoping to make a serious run at the playoffs next season as this was their main weakness in 2020. It will be exciting to see how the young core of Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram continue to develop together over the 2020-2021 season and you can expect to see the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2021 playoffs whenever they happen.
Projected Depth Chart 2020/21 Season –
Players IN: Tristan Thompson, Aaron Nesmith
Players OUT: Darius Miller
Trade Potential: Jrue Holiday