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Offseason Outlook: New Orleans Pelicans

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (6th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $33,957,332
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $9,466,091
  • Cap Holds: $11,363,158
  • Total: $54,786,581

Much has changed for New Orleans the past few years, right down to the nickname, as the Hornets have become the Pelicans this offseason, complete with new colors and new uniforms. Yet at the center of it all is one of the NBA's most stable braintrusts. Monty Williams is the fifth longest-tenured head coach in the league, while GM Dell Demps has worked his way into the upper tier among the longest-tenured NBA execs. Both predate owner Tom Benson, which is a rarity since new owners often like to make sweeping changes, as Vivek Ranadive has just done with the Kings. That seems to indicate that Demps and Williams have plenty of job security, even coming off a 27-55 season.

The reward for all that losing is the No. 6 pick in this year's draft. Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett and Otto Porter appear to make up a group of a half-dozen players who've separated themselves from the pack, though that's far from set in stone. The Pelicans' choice could come down to whomever is left among that bunch, or they may go with a point guard, as they've been frequently linked to Trey Burke.

After drafting Anthony Davis first overall a year ago, the Pelicans believed they may have landed their point guard of the future by selecting Austin Rivers with their second lottery pick. But Rivers struggled mightily in 2012/13, recording one of the worst rookie campaigns ever by a top-10 pick. It's too early to write the former Duke star off as a bust, but if he evolves into a solid NBA player, it's more likely to happen as a shooting guard or a scorer off the bench, rather than at the point.

While Rivers didn't exactly thrive at the point last season, Greivis Vasquez was a pleasant surprise there. The third-year guard took a significant step forward, averaging 13.9 PPG and 9.0 APG to go along with a 16.3 PER. Vasquez will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in July, which means we should get an idea of how much the Pelicans value him. If the team doesn't view him as its point guard of the future, we could see the club draft Burke and shop Vasquez in an effort to upgrade at another position. If New Orleans has confidence in Vasquez, he'll be extension-eligible this offseason, so a long-term deal is a possibility.

Vasquez's status as a trade candidate isn't clear, but it seems as if backcourt mate Eric Gordon could be had for the right offer. The Pelicans matched Gordon's four-year offer sheet with the Suns last summer, meaning the young shooting guard is under contract with New Orleans through at least 2014/15. Gordon will earn about $29MM over the next two years and has a player option worth approximately $15.5MM for 2015/16. For a player who has had trouble staying healthy, that's a major financial commitment.

When the team matched Gordon's offer sheet, it wasn't obvious whether the Pelicans wanted him to be part of its long-term future, or whether they were simply keeping a valuable asset under control. Gordon conveyed that he would've preferred to have landed with the Suns, so perhaps New Orleans will explore the possibility of making that happen this summer — the 24-year-old will become eligible to be traded to the Suns next month.

Assuming Porter doesn't fall to the Pelicans in tonight's draft, small forward appears to be an area in need of addressing. Ryan Anderson has played the position at times, with Davis at the four and Robin Lopez in the middle, but Anderson is more of a stretch four. Shopping Vasquez or Gordon could help the team land an impact three, and free agency represents another option, with New Orleans expected to have a solid amount of cap room.

The most obvious potential target on the open market is Andre Iguodala — Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports named the Pelicans as a likely suitor for Iguodala when he opted out of his deal with the Nuggets, and it does look like a good fit. With Gordon and Anderson doing plenty of scoring, Iguodala wouldn't be more than a third option on offense, and would significantly improve New Orleans' perimeter defense. Matt Barnes, Corey Brewer, and Mike Dunleavy represent a few other possible options, but no other free agent small forward is a better talent or a better fit than Iguodala.

Adding another big man also figures to be a priority for the Pelicans, either in the draft or free agency. Assuming Lopez remains on the roster through July 5th, his next two years will become guaranteed, and he's a solid option in the middle. But with Davis projecting as more of a power forward, Lopez appears to be the only legit center under contract in New Orleans, aside from Jason Smith, who is coming off a torn labrum and only has a partially-guaranteed contract. If he slips on draft night, Alex Len could be an intriguing addition for the Pelicans, but I think it's probably more likely that the club will look to add a veteran in free agency.

The Pelicans didn't come close to contending for the postseason in 2012/13, and may find themselves in the lottery again next season, but there are plenty of nice building blocks in place in New Orleans. Building around Davis is a given, but this offseason could be crucial in determining which other core players will complement Davis for the coming years. Players like Vasquez and Gordon look like quality young pieces, but they could also bring back assets of value in trades if the club decides to head in a different direction. When October rolls around, it will be interesting to see whether it's just the team's nickname, uniform, and colors that are new, or whether the roster will look very different as well. 

Additional notes:

  • Lopez and Smith aren't the only Pelicans without fully guaranteed contracts for next season. The team has four more players on non-guaranteed deals, which will provide added flexibility in trade talks and roster construction.
  • The Pelicans declined their 2013/14 team option on Al-Farouq Aminu, which means that despite only playing three years in the NBA so far, Aminu will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Coming off his best season (7.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 13.7 PER), Aminu, who will turn 23 this September, will be someone to watch in free agency. He was one of the pieces that came to New Orleans in the Chris Paul trade, so if the Pelicans feel there's still potential there, they probably won't let him walk without a fight.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Lopez's 2013/14 salary and his 2014/15 salary ($5,340,229) will become fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 5th.
  2. Smith's salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before June 30th.
  3. Harris' salary becomes partially guaranteed for $150,000 if he's not waived on or before October 31st. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before January 7th, 2014.
  4. Thomas' salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before September 1st.
  5. Miller's salary becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 27th.
  6. Roberts' salary becomes partially guaranteed for $50,000 if he's not waived on or before July 8th. It becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 20th.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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