Pelicans Waive Alonzo Gee, Keep Lance Stephenson

The Pelicans have made their final cut, reducing their roster to 15 players by waiving Alonzo Gee, the team announced today in a press release. The move ensures that there’s room on the roster for Lance Stephenson, who was believed to be vying with Gee for that final opening.

While Gee was long viewed to be on the roster bubble in New Orleans, it’s still a slightly surprising decision, since his salary for 2016/17 was fully guaranteed, while Stephenson had only received a $100K guarantee so far. Unless Gee is claimed on waivers this week, the Pelicans will be on the hook for his full $1.4MM salary.

Interestingly, the Pelicans only would have owed Gee about $980K if they’d signed him to a minimum salary benefit contract, which still would have paid the veteran forward about $1.315MM (the minimum salary benefit rule calls for the NBA to make up the difference). As I wrote back in July, the Pelicans’ curious decision to pay Gee $1.4MM instead of the minimum salary appeared to be a result of his decision to decline a $1.379MM player option in June — by giving him a raise, New Orleans allowed him to save face on that decision.

Of course, it’s possible there was another explanation for the Pelicans, but at the time it cost them nearly $420K to give Gee an extra $85K or so. Now that he hasn’t even made the 15-man roster, the signing looks a little more costly.

In any case, the Pelicans appear poised to head into the season with Stephenson in the mix. The 26-year-old will look to build upon a second-half stint in Memphis that saw him averaged 14.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.8 APG in 26 regular season games. The ex-Pacer figures to get a decent amount of playing time to start the season, with Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans sidelined.

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