2021 NBA Offseason In Review: New Orleans Pelicans

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2021 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s offseason moves and look ahead to what the 2021/22 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the New Orleans Pelicans.

Free agent signings:

Note: Exhibit 9 and 10 deals aren’t included here.

  • Devonte’ Graham: Four years, $47.3MM. Fourth year partially guaranteed. Acquired via sign-and-trade.
  • Josh Hart: Three years, $38MM. Second and third years non-guaranteed. Third-year player option. Re-signed as restricted free agent using Bird rights.
  • Garrett Temple: Three years, $15.47MM. Third year non-guaranteed. Acquired via sign-and-trade.
  • Didi Louzada: Four years, $7.68MM. Third and fourth years non-guaranteed. Re-signed as restricted free agent using Non-Bird rights.
  • Willy Hernangomez: Three years, $7.33MM. Third-year team option. Re-signed using Non-Bird rights.
  • Jose Alvarado: Two-way contract.
  • Daulton Hommes: Two-way contract.


  • Acquired cash ($2MM) from the Sixers in exchange for the No. 53 pick in the 2021 draft.
  • Acquired the Trail Blazers’ 2026 second-round pick and cash ($2MM) from the Trail Blazers in exchange for the draft rights to Greg Brown (No. 43 pick).
  • Acquired Jonas Valanciunas (from Grizzlies), Devonte’ Graham (sign-and-trade; from Hornets), the draft rights to Trey Murphy (No. 17 pick; from Grizzlies), and the draft rights to Brandon Boston (No. 51 pick; from Grizzlies) in a three-team trade in exchange for Eric Bledsoe (to Grizzlies), Steven Adams (to Grizzlies), the draft rights to Ziaire Williams (No. 10 pick; to Grizzlies), the draft rights to Jared Butler (No. 40 pick; to Grizzlies), the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected; to Grizzlies), Wesley Iwundu (to Hornets), the Pelicans’ 2022 first-round pick (top-14 protected; to Hornets), and cash ($2MM; to Hornets).
    • Note: The Pelicans created a $17,073,171 trade exception in the deal.
  • Acquired the Kings’ 2022 second-round pick (top-54 protected) and cash ($2.5MM) from the Clippers in exchange for the draft rights to Brandon Boston Jr. (No. 51 pick).
  • Acquired Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple (sign-and-trade), the Bulls’ 2024 second-round pick, and cash ($1.2MM) from the Bulls in exchange for Lonzo Ball (sign-and-trade).

Draft picks:

  • 1-17: Trey Murphy
    • Signed to rookie scale contract (four years, $14,779,414).
  • 2-35: Herb Jones
    • Signed to three-year, $5.32MM contract. Third-year team option. Signed using non-taxpayer mid-level exception.

Contract extensions:

  • Jonas Valanciunas: Two years, $30,135,000. Includes trade kicker ($1MM or 15%; whichever is lesser). Starts in 2022/23.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

  • Hired Willie Green as head coach to replace Stan Van Gundy.
  • Hired Jarron Collins as assistant coach and Mike D’Antoni as coaching advisor.
  • Zion Williamson underwent offseason foot surgery and remains sidelined to start the season.
  • Jaxson Hayes was arrested and charged with battery following a domestic dispute.
  • Being investigated by NBA for possible gun-jumping violation in Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade.
  • Launched new G League affiliate, the Birmingham Squadron.

Salary cap situation:

  • Remained over the cap and below the tax line.
  • Carrying approximately $114.9MM in salary.
  • Hard-capped at $143MM.
  • $7,836,000 of non-taxpayer mid-level exception still available ($1.7MM used on Herb Jones).
  • Full bi-annual exception ($3,732,000) still available.
  • Two traded player exceptions available, including one worth $17MM.

The Pelicans’ offseason:

The Pelicans hit the reset button again over the summer in their effort to build a contending team around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. They brought in a new backcourt, a new center, and the third head coach in Williamson’s three seasons in New Orleans.

The coaching change came first, as the Pelicans turned to Willie Green following a disappointing year with Stan Van Gundy at the helm. A former player, the 40-year-old Green spent time as an assistant with the Warriors and Suns, and the organization hopes he’ll be able to motivate his players more effectively than Van Gundy did.

New Orleans shook up its roster with a pre-draft trade agreement that sent Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams to the Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas and an exchange of draft picks. That trade was folded into a three-team deal with the Hornets once the Pelicans reached an agreement with Devonte’ Graham in free agency.

Valanciunas, who agreed to a two-year extension this week, is more of a scoring threat than Adams while providing the same rugged inside presence. He is now signed through the 2023/24 season and will hopefully be able to complement Williamson’s unique skills. The Pelicans gave Adams a similar extension after acquiring him last year, so the team is counting on better results from its commitment to Valanciunas.

The Pelicans decided against bringing back point guard Lonzo Ball, even though they could have matched offers for the restricted free agent on the open market. Instead, they worked out a sign-and-trade that sent Ball to Chicago in exchange for Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a future draft pick. The deal gives New Orleans a stronger veteran presence in its backcourt and potentially opens up more playing time for young guards Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kira Lewis.

The other significant move in free agency was re-signing swingman Josh Hart, one of the pieces still remaining from the Anthony Davis trade. Hart, who has been a useful bench player during his two seasons in New Orleans, agreed to a three-year deal that only has guaranteed money in the first season. The Pelicans can waive him by June 25 if they want to get out of the final two years of that contract without a financial hit.

New Orleans kept two more of its own free agents by re-signing Willy Hernangomez and Didi Louzada.

In the draft, the Pelicans used their first-round pick to add Virginia forward Trey Murphy, who shot 43.3% from three-point range last season and should help space the court. Alabama’s Herb Jones, taken with the 35th pick, provides a strong defensive presence and is expected to see time as a backup center.

Every move the Pelicans make is under the shadow of a looming decision by Williamson, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension next summer. No player has ever turned down a maximum-salary rookie extension, but there has been speculation that Williamson might consider doing so if he’s not happy with the direction of the team. Amid rumors that Williamson’s family wants him to move on and that he has a strained relationship with head of basketball operations David Griffin, there is an obvious need to make progress before that offer gets put on the table.

The offseason shakeup leaves the Pelicans with a much different group to put around their two stars. They have security with Ingram, who is under contract through the 2024/25 season, but the direction of the franchise will change drastically if Williamson doesn’t accept an extension next year.

The Pelicans’ season:

Injury concerns with Williamson are already threatening to throw this season into chaos. He underwent surgery on his right foot during the offseason, and there’s no firm timetable for when he’ll be able to start playing. Williamson is a game-changing talent when healthy, but he has played just 85 total games in his first two NBA seasons.

The Pelicans know what to expect from Ingram, who has become one of the league’s most consistent scorers. He has averaged 23.8 PPG during both of his seasons in New Orleans and was an All-Star selection in 2019/20. He’s capable of carrying the offense until Williamson returns.

The Pelicans need a strong season from Graham, who was overshadowed by rookie LaMelo Ball last year with the Hornets after a breakthrough season in 2019/20. They were confident enough in the 26-year-old guard to give him a four-year deal and let him take over for Lonzo Ball. New Orleans needs to work out the roles for its other guards and determine whether it’s better to play Satoransky or use those minutes to develop Lewis and Alexander-Walker.

The Pelicans are hoping to at least reach the play-in round, but it seems like a lot to ask in a tough Western Conference where the top eight or nine teams appear already set. A quick return by Williamson would help as New Orleans will need big things from him to become a contender. But no matter what happens on the court, the real excitement for the Pelicans will begin next offseason.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders and Spotrac was used in the creation of this post.

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