Pelicans Notes: Valanciunas, Draft Picks, Injuries, Nelson

Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas is entering the final year of his current contract with the club and will be eligible to sign an extension this summer. It remains to be seen whether New Orleans views the veteran big man as part of the team’s future, but Valanciunas tells Kestas Rimkus of (hat tip to that he’d be interested in working out a new deal to stay with the Pelicans.

“We had some talks with (the Pelicans). I think this summer won’t be easy for them because they will have to make a few key decisions. Our season didn’t go as planned, so there will definitely be changes,” Valanciunas said. “… I would like to stay and extend my contract. Obviously, during the season, you try to help the team as much as possible, but when the summer comes, you try to take care of your own things – how to extend the contract and stuff.”

Valanciunas, who will earn approximately $15.4MM in 2023/24, started all 79 games he played for New Orleans in ’22/23. However, head coach Willie Green frequently opted to use Larry Nance Jr. at center during crunch-time minutes in the second half of the season, raising questions about Valanciunas’ role going forward.

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Christian Clark of takes a closer look at the first-round picks the Pelicans control in the coming years, observing that the team will be keeping a close eye on the Lakers and Bucks, since those teams still owe New Orleans draft assets from the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades. The Pelicans control the Lakers’ 2024 first-rounder but have the option of acquiring the team’s 2025 pick instead — if LeBron James opts out of his deal with L.A. in 2024, deferring that first-rounder could be an intriguing option, Clark notes.
  • After another season affected by injuries, the Pelicans will restructure their player care and performance team, sources tell Clark. Star forwards Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram missed more games (90) than they played (74) in 2022/23.
  • Hiring Aaron Nelson away from Phoenix to run the club’s player care and performance department was one of David Griffin‘s first moves when he joined the Pelicans in 2019, according to Clark, who notes that Nelson “did not come cheaply” and that the team approved several of his requested changes to the practice facility. However, Nelson may not be back with the Pels at all next season — if he is, it won’t be in the same role, Clark writes. As Clark details, there have been complaints during Nelson’s tenure about his inflexibility, and he clashed with Williamson and former head coach Stan Van Gundy.
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