The Pelicans currently have three players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per our tracker, making the signings possible. New Orleans subsequently announced (via Twitter) that Cheatham has been assigned to the Birmingham Squadron, the team’s G League affiliate.
Cheatham, who went undrafted out of Arizona State in 2019, spent his rookie season on a two-way contract with the Pelicans. However, he appeared in just four NBA games for the club and was sent to Oklahoma City in a sign-and-trade for salary-matching purposes during the 2020 offseason.
He spent most of this season in the G League, splitting time with the Salt Lake City Stars and the Birmingham Squadron. Through 12 GL games (31.1 MPG), he averaged 15.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.3 SPG and 1.2 BPG on .571/.364/.733 shooting.
That performance earned Cheatham a 10-day contract with Miami just before Christmas, but he didn’t play at all for the Heat and entered the COVID-19 protocols before his deal expired. He has since cleared the protocols. A couple weeks later, he signed a 10-day hardship deal with Utah, appearing in one game for five minutes. His contract with Utah expired January 21.
Oni, 24, appeared in 80 games for the Jazz across three seasons, but never developed into a consistent, reliable rotation player. He averaged just 1.8 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 8.4 minutes per contest in those three years.
Utah sent Oni to Oklahoma City last month in order to reduce their projected end-of-season luxury tax payment. The Thunder were incentivized to make the deal because they got a future second-round pick out of it, but Oni wasn’t part of their on-court plans, so they ended up waiving him. After he cleared waivers, he became an unrestricted free agent.
Due to the deals coming via a hardship exception, they won’t count towards the Pelicans’ team salary for salary cap or luxury tax purposes.