The New Orleans Pelicans have finally found their identity. Through a solid defense and efficient offense, they proved they were capable of making the playoffs despite Zion Williamson missing the entire season. Their 2022 NBA offseason is the most important in years.
With the return of Williamson and the (currently) eighth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Pells will add two key players to his rotation. So, how many players should the Pelicans trade? With so many players on their roster who could contribute next season, it makes sense for them to consolidate the rotation.
Larry Nance Jr. appears to be a key candidate to be traded after his contract expires, but he’s more suited to be traded at the trade deadline. Jonas Valanciunas might also have a point. He certainly should have value, and New Orleans may need some extra cap space for the upcoming extensions of Williamson and Jaxson Hayes, although Hayes’ future may be in question. However, Valanciunas is too valuable to the team to move on from here, especially with Williamson’s health history.
The Pelicans have at least two players who should definitely be traded this offseason.
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Pelicans must trade 2 players in 2022 NBA offseason
2. Garrett Temple
With so many key positions on the wing, Garrett Temple’s time in New Orleans should be over after just one season. No real fault of his own, the team just has better and younger options and they deserve playing time and, in a few cases, smaller contracts.
Temple is a typical 3D player, so when someone goes down, he’s a great option. Of course, injuries are frequent, but if the Pelicans keep their pick, they’ll have plenty of wings in the draft. If they draft one, they’ll be added to a team that plays two bigs (Williamson and a center) and has Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Trey Murray Phil III and Najib Marshall. Where is this 36-year-old temple regularly placed?
He is owed about $5 million each of the next two seasons, and the move now from Temple could provide New Orleans with some money for future extensions. While retaining a defensive-minded veteran at a fairly cheap price wouldn’t hurt the Pelicans, he might be better available elsewhere.
1. Devonte’ Graham or Kira Lewis Jr.
Devonte’ Graham and Kira Lewis Jr. are offensive spark plugs with little value on the defensive end. The Pelicans need to pick one they want to keep and reduce the redundancy at their backup point guard position.
Graham had a starting spot before the CJ McCollum trade. The 27-year-old was then moved to the bench and didn’t play a major role in the Pelicans’ playoff run, averaging 10.0 minutes per game. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 assists in 76 regular-season games. Meanwhile, Lewis missed most of last season with a torn ACL. He averaged 6.2 points and 2.2 assists in 78 games over two seasons.
The Pelicans must choose between more reliable options or more potential but uncertain options. Each of them may be interested in other teams, so moving on from one of them is necessary. With Jose Alvarado gaining a defensive pest position, Graham or Lewis could play alongside him to balance New Orleans’ backcourt capabilities.
Several teams have access to Graham’s offense, and his contract is mild enough to be easily traded. Lewis will only be 21 this season. New Orleans should choose to bet on one for the foreseeable future and start with the other this NBA offseason.