The New Orleans Pelicans have finally found a personality. With tough defense and a highly effective offense, they have proven they have what it takes to make 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 eighth pick in the 2022 NBA draft at their disposal (for now), Pels’ rotation will add two key players. 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 their rotation.
Larry Nance Jr appears to be a key trade candidate due to the expiration of his contract, but he is better suited to move at the trade deadline. Jonas Valanciunas might make sense too. He certainly has to have value, and New Orleans may need some extra space for upcoming renewals for Williamson and Jackson Hayes, though Hayes’ future may be questionable. However, Valanciunas is too important for the team to move on, especially given Williamson’s medical history.
Pelicans there are at least two players they absolutely must trade this offseason.
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2 Pelicans players to be traded in 2022 NBA offseason
2. Garrett Temple
With so many key positions on the flank, Garrett Temple’s time in New Orleans should be over in just one season. Through no fault of his, the team simply has better and younger options who deserve playing time and in some cases have a smaller contract.
Temple is a typical 3-D player, so he’s a great option to jump in when someone is losing. Injuries happen often, of course, but the Pelicans will have a ton of flanks at their disposal in the draft if they keep their pick. If they pick one of them, they’ll end up on a team that plays two big players at once (Williamson with a center) and has Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy III and Nadji Marshall. Where is the 36-year-old Temple regularly placed there?
Considering he owes him roughly $5 million for each of the next two seasons, leaving Temple now could open up some of the money New Orleans will need for upcoming renewals. While the Pelicans could do with keeping the defensive veteran on a fairly cheap deal, he could come in handy elsewhere.
1. Devonte Graham or Kira Lewis Jr.
Both Devonte Graham and Kira Lewis Jr. are attacking spark plugs that are of little value in defense. The Pelicans must choose which one they want to keep and reduce the redundancy of the point guard’s reserve seat.
Graham had a starting point before the deal with CJ McCollum. The 27-year-old was then moved to the bench and didn’t play a big role in the Pelicans’ playoffs, playing 10 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 an ACL tear. He averaged 6.2 points and 2.2 assists per game in 78 games over two seasons.
The Pelicans must choose between a more reliable option and one with more potential but less confidence. Each of them may be of interest to other teams, so moving from one of them is a must. With Jose Alvarado securing his spot at guard, Graham or Lewis could play alongside him to balance New Orleans’ backcourt opportunities.
Graham’s offense could come in handy for several teams, and his contract is modest enough to be easily traded. Lewis will be just 21 this season. Residents of New Orleans should bet on one for the foreseeable future and discard the other in the NBA offseason.