SuperTalk Mississippi

Pelicans have lots of questions to answer this offseason

Willy Hernangomez is one of a handful of players the Pelicans will have to make a decision on this offseason (Photo from the New Orleans Pelicans/Twitter)

While the season has been over for the New Orleans Pelicans for about a month now, there are a lot of questions about the roster and coaching staff as free agency looms.

The NBA recently informed teams that the 2023-23 salary cap is a projected $134 million – $10.4 million higher than this season – with a $162 million tax level. So, where does that leave the Pelicans?

Well, for the first time in the organization’s history, New Orleans is currently facing the luxury tax at $1.3 million above (including the team’s upcoming lottery pick), which means some tough decisions are going to have to be made this offseason.

Due to upcoming salary increases for the team’s three core players – C.J. McCollum ($35.8 million), Brandon Ingram ($33.8 million), and Zion Williamson ($33.5 million) – there are several free agents that could be cut or have restructured contracts by June 30 when free agency officially opens.

Of the players on standby, Garrett Temple appears to be first on the chopping block. While the 14-year veteran’s camaraderie and fellowship with teammates make him appreciated, the Pelicans could waive him and instantly free up $5.4 million. Other players that could be cut include backups Naji Marshall ($1.9 million) and Willy Hernangomez ($2.5 million).

Even though half the roster is eligible for an extension, Herb Jones is likely to be the first. The Alabama alum has been the team’s best defender during his two seasons in the Big Easy. While his offensive production has hovered under 10 points per game, he consistently puts up high numbers in both steals and blocks. Jones is set to become a restricted free agent next summer.

From the coaching staff market, New Orleans assistant coach Jarron Collins is currently one of three finalists for the Detroit Pistons’ head job. If Collins lands the position, don’t be surprised if the Pels take a chance and try to hire recently fired Suns head coach Monty Williams.

While it would be hard for Williams to step back into an assistant position, there are a couple of factors that could get the former Pels and Hornets head coach back to Nola: (1) One of his mentors, Mike D’Antoni, has been serving as a coaching advisor in New Orleans for the past two seasons, and (2) Pelicans head coach Willie Green was Williams’ top assistant in Phoenix from 2019-2021.

Landing Williams is a long shot of course, but you never know. What we do know is that the Pelicans have a lot of decisions to make this offseason with one of the biggest being on June 22 when the annual NBA Draft returns to New York.

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