As NBA free agency opens, Pelicans — already near luxury tax line — stay quiet

David Griffin says he believes Pelicans' offseason will be more 'tweaks' than 'huge moves'
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In the opening minutes of NBA free agency, the Indiana Pacers gave Bruce Brown a $45 million contract, the Dallas Mavericks doled out $126 million to Kyrie Irving, and the Portland Trail Blazers backed up the Brinks truck for Jerami Grant and dumped out $160 million.

NBA teams handed out more than $1 billion in contracts within the first hour of the free agency window opening.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans stood pat.

That was not a surprise, given the amount of money already on New Orleans’ books for next season. Even after declining Willy Hernangomez’s player option and not extending Jaxson Hayes the qualifying offer Thursday — moves that made those players unrestricted free agents — the Pelicans are still dangerously close to the NBA’s $165.3 million luxury tax line with multiple roster spaces to fill.

Three players are owed the bulk of the money that will be spent on the Pelicans’ payroll next season. CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson will all make more than $33 million next season. Collectively, they are owed $103.6 million. That is a considerable chunk of change for a trio of players who were the leading scorers on a team that finished in ninth place in the Western Conference last season.

Leading up to the draft last week, Ingram and Williamson were involved in trade rumors. Ultimately, the Pelicans decided not to part ways with either of them in deals that could have potentially brought back Scoot Henderson, the talented lead guard the Trail Blazers chose with the No. 3 pick.

The Pelicans are one of two NBA franchises to have never paid the luxury tax. To duck under it ahead of next season, they will likely need to execute a trade. Jonas Valanciunas, who has one year left on his deal for $15.4 million, is a player known to be available, per league sources. According to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer, reserve guard Kira Lewis is also a trade candidate. Lewis, the 13th pick in the 2021 draft, dealt with a torn ACL in his second season and has so far been unable to find a role for himself in the Pelicans’ rotation. He is owed $5.7 million next season.

At the NBA trade deadline in February, the Pelicans sent Devonte’ Graham to the San Antonio Spurs in a salary shedding maneuver. Graham has two more years left on his contract at $12.1 million and $12.7 million. To get off that contract, the Pelicans had to attach four second-round picks, depleting their draft capital. While the team still has a surplus of first-round picks over the next four years thanks to the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades, the Pelicans front office must be mindful not to waste it in other salary shedding moves.

The Pelicans have until July 7 to make a decision on whether they want to pick up Garrett Temple’s $5.4 million team option. It is possible Temple could be sent elsewhere. According to league sources, there remains the possibility that the Pelicans decline Temple’s option and sign him to a deal worth much less.

E.J. Liddell, whom the Pelicans took with the 41st pick in 2022, is likely to be converted from a two-way contract to a spot on the Pelicans’ 15-man roster, league sources said. Liddell missed all of last season while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last year during NBA Summer League.

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About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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