The New Orleans Pelicans Their season turned around last year after trading for CJ McCollum, leaping the Lakers to ninth in the West, beating the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the play-ins, and taking down the Phoenix Suns Top seed to six games in the first round. He was contracted through 2023-24, but the Pelicans chose McCollum’s certainty over the potential of the cap space in 2024, by ask the guardian for a two-year extension to 2026.
Initially, the Pelicans are looking at more than $50 million from their books beyond 2023-24, with big money contracts for McCollum and center Jonas Valanciunas coming to an end. There were hot free agents that year – Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Hawks’ Dejounte Murray and Pascal Siakam of the Raptors, all of which will be unrestricted free agents – but the Pelicans are refusing to make one big contract that summer.
It was a reasonable decision. With Zion Williamson reported in “great shape,” The Pelicans may believe that adding their franchise player to McCollum and Brandon Ingram is enough to turn them into a dangerous playoff team. They have a lot of draft capital if they want to trade for a veteran — adding first-round picks in 2023 and 2025, plus swap picks with the Bucks and Lakers. Last year, the Pels had an excellent rookie group, with Herb Jones, Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III all playing well in the knockout stages. 2020 drawman Kira Lewis will return from his ACL game mid-season, and 2019 lottery drawer Jaxson Hayes is still just 22 years old.
With so many young players on the roster – Ingram just turned 25 – New Orleans needs some real grown-ups on the roster, and McCollum is a very helpful person. He will still be only 34 years old at the end of the extension, and his best skill is shooting (39.4% career from 3-point range). Not only is the filming relatively unaffected by age, it means that McCollum will be able to transition into supporting roles seamlessly. If Williamson is healthy, there sure will be open three available.
Management also sent a message. They are not focused on future potential. Now it’s time for the Pelicans to win.