The New Orleans Pelicans have finally found an identity. Through rugged defense and a highly efficient offense, they proved they had what it took to make the postseason despite Zion Williamson missing the entirety of the season. Their 2022 NBA offseason is the most important one in years.
With Williamson coming back and the eighth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft in their possession (for now), the Pels' rotation will add two key players. So, how many players should the Pelicans look to 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. seems like a key candidate to be traded with his contract expiring, but he is better suited to be moved at the trade deadline. Jonas Valanciunas may also make sense. He should certainly have value and New Orleans may need some extra cap space for the upcoming extensions of Williamson and Jaxson Hayes, though Hayes' future could be in question. However, Valanciunas has too much value to the team to move on from right now, especially with Williamson's health history.
The Pelicans have at least two players that they should definitely look to trade this offseason.
*Watch NBA Games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
2 players Pelicans must trade in 2022 NBA offseason
2. Garrett Temple
With so many key positions on the wing taken up, Garrett Temple's time in New Orleans should end after just one season. To no real fault of his own, the team just has better and younger options who deserve playing time and in a few cases, have a smaller contract.
Temple is a typical 3-and-D player, so he is a fine option to plug in when someone goes down. Injuries happen often, of course, but the Pelicans will have a ton of wings at their disposal in the draft, should they keep their pick. If they draft one of them, they will get added to a team that plays two bigs at a time (Williamson with a center) and has Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy III and Naji Marshall. Where does the 36-year-old Temple fit in there on a regular basis?
With roughly $5 million owed to him over each of the next two seasons, moving on from Temple now could open up some money that New Orleans will need for upcoming extensions. Although it wouldn't hurt the Pelicans to hold on to a defensive-minded veteran on a fairly cheap deal, he could be of better use someplace else.
1. Devonte' Graham or Kira Lewis Jr.
Both Devonte' Graham and Kira Lewis Jr. are offensive spark plugs that don't provide much value defensively. The Pelicans need to choose which one of them they want to keep and reduce the redundancy in their backup point guard spot.
Graham had a starting spot until the CJ McCollum trade. The 27-year-old was then moved to the bench and didn't play a huge part in the Pelicans' playoff run, playing 10.0 minutes per game. He averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 assists in 76 regular-season games. Lewis, meanwhile, missed most of last season due to an ACL tear. He has averaged 6.2 points and 2.2 assists per game in 78 games across his two seasons.
The Pelicans have to pick between the more surefire option or the one that has more potential but less certainty. Each of them could have interest from other teams, so moving on from one of them is a necessity. With Jose Alvarado securing a spot as a defensive pest, Graham or Lewis could play alongside him as someone to balance out the abilities of the New Orleans' backcourt.
Several teams could use Graham's offense, and his contract is modest enough to trade somewhat easily. Lewis will be just 21 this season. New Orleans should choose to bet on one of them for the foreseeable future and move on from the other during this NBA offseason.