Heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, folks had high expectations for the New Orleans Pelicans. After all, the team secured its first playoff appearance since 2018 the year prior and gave the one-seeded Phoenix Suns a run for their money in the first round, bowing out in six games.
But fast forward to the current day, and it's evident that the Pelicans did little but tread water this season. New Orleans finished with a solid 42-40 record, but it lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the play-in tournament and thus missed out on the postseason entirely.
However, the injury bug certainly played a part in the Pelicans' underwhelming campaign. Their best player, star forward Zion Williamson logged just 29 games for New Orleans in the regular season, while Brandon Ingram logged 45.
Considering the Pelicans didn't truly get to see what their team looked like at full strength in the 2022-23 season, they would be wise to more or less run it back with the same group next season. With all of this in mind, here are two free agents that the Pelicans must avoid signing in 2023 NBA free agency:
2 free agents Pelicans must avoid signing in 2023 NBA free agency
The Pelicans lacked playmakers on their roster. Because there were no pure point guards on the Pelicans, Brandom Ingram, and CJ McCollum took turns being the team's primary facilitators throughout the season.
Ingram and McCollum did a commendable job holding down the playmaking fort, all things considered, as they both put up career highs in assists per game at 5.7 and 5.8, respectively. But they were also turnover-prone at times, particularly Ingram, who turned the ball over four times in the team's play-in loss to the Thunder.
A high-level facilitating point guard could help this already-lethal Pelicans offense become almost unstoppable. But the Pelicans shouldn't look to Dennis Schroder to fill this hole on their roster.
Schroder has put up respectable assist numbers over his NBA career (averaging 4.7 assists per game since joining the pros), but that stat isn't a good indicator of Schroder's playmaking chops or lack thereof. Schroder's a score-first point guard, and to a fault, as he plays with palpable tunnel vision. His assist-to-usage ratio — a stat that measures how often a player gets an assist in relation to how often they have the ball — ranked in the lowly 26th percentile among point guards this season, per Cleaning the Glass.
2. Jaxson Hayes
For the first three years of his time in New Orleans, Jaxson Hayes was a high-impact role player for the Pelicans. His at-the-rim finishing ability, rim running, and rebounding kept him in the team's rotation.
But that all changed this season, as thanks to the emergence of Larry Nance Jr., Hayes was on the outside looking in on Willie Green's rotation. In his fourth year in the NBA, Hayes averaged career lows across the board, including minutes per game (13.0) (5.0), rebounds (2.8), points (5.0), and field-goal percentage (55.1%).
Hayes will hit restricted free agency this summer after the worst individual season of his career, and the Pelicans would be wise not to match any of his offers and let him walk. With Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr. now monopolizing the majority of the available minutes at the center spot, it doesn't make sense for the Pelicans to bring Jaxson Hayes back next season.