The New Orleans Pelicans will have the next three or so months to have a long and hard think about all the missed opportunities they had during the 2022-23 regular season. For the first few months of the campaign, the Pelicans were in such a good position in the Western Conference standings, even sitting in first place for a few days. However, everything took a turn for the worse in early January.

They lost Zion Williamson to what ended up being a season-ending injury, and they proceeded to go on a 10-game losing streak shortly thereafter. This knocked them out of contention for a play-in spot for a while, but a late-season surge courtesy of a hot streak from Brandon Ingram gave the Pelicans hopes once more of at least sneaking into the playoffs as the eight-seed, similar to what they did last season with Williamson injured.

Alas, the Pelicans flamed out of their 9/10 play-in tournament game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which certainly puts a damper on what was such a promising season to begin with. It seemed like the Pelicans were taking the next step, but here they are, in an even worse position than where they were last year.

Even then, it's clear that the Pelicans have plenty of quality weapons at their disposal despite the disappointing end to their season. But how many of them will be approaching free agency this offseason? And among those players, how many of them are worth keeping, especially given the Pelicans' tricky cap situation with Zion Williamson's max extension kicking in?

Here are the two free agents the Pelicans must re-sign during the 2023 NBA offseason.

Jaxson Hayes

The Pelicans had high hopes for Jaxson Hayes when they traded down in the 2019 NBA Draft just to select him with the eighth overall pick. An athletic big man with eye-popping measurables, Hayes' potential to become such an impactful rim-running rim-protector was through the roof.

At that point in the Pelicans rebuild, their depth at center wasn't the best. With only Derrick Favors standing as the legitimate threat to a starting job for Hayes, the young center had all the opportunity in the world to cement himself as a keeper.

However, Jaxson Hayes' youth reared its ugly head, as he began his career unable to keep his fouls in check. The Pelicans clearly weren't sold on what they saw from their high lottery pick, as they traded for Steven Adams and then Jonas Valanciunas in consecutive offseasons, relegating Hayes to a spot role off the bench.

To make matters even more difficult for the 22-year old center, the Pelicans have since acquired Willy Hernangomez and Larry Nance Jr., which only clogged up the rotation even further for him. During the 2022-23 season, Hayes averaged his least amount of minutes played throughout his career thus far, as head coach Willie Green preferred the Pelicans' more experienced options at the position.

This development could not have come at a worse time for Hayes, with the young center heading into restricted free agency in a few months' time.

However, teams with cap space in need of some frontcourt reinforcements, such as the San Antonio Spurs or even the Thunder, could tender an offer sheet for Hayes that may end up being too expensive for a team that would be paying the luxury tax sooner or later.

But Hayes could very well have a place in the Pelicans rotation still, especially with head coach Willie Green's reluctance to call upon Jonas Valanciunas in crucial moments due to his defensive deficiencies.

Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson has disappointed in multiple stops before. The Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, and Boston Celtics — three teams with contending ambitions — chose to let go of Richardson, as the idea of him being a stellar 3-and-D contributor has always been more exciting to ponder than his actual contributions on the court.

Nevertheless, Richardson remains a valuable piece to have off the bench. He can still hang defensively on the perimeter, and he even upped his steal rate in New Orleans. He also shot 38.4 percent from deep with the Pelicans.

Richardson should not cost too much in free agency as well, especially when his minutes have been trending downward for the past few seasons.

Versatile, defensive wings always have a place on the roster of a contending team. Thus, it will be shrewd for the Pelicans to keep him around. And if Zion Williamson ends up missing time once more (which is an inevitability at this point), Richardson could end up playing a huge role in New Orleans' 2023-24 rotation.