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New Orleans Pelicans Offseason Primer: Important dates plus 2018 NBA Draft and Free Agency details

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How does DeMarcus Cousins fit into New Orleans future plans?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans 2017-18 season is in the books and fans were treated to one of the best campaigns in franchise history. The team’s 48-win total was the highest amount witnessed in ten years and a 10-game winning streak during the regular season tied a franchise-best mark. And just for the second time in their 16-years of existence, New Orleans reached the Western Conference playoff semifinals.

Up next, the players are probably in the midst of enjoying some much deserved time off, but the organization will be busy at work in trying to improve the roster before the start of next season. Here are some of the more important dates of the summer.

  • June 21, 2018. The date of the 2018 NBA Draft. The Association will announce the order of the lottery teams in the upcoming draft later today (May 15th), but with New Orleans making the playoffs, the top-3 draft protection on their 2018 First Round pick traded to Chicago in the Nikola Mirotic is not applicable and thus this pick will fully convey to the Bulls. Chicago will select 22nd overall in place of New Orleans; however, the Pelicans do currently own their 2018 second round which will be the 51st overall pick. Will General Manager Dell Demps keep the pick, move up in this Draft or ship it elsewhere to alleviate future salary concerns?
  • June 25, 2018. The date when the league will hand out NBA awards for the past season. Will Jrue Holiday make an All-NBA Defensive team? Will Anthony Davis earn a second straight All-NBA Team nomination? These are important details because positive outcomes will likely affect future Pelican salary cap sheets. Due to terms agreed upon in his contract signed last summer, Holiday is set to earn an undisclosed amount for All-NBA team appearances, and should he win the prestigious award, this unlikely bonus would need to be included as part of his salary for next season — thus raising the amount that counts towards the Pelicans 2018-19 salary cap sheet. As for Davis, should he receive an All-NBA Team award this season or next, he will be eligible to sign a Designated Player Extension (DPE) in the summer of 2019. This extension could be worth 35% of the salary cap! Although such an event would significantly hamper future salary cap sheets, it would go a long way to keeping Davis in New Orleans beyond his current contract.
  • July 1, 2018. The official start date of the 2018-19 season and July moratorium. Beginning on this day, free agents are allowed to come to verbal agreements with teams. Will Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark and/or DeMarcus Cousins reach compromises with the New Orleans Pelicans?
  • July 6-17, 2018. The dates of the Las Vegas Summer League. Barring any additional setbacks, fans are scheduled to get their first look at Frank Jackson, the 31st selection of the 2017 NBA Draft. In addition, any 2018 draft picks utilized by the Pelicans should suit up too, plus it’s more likely than not that Charles Cooke and Cheick Diallo make appearances as well.
  • August 31, 2018. This is the last day for teams to utilize the Stretch Provision of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If Alexis Ajinca isn’t traded at some point over the summer, will New Orleans stretch and waive his remaining season and $5,285,394 salary in order to open up some cap room?

2018-19 Salary Cap Sheet

Here are the seven members of the Pelicans existing roster currently under contract for next season. (All salary data below was collected from Spotrac.)

Player 2018/19 Cap Figure
Jrue Holiday $26,161,111
Anthony Davis $25,434,263
Solomon Hill $12,752,928
Nikola Mirotic $12,500,000
E'Twaun Moore $8,808,685
Alexis Ajinca $5,285,394
Frank Jackson $1,378,242
Total $92,320,623

Here are the four members of the Pelicans existing roster with partial guarantees for next season.

Player 2018/19 Cap Figure
Emeka Okafor $2,445,085
Darius Miller $2,205,000
DeAndre Liggins $1,795,015
Cheick Diallo $1,544,951
Total $6,445,100

Here are the four members of the Pelicans existing roster without contracts.

Player 2018/19 Cap Holds
DeMarcus Cousins $27,095,775
Rajon Rondo $3,960,000
Ian Clark $1,544,951
Jordan Crawford $1,544,951
Total $34,145,677

In addition to these four players, the Pelicans have five trade exceptions and one incomplete roster charge that count towards a cap hold total of $46,122,735.

If New Orleans commits to their four partial guarantee contracts — I’m expecting the team to guarantee Miller and Diallo only — the Pelicans would have $689,326 of space under the presumptive amount of $101,000,00 of the 2018 Salary Cap. However, for practical purposes, realize New Orleans will have no cap space in all scenarios unless they renounce all of their cap holds. Thus, for a second straight season, the Pelicans will need to rely on exceptions to be able to sign new contracts.

Since they own his full Bird Rights, re-signing DeMarcus Cousins could be easily accomplished, but there are major implications involved with giving him anything close to a potential max of $30.3 million. The luxury tax is expected to be in the neighborhood of $123,000,000 — hence, one of the reasons why Demps talked about requiring a perfect scenario in bringing back Boogie during the New Orleans season-ending press conferences. Committing a large sum to a player coming off a devastating Achilles rupture for a team that had greater results in his absence is questionable to say the least; realize that it would not allow much, if any, room to operate under the tax for the Pelicans to improve the roster elsewhere. Consequently, unless Cousins makes serious monetary concessions, it’s believed he’ll either leave in free agency or agree to a sign and trade that would place him on one of his teams of choice. Although rarely used in the past, there will be very few teams willing and able to open up the amount of cap space necessary to lure and sign Cousins.

We’ll go into further detail about Cousins impending free agency — whether the Pelicans should re-sign him at all or look elsewhere — and others in coming days, but for now, understand that New Orleans has a solid core of players and sounds quite intent on re-signing Rajon Rondo but is expecting to explore free agency and the trade market to round out the rest of next season’s roster.