clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

New Orleans Pelicans offseason roster locked and loaded for battles in training camp but front office maintaining big picture

Darius Morris is signing a partially guaranteed contract, temporarily capping the roster at 20 players, but for the longer term, the series of summer moves indicate a wish to maintain utmost flexibility.

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings

The New Orleans Pelicans are in the process of adding Darius Morris, a 27-year-old journeyman guard, on a partially guaranteed two-year contract.

While Morris, who has spent time with five different NBA organizations, two G League teams and last year with Guangdong Southern in China, could conceivable win one of the available spots in the 2018-19 regular season rotation or the second of the Pelicans two-way contracts, it’s more important to note that the Pelicans have reached their 20-man offseason roster limit with today’s announced signing — at least for the time being — and that they’re likely expecting to start the regular season with some combination of their existing contracts after having doled out so many small guarantees.

The Los Angeles Clippers still have a decision to make on whether they want to match the Pelicans offer sheet on Tyrone Wallace or not in the coming hours. If they don’t re-sign him as many experts have predicted, New Orleans will happily add him and owe him a check for the amount of $300K on September 12th. Then if he sticks, the Pelicans would be committed to paying him the entirety of this season’s minimum contract on January 10th — the same date for all partially guaranteed deals this season.

In essence, by having made small commitments to a large group of players with so much to prove, the Pelicans have prepared themselves to enter training camp with 12 guaranteed contracts and a hope to fill out the back end of the regular season roster with likely several of the following players on partial/non-guaranteed deals + Trevon Bluiett (two-way contract):

  • Garlon Green
  • Troy Williams
  • Kenrich Williams
  • Tyrone Wallace
  • Darius Morris
  • Jahlil Okafor
  • Emeka Okafor

While I’m sure we’re all on the precipice of some intense training camp battles kicking off in about three weeks time, realize the deeper meanings behind the Pelicans selected route during this free agency period.

First and foremost, New Orleans has decided to place a premium on flexibility. By possessing several contracts that do not completely guarantee until almost three months into the regular season allow for the greatest of freedom in trades. Here’s some examples:

  • If an additional roster spot is required to make an uneven trade happen before the full guarantee date, New Orleans can waive one of these contracts without suffering additional financial obligation.
  • If the Pelicans are interested in having additional movable salary past the magical date but before the trade deadline, commit to the guarantee(s) anyway as New Orleans should sit comfortably far enough away from the luxury tax.
  • If the Pelicans need to add salary to a larger contract or two to make a bigger deal work under CBA rules, they would not have to move a more useful component — like Jameer Nelson last season. (Remember how New Orleans was left scrambling to find a replacement in wake of the Nikola Mirotic deal with names like Mike James, Walter Lemon Jr. and Larry Drew II?) Instead of suffering any future small headaches, they can guarantee the full amount of a partial contract and add it to the desired trade proposal.

Second, the opportunity to enter training camp with multiple small guaranteed deals gives the Pelicans a chance to fully evaluate players under the most ideal of settings: competing directly against one another, alongside potential teammates and against real NBA competition in preseason. This is important when it comes to finding hidden talent at various positions of need and/or trying to select guys who best fit the existing core. Currently, the Pelicans are weakest at point guard and small forward, hence five of the seven unguaranteed contracts belong to one of these two positions.

In the most optimal of worlds, New Orleans wins the lottery and signs four players incredibly worthy of filling out the remainder of the 15-man regular season roster and the one remaining two-way contract — providing the team with a plethora of talent and trade bait. At worst, the Pelicans strike out, forcing them to go back to the drawing board and looking to perhaps sign a veteran or two for use in case of early-season emergencies and juggling potential salary in trade proposals. Most likely though, the front office and coaching staff agree on a couple of players they like enough (Jahlil Okafor and Tyrone Wallace should probably be considered the frontrunners) for the regular season rotation and one for the two-way (my guess: Troy Williams).

Thanks to league salary cap and roster restrictions, this appears to be a solid plan with plenty of forward thinking, but it wouldn’t hurt to see the New Orleans Pelicans emerge with a good return on their combination of minimal investments.