The New Orleans Pelicans have several options after landing the 8th Overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. From the looks of it, the pelicans have the three (8th, 41st,St52nd) picks in the 2022 draft, but currently only has room on the list for the 8th pick. Still, the pelicans can afford to get creative to land their top prospect.
The cap hold for the 8thth Total picks for next season are approximately $5.4 million. New Orleans is just $2.4 million below the luxury tax threshold after the draft regulation is established and the cap is in effect. Barring a league-changing trade for another All-Star, the Pelicans remain under the tax and retain use of the entire $10.3 million mid-level exception.
Kira Lewis Jr. is a raw, largely unknown commodity. Devonte’ Graham and Jaxson Hayes are well-known commodities who may face reduced roles next year. Trading Kira Lewis Jr., Devonte’ Graham or Jaxson Hayes along with 8th pick is an option that would attract young talent while also providing financial and roster flexibility.
Hayes is eligible for a contract extension and Graham is due $11.5 million. Hayes and Graham, as well as future picks, could be used to nab a player who the front office believes can be a true difference maker for the rest of the decade. There is no need to force the pickaxe, Hayes, or Graham problem. AJ Griffin, Jeremy Sochan, and/or Bennedict Mathurin should be available if the pelicans remain sponsored or unable to find a trade partner.
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This draft represents a rare opportunity for a playoff team. The Pelicans aren’t going to get the lottery every offseason. This could be the best chance to add a top 4 talent before the team hits the luxury tax, regardless of future pick changes and options. Even if the Pelicans drop back in the draft, they should still be able to pick up either Ousmane Dieng, Johnny Davis or Dyson Daniels.
Moving up just a few spots for Shadeon Sharpe and Jaden Ivey will be worth the call for David Griffin. Making a trade for a top 3 pick to get Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith would deplete the supply of future draft assets. All three will cost almost twice as much as the 8th pick next season.
Since the Pelicans retained the 2022 Los Angeles Lakers pick, the Memphis Grizzlies will get Clevelands 2022 second-round pick and a 2025 New Orleans second-round pick to complete the trade with Jonas Valanciunas. With that deal closed, New Orleans can now sell one of the remaining 2022 second rounds for a few million in cash and still place a prospect overseas.
With a pick-swap option with the Lakers in 2023, New Orleans could also move back in the draft. Stockpiling more picks to use on cost-controlled talent is a financially prudent avenue to explore. There’s only one ball and so many minutes to play when Zion Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram lead a team expected to return most of the roster.
The Pelicans have done well at finding characterful guys outside of the lottery. Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado were drafted from the undrafted free agents pile. However, the Pelicans can no longer count on lottery luck and other teams overlook rotating jewels.
New Orleans is anticipating a quiet, quiet summer but needs to add another playoff caliber to the roster. The best way to do that and stay in control of future assets might be to stay in 8th place overall. Getting creative could propel the Pelicans into the top flight of playoff contenders. Getting too creative could limit future moves and hurt team chemistry.