Active Offseason Ahead for Pelicans

Active Offseason Ahead for Pelicans
April 18, 2013

When an NBA team announces plans to change its nickname, colors, logos, uniforms, mascot and beyond, it goes without saying that an active summer off the court is forthcoming. When an NBA team posts a 27-55 record and finishes near the bottom of its conference for a second straight season, the same fate likely is in store for its on-court product.

“There’s a great chance our team could change again,” Pelicans head coach Monty Williams said recently, alluding to widespread New Orleans roster alterations that have taken place in each of the past two offseasons. “We don’t want to ever settle for being in this position. Next year we want to be knocking on the door trying to make the playoffs. That’s not something we say lightly, but it will depend on the dynamics of our team.”

Pelicans Unrestricted Free Agents (as of 7/1)
Al-Farouq Aminu Al-Farouq Aminu | F | #0
2012-13 averages:
7.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.21 steals

Roger Mason Jr. Roger Mason Jr. | G | #8
2012-13 averages:
5.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, 41.5% 3PT

Xavier Henry Xavier Henry | G | #4
2012-13 averages:
3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds

Lou Amundson Lou Amundson | F | #17
2012-13 averages:
2.4 points, 3.2 rebounds (18 games with NOLA)

Terrel Harris Terrel Harris | G | #12
2012-13 averages:
0.4 points, 1.3 rebounds (13 games with NOLA)

The makeup of next season’s Pelicans squad will be impacted by a number of factors, including free agency. New Orleans currently has five players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on July 1: starting small forward Al-Farouq Aminu, reserve shooting guard Roger Mason, reserve wing Xavier Henry and late-season pickups Lou Amundson and Terrel Harris. Four other Pelicans have contract terms that at least temporarily do not ensure their return in 2013-14.

“When you have as many free agents as we have, you’re going to have changes,” Williams said matter-of-factly. “That’s just the nature of it. When you have a record like we have, you’re not going to settle for this kind of production. But we do like our guys. We do want to bring a lot of them back, for sure.”

The Pelicans also will have an optimum opportunity to add young talent to their roster on June 27, when they’ll be selecting in the lottery portion of the 2013 NBA Draft. New Orleans has roughly a 50-50 chance of picking in the top five of the first round, based on odds at the May 21 draft lottery.

There are a multitude of directions New Orleans could go with its roster this summer. After 21- and 27-win seasons with two groups of players that were both among the least experienced in the league, Williams acknowledged that adding a key veteran or two might be invaluable. The three-year sideline leader also noted the possibility of the NBA’s second-youngest team getting even younger, depending on what transactions become available in the offseason.

“You have to manage the expectations when you have so many young guys, but obviously we want to win more games,” Williams said. “We could have a ton of young guys in here this summer, based on the draft and based on who we can pick up in free agency.”

New Orleans laid some of the groundwork for its future last summer, when it acquired Ryan Anderson and re-signed Eric Gordon, securing both to long-term contracts through at least 2016 and 2015, respectively. Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Greivis Vasquez are all officially under contract for next season as well, based on the terms of their rookie deals as first-round picks. New Orleans has a team option on Jason Smith, essentially a no-brainer based on Smith’s value.

As a result, there will likely be a sizeable number of under-contract players working out in the Crescent City throughout the summer months. Williams also expects that several others will spend time in the Alario Center this offseason. The team’s new practice facility, which is under construction in Metairie, is expected to open in August.

Even Aminu, who as an unrestricted free agent can sign with any NBA team on July 1, plans to be in New Orleans for portions of the early offseason.

“We’re going to have him here, as long as he wants to be here, working on his shot,” Williams said of Aminu, a first-time free agent. “If he goes to another team (even after working out in New Orleans), that’s cool with us. But we want to make sure that he has all the equipment he needs to become a better player.”

The next 2-3 weeks will likely be the only relatively quiet stretch of the 2013 offseason for a team that has considerable work to do in various aspects of the franchise, no matter where you look. Williams expects a wave of Pelicans players to return to the Big Easy in early May.

“We’re going to give the young guys a couple weeks off, maybe three,” Williams said. “Then right away get back to fundamentals, understanding our system, working on their shots. A lot of guys have agreed to spend a lot of time in New Orleans. That says a lot about where we’re going. Before I came here, nobody spent any time in New Orleans (during the offseason). Now we have anywhere between seven and 10 guys at any time spending the summer here.”