How a Strained Salary Cap Would Affect the New Orleans Pelicans

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans and Jaxson Hayes: (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans and Jaxson Hayes: (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – FEBRUARY 28: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans’ Cap and Brandon Ingram

The Pelicans have roughly $76.1 million in guaranteed money for the 2020-21 season.

Originally the 2020-21 NBA salary cap was projected to be around $115 million, which would have left the New Orleans Pelicans plenty of money to give Ingram a max extension and still have a little to burn in free agency.

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With the possibility the cap will be just $101 million, the Pelicans could have as little as $24.9 in cap space, which doesn’t include qualifying offers for Ingram, Frank Jackson or Kenrich Williams.

How it Affects Brandon Ingram’s Contract

Ingram’s service makes him eligible for 25 percent of the cap, or up to 30 percent if he makes the All-NBA team.

Ingram is a long shot to make the All-NBA team, so let’s assume that he doesn’t and his max contract starts at 25 percent of the cap.

That number would be around $25.5 million if the cap drops, which is already more than the Pelicans are projected to have.

The Pelicans can go over the cap to re-sign their own players, but even if they use the Bird exception, his cap hold will still be around $21.6 million or 300 percent of his current salary.

That leaves the Pelicans with little wiggle room to make a big splash in free agency, depending on ownership’s willingness to risk the luxury tax, which it might not be willing to do after losing millions to a lost season.

The Pelicans may be willing to negotiate to get Ingram to a slightly lower number. They can offer a 5th year, which no other team can, so they have a slight advantage.

But there are a handful of teams like the Detroit Pistons who will have cap space and would almost certainly offer Ingram the full max. If the Pelicans try to low-ball Ingram they will end up having to match a max number anyway and risk losing him in the process.

The Pelicans will have to get creative with how they structure the Ingram deal, as well as the other contracts on their roster.