Could Josh Hart return to the New Orleans Pelicans?

When the New Orleans Pelicans traded for CJ McCollum, Josh Hart was included in the deal, much to the dismay of Pels’ fans.

Hart was having the best season of his career, was a fan favorite and really seemed to be building something with his teammates on the Pels.

Hart understands the business of the NBA, but it had to be tough to leave a team that he helped make better just as they were starting to roll.

The Pelicans miss Hart’s defense, toughness and leadership, but can’t complain about McCollum, who has been one of the NBA’s hottest players since coming to New Orleans and raises the ceiling of what they can be as a team.

But the Pelicans would love to have Hart back, and the interest might be mutual, especially since the Pelicans added one of Hart’s best friends in Larry Nance Jr.

So could a Pelicans/Hart reunion happen? Maybe.

The Portland Trail Blazers and Josh Hart

The Portland Trail Blazers are at crossroads as a franchise, as they tried to shed money by dealing McCollum and Norman Powell, hoping to reload around Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.

Josh Hart’s $12.9 million next season is not guaranteed and if the Blazers choose not to fully guarantee his contract, he would become a free agent. His contract becomes fully guaranteed on June 25th, just two days after the NBA Draft.

By then the Trail Blazers could be a very different team, as they are going to try and add talent to satisfy Lillard, who wants to compete for titles, not for the play-in tournament.

I am sure that Portland would love to keep Hart, as he is a productive player on a reasonable contract, but if his salary gets in the way of them adding a couple of star players, his days in Portland might be over.

Hart’s time in Portland will largely be dictated by what they do before or during the NBA Draft, but it’s a possibility that he will not be part of their long term plans.

The Pelicans and Josh Hart

I’d say that the odds are strong that Hart stays in Portland, but let’s say he does end up on the free-agent market. Would the Pelicans be able to get him back?

The answer is possibly.

The Pels will be up against the luxury tax next season with McCollum, Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte’ Graham all locked up to big deals.

Zion Williamson will hopefully be signing an extension and could be getting a huge raise depending on how they structure the contract.

Larry Nance Jr’s $9.6 million is fully guaranteed and the Pels have a team option on Jaxson Hayes at $6.8 million that they will likely pick up or roll into his extension. Garrett Temple (ugh) is also guaranteed over $5 million next season.

Tony Snell could be off the books, but Trey Murphy III and Willie Hernangomez are locked up for next season as well.

In other words, it’s going to be tough for the Pelicans to clear enough cap space to sign a significant free agent unless they make some trades.

Even if they cut ties with Naji Marshall, and didn’t pick up the option on Kira Lewis Jr., they aren’t likely to have enough for a guy like Hart, who will probably get a raise on his next deal.

As much as Pelicans’ fans would love to see Josh Hart return, it is not going to be easy to make it happen unless they can find takers for Garrett Temple and Devonte’ Graham without taking back any money.

The door is still open for a return, but just a crack.