What is the New Orleans Pelicans’ biggest positional need?

New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) and guard Jose Alvarado (15) celebrate their win against the Utah Jazz Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) and guard Jose Alvarado (15) celebrate their win against the Utah Jazz Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans have 14 players signed for next season, so they have about as much roster stability as anyone.

That doesn’t mean they won’t shake things up, and they’ll have to, as they have two more picks in the 2022 NBA Draft, including the 8th overall selection.

They could use that pick to make a trade, add an impact player, and clear a few roster spots in the process, but if they don’t they will likely just take the best player available regardless of position, which is the advantage of a being a playoff team with a lottery pick.

Related Story. 3 options for the 8th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. light

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t have to draft for need, but what positional group is the weakest? Where do they need help?

New Orleans Pelicans: Biggest positional need of the offseason

The Forwards

  • Brandon Ingram
  • Zion Williamson
  • Larry Nance Jr.
  • Trey Murphy III
  • Herbert Jones
  • Naji Marshall

The New Orleans Pelicans’ forwards are a deep group, the strength of the team and represent 3/5ths of the starting lineup.

The Pels’ best scorers (BI and Zion), their best defender (Herb) and two of their best bench players (Nance and TMIII) are all forwards. With all of them but Nance Jr. and Marshall locked up for the foreseeable future (assuming Zion signs an extension this summer) the forward position is pretty much set for the Pelicans.

Need: Very low

The Bigs

  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Jaxson Hayes
  • Willy Hernangomez

The Pelicans have three bigs under contract for next season in Valanciunas, Hayes and Hernangomez. Valanciunas is coming off the best season of his career and was one of the most consistent players on the team this season. He’s on a reasonable contract that goes through 2023-24.

Hayes is less certain, as he did break into the starting lineup this season but still didn’t improve all that much. The Pelicans have a tough decision to make on him, as he is extension eligible and could become a restricted free agent at the end of the season if they don’t re-sign him.

Signing him to an extension now is very risky, as he’s shown little growth and could hamper the Pels’ future finances.

With Zion back, he offers less as a backup center than he does a power forward unless he starts shooting and making shots at a higher rate. Hayes is one of the guys I could see packaged and traded this offseason.

Hernangomez is as solid a 3rd big as you will find in the NBA and has been good when called upon, so he is unlikely to go anywhere.

This is a group that could be upgraded, or modified, as the Pelicans could use a big who is more switchable on the perimeter.

Need: Moderate

The Guards

  • CJ McCollum
  • Devonte’ Graham
  • Garrett Temple
  • Kira Lewis Jr.
  • Jose Alvarado

Obviously CJ McCollum was a huge get and was one of the big reasons the New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs this season.

But the Pelicans do have a guard problem, as Graham, Lewis Jr. and Alvarado are all small and will have difficulty getting minutes.

Garrett Temple is washed, so the Pels will be paying him $5 million next season to basically sit on the bench and mentor the young guys, great work if you can get it.

CJ and Alvarado are locks to be back, but the Pelicans may look for upgrades for one or both of the other guards. McCollum played the “lead” guard position, but they don’t have a real starting caliber point guard. The question is if they really need one, as McCollum, Ingram and Williamson are all more than capable of creating on offense.

My guess is that they will look for a new home for Devonte’ Graham, though the team reportedly had not soured on him as much as fans had by the end of the season, mostly because he was injured and not playing the role he would if the team were at full strength.

Need: Fairly high

Guard is clearly their weakest position, so if the New Orleans Pelicans are going to add players this offseason in the Draft, trades or free agency, they are likely to be guards, hopefully ones with size who can defend or shoot 3-pointers.

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