New Orleans Pelicans: Who is the odd man out of the rotation?

New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) and center Jaxson Hayes Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans guard Devonte' Graham (4) and center Jaxson Hayes Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans already have 14 players under contract for next season and that is before they potentially add the three draft picks they just chose in the 2022 NBA Draft.

It’s a good problem to have, but if you look at the Pelicans’ depth chart, it’s clear that there will have to be some additional moves, and that some good players are potentially going to be left out of the rotation.

Teams can never have too much talent or depth, as the Pelicans discovered last season when Zion Williamson got hurt and everyone else had to step up. They now have the roster insurance to absorb an injury and are in a much-better position heading into the 2022-23 season.

There will be more trades and roster shuffling before the offseason is over, but for now it looks like there are some guys who are a lock for the rotation, some that are near locks, and some that will be on the fringe looking in.

New Orleans Pelicans depth chart: Locks for the rotation, near locks and players on the fringe

There are only six players who I would say are absolute locks for the New Orleans Pelicans rotation next season:

  • Brandon Ingram
  • CJ McCollum
  • Herb Jones
  • Zion Williamson
  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Larry Nance Jr.

These six players are going to be playing the lion’s share of the minutes, and Willie Green can go to war against just about anyone with this group. Coach Green should be able to stagger his “Big 3” to keep one of them on the floor at all times, and will have a lot of versatility with how he uses them.

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There are four additional players who will have to compete for minutes, but are likely to be a part of the rotation at some point in the season:

  • Jose Alvarado
  • Dyson Daniels
  • Jaxson Hayes
  • Trey Murphy III

All of these guys did enough last season to warrant more playing time, and Daniels is a guy who has the skill set to make an impact right away, especially on the defensive end with Herb Jones.

Of these four guys, I’d say Jaxson Hayes is the one who stands out, as there isn’t a clear path to minutes for him at the power forward position where he played most of his minutes last season. He is also due for an extension and the Pelicans might not be comfortable giving it to him given his lack of development.

That leaves six players who are on the fringe and will have to either beat someone out for minutes or may spend most of the season on the bench, in the G-League or on another team.

  • Naji Marshall
  • E.J. Liddell
  • Devonte’ Graham
  • Kira Lewis Jr.
  • Willy Hernangomez
  • Garrett Temple

Temple is obviously washed and will not be getting minutes in the rotation unless there is some kind of disaster next season. He’ll be tough to trade, so it’s likely he’ll be more of a veteran player/coach next season on the bench.

E.J. Liddell could end up being the steal of the draft, and can potentially offer more 3-point shooting and size than anyone else on this list.

I think Hernangomez is safely ingrained in the role he has as the 3rd big and will likely play similar minutes as this season, when he was used sporadically in certain matchups or to fill in for guy who is in foul trouble or injured.

Marshall seems redundant at this point, as do Kira Lewis Jr. and Devonte’ Graham.

Of the three, Graham is the one the New Orleans Pelicans would love to trade, as he is getting paid the most and has no clear path to minutes, especially after a down season shooting the ball. Is there a trade out there for Graham? Time will tell.

It looks like Graham, Lewis Jr. and Hayes may end up on other teams, as they are currently on the fringes of the rotation and would have the most value in a trade.

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