New Orleans Pelicans training camp preview: Options and extensions

San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) shoots the ball against New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) and guard Kira Lewis Jr. (13) Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) shoots the ball against New Orleans Pelicans center Jaxson Hayes (10) and guard Kira Lewis Jr. (13) Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans will head into training camp ready for some fierce internal battles for roles and minutes, but there will also be some contract situations looming.

When is Pelicans training camp?

Training camp starts on Tuesday September 27th, the day after media day, where all eyes will be on Zion Williamson.

But Zion isn’t the only storyline of the offseason, as the Pelicans also have some possible contract extensions and team options that will need to be addressed soon, with some decisions more pressing than others.

New Orleans Pelicans: Contracts and extensions

CJ McCollum

Even though McCollum is under contract through the 2023-24 season, it’s not too early to start talking about a contract extension. McCollum will make $33 million this season and $35 million the season after that, so the Pelicans might try to roll his final year into a new contract to lower his annual salary in 2023-24 and spread it out over 3-4 more seasons.

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Larry Nance Jr.

Nance Jr. will make $9.6 million next season and then become an unrestricted free agent. Nance Jr.’s next contract is tricky, as I am sure the Pels would like to retain the veteran, but may be pressed for funds once Zion Williamson’s extension kicks in. This is one of the reasons trading Devonte’ Graham’s contract for an expiring deal would help the Pelicans. They’ll probably have to take a wait-and-see approach with Nance Jr., and he may end up getting a better offer on the open market unless the Pelicans were inclined to lock him up now, which poses some risk as well.

Jaxson Hayes

Jaxson Hayes is heading into the final year of his contract, which will pay him $6.8 million. If the Pels don’t extend him (and there has been no indication that is coming soon), he’ll become a restricted free agent, which is probably what is best for the Pelicans. They need to see how he has progressed and how he fits with their core players before making a commitment. If things work out, New Orleans will still have a chance to match any offer in restricted free agency. But there is still some risk that they would lose him for nothing, so expect to see Hayes’ name in trade rumors up until the deadline or until they extend him.

Kira Lewis Jr.

The most pressing contract issue for the New Orleans Pelicans is Kira Lewis Jr., who has a team option for the 2023-24 season that the Pels have to make a decision on soon. New Orleans has until October 31st to exercise it and if they don’t, he’ll become a free agent after this season. The option is for $5.8 million and it’s really hard to see the Pelicans picking it up unless Lewis Jr. is playing well and in the rotation. He has a hard fight for minutes and is trying to come back from a serious injury, so picking up that option would be a pretty huge leap of faith for New Orleans. He’s another player whose name will likely be popping up in trade rumors if that option is declined.

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