One center in and one center out for the New Orleans Pelicans

Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

We are now entering the third full day of the 2023 NBA Free Agency period, and for the New Orleans Pelicans, their biggest changes have come at the center position.

After choosing to not extend the qualifying offer to Jaxson Hayes, the Pelicans watched their big man (and 2019 lottery selection) of the last four seasons sign a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. In his career with the Pelicans, Hayes played in 241 games (starting in 47 of them) and averaged 7.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 0.7 BPG.

To replace him, the Pelicans signed newly-minted Eastern Conference Champion Cody Zeller of the Miami Heat.

Last season, Zeller played in 15 regular season games for the Heat (starting in two of them) and averaged 6.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 0.3 BPG in 14.5 minutes of action. In the playoffs, he appeared in 21 of the Heat’s 23 playoff games, where he averaged 8.3 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG, and 0.2 BPG.

This move will add some veteran experience to the Pelicans. Zeller has clearly been around the block. This season will be his eleventh in the association. And this stop will mark the fourth different team he has played for (the other three being the Heat, Charlotte Hornets, and Portland Trail Blazers).

Hayes is not the only center the Pelicans parted ways with over the last few days. On Thursday, the team decided to decline Willy Hernangomez’s team option (worth around 2.6 million dollars). This leaves the team with Zeller, Jonas Valanciunas, and Larry Nance Jr. (the sneaky defensive ace) as the only centers on their roster.

With that in mind, there is a chance that the Pelicans may not be done making changes to the center spot. Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer recently reported that the team could be looking to move Valanciunas in order to add some more rim protection to their ranks. We’ll address in a later post whether or not this Zeller signing satisfies this need.

In other news, after declining his team option to negotiate a long-term deal, the Pelicans and Herbert Jones have agreed to a 4-year, 54-million-dollar deal that will keep him with the team through the 2026-27 season.

dark. Next. 10 Players the Pelicans gave up on way too soon