2 Pelicans at risk of being traded this summer

Jan 17, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  New Orleans Pelicans bench looks on against the
Jan 17, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans bench looks on against the / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

While the Pelicans have everything ahead of them to play for this season, it's never too early to consider the future of the ascendent franchise.

When looking at the Pelicans roster, two names jump out as potential summertime trade candidates. One is obvious, another, not so much. The first is Larry Nance Jr.

In February of 2022, the Pelicans swung a massive deal to trade for CJ McCollum, Tony Snell, and Nance from the Portland Trail Blazers for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, salary filler, and draft picks. Nance later signed a contract extension with the Pelicans and is under contract until the end of 2024-25.

The veteran forward has taken a backseat to budding star wings Trey Murphy and Herb Jones, and is now expendable. The 31-year-old is averaging career lows across the board, but his contract carries value across the league.

Following this season, Nance will be on an expiring deal worth $11 million in 2024-25. The Pelicans will need to free up money this summer if they plan on re-signing starting center Jonas Valanciunas, and attaching a future pick to Nance to get off of his salary is a likely solution to their salary cap crunch.

It wouldn't be a surprise if Nance is traded. If this next player, is moved, the trade would send shockwaves around the NBA.

That player is Brandon Ingram.

If the Pelicans don't make a run this season, thoughts about the core's ceiling will come into question. CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Zion Williamson are the Pelicans big three. Those three players have carried the load and are the main reasons for New Orleans' current standing in the Western Conference.

Like Larry Nance, Brandon Ingram is on an expiring contract next season. The 26-year-old wing is still a valuable commodity across the NBA, and a trade of the veteran would load the Pelicans with assets to continue building around Zion Williamson.

Eventually, there will be a log-jam on the wings in New Orleans. Herb Jones has been signed to a below-market, long-term deal to stay in the Big Easy. Trey Murphy is in line to receive a contract extension sooner rather than later, and his play of late has the price of the brick going up. Jordan Hawkins was drafted last summer as another future contributor on the perimeter for the Pelicans.

The question becomes "is the juice Brandon Ingram brings worth the squeeze." If the Pelicans sign Ingram to a long-term deal, it will be rich in value and they will lock in him and Zion as the team's core for the foreseeable future. If they decide to trade him, they believe their ceiling will be hire if the team is built around other players, and I think that is a legitimate thought that will circulate inside of the Smoothie King Center this offseason.