Pelicans only path forward will upset plenty of fans

The Pelicans only have one serious option to take in building their roster.
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans enter the offseason with changes in mind (subscription required). Fans are already hearing the rumors and trying to figure out ways the Pelicans can upgrade their roster. New Orleans has assets but needs to find the right moves.

Jonas Valanciunas likely departs in free agency. The Pelicans have been searching for more rim protection since the 2023 offseason. Letting him go leaves New Orleans with a hole at the five, and their focus will be on finding an upgrade.

The Pelicans must make trades. They do not have cap space and only own the 21st overall pick to add talent in the draft. Trades will be a pillar if New Orleans makes a significant roster overhaul, but fans will likely be upset.

Pelicans must trade Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum to improve title odds

If New Orleans plans to build a title-contending roster around Zion Williamson, both Ingram and McCollum must go.

Ingram is an elite scorer and strong playmaker, but his defense is problematic. The Pelicans do not want to give him a max contract, and he is entering the final year of his current deal. It is time to sell to the highest bidder.

McCollum provided leadership and a veteran presence, but the 6’3 guard is not one of the top three players on a title contender. He helped Portland reach the conference finals in 2019, but has advanced beyond the first round just one other time in ten playoff appearances. The 32-year-old can get buckets but is not expected to lift a championship.

Getting those two massive contracts off their books allows the Pelicans to reset. Zion Williamson must stay healthy and play like a star. Adding Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones gives New Orleans a strong core, but they must turn Ingram and McCollum’s $69.3 million in combined salary into players that fit around their star. The focus should be finding a rim protector and a point guard to round out their starting five.

It will likely cost New Orleans significant draft capital, but the Pelicans have it. Along with all of their own first-rounders selections, they have two from Milwaukee and the Lakers 2025 pick. David Griffin could make a blockbuster trade or multiple smaller deals to build their roster. It is whatever he thinks is best.

The New Orleans Pelicans should not be afraid to put their chips on the table. They have made the playoffs in two of the last three years but were bounced in the first round both times. The franchise aspires for more. Their goal is to contend for a championship. They have a star in Zion Williamson and need the supporting cast to become serious challengers.

Fans won’t be happy about trading Brandon Ingram and C.J. McCollum, especially if the Pels do not immediately get a star in return. It is their only path to title contention. Trust the front office and embrace their moves. It could turn things around, but only if the Pelicans are willing to spend to get their missing pieces. Fans know that has been an issue in the past.