3 Pelicans that earned untouchable status, 3 that should be cut loose

The Pelicans should be active in trade talks this offseason.
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram
New Orleans Pelicans, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram / Jonathan Bachman/GettyImages
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Cut loose: Jonas Valanciunas

It is time for the Pelicans to move on from JV. His minutes and production slipped in each of his three years in New Orleans. The 32-year-old is a skilled big man, but he does not fit next to Zion Williamson.

Valanciunas played in all 82 games this season where he averaged 12.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 23.5 minutes per game. It was his fewest minutes since 2019. Valanciunas shot just 30.8 percent from 3-point range, and his lack of floor spacing hurt more playing next to another non-shooter. Zion. Williamson wants to attack the rim, but it is more difficult if JV is in the paint.

Valanciunas’ lack of rim protection and defense is less than ideal. Zion is an undersized four, so the Pelicans desperately need a five capable of deterring shots inside and anchoring their defense.

New Orleans explored his trade market in the 2023 offseason, but could not find a deal. Valanciunas is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Pelicans should let him walk. Doing a sign-and-trade may give them some value, but it should not be a priority for David Griffin and the front office. Worry about adding talent that fits over hoping to get an undesirable draft pick in return for JV.