Which 2017 Free Agents Should the Pelicans Keep an Eye On?

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Jan 30, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) defends New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans (1) during the first quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans have assembled a solid foundation they can build on for the next few years. Now that this year’s team has been assembled, which free agents will they be looking to court next summer?

Most national writers and local fans praised the Pelicans for their singings of Solomon Hill, E’twaun Moore, Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier, and Terrance Jones. They chose to spend their money on a collection of versatile role players, rather than dumping it all on one big name starter.

Dwayne Wade, now 34 years old with an alarming injury history, received a contract with an annual value of 24 million dollars. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, two habitually injured offense-only contributors will receive about 33 million next year.

Meanwhile, Hill (11), Moore (8), Galloway (5), Tim (2), and Jones (1) received just over 27 million dollars collectively, are far younger, and can contribute on both ends of the floor.

Who will they go after next summer? To answer this question we first have to understand how much cap space the Pelicans will have available.

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Currently, the Pelicans have just over 97 million dollars in committed salary. Next season, after Jones, Gee, Tyreke, and Jrue come off the books they will have just 78 million dollars committed under a 102-108 million dollar cap (we won’t know for about a year the exact number, but that’s the best estimate).

If the Pelicans want to be competitive in next summer’s free agency, they will probably have to sacrifice an asset and move Asik. Moving Asik will get them down to just 67 in committed salary, with 45 million dollars to spend.

If the Pelicans plan on resigning Jrue, they will be forced to account for his cap hold. A cap hold is a certain amount of cap space a team needs to set aside for a player they plan to re-sign. The cap hold for a non-rookie is worth approximately 150% of their existing salary. Since Jrue will make 11 million this season, his cap hold will be about 16 million this summer.

To summarize, the Pelicans will have 78/102 million committed if they do nothing (94/102 if they want to keep Jrue) and 67/102 committed if they dump Asik (83 if they want to keep Jrue). If they need to create more space, Ajinca (5 million), Dante (3 million), and Quincy (3 million) could be moved very easily.

Now assume the Pelicans have a great season. Assume they make the playoffs, Anthony Davis is top five in MVP voting, and Buddy Hield looks like the real deal. If all goes right, they could have a shot at some home-run free agents.

Who should be at the top of their list?

Let’s take a quick look, starting with this very familiar face to Pelicans fans…….

Next: Free Agent #1: The Hero Returns