NBA Rumors: 3 Downward trending teams with future-defining decisions to make

The Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns, and New Orleans Pelicans had disappointing exits in this year's playoffs. Now they are faced with some difficult decisions heading into the offseason.
Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves
Atlanta Hawks v Minnesota Timberwolves / David Berding/GettyImages
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New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans are the only team in this article who didn’t have a disappointing season. In fact, they were quietly one of the better teams in the league this season, finishing the regular season ranked No. 6 in net rating.

Unfortunately, their regular season success did not translate to the playoffs. While they made it out of the play-in tournament, they got swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round. To be fair, Zion Williamson missed the entire series, but his health has been a massive problem since he entered the league in 2019. Now the Pelicans have to figure out what they need to do to become a championship contender.

Interestingly, the Pelicans have a very solid roster. They have a ton of young talent on their roster as well as a few veterans who can provide serious value in their roles. It is fair to question whether or not some of their young talent is going to be part of the team long-term, though. This includes Brandon Ingram, whose $36 million salary for the 2024-25 season may be too much for the team to hold on to.

The Pelicans could trade Ingram if their salary cap situation is bad enough. It makes more sense to trade C.J. McCollum, who will also have a sizable salary next season. However, he will be harder to move due to his age. The Pelicans may also consider trading Larry Nance Jr. to give themselves financial flexibility and avoid luxury tax issues.

Ideally, the Pelicans would make a big upgrade to their roster by bringing in another star to shine alongside Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening and I fear the Pelicans may have to stand pat and deal with some financial hardships.

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