Just hours after news broke that Julius Randle would become an unrestricted free agent, the big man was added to the New Orleans Pelicans roster. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Randle will sign a two-year, $18 million contract with New Orleans. The Pelicans also found out Rajon Rondo will be signing with the Lakers.
The wild card for the Pelicans in free agency is DeMarcus Cousins. The former Kentucky big man is a free agent, but is coming off an ACL injury. As money continues to dry up around the league, the Pelicans chances of retaining Cousins look promising. While Cousins has been linked to the Lakers, L.A. is running out of cap space, and appear unwilling to sign players to anything but one-year deals. Here’s a look at the current Pelicans roster which will continue to evolve throughout free agency. Cousins would start over Randle if the Pelicans bring him back.
Pelicans Roster & Projected Starting Lineup for 2018-19
C- Anthony Davis, Emeka Okafor, Cheick Diallo, Alexis Ajinca
PF- Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, Darius Miller
SF- E’Twaun Moore, Solomon Hill
SG- Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Liggins, Frank Jackson
PG- Elfrid Payton, Tony Carr
Pelicans Free Agency: DeMarcus Cousins (UFA), Jordan Crawford (UFA), Ian Clark (UFA), Charles Cooke (RFA)
NBA insider Sam Amick reported Cousins has interest in joining James in Los Angeles, per Hoops Hype.
I don’t know much this is worth in terms of his decision-making, but I’ve definitely heard that [DeMarcus] is extremely interested, if not obsessed, with the idea of playing with LeBron James. That may be a little strong, but it’s a really compelling idea for him. LeBron has called him ‘the best big man in the league’ before and my understanding is that LeBron is, at a minimum, intrigued. I think he has questions about what it would be like to play with him, but respects the heck out of his talent. That’s an interesting possible landing spot for him… I wouldn’t be shocked if he went there. I’ll be honest. I know it sounds crazy, and we don’t know what that deal would look like, but it’s not even just his interest in LeBron. That’s [a factor], but this is sort of a perfect storm because he’s always had an affinity for the Lakers in general. When the Lakers were at their worst, they still interested DeMarcus. I think he would like to play on that stage… But the pragmatic thing [to do] is go back to New Orleans, but I don’t know what that deal would look like.
It seems unlikely that Cousins would want to play in Los Angeles so bad he would be willing to take a massive pay cut. According to Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, the Pelicans made Rondo an offer, but the Lakers deal was better.
Randle was initially a restricted free agent, meaning the Lakers could match any team’s offer. Los Angeles renounced Randle’s rights to give them room to sign Rondo, and the move also made Randle an unrestricted free agent. As you can see by the Pelicans roster, it is far from a finished product, but New Orleans has brought in a few new pieces. The Pelicans also agreed to terms with Elfrid Payton, who grew up in Louisiana, and the deal is believed to be the veteran’s minimum. Pelicans fans should have more clarity on their 2018-19 roster once Cousins situation is resolved.