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New Orleans Pelicans offseason a letdown

Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry in Phoenix Suns v Toronto Raptors

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 26: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns drives on Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors during a game at Amalie Arena on March 26, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

When announcing at media day that Zion Williamson hurt his foot several weeks earlier, Pelicans lead executive David Griffin preemptively tried to assuage concern the team and Williamson were once again not on the same page with an injury.

“Unfortunately, I know that’s going to be taken as a very-big negative for all of you,” Griffin said of the injury. “It’s really not for us, because we were dealing with it all offseason.”

It was an ironic assurance, because New Orleans’ offseason was defined by the team’s information deficit.

The Pelicans traded draft capital to create cap flexibility, implying they knew they could land a star… then struck out on the summer’s top free agents. Chris Paul didn’t take New Orleans’ money. Neither did Kyle Lowry.

It’s a key missed opportunity and depletion of assets as the Pelicans try to impress Williamson, who might have a wandering eye.

New Orleans acquired Devonte’ Graham in a sign-and-trade with the Hornets. He’s solid. Signing-and-trading Lonzo Ball to the Bulls netted Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple. Satoransky is serviceable, and Temple should help in the locker room.

But I’d rather just have Ball than that trio, let alone have kept the first-round pick necessary to get Graham – a restricted free agent – from Charlotte.

Ball is three years younger than Graham and fit well with Point Zion. Plus, Williamson seemed to like Ball. The Pelicans had leverage with Ball’s matching rights.

That said, Ball didn’t always seem keen on New Orleans. Chemistry matters and is difficult to assess from afar.

Though it was somewhat surprising the Pelicans fired Stan Van Gundy after only one season, he wasn’t reaching his players. New coach Willie Green deserves a shot.

Acquired in the cap-clearing trade with the Grizzlies, Jonas Valanciunas should be an upgrade in both ability and fit from Steven Adams. But the selling point that Valanciunas is the stretch big who pairs well with Williamson falls flat. Valanciunas shoots better than Adams, a non-shooter. But Valanciunas still leaves New Orleans looking for an even better fit.

The Pelicans re-signed Josh Hart to a creative contract that gives him a higher salary and them more team control. That’s certainly better than him leaving or taking his qualifying offer.

Another 3-and-D type, No. 17 pick Trey Murphy was a solid choice (at least after trading down from No. 10). No. 35 pick Herb Jones has already drawn praise

Re-signed Willy Hernangomez and Didi Louzada round out a roster that will have to rely more on depth and internal development than the originally desired talent infusion.

Maybe the Pelicans took a reasonable risk by clearing cap space, and it just didn’t work out. Sometimes, wise bets don’t hit. Maybe New Orleans was a victim of an unfair system.

But it’s tough to believe the Pelicans did well enough gaining intel before free agency officially opened, and tampering is commonplace enough that teams must work around it/through it.

We’re grading outcomes, anyway.

Since that initial moment of hope, New Orleans’ offseason was one long bummer, right through the revelation Williamson is sidelined.

Offseason grade: D+