New Orleans Pelicans open to trading Herbert Jones 

The New Orleans Pelicans are 25-18, and within striking distance of the fourth seed in the Western Conference but new reports suggest they are open to moving Herbert Jones. 

New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks
New Orleans Pelicans v Dallas Mavericks / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The New Orleans Pelicans are having their healthiest and best season in ages. They’re 25-18, and Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and C.J. McCollum have more than doubled their minutes played together from last season. For a franchise that has suffered such a glut of injuries over the past few years, 2023-24 is shaping up to be a charmed season. 

Despite the franchise finally having the season it envisioned when they traded for C.J. McCollum in February of 2022, reports indicate they are willing to part with Herbert Jones. According to Matt Moore of ActionNetwork, the Pelicans are open to moving Jones for the right price. The purported motivation is future financial considerations, as the Pelicans do not believe they can afford to pay Jones and Trey Murphy, due to a contract extension this offseason, and their top three of Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum. 

The Pelicans' financial future is bleak

Another factor is the Pelicans have been shopping in the center market and hope to use Jonas Valancunas’ expiring $15.4 million salary to take on a center with additional years on their deal. With a payroll already set at $150 million in 2024-25, another $15 million-plus in salary would push them past the expected $172 million luxury tax threshold. The Pelicans, along with the Charlotte Hornets, have never paid the luxury tax since its inception in 2002. 

If the Pelicans are treating the luxury tax threshold as a hard cap, then moving Jones may be the path of least resistance to ducking their self-imposed financial restrictions. However, trading Jones this season would be an inexcusable decision unless they receive an incredible offer. 

Financial doom is on the horizon. As a small market team in a lukewarm basketball city, the Pelicans’ financial constraints are real. That doesn’t justify them never paying the luxury tax, but it does mean that blowing past it and approaching $200 million in salary or paying the repeater penalty is far more damaging. In 2025-26, the Pelicans have $98.8 million in salary on their books for six players, but that doesn’t account for massive extensions for Ingram and Trey Murphy. 

Ingram will likely see a raise from his $36 million salary in 2024-25, and Murphy’s next contract will almost certainly eclipse $20 million and potentially $30 million per season. Even on the low end, that’s nearly $60 million in additional salary, and their roster would only comprise eight players. Even with difficult financial decisions looming, trading Herbert Jones this season would be a colossal mistake. 

The Pelicans would be crazy to trade Herbert Jones

Herbert Jones may not be a household name, but he is indispensable to the Pelicans. He’s a rangy 6’8 wing capable of providing weakside rim protection. While he has yet to make an All-Defensive team, multiple selections appear on the horizon, and he’s having the best 3-point shooting season of his career. Jones is the quintessential 3-and-D wing that all great teams covet. Which is why the Pelicans, amid an excellent season, should have no thought of moving him. 

The Pelicans’ finances are fine this season, and even next season, it wouldn’t be impossible to duck the tax and keep Jones and this core intact. While upgrading at center might be an organizational goal, it’s not worth moving Jones. 

There’s a saying, “Don’t throw good money after bad,” and Jones is some of the Pelicans good money. He’s one of the best defensive wings in the league and is basically making the non-taxpayer mid-level exception each of the next three seasons. The Pelicans’ finances aren’t a mess because of Jones. They’re a mess because they’re cheap and have committed over $100 million to Williamson, Ingram, and McCollum, who have made a combined three All-Star teams and zero All-NBA teams. 

Herbert Jones is one of the Pelicans best contracts

It’s unlikely Jones will be moved at this trade deadline. As noted, the Pelicans can wait until the summer before they have to figure out their financial future, but the asking price for Jones might be too rich for a mid-season move. Jones isn’t an All-Star, but his value to a good team is immense, and he plays a position with significant positional scarcity. As such, the Pelicans should demand a significant return to part with an excellent player on a good contract. 

Jones’ trade value is difficult to gauge, but he’s an elite defender, an improved shooter, and is under contract for three additional seasons. A return of two first-round picks wouldn’t be shocking, and it’s exactly why he’s unlikely to move. The Pelicans have the time to ask for the moon to move an important piece of their team early, and many contenders will have to wait until the draft to gain access to more picks. 

The Pelicans might be open to moving Jones this season if an incredible offer comes their way, but chances are they’ll play out the season and see what the market looks like in the summer. Herbert Jones is a star in his role and necessary to the Pelicans’ success, and moving him now doesn’t save them additional money. Don’t throw good money after bad, and don’t trade Herb Jones when you don’t have to. 

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