Pelicans GM would re-sign Cousins, Rondo 'in a perfect world'

Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The New Orleans Pelicans had a unique season. After losing second-leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins to a ruptured Achilles in January, most wrote the team off. Instead, they won 48 games and swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, however, after their elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, difficult questions enter the fray. Both Cousins and point guard Rajon Rondo are unrestricted free agents this summer, and the Pelicans will need to open the vault in order to keep both.

"In a perfect world, we'd love to have (Cousins) back," general manager Dell Demps told reporters Thursday. "We want him back. But sometimes things happen that you can't control in free agency. In a perfect world, we'd like to have him and Rondo back."

Cousins represents the most curious case. The 6-foot-11 center was having one of the finest years of his career when he suffered the injury, something that forced the Pelicans away from the Cousins-Anthony Davis twin-tower experiment they had been running to some success.

While there are questions about next season's salary cap and an athlete's ability to recover from an Achilles tear, Cousins could still get a max contract in the open market. The Pelicans were able to mitigate Cousins' absence by running their offense through Davis, Rondo, and Jrue Holiday without really skipping a beat. At the trade deadline, New Orleans also added stretch-four Nikola Mirotic, who remains under contract for another season.

The mercurial Rondo has also likely earned himself a pay raise thanks to his performance down the stretch and in the postseason, even if he doesn't care for the "Playoff Rondo" moniker. The pass-first point guard has been in an NBA contract wilderness of sorts for three seasons, signing a one-year deal for $3.3 million with New Orleans last July.

The Pelicans have about $92 million in guaranteed contracts next season, and retaining both Cousins and Rondo would push them into the luxury tax - not somewhere the small-market franchise wants to be. Yet the window for the team's core is shrinking; Davis can opt out of his contract after the 2020 season, while Holiday's deal includes an option in 2021.

Pelicans GM would re-sign Cousins, Rondo 'in a perfect world'
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