The New Orleans Pelicans are on solid footing. You read that right.

Yes, it would seem strange to say that about a team that finished below .500, lost in the first round and is dealing with the uncertain future of Zion Williamson. But the Pelicans are built for long-term success.

Even if Williamson is not healthy next year, New Orleans should be at the very least a play-in team again. The Pelicans also have resources to improve the roster through the draft, and will have a full season of C.J. McCollum, who was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers at the trade deadline.

The upside of the roster, if Williamson is healthy, is a team that should contend for a top-six seed in the Western Conference.

So how should they move forward this summer, when Williamson -- who missed the entire 2021-22 season -- becomes eligible for a contract extension?

 

State of the roster

Roster status: Built for sustainable success

After years of playing musical chairs with head coaches, president of basketball operations David Griffin finally got it right with Willie Green. If you want confirmation on why that statement is accurate, go back to his initial news conference after he was named head coach.

"When I think about coaching ... the best coaches are not the X's and O's. People can do that. The best coaches are the ones that you know care about you," Green said. "And connecting with players is no different than just connecting with people. You quickly realize you have a lot more in common than you don't."

The above statement holds true considering that when the Pelicans got off to a 3-16 start it was Green who played a pivotal role in keeping this roster together. Instead of seeing the season continue to spiral, the Pelicans played .500 basketball from that point forward and put themselves in position to contend for a playoff spot.

"We just continued to stay connected, Willie always has a good positive message every single day," Brandon Ingram said after the Pelicans defeated the Lakers in late March.

As for the roster, there are several positives to build on.

New Orleans returns 14 players under contract (Tony Snell is the lone free agent) and while that should be a caution sign especially for a below .500 team, the Pelicans if healthy (yes, that is a big if) can compete with any team in the Western Conference.