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At one point during the 2021-22 season, the New Orleans Pelicans were 14 games below .500 with a 18-32 record and any hopes of making the playoffs were quickly disappearing. 

While they did not finish the regular season with a winning record, the Pelicans won 18 of their next 32 games to clinch the 9-seed in the Western Conference.

New Orleans then went on to defeat the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament, claiming the 8-seed in the playoffs and drawing a matchup with the 1-seeded Phoenix Suns in the first-round.

They may have lost this series, but the Pelicans gave the 64-win Suns everything they had, taking them to six games and coming close to pulling off what would have been one of the most improbable playoff series upsets in NBA history.

A team that was not even supposed to be in the playoffs, the New Orleans Pelicans look to be well ahead of schedule, especially after making some big in-season trades.

At the trade deadline, the Pelicans acquired both CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. from the Portland Trail Blazers, giving them two talented offensive players to bolster their rotations.

After agreeing to terms this offseason on a new rookie extension with All-Star Zion Williamson, it now appears that the Pelicans are turning their attention to retaining some of their core guys long-term, as the team is expressing interest in offering long-term extensions to both McCollum and Nance Jr.

Both players ended up being integral parts of the Pelicans’ rotations late in the year, especially McCollum as the team’s starting point guard, and according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, interest in keeping both McCollum and Nance Jr. long-term is real from New Orleans’ point of view.

“It sounds like CJ McCollum is having some contract extension talks with the Pelicans,” Windhorst said on his Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast. “I'm not sure when he can actually sign that, Andrew. I know he signed his last contract extension in 2019.”

McCollum signed a three-year, $100 million extension with the Trail Blazers in 2019 and still has two more years left on his contract before he is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024

“I think the Pelicans are also interested in extending Larry Nance's contract,” Windhorst went on to say. “We'll see if that gets done.”

The New Orleans Pelicans ended up being one of the more surprising teams near the end of the 2021-22 season and heading into the new league year, they are extremely optimistic about what the future holds for them.

With Zion Williamson healthy and this team’s young core only set to improve, the Pelicans have a chance to make a lot of noise during the 2022-23 season.