Thu. Feb 27th, 2020

30 Teams in 30 Days: New Orleans Pelicans

2018-19 record: 33-49

I don’t know about y’all, but I feel confident in saying that the Pelican’s last season was one of — if not the — biggest disappointments by a team. The team had Anthony Davis, a perennial all-star and one of the best talents the league has seen, Jrue Holiday and a solid supporting cast that the season prior had made it to the semifinals and gave the Warriors problems —even though the series only lasted five games. 

But of course, we all know the root of the disappointment lies from the AD trade saga —or drama, however you call it is fine. And considering the circumstances — AD stating he was only going to consider an extension on the Lakers and Knicks, everybody in the league knowing he wanted to go to the Lakers and their former GM Dell Demps rejecting REALLY good offers from LA at the deadline — they still received a good return from AD. They got Lonzo, Ingram, Hart, three future first-round picks and the Lakers’ fourth overall pick — which they later traded to the Hawks for Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, Marcos Louzada Silva and a 2020 first-round pick from the Cavs. If you don’t think the Hawks had the best offseason, then you probably think the Pels did because they got good value for their disgruntled star, getting younger players, and getting rid of Solomon Hill’s contract in the process. Furthermore, they added quality veterans in J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors into what’s already one of the best young cores in the entire league.

Starting Lineup:

PG: Lonzo Ball

SG: Jrue Holiday

SF: Brandon Ingram

PF: Zion Williamson

C: Derrick Favors

The Lonzo and Jrue pairing is the go-to backcourt for the Pelicans and a defensive nightmare for opposing backcourts.  Strictly from a “how the lineup works” perspective, I would put Brandon Ingram as the sixth man and replace him with Josh Hart or Kenrich Williams in the starting lineup. That might sound crazy, but hear me out — Ingram doesn’t fit well with Zion or Lonzo from the perspective that neither of them is a consistent shooter *right now.* Plus, Ingram would give them a good scorer off the bench. In terms of who would get it between Hart and Williams, I would give Kenrich the nod because of how well he played in the starting lineup last season when he got the opportunity.  Josh Hart struggled in LA to the point that he was sent to the second unit. But, Gentry is still most probably still going to go with Ingram as the starting SF, so this was just a different perspective on the situation.

Zion is going to be a starter in the front court either way, no matter the position.

Some people would put Jahlil Okafor in the starting five in place of Derrick Favors, but see, if you’re going to have Ingram, Lonzo AND Zion, which are three guys that need the basketball in their hands to excel, then why have Okafor out there when he also needs it? Put him on the bench with Darius Miller, Josh Hart, K. Williams, E’Twaun Moore and J.J. Redick where he’ll have more touches, and with who he played well last season when Anthony Davis sat out.

As currently constructed, I think the Pelicans are a huge sleeper in terms of making the postseason as an eighth seed. However, considering how top-heavy the West is, I see New Orleans making the playoffs as something unlikely to happen. Yes, that might sound contradictory, so let me explain.  The Pelicans have the TALENT on their roster to compete for a playoff spot. However, in terms of how they could fit together (lack of shooting in the starting lineup) and doubts as to how some of their best players might perform — Lonzo Ball in terms of how much he improves his jumper, Brandon Ingram after a serious blood clot injury last year and Zion Williamson in terms of how his game transitions into the NBA — they aren’t to the point to where I see them making the playoffs (at least this season). Nonetheless, I still expect them to be a fun and exciting team, and if everything goes well (ie.Lonzo is good and has a decent jumper, Ingram plays well, Zion isn’t a bust), they could make the playoffs and be a headache for the first seed in the West.

I don’t expect the Pelicans to be making many moves at the deadline, whether they’re in contention for a playoff spot or not. The only changes I could see them making are moving E’Twaun Moore who has $8 million for this season left on his contract and is a good player that could legitimately help a team looking to win this season with his good shooting and ability to score; and Derrick Favors who has $16million for this season left on his contract and is a big man that could help a team with his defense in the paint, rebounding and solid offensive game. I would also say maybe J.J. Redick, but since he still has one year left on his contract after this season, I wouldn’t be so confident he’s traded this season (maybe next). 

With these possible moves, more minutes could be available for guys like Jaxson Hayes, Kenrich Williams, Frank Jackson, Josh Gray and Alexander-Walker, all the guys who played solid basketball last season when given time, in the Summer League this past summer, or have great upside to be solid players in the NBA. But even with all of this, everyone’s eyes will be on the Pelicans this season, for better or for worse, to see one man — Zion. 

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To summarize:

  • The Pelicans have one of the best young cores in the NBA.
  • They could contend for the playoffs, but I don’t think they would ultimately get it.
  • Possible moves at the deadline could see most of their young talent getting big minutes early in their careers.
  • It will be the Zion show in New Orleans.

What do you expect from the New Orleans Pelicans and their respective players this season? How will Zion fare in his rookie season? Tweet us your opinions to @the_BRKDWN. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about a team that was VERY good last season, and even after big changes to their roster this offseason, are still expected to be good this season.

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