The New Orleans Pelicans ended the year with a first round exit from the playoffs, losing (4-2) to the #1 seed Phoenix Suns. For what sounds like a disappointing year, the Pelicans started the year losing 16 of their first 20 games and was on nobody’s radar to even make the play-in game.
Part of the Pelicans success last season were from the contributions of rookies Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado. Herbert was one of the most pesky defenders in the league last season, finishing in the top 3 in overall steals in the regular season.
Jose is a fan favorite, becoming infamous for sneaking behind an oblivious point guard and swiping the ball for a steal. Nobody can question Jose’s effort, if you watch any game he never seems to get tired and is always going at full speed.
Even without their star Zion Williamson, the Pelicans showed they can hang with the best of them and are looking to win now with their current roster. The Pelicans will have nearly the same roster for the start of the 22-23 season losing only Tony Snell, who the Pelicans are unlikely to re-sign and is an end of bench piece at this point in his career. With the off-season now arriving, the Pelicans now look to capitalize on a productive season and set themselves up for a deep playoff run for next year.
The Pelicans have a plethora of small guards in the backcourt with Jose Alvardo (6’0), Devonte’ Graham (6’1), Kira Lewis Jr. (6’1), and CJ McCollum (6’3). With CJ being the primary ball handler next season, the Pelicans may want to trade for a larger guard to supplement the Pelican’s defense.
Devonte’ seems like the smartest choice to trade next season, coming off another down year from signing his 4 year 47$ million dollar contract with the Hornets. The Pelicans could use a defensive minded shooter that can guard some of the NBA’s bigger guards to relieve some of the pressure off of Herb Jones and create space for Zion to attack the basket.
Devonte’ is still an excellent playmaker but his lackluster defense causes more harm than good at this time. Several teams like the Knicks, Pistons, Raptors, and Clippers could use his talents making him one of the first to go if the Pelicans want to shake up their team this off-season.
Shooting in the frontcourt
It is no secret that Zion loves to attack the basket, averaging 19.5 points per game in the paint during the 2020-2021 season. Every team that faces the Pelicans will build their game plan on trying to keep Zion out of the paint and double team him every chance they get.
Last season the Pelicans averaged in the bottom five in 3P% at 33.2%, they desperately need more shooters that can space the floor to take advantage of the aggressive help defense Zion will run into on a game by game basis. The current starter next to Zion in the frontcourt is Jonas Valančiūnas, who is also a beast in the paint averaging 11.4 points per game in the foul lane last season.
The Pelicans could give opposing teams nightmares if they had a stretch five on their roster and Jonas is coming off a great year averaging 17.8 points per game and 11.4 rebounds game. With his stock higher than ever, Jonas should be one of the first to be traded if the Pelicans want to give Zion some more breathing room on offense.
Zion stays healthy
Think if Zion was healthy during the playoff series vs the Suns, the Pelicans were missing their best player and made Phoenix work for every single one of their 4 wins. Simply put, if Zion can stay healthy off-season the Pelicans will be hard to beat.
All in all, the Pelicans have showed they have the talent to compete with the top teams in the league with Brandon Ingram, CJ, and Jonas as their big 3. With the addition of Zion to the lineup, the future is bright in New Orleans.