Ever since the Pelicans drafted Zion, they’ve been expected to leap. The front office added young talent around him, such as Ingram and Ball. They brought in veterans in Adams and Bledsoe. On top of that, they even made coaching changes hiring SVG. However, for two consecutive seasons, the Pelicans have failed to make the playoffs. They haven’t been able to reach the play-in tournament. With rumblings of Zion being unhappy, now is the time for the Pelicans to make the playoffs. Here we’ll analyze their offseason and their season outlook.
Trey Murphy III
Last season it was evident that the Pelicans needed more spacing surrounding Zion. Lineups with Adams and Bledsoe were a huge reason for this. The Pelicans came into the draft with the 10th pick. However, the picks were traded in a deal with Memphis. After the trade was complete, they had the 17th pick. With the pick, they chose Trey Murphy III, out of Virginia. An incredible selection that will help solve the team shooting dilemmas. Last college season, Murphy shot about 43 percent from three. Furthermore, he shot an incredible 50, 40, 90 across the board. A 6’9 wing, that will fit perfectly across Ingram and Zion.
With their second-round pick, the Pelicans chose to take Herbert Jones out of Alabama. A selection that was for depth. Jones can contribute in the future due to his size and frame. As of now, he’s not a great shooter. However, he has to post up scoring ability and is a great off-ball scorer. If he’s able to develop a shot, he’ll be a great piece on the team.
To start Free Agency, the Pelicans had about 37 million dollars in cap space. They were rumored to be on the hunt for some free agents. The front office was aggressive in improving the team.
The Pelicans hit a home run trading away Adams and Bledsoe for Jonas. One of the most underrated players in the game and arguably the best player on the Grizzlies. Valanciunas for the past couple of seasons has been an incredible paint presence on both sides. Along with that, he’s been one of the best rebounding bigs in the league averaging nearly 13 boards per game. But his dominance in the paint isn’t what makes him so valuable for the Pelicans. The ability to space the floor will be pivotal for their success. Last year, he shot an incredible 37 percent from three. An upgrade from Adams. The fact that teams will have to step up to Jonas while shooting will do wonders for Zion. Expect impact from him right away.
Losing Lonzo Ball
Letting the Bulls sign Lonzo Ball was a huge mistake by the Pelicans. A young PG who’s improved each season he’s been in the league. Last year he had a career-high across the boards which included points and shooting percentages. The Pelicans wanted Kyle Lowry and replacing him with Ball is fair. However, losing out on Lowry and letting Ball go was an absolute mistake. They did receive Temple and Satoransky back. Two serviceable backups will provide value at the guard and wing spots. Both will strengthen the Pelicans bench and relieve some of the loss. However, the trade will still harm the pelicans more than it’ll help.
After trading Ball away, the Pelicans decided to acquire Graham as his replacement. A four-year deal worth nearly 50 million seems like good value for the Pelicans. Last season Graham was hampered with injuries. When he was healthy he took a step back due to the emergence of Lamelo and Rozier. The year before he had a career year averaging 18 points and 8 assists. However, the problem with Graham has always been efficiency. Graham’s yet to shoot at 40 percent from the field in his three-year career. He’s a worse shooter than Lonzo. This in no way is to slander Devonte, but he’s not near the player Lonzo is.
Resigning Josh Hart was a great move by the Pelicans. An incredible spark whether in the starting lineup or off the bench. Hart provides defense, grit, hustle, slashing, and rebounding. Many consider him a glue guy for New Orleans. Locking him up long-term for about 40 million is a great deal for both sides. Look for Hart to continue the role he’s played for the last couple of seasons. If his shot improves he’ll be even more dangerous.
Early offseason the Pelicans decided to let go of Stan Van Gundy. From the outside looking in, it seemed that Gundy’s old-school style of coaching didn’t fit with the youth of Nola. After a couple of days, the Pelicans decided to hire Willie Green. An assistant for the Suns, Green played a huge role in their finals berth. Furthermore, it seems Green is more of a player’s coach. He’ll be able to connect with the young talent and have them play winning basketball. A solid move by the front office.
Starters: Graham, Murphy, Ingram, Zion, Valanciunas
There’s no doubt that Ingram, Zion, and Jonas will be the starting three to five in this upcoming season. The three best players on the Pelicans. However, the starting backcourt may be up for debate. Although it may not be a lock, there’s a high chance Graham is the starting point guard next year. With the loss of Lonzo, Graham was viewed as his replacement. Graham is a really solid scorer and playmaker. If he’s able to improve his efficiency he’ll be incredible next to Zion. The starting shooting guard can go any way. However, Murphy III gets the nod due to his three-point prowess. The Pelicans need as much shooting as they can get surrounding Zion. Murphy seems to be an elite shooter and will complement Zion right away. All in all, it’s a really solid starting lineup.
Bench: Hart, Alexander-Walker, Hayes, Hernangomez, Lewis Jr., Marshall, Satoransky, Temple, Louzada, Jones, Gabriel.
The Pelicans are stacked with depth, especially in the guard spot. From veterans including Satoransky and Temple to youth including walker and Lewis. With Willie Green being the coach, I’d predict that Kira Lewis and Alexander-Walker will be the go-to backcourt. Both are young talents with tremendous potential. Hart seems a lock to get time at the wing. Hayes should also get a tremendous amount of playing time due to potential. The last spot is up for debate, but look for Marshall to get time due to his incredible stretch at the end of last year.
The Pelicans’ free agency had its ups and downs. However, the Pelicans upgraded their roster. They got rid of their weak points and aggressively attacked their spacing issues. Despite that, it’s hard for me to see the Pelicans making the playoffs. The west is incredibly stacked and full of talent. However, I do believe that they’ll be able to reach the play-in tournament. A clear step in progress for a team that’s been disappointing. Look for them to win around 44-45 games. Look for Zion to continue his dominance and the Pelicans to display their incredible future.
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