The New Orleans Pelicans improved their team last year, by adding CJ McCollum at the trade deadline. They were on a roll at the end of the season and ended up winning the play-in tournament. They even took the number one seed, The Phoenix Suns, to six games. They looked like a young and dangerous team.
That good finish may be only the beginning of their rise though. This season Zion Williamson is back. He looks lean and hungry too. With an amazing body transformation in the offseason, all the accounts of him coming out of training camp are saying he looks great. He’s lost weight and toned up his muscles. The difference is eye-popping.
When you add Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, the Pelicans have a legitimate big three now. They are going to be a handful for everyone in the Western Conference this season.
The Pelicans Have A Great Combination Punch
A good one-two punch, otherwise known as one good inside player and one good perimeter player in basketball, can be hard to beat. The Pelicans are lucky enough to have a combination punch. Zion is probably the most amazing player in the paint since Shaquille O’Neal. His efficiency in close is unmatched in today’s game. With two good perimeter players, like Ingram and McCollum, to dish the ball to when he gets double teamed it’s going to make this team a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Ingram and McCollum can both create their own shots as well. Stopping this team defensively is going to be a tall task. If those three can stay healthy throughout the season the Pelicans have a great combination punch that is going to stagger a lot of teams. I don’t think any team is going to be eager to face them.
The Pelicans’ Defense Will Need To Match The Energy Of Their Offense
The Pelicans last season were 20th in defensive efficiency. If you want to be a contender your defense needs to be better than that. That combination punch on offense isn’t as powerful if you can’t get any stops. Good offense might get you through the regular season, but you won’t go far in the playoffs without a good defense.
There is little doubt about the offensive prowess of this team with a healthy Zion. We all know these guys will bring high energy to that side of the ball. If they can learn to match that energy with their defense, they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t Forget About The Pelicans Supporting Cast
The Pelicans also have some nice role players that will help fill out this team. Jonas Valanciunas has the ability to be a stretch five. This can really help with spacing for Zion. If he can force the defense to commit a man to him on the perimeter, it really opens up the paint for Zion to do his thing.
Herb Jones looks like he has a high ceiling and is probably the best of the bunch. At 6′ 9″ and with a 7’0″ wingspan he’s a tenacious defender. His passing and his free throw shooting are what stand out though. Those are invaluable skills for a big man in today’s game. If you have a big man that can pass out of double teams and shoot 84% from the free throw line it makes him so much more deadly offensively.
They also have a nice solid veteran presence off the bench in Larry Nance Jr. He’s consistent and plays within himself. He’s been around for a while, and he knows how to be a solid role player and good defender.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Willie Green. He seems to have turned the culture around in New Orleans, and the players seem to be behind him one hundred percent.
This team is going to be a threat to every team in the NBA if they stay healthy this season. They may not be championship material yet, but they are primed to possibly upset a lot of contenders this year.