New Orleans Pelicans Off-Season: A Spinning Compass

The New Orleans Pelicans found something to work with last season. They barely missed out on the first round of the playoffs in the bubble. Rookie Zion Williamson showed out in the few games he played, and their star forward Brandon Ingram won the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. The New Orleans Pelicans off-season was focused on trying to build a playoff team around the two young stars they acquired, but it seems to be heading in a different direction.

Coaching

Stan Van Gundy: On October 22, 2020, the Pelicans hired Stan Van Gundy to replace Alvin Gentry as the new head coach of the Pelicans. Van Gundy formerly was the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons from 2014-2018. There, he became the 43rd coach to win 400 games and clinched a playoff berth in 2016. Now, he is leading a charge of versatile talent, from Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and a healthy amount of veterans they acquired this offseason.

Trades

The Pelicans took place in a large four-team trade this offseason.

What the gave away: Zylan Cheatham, Joshia Gray, Darius Miller, Kenrich Williams, a 2023 2nd round draft pick and a 2024 2nd round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder; Jrue Holiday and Sam Merrill to the Milwaukee Bucks

What they got back: Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, a 2024 first-round draft pick (swap), a 2025 first-round draft pick, a 2026 first-round draft pick (swap), and a 2027 first-round draft pick

This trade was a huge decision for executive David Griffin. The Pelicans had to sacrifice one of the best perimeter defenders in the league with Jrue Holiday, but they got a solid return. They expanded heavily on their draft capital, taking the Bucks’ first-round picks over possibly the next seven drafts. Furthermore, they got solid veterans back in Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams. This move may seem confusing, but the Pelicans got more draft capital to build around their young roster, more cap space, with still a solid roster of talent.

Draft

Kira Lewis Jr.: The Pelicans drafted Kira Lewis Jr. with the 13th pick in the 2020 NBA draft. Kira Lewis Jr is a 6’1″ point guard out of Alabama. His sophomore year, Lewis averaged 18.5, points 4.8 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. Lewis shot 45.9% from the field and 36.6% from behind the college arc. Lewis is also an excellent perimeter defender. He averaged 1.8 steals per game and recorded a 1.7 defensive box plus/minus his sophomore year. Lewis is a crafty finisher and an excellent defender that adds depth to the Pelicans roster.

Trade Rumors/Future

Currently, trade rumors have surfaced for Lonzo Ball and JJ Reddick, who are apparently on the trade block for the Pelicans. The package makes sense, but both players are playing at an unappealing level this season.

Lonzo is averaging 11.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists on treacherous shooting – 38.8% from the field and 30.1% from behind the arc. Ball has not shown his full potential as the former second overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft. His numbers have gone seriously down after showing some improvement each season.

JJ Reddick has not looked well either this season. Reddick is averaging a lowly 7.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game this season. Reddick is shooting some of the worst games of his career. He is averaging 33.6% from the field and 29.8% from behind the arc. These numbers are shocking to see from the veteran, but his status as an all-time great shooter should create value for him and the potential of Ball in a trade package.

The Pelicans have had been building a playoff-caliber team for this season behind Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Now, the Pelicans are sitting with the second-worst record in the Western Conference at 6-10 this season. Luckily, they locked up Brandon Ingram on a long term deal and still have Williamson on his rookie deal. The Pelicans have work to do, but they have a talented roster that just needs some fixing.

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