The upcoming season promises to be decisive for New Orleans. Due to injuries and various degrees of setbacks, they never had the opportunity to fully assess the roster they’ve assembled. On the whole, the team possesses significant potential, and with their skill set as a collective, the Pelicans are a strong group. However, how everything will come together and whether they can stay healthy are the main questions heading into the season.
At the moment, it’s all a bit like roulette in an expensive casino – the chances of success and failure are roughly equal. It’s not solely up to the player (in this case, the management and leadership of the club), as much depends on external factors.
Previous season results: 9th place, 42-40.
Arrivals – Jordan Hawkins (14th pick), Cody Zeller.
Remaining – Jose Alvarado, CJ McCollum, Daison Daniels, Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy, Najee Marshall, Larry Nance, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valančiūnas, Willy Hernangómez.
What to Expect from the Team
During the summer, the Pelicans made minimal additions to their roster. This is not surprising as the club wanted to test their existing roster, hoping for an injury-free season to identify surplus and indispensable players. Jordan Hawkins is a motor guard with a high shooting skill. He won the NCAA championship last year with the University of Connecticut and averaged 16 points while shooting nearly 39% from beyond the arc on almost 8 attempts per game in the regular season. In my opinion, Hawkins has an excellent opportunity to establish himself in the Pelicans’ rotation, alongside players like Zion, Ingram, and McCollum. In the free-agent market, the Pelicans added Cody Zeller with a 3.2/1 contract, strengthening their frontcourt rotation.
Prospects for the Pelicans, in my opinion, are virtually impossible and impractical to discuss without Zion. Therefore, making predictions for the Pelicans’ season without considering his availability makes them somewhat meaningless. If he is absent for an extended period again, the team’s ceiling may be limited to a playoff play-in tournament. However, if he plays, stays healthy, and performs at his best (which has never truly happened), the team’s ceiling could be much higher.
Over four seasons in the league, Williamson has missed 194 games out of 308 possible during the regular season due to various injuries. His instability has been a significant concern. Notably, the issues with Zion were often related to his inability to adhere to a strict regimen, which resulted in fluctuations in his weight. However, his entourage sometimes tried to blame the franchise for his problems.
Nevertheless, when it came to the maximum rookie contract worth $193 million over 5 years, Zion’s camp ultimately agreed to it. The Pelicans, however, included a standard clause in the contract regarding major awards or making the All-NBA team. If he achieves any of these accolades or lands in the top 15 players, the deal will increase to $231 million. Nonetheless, the Pelicans put some weight provisions in place. Zion’s weight should not exceed 295 pounds, and they also added restrictions related to the number of games played and the level of body fat.
Season Joker: Zion Williamson
In 114 games that Zion participated in the NBA, his average statistics are as follows: 25.8 points, 7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and a field goal percentage of 60.5%. When he plays, Zion is a player of All-NBA caliber, one of the best in the league. This is what makes him the Pelicans’ season MVP.
Of course, the Pelicans are not solely reliant on Zion. However, their results are not solely contingent on his health. Earlier, insiders informed us about the loss of one of the key Pelicans players, a forward with a bright future, Trey Murphy, who will be sidelined for 10-12 weeks. His return to the court should not be expected before November or December. There’s also Brandon Ingram, who, after his debut season, has consistently missed 20-25 games per season over the last 6 years.
Prediction: 11th place in the Western Conference.