New Orleans Pelicans: Their talented young core isn’t playoff ready

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 22: Jrue Holiday #11 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 22, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FEBRUARY 22: Jrue Holiday #11 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 22, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans have one of the more enticing young cores heading into 2019-20, but they’re not ready to make a legit playoff run – yet

Last season was a forgetful one for the New Orleans Pelicans and their fans. When the word got out that Anthony Davis no longer wanted to play for New Orleans, their season practically ended. I can’t blame the guy for being tired of playing in – as Stephen A. Smith would say – the Smoothie King Arena. I wouldn’t call it the most attractive location.

Nonetheless, after the trade rumors spread amongst the league, the Los Angeles Lakers immediately became the top candidate. Davis addressed his desire to play for Los Angeles and wanted to get a deal done prior to the trade deadline. This, ultimately, didn’t happened which sent the Pelicans and Lakers seasons into disarray.

Everything changed when General Manager David Griffin completed the blockbuster trade (at that time being) of the offseason and sent the 26-year-old superstar to LA. In return, he acquired three first-round picks, along with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart.

Their luck continued into the Draft Lottery where they landed the No. 1 overall pick. David Griffin wasn’t done. On Draft Night, Griffin traded back with the Atlanta Hawks, giving away their fourth overall pick(from Los Angeles) and received the 8th, 17th, and 35th pick.

These picks turned into Summer League stars Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, along with the first overall pick Zion Williamson. Just like that, the Guru Griffin worked his magic and in a few short months turned this franchise from one of the most inferior to one of the most exciting.

During the free agency period, the Pelicans traded for Derrick Favors from the Utah Jazz and signed J.J Redick to a multi-year contract; which added shooting and frontcourt depth to a team severely lacking in those departments.

Now, as we approach the 2019-20 season, a gust of fresh air is swirling around the Smoothie King Arena. And we’re all eager to watch this young team display their talents and grow right before our eyes.

The projected starting lineup for New Orleans seems to be Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, and Derrick Favors (for now). I foresee Jaxson Hayes occupying the center position; but not at the start of the season.

With these players, Alvin Gentry possesses, arguably, the best defensive backcourt in the NBA, along with lengthy, versatile forwards that can defend multiple positions effectively. Hayes and Williamson are going to provide numerous highlight plays on the defensive side of the ball.

The Pelicans are rising as the leagues new up-and-coming team. And with so much youth, expect this roster to run every chance they get. Last season, New Orleans ranked second in the NBA with an offensive pace rating of 103.89, now Gentry has a roster that fits the mold even more so.

Just imagine a fast break led by Lonzo and having it cap off with an emphatic slam by Zion. This team is going to be fun to watch.

With all that being said, the Pelicans still have a few veterans on their roster, like Jrue Holiday. Even with all the nonsense surrounding the Pelicans a season ago, the underrated, Jrue Holiday managed to compile a stat line of 21.2 points per game, five rebounds, and 7.7 assists, while shooting at a 47 percent clip from the field. His presence and leadership will be a huge benefactor to players such as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.

These two guys both have the talent to be stars in the league. But due to a myriad of injuries and the struggle to find consistency, the two haven’t lived up to their hype. Ingram took a step forward last year averaging 18.3 points on 49.7 percent shooting. But his season was derailed by blood clots in his right arm and limited him to 52 games.

Lonzo continued stuffing the stat sheet in his second season with averages of 10 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.4 assists on 40 percent shooting. Not necessarily pretty numbers. Well…at least it got Lavar Ball to shut up.

Ball’s shooting percentages are atrocious and he’s become a liability in the fourth quarter. However, as he enters his third season, this will be the lowest amount of pressure he’s been under. With the Lakers he was either asked to be the primary scorer or secondary in his first two seasons, with New Orleans this season he can finally play his game with all the young talent surrounding him.

Don’t get me wrong, the kid can still Ball. And with Jrue Holiday, his ascension to stardom will commence.

Behind Jrue Holiday, Zion Williamson will be the team’s second best player. If you’ve seen his college highlights then you know. I mean, who hasn’t by now? The 280-pound forward will enter the league as the second heaviest player behind Boban Marjonovic – listed at 7-foot-3.

And even still with all that weight he’ll still be one of the fastest, most athletic guys there is with a 45-inch vertical leap. A nine minute span in summer league was all that we needed to see from Zion, he’s ready for the big league.

Does this team have enough talent to make the playoffs?

In a quick response, yes.

But not in the Western Conference. The West is loaded with many teams that can make the playoffs this upcoming season. Teams like the Lakers (a definite playoff lock), the Kings, and Mavericks all missed the postseason a year ago and have the chance to make it this season.

Other teams like the Blazers and Jazz have gotten significantly better, making it difficult for the Pelicans to slither their way into late April basketball.

With all the improvements this team has made, they still are lacking in a critical part of today’s game.


And, although, they addressed it somewhat and added J.J Redick — a career 41 percent shooter from 3 — it’s still not quite enough. The rest of the roster is filled with average 3-point shooters, Redick has a huge role to play this season.

Next. NBA: 3 rookies that will largely impact potential playoff teams. dark

Despite that, this team will be as entertaining as any and run with the best of them. Still, I don’t have the Pelicans reaching the playoffs in the Western Conference.

Final record: 37-45