4. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans are talented team with a balanced roster of young and veteran players. This was a team that was among the top three teams in the West a year ago at this time. Still, it feels as if this team needs a major change.
This squad is led by a trio of All-Star caliber players: Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum, and Zion Williamson. The Pelicans have been a play-in team over the past three seasons. Realistically, the Pelicans ceiling is directly connected to how often Williamson is on the floor.
When Zion is in the Pelicans’ lineup, they are 69-65. Without him, New Orleans has a record of 84-115 since Williamson joined the team in 2019. They need Zion on the floor to have a chance. Williamson has battled injuries and weight issues in his five seasons in “The Big Easy.” He has yet to prove that the Pelicans can count on him for a full season and playoff rate.
This team poses other question marks. Has Brandon Ingram reached his ceiling? McCollum likely has at age 32 as well. Starting center Jonas Valanciunas is a free agent at the season’s end. Will the Pelicans try to bring him back or go in a different direction?
New Orleans looks to be an improved team so far this season, but we have seen this movie before. Realistically, this is still a play-in team in a loaded Western Conference. The Pelicans may not need a full-on rebuild but a retool shouldn’t be out of the question.
Whether that means retooling around Zion or trading Zion is left to be seen.