Pelicans

Torrid Start Could Soon Signal Shake-Up in New Orleans

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It is almost red alert for the New Orleans Pelicans. The team is off to a torrid start, and with a shorter season, they’ll need to improve  immediately before things spiral out of control.

Trades seem much more imminent this year. New Orleans’ current roster construction plays much more into the weaknesses of the team than the strengths. A starting backcourt with limited shooting and a lack of stretch bigs personify the issues. While it is too early to distinguish an extensive list of sellers, there are players New Orleans must target.

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Stretch Forwards

The Pelicans have resulted in playing Josh Hart at power forward. Hart is an excellent rebounder and astute defender, but struggles to defend lengthy wings due to his 6’5 frame. Unfortunately, Hart is the only credible player capable of providing the tools a stretch big has. Nicolo Melli is nothing short of atrocious at the moment, with head coach Stan Van Gundy losing all faith in the Italian. Outside of these two, New Orleans does not have another option off the bench.

Doug McDermott

Doug McDermott, a 41% career three-point shooter, fits this mold. Used mainly as a back-up stretch four in Indiana, McDermott provides excellent spacing and size. Even though he is not a great defender, “Dougie McBuckets” is a smart positional and help defender. A trade for McDermott would provide the Pelicans the flexibility to play Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram with elite spacing.

Offensively, McDermott plays eerily similar to J.J. Redick (pre-2021 Redick). According to NBA.com, 78.8% of McDermott’s field goals come with 0-2 seconds holding the ball (Redick’s is 74.3%). Essentially, McDermott is efficient with his movements and either takes quick, high-percentage shots or moves the ball. Zion and BI will only benefit from a player like this.

PJ Tucker

By the time the trade deadline comes around, P.J. Tucker will be the belle of the ball. A tenacious defender and lethal corner three-point shooter, every contender will be after Tucker.

His fit with New Orleans is close to perfect. PJ would provide an interior defensive presence off the bench, allowing New Orleans to play Zion at the five without suffering a lot defensively.

In addition, Tucker is capable of switching onto athletic wings– a trait Pelican bigs don’t possess. Offensively, Tucker can fit in with any lineup as a low-usage player comfortable standing in a corner for numerous possessions. While Zion rests, Tucker can add spacing for Ingram without sacrificing rebounding.

Intangibly, PJ is a great teammate. A locker room with Tucker, Redick and Steven Adams will keep the young Pelicans core focused and on the right path.

Reliable three-point shooting/shot-creating guards

The criteria may seem specific. When looking at the league’s elite teams, they all possess a reliable three-point-shooting guard capable of creating his own shot. Whether it be a superstar or a sixth-man, a player like this is necessary. Eric Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball are both inconsistent shooters that NBA defenses do not respect.

Even though Bledsoe is currently around the 40% mark, his career averages suggest he will regress. Starting both together compound the issues further. Nonetheless, the lack of spacing generated by both hinders the offense dramatically.

Terry Rozier

Since joining the Charlotte Hornets, Terry Rozier has been a knockdown shooter while maintaining his defensive intensity. Averaging over 18 points per game while shooting above 40% from three as a Hornet, Rozier would add an element to New Orleans neither Bledsoe nor Ball consistently has.

From the corners, Rozier is shooting a sweltering 45% this year. Defensively, Rozier was always a pesky on-ball defender. Within Van Gundy’s scheme, Scary Terry’s athleticism will serve wonders for New Orleans.

Similar to Bledsoe, Rozier will easily be able to recover from the paint to contest three-point shots. Overall, Rozier adds an element to the Pelicans the starting guards do not possess. Although New Orleans hopes Kira Lewis Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker can fill this role, a proven young starter like Rozier will help the team win now.

Evan Fournier 

Similar to Rozier, Evan Fournier provides a much-needed scoring punch and shooting dimension desperately needed in New Orleans.

Undoubtedly, Fournier’s offensive arsenal is highly coveted. A great three-point shooter and efficient finisher around the rim, Fournier optimizes his strengths on offense. An analytical dream, Fournier has only attempted 12 shots from ten-feet to the three-point line.

Beyond shooting, Fournier is an adequate passer. Averaging 7.0 potential assists-per-game, as a secondary playmaker, Fournier will easily generate open looks for BI and Zion.

Furthermore, the star-quality New Orleans has is a considerable upgrade from Orlando. The added defensive attention the Pelicans create will only provide easier looks for Fournier, and as such, an increase in efficiency and productivity.

Defensively, Fournier is a noticeable downgrade from the starting guards. In Van Gundy’s scheme, however, the Frenchman will be protected by help defenders.

Blockbuster Players

New Orleans has the assets needed to pull off a superstar trade. The haul collected from the Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades provided a bounty of picks. Along with their future assets, New Orleans has young players on rookie contracts with untapped potential. Jaxson Hayes, NAW, Lewis Jr, Lonzo and Hart all have upside and intrigue. 

Bradley Beal

Since the James Harden trade, all eyes are now on Bradley Beal and the Wizards. A tumultuous start to the season has left the Wizards in the dust, and despite Beal seemingly denying trade speculation, a Washington rebuild can’t be ruled out just yet.

If this does happen, the Pelicans would be one of if not the best suitor. Furthermore, Beal’s fit with New Orleans’ stars is perfect. An elite scorer, ball-handler and shooter, Beal will provide easier opportunities for the whole team.

Beal is also more than capable of handling a large portion of the offense while maintaining elite production. As well, he is locked down until the 2022-23 season (player option in that year), ensuring New Orleans has at least one full season to convince Beal to stay.

Alternate Options

While Beal is the only superstar in constant trade talks, New Orleans should also monitor potential stars in Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Zach LaVine/Lauri Markkanen if things go south with their respective teams.

Overall, the Pelicans need a shake-up. As currently constructed, New Orleans is struggling to generate the consistency needed to make a deep run in the playoffs and without a few moves, a disappointing season looks inevitable.

Follow us on Twitter @PelicansLead for the latest Pelicans news and insight. 

About Vance Abreu

An Australian trying to make it big in Toronto, Canada. Weekly articles about the Pelicans journey to a NBA championship

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