The Pelicans Under Performed This Season & They Need to Fix the Issues ASAP
The New Orleans Pelicans season is over and it is April. If you asked me before the season started, I along with many others would have told you they play until May or the end of May. For this team to get eliminated by the 10th-seeded Thunder in the play-in game is a failure. Flat out and point blank, the 2022-2023 season was a failure for the Pelicans. And going into next season they have to figure out how to turn their potential into wins.
Zion Zion Zion
For the Pelicans to get to where they need to be, the first thing that needs to happen is they need to get Zion Williamson healthy and on the court. In the Pelicans exit interviews, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin stated that Zion Williamson was never medically cleared after he injured his hamstring. Griffin stated that Williamson had a misstatement when he said that, physically he felt fine. This is a problem.
The fact that the organization and the player aren't on the same page is why there are issues, to begin with. It still feels that Williamson doesn't fully trust the franchise and he is still listening to people he shouldn't. Just look at Larry Nance's comments to Williamson about getting more people in his corner that will tell him what is right and not what he wants to hear. If Williamson can't get things together next season, then you will have to consider moving him to build around Brandon Ingram.
Williamson has to not only get healthy but stay in shape. And honestly, he should get in better shape, maybe cut 15 more pounds because his body clearly can't take that explosion at that weight. Also if he doesn't trust the franchise this won't work. I understand you love your family but they aren't NBA professionals, it's time to trust the professionals. We have seen when Zion Williamson is right this team can be a number one seed in the Western Conference. However, if he can never get on the floor, you can't waste the years of the other players.
Continue To Develop Your Young Guys
If there is any bright spot to this failure of a season, it is the growth of Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones. In most cases rookies suffer a sophomore slump; however, that is not the case with Trey Murphy. Murphy went from 5.4 ppg to 14.5 ppg. He showed that not only is he someone you have to account for every game, but he also showed all-star caliber potential. During the offseason, if Murphy works on scoring off the dribble and getting his body more NBA playoff ready he will be special. This kid showed that he wants to be great and as he grows this team will only benefit from it.
When it comes to Herb Jones, he suffered a little bit of a slump to start the season and he experienced the injury bug. But as the season progressed, he got healthy and comfortable in the season he showed not only the Herb Jones of old but an improved Herb Jones. Jones is easily an all-defensive talent. This offseason he has to work on his 3-point shot and improve there. If he does it will not only improve his game but improve the team as defenses will have to make a decision to help on the ball or stop his 3-point shot.
Figure Out What To Do With Jonas Valančiūnas
Head Coach Willie Green obviously doesn't want to play with Valanciunas. It is clear as day. To start the season I said we needed a big, well we need a new starting center. The Pelicans need a center that is athletic on defense and can space the floor. Sadly that is not Valanciunas. Valanciunas when not active offensively didn't try on defense and that did not mesh with Coach Green. So going into the offseason David Griffin has to make a decision on Valanciunas and find the Pelicans a new center.
Get Brandon Ingram & CJ McCollum Healthy
I know a lot of health talk surrounds Zion Williamson. But Brandon Ingram wasn't healthy for a lot of this season either. The difference is Ingram was able to come back when the Pelicans needed him and he finished the season out. When it comes to Ingram it's all about continuing to shape his body so he can take the physical abuse that comes his way. Griffin will also need to add more shooters to move defenders away from his path to the basket. And I truly feel if you do just that Ingram will have a better chance at staying healthy because he won't get bumped and bruised by so many defenders.
And McCollum played through multiple injuries this season and those injuries affected his play. If he gets healthy then your McCollum concerns should go away. However, if his poor play continues when healthy then you may need to look to moving him to the bench or finding a new 3rd option.
Even though this season was a failure this team has the potential to be a contender in the west. Everyone in that organization feels that way but they must do these things in order to get to where they envision themselves.