With the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans select…
Current State of the New Orleans Pelicans
It’s crazy to think that not too long ago the Pelicans had a frontcourt of Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Let’s talk about the extremely up and down year for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Adrian Wojnarowski dropped his typical Woj Bomb in January when he announced that Anthony Davis would not sign an extension with the Pelicans and wanted a trade. The NBA fined Anthony Davis $50,000 for the incident. With trade rumors swirling, the Pelicans decided to keep Anthony on the sidelines, and he was booed relentlessly from New Orleans fans during the next home game.
An up and down regular season…
Pelicans fans had to endure Davis’ finger injury and the infamous shoulder injury when he walked off the court during the 4th quarter. While the shoulder injury didn’t keep Davis out of the All Star Game, the Pelicans decided to make some changes by moving on from Dell Demps on February 15th.
Also in February, thousands of New Orleans Saints fans protested the “No-Call Bowl.” Fans were rallying against the blown call during the NFC Championship game that knocked the Saints out of a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
To make matters worse, Anthony Davis wore a “That’s all, Folks” t-shirt during his final game with the Pelicans. Things were pretty doom-n-gloom in The Big Easy. The offseason started when the Pelicans announced David Griffin would be acting as the new Head of Basketball Operations.
Although the Pelicans finished with 33 wins (third worst in the Western Conference), there were a couple of positives. Frank Jackson and Cheick Diallo took some positive strides. Jahlil Okafor got some playing time and put up double figures in 19 of his final 38 games (scoring 20 or more six times). G-League standout Christian Wood averaged 17 and 8 in his final eight games with the Pelicans.
Looking ahead into Free Agency…
Let’s take a look at free agency. Elfrid Payton, who missed 40 games due to a broken finger, is expecting to test the Free Agency market. Other than Anthony Davis, this Summer begins and ends with Julius Randle. Julius Randle has a player option this summer and will likely get a significant contract after averaging 28 points and 11.4 rebounds per game per 40 minutes. Julius is a solid contributor, but he is about to get overpaid.
Luckily, Jrue Holiday, who was recently named to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team, is signed on for two more years with a player option in 2021-22. However, with a full Pelicans rebuild on the near horizon, will Jrue be interested in sticking around? Will the Davis trade also come with a Jrue Holiday trade this offseason?
Many questions surrounded the Pelicans before entering Lottery Night. Which team will get the number one pick? Will the team who receives the number one pick trade it for Anthony Davis? The Pelicans had a 6% chance of getting the number one pick, and David Griffin continued his good luck charm. The Pelicans won. For the first time in a seemingly long while, a positive event occurred for the folks of New Orleans.
The Selection – Zion Williamson
Here is a video I made of every dunk from Zion Williamson during his freshman campaign at Duke
Even David Griffin can’t screw this one up. With trade rumors abounding, will they keep the pick? Should they trade the pick for assets? Quite simply, no. Stop listening to the national media. The pick is unanimous, and the New Orleans Pelicans do what everyone expects them to do by taking Zion Williamson.
As a basketball junkie, I couldn’t have been happier for Pelicans fans. When you look at their depth chart, it’s pretty brutal. Now the Pelicans will land the prize of the NBA Draft and have the biggest trade chip in their back pocket this summer.
While David Griffin continues to say he’s confident in persuading Anthony Davis to stay, I do expect the Pelicans to trade Davis in a couple of months for the best package available.
I’m really hoping that the Pelicans decide to keep Jrue Holiday on the roster this summer. I’m expecting the Pelicans will use Zion a lot as a small ball 4. Everyone knows that Williamson is an athletic marvel, but I really like Zion around the basket. He’s excellent at attacking and finishing around and above the rim. The defensive duo and potential pick-and-roll game of Jrue Holiday and Zion Williamson could be really fun to watch next season.
Obviously Zion needs to work on his shooting, and it will improve over time. What makes Zion Williamson so intriguing is his handle and ability to drive and finish through contact. Zion should make his bread and butter at getting to the free throw line during his rookie campaign.
The Pelicans need to emphasize Zion’s rare combination of first step, handle, and ability to finish through contact. He’s nearly 300 pounds, and I expect Zion to be one of the NBA’s leaders in free throw attempts next season.
The Draymond role…
If I was David Griffin, I’d throw as much Draymond Green tape at Zion Williamson as possible this summer. I think Zion learning to play the “Draymond” role for the Pelicans would be the smart decision and truly a blast to watch. Regardless, I expect Zion to be a double-double machine from the jump. I think 15-16 points, 9-10 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game are reasonable statistics for Zion his freshman year.