Building Zion: a Look at the New Orleans Pelicans

Magic Johnson recently stated that Zion Williamson lucked out with the Pelicans getting the No. 1 draft pick because ‘Alvin Gentry can coach.’

So the Pelicans are definitely on the up. We are likely to see them climb the odds boards over the next couple of seasons in Las Vegas and at the popular online sportsbook Heritage Sports.

Building Zion

Or maybe we should say, building around Zion. The thing is, this young man is good at everything. When you track the statistical data, he ranked in the eighty-fifth percentile in the nation in just about everything … just not spot-up shooting. 

a look at the New Orleans Pelicans and building a Zion

The pick and roll will be prevalent. When you look at Lonzo Ball, and Brandon Ingram, the roll is a mainstay in their offensive play, but at Duke, Zion didn’t play the roll guy very often, which is something that he’ll have to adjust to. But he is so good at everything he does – other than dropping threes– that he will do just fine. 

The Pelicans lost Cousins and then Anthony Davis, so will Zion be that defensive powerhouse under the rim that the Pelicans are used to having? Initially, no. Zion is a true forward and doesn’t have the size to be swing into the Center spot like AD. That said, he can be a fantastic roving rim defender, but the Pelicans are going to need a ‘classic’ Center to help out, at least for the first couple of seasons of this rebuild. They traded the 4th pick to the Atlanta Hawks for a No. 8, No. 17, No. 35, and a first-round pick in 2020. 

With that first No. 8 pick, they took Texas Center, Jaxson Hayes. He’s athletic and great at getting to the rim. That said, he’ll need to show improved physicality to be a force in the NBA. With their No. 17 pick, hey grabbed Nickeil Alexander-Walker from Virginia Tech. This pick is puzzling because we don’t really understand why they’d take him in the 1st round. Some say he checks the box as that great shooter the Pelicans need … but many don’t see him as a true contributor. Neither his offense or defense is good enough at this point to keep him on the court for extended minutes. He is a good shooter, but the rest of his offense is questionable at the NBA level, so can he actually get good shots on any sort of a regular basis? The Pelicans would be wise to use him as trade fodder while there is still the illusion that he can grow into something special. 

At No. 35, the Pelicans drafted Marcos “Didi” Silva. The Brazilian could turn into a pretty good three-and-D player and I see more value here at No. 35 overall than their No. 17 pick. Another thing the Pelicans did is got out of Solomon Hill’s contract which will open up a little more cap space for free agency. 

The Pelicans have a ton of picks to work within the near future. They have a pair of first-round picks from the Lakers with swap rights on the second, and a 2024/2025 deferment. They also grabbed a 2020 first-rounder from the Cavaliers via their Hawks trade. That said it is pretty heavily protected, so it may turn into 2 second-round picks which would improve count from seven future second-round picks to nine!

So, it will be interesting to see how they utilize their stock of picks moving forward. Do they cash them in for ahead of time for trades, or use them at the next couple of drafts to build for longevity?

One thing is certain: the Pelicans are going to make a run at the Western Conference real soon.

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