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Solomon Hill’s torn hamstring puts both his and New Orleans Pelicans season in jeopardy

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Behind the eight ball once again, where does the team go from here?

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Starting the season handicapped is a terrible habit the New Orleans Pelicans can’t seem to break.

Adrian Wojnarowski revealed late Sunday morning that Solomon Hill has a torn hamstring, will undergo surgery and could miss most of the 2017-18 regular season.

According to The Advocate’s Scott Kushner, the injury occurred during the normal course of off season workouts, yet I’m sure many fans are not completely shocked by the news. For a third consecutive season, a crucial member of Alvin Gentry’s rotation will not be a participant on opening day. Two years ago, the Pelicans kicked off the schedule without Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Quincy Pondexter and Norris Cole, and last season, Holiday and Pondexter.

This time around, Hill’s name sits on the notorious list and that’s a huge blow for the Pelicans, likely damaging playoff hopes. New Orleans boasted a top-10 defense during the 2016-17 season and a major reason for it’s success was due to Hill’s efforts on that end of the floor. Both Gentry and general manager Dell Demps made mention on numerous occasions of Hill’s importance to the team because of his ability to guard premier small forwards in the league like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard .

Where do the Pelicans go from here?

Obviously, the next-man-up principle applies right away so expect all eyes to fall on Darius Miller, Quincy Pondexter — if healthy — and E’Twaun Moore. They each have a golden opportunity standing before them, but time will tell if any of them can provide adequate minutes at the small forward position. Miller has spent over the last two years in Germany, Pondexter hasn’t appeared in a New Orleans game since Monty Williams was the head coach and Moore’s 6’-4” frame is likely to be problematic.

For these reasons, I’m expecting the Pelicans front office to react to today’s disappointing news, and re-signing Dante Cunningham suddenly becomes a priority few ever believed possible. The three-year veteran of the team has been an admirably role player during his time in New Orleans, but last season was a revelation of sorts as he added a proficient three-point shot to his arsenal.

Look for Demps to try harder than ever to push a trade through, perhaps dumping either Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca along with an important future asset(s). Or, the front office may be compelled to finally utilize the CBA’s stretch provision and waive either big man in order to create additional room on the salary cap sheet to bring back Cunningham or sign another small forward, say Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Allen or Brandon Rush.

Yes, the names are underwhelming, but the Pelicans cannot afford to sit on their hands. The success of the upcoming season is probable to affect the future direction of the franchise. For instance, a playoff berth could be the deciding factor on whether DeMarcus Cousins chooses to re-sign with New Orleans or leave for greener pastures. And if he walks out that door, one has to believe Anthony Davis would be tempted to soon follow suit... UGH!