In the span of precisely five months, the New Orleans Pelicans have undergone a metamorphosis unlike one I’ve ever witnessed in the league — and I’ve been paying attention since before Michael Jordan turned the Chicago Bulls into a consistent winner.
At the end of January, the Pelicans were widely considered second class citizens to the city’s favorite collection of athletes, the Saints, and they were facing the inevitable loss of one of the single best young talents in the league. Every prominent media member wrote them off. The future of basketball in New Orleans was bleak, at best!
Fast forward to today, the changes and additions are difficult to comprehend for close observers — but in a good way. The organization has bettered their image on the fly, reshaped multiple levels, ranging from key positions within the front office to the medical and training staff to now the incoming class of players.
Four promising rookies from the 2019 NBA Draft will soon suit up — Zion Williamson, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Marcos Louzada Silva — and alongside, three valuable veterans will join them on the court next season. The Pelicans came to terms yesterday with Nicolo Melli and JJ Redick and Derrick Favors was acquired in a trade from the Utah Jazz in the opening hours of free agency.
With the sweetest of strokes, Redick is one of the best gravitational pulls in the game. Favors is a beast around the rim, finishing, protecting and maintaining order on behalf of his team inside the paint.
Suddenly, the roster sits 15 deep. E’Twaun Moore, who had been an important starter for Alvin Gentry these last few years, could find himself on the third team of the depth chart, or dangled as trade bait. Young players who recently impressed in flashes, like Kenrich Williams and Christian Wood, have been thrust into a position where they’ll likely need to prove to David Griffin and the rest of the franchise that they deserve to have their contracts guaranteed for the upcoming season.
The front office has stocked the shelves with such a variety of enticing individual talent and their fit makes all kinds of sense on paper. This is a novel thing on the basketball side of things on Airline Drive. Becoming competitive overnight after losing Anthony Davis but knowing the best is yet to come via coveted prospects certainly wasn’t a path predicted by anybody. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Win projections compute that the presently comprised 2019-20 Pelicans should win more games than they lose.
Updated 2019-20 win projection for the Pelicans after agreeing to deal with Derrick Favors: pic.twitter.com/GHsrPcjlk1— Jacob Goldstein (@JacobEGoldstein) July 1, 2019
Brian Windhorst, an NBA reporter for ESPN, gushed about the Pelicans after JJ Redick had made his intentions known he was signing in New Orleans: “For him to pick this team is an incredible vote of confidence in where the Pelicans are going. And by the way, the Pelicans are going to be good this year.”
Remember, this positive opinion was issued before the Pelicans filled their biggest hole with Derrick Favors!
So, the moral of these last 24 hours? You’ve been given additional reasons to remain enthusiastic, New Orleans. Something wonderful refuses to stop multiplying at a dizzying but ultra satisfying rate.
No, I’m not naive enough to promise a trip to the next playoffs quite yet, but I’m also not going to stop you from dreaming that big. Development and watching this group grow together remains the highest priority; however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think New Orleans is poised to make a little noise out West before Zion’s hopefully historic rookie season comes to a close. This latest assemblage of players is oozing it all: talent, upside, motor — and super duper important to this front office — great character.
Who else can’t wait for that first game???