The New Orleans Pelicans continued to showcase their offseason overhaul as they introduced their four newest acquisitions in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Derrick Favors on Tuesday.
Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin began the press conference by thanking the various members of the organization for “landing the plane” this offseason including general manager Trajan Langdon, assistant general manager Bryson Graham and international scout, Yarone Arbel, among others.
This press conference finalized an exhaustive campaign to move on from the Anthony Davis-era in New Orleans and these four new rotation cogs will be looked upon as key contributors to the Pelicans regular season success in 2019-20 and beyond.
“All four of these guys represent the same thing,” said a smiling Griffin. “All four of them have won on the highest level. Everybody here has that. Those guys had all won a great deal at one point before that got to that situation. In terms of character these guys have as winners, that spoke to us a great deal. We want to surround ourselves with people that have won championships on any level.”
Lonzo Ball, the former number two overall pick, promises to start alongside Jrue Holiday in the backcourt on opening night and brings quite a bit of attention with father LaVar Ball, Big Baller Brand and his own reality show, ‘Ball in the Family.’
Ball’s areas of concern remain his availability and his shooting stroke. Ball missed 65 total games during his freshmen and sophomore seasons and remains a basket-making calamity from the floor, sporting just a 44 percent eFG and 48.8 percent eFG in each campaign.
However, Ball is an elite level facilitator capable of driving the Pelicans to success in transition while being a net plus in handling the rock.
Griffin on @ZO2_ #Pelicans pic.twitter.com/H87vewXTk7— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 16, 2019
“I’m very comfortable in a high uptempo offense,” said Ball. “I know the media’s not like it was in LA, but I know the fans are great, they’re going to come out and support and I’m looking forward to putting on a show for them.”
Most notable should be Ball’s defensive acumen. His presence could remove much of the onus from Jrue Holiday and allow Holiday the necessary energy to chase the offensive statistics that could propel him into the MVP conversation, per David Griffin’s vision. Ball’s 1.29 defensive real plus minus from last season ranks eighth among point guards and 13th among all backcourt stoppers.
Brandon Ingram slots into the small forward role the Pelicans have been desperate to fill dating back to the days of Trevor Ariza and Peja Stojakovic. While a deep vein thrombosis condition cut short a remarkable third-year breakout, Ingram’s offseason thoracic outlet decompression surgery was said to be successful and he is expected to avoid any setbacks.
Should he return to form and even improve upon his third season, Ingram’s 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists on 51.8 percent eFG would be a welcome addition to one of the NBA’s most productive units. His three-point shot regressed in 2018-19, but he caught on fire late in the season, shooting 42.5 percent from three in January and February.
“I’m pretty close,” said Ingram on his return to basketball activities. “I haven’t been shooting but I’ve been doing form shooting, some lower body stuff, some ball handling. I’m close to resuming normal workouts.”
"The universe doesn’t make mistakes. It brought everybody here today for a reason" - Griff— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) July 16, 2019
Josh Hart brings more than his on court advantages which are measurable. Hart shot nearly 40 percent from three-point range as a rookie and 55.1 eFG on nearly six shots per game. Hart regressed offensively in 2018-19, but his defensive presence was staunch, finishing third among shooting guards in defensive real plus minus, and sixth among guards overall (1.72).
In addition to his on-the-court offerings, Hart brings a sizable social media presence and his own podcast network to add to JJ Redick and Swin Cash’s. Hart promises to be a valuable rotation piece and a fan favorite in 2019-20.
David Griffin took the time to tell a quick fun story about how much Hart wanted to become and stay a Pelican: “Josh called me and said, ‘I know you can get a lot for me. Whatever you do, don’t trade me. I really want to be in New Orleans.’”
“I think it’s an amazing place, a place where people enjoy going to work here everyday,” said Hart. “You can see the potential. It’s something you want to be a part of and grow with.”
Finally, the Pelicans introduced eight year veteran, Derrick Favors. He received quite the farewell from the city of Salt Lake City and promises to bring a grade A work ethic and tenacity to New Orleans. Alvin Gentry will rely on Favors to take the low post pounding away from Zion Williamson and push forward Griffin’s vision of a fantastic culture in the locker room.
Favors’ production has dipped in recent seasons due to a withered workload next to two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, but during his 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns, Favors contributed 16 points and eight rebounds in just 30.8 and 32 minutes, respectively.
“It means a lot to me,” said Favors. “I was playing behind perhaps the best defensive players in the league. I wasn’t able to do a lot of the things I could do. They called and said I had an untapped offensive skill sets and I was excited by that. I thought this was a great fit for me.”
Griffin has assuredly placed Favors on a pedestal, citing his ‘untapped’ offensive potential. However, Favors’ greatest effect may come on the defensive end where he finished first in FiveThirtyEight’s ‘Draymond’ calculus and fourth in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus.
“He was asked to play out of position a lot in a league that’s gone smaller,” said Griffin. “He’s a special defensive player, an elite rim protector. Somebody who can do a lot of things to change the game. We think he can do a lot of the same things offensively. He and his agent Wallace Prather were excited to join the Pelicans’ family. They may not have been as excited as I was, but it was close.”
David Griffin: "JJ Redick is among the very best shooters and professionals in league history. Coming off perhaps the best season of his remarkable career, his on-the-court resumé speaks for itself."— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) July 15, 2019
In due time the Pelicans will officially welcome 13-year veteran, JJ Redick to New Orleans faithful. In addition to hosting his own podcast and providing locker room leadership, Redick remains one of the league’s deadliest floor spacers having shot 40 percent or better from three-point range over the previous six seasons. Redick’s off ball movement and lightning quick release makes him a nightmare for defenses.
Redick was officially signed by the Pelicans yesterday. The Pelicans waited two weeks into free agency to make the deal complete per necessity while they waited out the impending Lakers trade as well as decisions on the contracts of Christian Wood and cap holds of Ian Clark, Trevon Bluiett and Cheick Diallo.
Nicolo Melli also should be announced soon. With the Pelicans moves all but finalized the Pelicans can now slide Melli into their room exception. Melli (28) is a nine-year veteran of Euroleague having played for Olympia MIlano, Bross Bramberg and the Turkish Club, Fenerbace. Melli will provide depth at the four position and bring floor spacing and veteran decision making.
For more on the Pelicans, try our podcast breaking down Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes’ spectacular debuts in Summer League which earned them First and Second team honors, respectively.