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To optimize the Pelicans’ offense, Redick and Melli will need minutes and lots of them

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The New Orleans Pelicans officially added a couple of floor spacing veterans in JJ Redick and Nicolo Melli. How much will they play?

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans officially announced the signings of 13-year veteran JJ Redick and 28-year-old Euroleague big man Nicolo Melli this past week, bolstering a rotation that lacked a healthy dose of floor spacers.

Redick and Melli solve those problems and then some.

JJ Redick is a career 41.3 percent shooter from the perimeter and shot 39.7 percent in his 13th-season. He also brings durability, having played 70 games or more each season dating back to 2013-14, his first with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Redick is more than just a three-point threat but did shoot over 25 percent more from beyond the arc than in front of it, and shot more shots (520) from above the break than anywhere else by a considerable margin. He would convert 39 percent of those shots, making him a high-volume scorer in addition to posing as a floor-spacing threat. Redick scored 20 or more points 28 times in 2018-19 as a result.

Defensively is where many will point to Redick and question deficiencies based on his size (6’4) and diminishing athleticism. However, Redick still made the Philadelphia 76ers’ defense 5.8 points better per 100 possessions on the defensive end of the floor, 3.7 during the playoffs. Redick also ranked eighth in real plus-minus among all shooting guards despite his negative 0.55 defensive real plus-minus

Redick was brought in to play and is expected to lead the team both on the court as well as off but what will his role exactly be?

The Pelicans are loaded with players needing reps across the backcourt. Nickeil Alexander-Walker can afford to watch from the sidelines, but Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Frank Jackson and E’Twaun Moore have a lot to prove in 2019-20 and will need time on the floor to do it. Moore is in a contract season and Jackson needs to prove he belongs inside a locker room overflowing with young talent at his position. Ball and Hart have an additional year on their contracts before facing restricted free agency, but they both need to recoup value now to keep from becoming trade fodder yet again or worse, being benched.

Moore seems the first in consideration to miss out on the overcrowded position but keep in mind that Moore actually shot better than Redick in 2018-19, especially from above the break where Redick does his worse damage. Redick shot 39 percent from above the break on 520 opportunities, Moore a much sharper 48.3 percent on 118 attempts.

Head Coach Alvin Gentry will need to spread some of his guards minutes out to the three which should come at minimal cost with size to spare in his backcourt. He can slide Redick to the 2 defensively while moving longer players like Lonzo Ball (6’6) and Josh Hart (6’5) to the three.

He may have to exercise this option more often than not should Ingram’s offseason surgery slow his recovery into the regular season but how he manages minutes for positions 1-3 will be one of the most interesting tidbits to watch as the season progresses.

Unlike JJ Redick, Nicolo Melli has the benefit of a shortened rotation in front of him and a dearth of shooting in the short rotation that does exist.

Zion will see starters minutes but shouldn’t surpass 30-per game in his rookie season. This should pave the way for Melli to earn at least 18 to 20 minutes per game, especially if he and Zion prove adept enough to share the floor and split duties at the 4 and 5.

A 38.7 percent career three-point shooter, Melli is the only big man on the Pelicans’ current roster who can space the floor with any kind of reliability. He shot 42.1 percent in his four most previous seasons making him the ideal front court match for any of Zion, Jahlil Okafor, or Derrick Favors. Shooting is not his only effective skill set on either end, but it’s the one that should give him the immediate nod over front court competition like Kenrich Williams and Darius Miller. Miller may bring more shooting touch than Melli can provide, but that is arguably his lone, reliable offensive skill and he hesitates to use it with regularity.

Kenrich Williams could be a candidate for backup minutes at the 4. He’s a smart, energetic player who Fred Vinson dubbed the summer league’s ‘glue-guy.’ We should expect Kenrich to fit in somewhere behind the 3 and 4 where he’ll have quite a few players to battle with for backup minutes like Melli, Moore, Hart, and Redick.

As Ben Pfeifer points out (in great detail by the way), Melli can attack the close out and manage the pick-and-roll on each end. Defensively, he makes up for his lack of lateral quickness with heady play. length, physicality and defensive iq.

Melli will get his shot in the Pelicans’ rotation first behind Zion and for good reason, but holding onto it will be another thing entirely. Melli looks the part of a playmaking Nikola Mirotic on paper, but he only managed 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per 36 last season with a 43.5 percent field goal conversion rate. If Nicolo Melli can’t improve upon those numbers while being a plus on the defensive side of the court, others like Williams and Miller could make a play for his minutes early in the season.

For more on Nicolo Melli, tune in to our latest podcast with Ben Pfeifer and Oleh Kosel!

Let’s geaux, Pels!