What is your biggest concern regarding entering the season? (It could be a single player on the roster, a perceived weakness, some strategy, lack of perimeter shooting, certain lineups, anything!)
Jason Albert: Health
My number one concern heading into this season is Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram staying healthy. Both arrived in New Orleans with a long injury history for two guys who have not been in the league long. However, since the Pelicans have had their renaissance this off-season and landed a significantly better training staff, I entrust that for the first time ever the team will be able to handle it. If the team does stay healthy, I see no reason as to why they couldn’t win 45-50 games and make the first of many playoff runs in Zion’s career as a Pelican.
Kevin Barrios: Health
While the addition of Aaron Nelson helps ease my mind, I don’t think he can raise the dead like many believe. I still have concerns over the health of Ball and Ingram, who are both very key to this season’s success. If one or both miss any significant time the Pelicans could find themselves hurting for playmaking — an all too familiar place to be in. Much of the burden would fall onto Jrue once again and then he would need to be spelled by Frank Jackson, who hasn’t shown enough ability to run an offense (he seems clearly like an undersized two to me — not a playmaker), and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who has shown he has the tools but is still a rookie and will have a learning period. I’d feel much more comfortable if the Pels could turn E’Twaun Moore or Darius Miller into a vet like Patty Mills that perhaps doesn’t need to play, but could be a solid veteran presence and something more substantial than a band aid should he be called upon.
Chris Conner: Chemistry
My biggest concern for the Pelicans is how the various pieces are placed together and the kind of start they get off to. There’s a ton of talent, but can they gel starting from game 1? Will it take them more growing pains than expected? And once they figure out, will it be too late in a crowded Western Conference? Missing the playoffs wouldn’t be a disappointment, but the team has the pieces in play to make a run. Either way, the concerns of this season have nothing in common with those of yesteryear. Let’s Dance is right.
Mike Delayo: Competitiveness
Barring a couple of well-timed leaps by the Balliday backcourt (I will get this to stick), the Pelicans may have trouble dealing with the star power of the league’s top teams on a consistent basis. They have the talent and depth to steal games here and there, but the extent of their clout will be determined by their top lineup’s ability to hang with the Rockets, Clippers, Lakers and Warriors, each of whom boasts at least two top talents, on a consistent basis. A sturdy foundation of proven talent should keep the team competitive throughout the season, but the abundance of potential that accompanies it should keep every fan on high alert.
Jamile Dunn: Chemistry
While all the changes and new additions to the roster have been welcome, this is basically a completely new roster. Jrue Holiday is likely to be the only starter remaining from last season’s opening night lineup, not to mention the massive changes to the Pelicans bench units. While I really like all of the new additions, having this many new faces could present a major chemistry issue early on as guys try to figure out their roles within a new group. The onus, thus, will be on the coaching staff to identify clear roles early in training camp — but the NBA’s relatively short training camp doesn’t allow new rosters much time to gel.
While New Orleans did bring in great character guys who want to make it work, they also have a ton of young players who are no doubt focused on establishing themselves in the league. I’m not so worried about the rookies or tenured players as much as players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart. Ingram, for instance, is essentially in a contract year. How much will he be willing to sacrifice for the team depending on match-up and fit? Will it be a problem if Gentry prefers bringing him off the bench? Only time will tell, but one negative of having such a deep roster is that somebody is not going to play as much as they feel they should. How will Head Coach Alvin Gentry handle those situations once the honeymoon period is over and guys feel like they should be getting minutes?
David Fisher: Point guard depth
Jrue Holiday can play more point guard, and the dramatic increase in legitimate NBA wings may push him that way as well. Beyond Lonzo Ball (who has struggled with injuries) and Holiday though, there are no NBA point guards on the roster. Frank Jackson is an undersized shooting guard. NAW is a rookie. If Ball is out for an extended period of time, things could get ugly quickly.
Charlie Gonzalez: Health + Competitiveness
I am still worried about Lonzo and Ingram specifically and always felt concerned which placed their value so much lower to me. If they both prove healthy, as all reports would indicate, I am very excited about the depth and talent of this roster. Aside from that, I would genuinely say the other biggest concern of mine would be the absurd talent throughout the Western Conference. Were the Pels in the East this year, I would say they’d be fighting for a home court advantage in the playoffs — not just making it, but the rosters throughout the West should prove nightly wars that could go either way and the Pels will need their vets to come through in those moments.
David Grubb: Health
My biggest concern this season is Brandon Ingram’s health. Based on the medical reports this isn’t a lingering issue, but will he have the physical strength to hold up to the rigors of the NBA from game one? My other concern, which isn’t as urgent, is having enough facilitators on offense. I think Ingram and Williamson are capable of creating for others, but I’ll be glad when I know for certain.
Oleh Kosel: Perimeter shooting
Today’s game has placed an incredible amount of emphasis on the three-point shot and one needs to look no further than last season’s playoff picture — 13 of the 15 best deep shooting teams found the postseason. Hence, while New Orleans roster is exciting as a whole, it’s a little worrisome when looking at it from an individual standpoint, especially when projecting the Pelicans starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors. None of these players pose as even average threats from three-point range.
Of course, David Griffin has already gone on record stating that New Orleans strength will not be volume three-point shooting, but rather the hope is to present a staunch, versatile defense and transition attack. However, this doesn’t dismiss the need for long distance proficiency; consequently, Alvin Gentry is going to have an interesting balancing act. How long can he play the predicted starting lineup together before going to the bench and adding shooters like JJ Redick, Nicolo Melli, E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller? Also, can highly successful lineups be crafted around just one good floor spacer or will the coaching staff need to resort to keeping two or more shooters on the court most of the time? If so, can it be done without losing too much of the team’s intended identity??
Ben Pfeifer: Health
Though the Pelicans are supremely talented, many of their best players have injury concerns. Brandon Ingram had a bout with blood clots. Lonzo Ball’s career has been marred by injuries thus far. Jrue Holiday has spent a decent chunk of his career injured. With the force he plays with, Zion Williamson could be at increased risk for injury. If this team can stay healthy, they have a great shot at the playoffs. If their stars miss much of the season, they likely fall short of that mark, despite their surplus of depth.
Travis Tate: Zion frenzy
My biggest concern is overhyping Zion. Literally, everything about the draft lottery and NBA draft was focused on him, what he did, how he smiled, who he talked to, etc. Then, once summer league hit, he only played 10 minutes, which convinced every national media member that he’s out of shape. The potential for disappointment to the average fan (who thinks he’ll come in and immediately average 20 and 10) is there, especially since he lacks a consistent jump shot and plays a kind of tweener game like his great inspiration, Draymond Green. Like I said above: breathe and let Zion breath! Now, let’s dance!