At no point during the 13-game losing streak did logical minds expect for the Pelicans to be buyers before the trade deadline. However, upon winning seven of their last 10 games, Zion Williamson largely expected to return any day now, and the eighth seed within striking distance as no team below the seventh slot has played well, New Orleans is rumored to be looking for an upgrade to the roster in the form of a veteran.
According to Brian Windhorst on the latest Hoop Collective Podcast, he feels New Orleans is looking to add a veteran, not trade one away like Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick or E’Twaun Moore.
“So here’s my feel on the Pelicans right now, and I can’t emphasize ‘right now’ harder because it’s still very fluid,” said Windhorst. “One of the things I’m feeling as I talk to teams — and we’re getting to that point in the season — so this is today. Right now, it’s late afternoon on Thursday. Today, alone, I’ve talked to six different executives from six different teams. We’re getting to the point where it’s really getting into the season where everybody’s talking to everybody, including the reporters.”
“Right now, my feel on the Pelicans is they’re actually looking to acquire another veteran, as opposed to selling off a veteran,” continued Windhorst. “If anything, the Pelicans have seen what a big difference it made to get Derrick Favors back and they think if they could get another veteran into their rotation that it may even help them more. So again, right now, I sense from the Pelicans they may be buyers.”
Simply put, I’m a big fan of this news, and it coincides with what I’m currently seeing, hearing and feeling.
Following the 1-7 start and then during the 13-game slide, some frustration started to set in. No, divides never formed amongst the players and the coaching staff always maintained to hold the locker room’s ear, but instances of unhappiness were evident. Besides slumped shoulders and bouts with a drop in energy on the floor at times, I distinctly remember witnessing several pep talks, whether among just the players or the players and coaches. Rumors swirled that the New Orleans veterans were unhappy and some could be in favor of greener pastures. Who could fault anyone for possessing a few negative vibes? The thought in training camp was that regardless of what could potentially go wrong, things would never get as bad as they did in the win/loss column.
Fortunately, we’ve moved past those dark days, and suddenly the Pelicans are making waves in the Western Conference without Zion. As of this writing, they sit only four games in back of the San Antonio Spurs for the eight seed. In addition, New Orleans’ schedule is in the process of switching from one of the hardest to one of the easiest.
Since the start of the season, Brandon Ingram and JJ Redick have supplied the necessary consistency, and once we moved past the first ten games, Jrue Holiday’s solid impact as a two-way player returned, but several key difference makers have recently emerged.
With the return of a healthy Derrick Favors to the lineup, the Pelicans are now slowing down opponents and holding them many more times to one shot. Lonzo Ball has been playing his most effective basketball as a professional to date, and the team has been receiving timely contributions from Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and E’Twaun Moore.
However, if the Pelicans are serious about chasing the playoffs this season, it would behoove them to add another piece or two, especially more veteran presence in light of the roster’s weaknesses. Another rim protector/rebounder in the post would be great, a physical defender at the 3 and 4 would be quite useful with Ingram physically not there yet and Kenrich Williams hitting a wall, and a playmaking guard behind Jrue and Lonzo is a smart insurance policy.
Granted, anything is possible over the next 2-3 weeks. The Pelicans could fall upon hard times again and that might be enough to convince the front office to change their mind and become a seller. However, with the way New Orleans is playing and Zion expected to rejoin the team very soon, the opportunity to make the playoffs this season is there — as well as get a head start at building some continuity for next year.
With the Pelicans possessing potentially five draft picks in what’s considered a weak draft — and that doesn’t account for Didi Louzada perhaps being ready to grab a spot on next season’s roster, David Griffin has assets to dangle if say a Robert Covington, Jae Crowder, Tomas Satoransky or maybe even if Derrick Rose hits the trade market.
Considering how often we’ve seen games go down to the wire and the Pelicans having often struggled in those clutch minutes, the addition of another veteran could go a long way and potentially be an important difference-maker for this roster.
Wouldn’t it be great to see the face of the franchise go from the lowest of lows during the first few months of the season to the most unexpected highest of highs to close out the 2019-20 season?
Yeah, I think so too.