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ESPN’s Future Power Rankings consider Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as two foundation pieces for Pelicans

A bit of a wait-and-see approach with projecting future success for New Orleans.

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Amid the suspension of the 2019-20 season, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks went ahead and released their NBA Future Power Rankings a few days ago, and New Orleans earned a score which placed the team 13th overall in the league.

Six Western Conference foes finished ahead of the Pelicans, including the Clippers, Lakers and Warriors occupying the top three spots.

These rankings aim to project the success of each team over the next three seasons, factoring in criteria like the current roster and its potential (biggest determining factor), ownership, coaching, cap situation, reputation of the city and the draft pick war chest.

Sporting a record of 28-36 and currently sitting outside of the playoff picture, Marks probably saw it fit to move the Pelicans up just a single spot from the start of the season for the following reasons:

The small increase is a result of Zion Williamson’s debut, the future of Jrue Holiday and the expiring contract (2020-21) of head coach Alvin Gentry. A healthy Williamson combined with All-Star Brandon Ingram has the Pelicans with two foundation players — similar to the Dallas Mavericks.

The small increase is understandable, but the feeling around the league is that New Orleans will perennially find themselves inside the top 10 down the road — so don’t view this ranking too much as a slight.

One issue that I did have with the analysis was assigning the Pelicans a ranking of 14th in the draft category.

In addition to all of their future first round picks at their disposal, New Orleans has a number of future assets from the Lakers via the Anthony Davis trade in tow, a protected Cavaliers 2020 first round pick (will likely translate into two good future second round picks) and a slew of 2nd rounders via the Wizards. Meanwhile, the Spurs, who own no future assets from any other team, were ranked 11th by ESPN in the draft category.

We can understand in thinking that San Antonio’s own picks will be more valuable as New Orleans has stronger odds of finishing higher in the standings over the next few seasons, but the Pelicans additional assets from other teams should perhaps tip the scale in their favor between the two teams, no?

Anyways, here’s the full breakdown of the Pelicans fared in each category:

Category Rank
Players 14
Management 17
Money 8
Market T-20
Draft 14

One other interesting item of note from Marks regarded Jrue Holiday.

Before the NBA took a hiatus because of COVID-19, Holiday was labeled as a player entering the 2020-21 season with an expiring contract, despite having a $27.4 player option in 2021-22. Now with the uncertainty of future cap projections, there is no guarantee that Holiday will become a free agent.

For more analysis or a view of the full rankings, please visit ESPN+ (subscription required).