If the season fails to resume, what’s going to be your favorite New Orleans Pelicans’ takeaway and why? It can relate to a specific game, a players’ performance/improvement, a single play, anything!
Kevin Barrios: Bloom of the Anthony Davis trade package
My favorite takeaway has been the shift in the perception of the Lakers’ trade package, now versus the pre-trade deadline period last season.
At one point, we were hearing that Lonzo Ball — or perhaps just his father — didn’t want to be in New Orleans, and Brandon Ingram was dealing with a scary health issue that threatened his career. Josh Hart was always liked by the staff at The Bird Writes, but perhaps others in the city needed to see him up close to fully appreciate him.
As we discussed often in podcasts and articles pre-trade: if Lonzo changed his mind and if Brandon Ingram was healthy then this deal would be worth the stress and drama of the Anthony Davis trade saga. Well, Ingram proved to be healthy and better than ever — putting up career numbers in 2019-20. Ball followed Josh Hart’s path to fully embracing the city and became an extremely reliable catch-and-shoot deep threat. That package being such an instant reward combined with the promise of the picks it came with to me is the best part of the season.
Chris Conner: Improvements by Lonzo Ball & Brandon Ingram
Ball and Ingram had health concerns entering the 2019-20 season, with B.I.’s case potentially being career-threatening. Both were consumed with doubt around the basketball world when it came to each player performing at a high level going forward.
The former Lakers duo have dedicated individual fan bases that always believed, and after a year of trade rumors they both were traded from Los Angeles together. Ingram and Ball needed to find their fit on a New Orleans team that experienced one of the largest roster turnarounds in the NBA. While Brandon’s improvements were evident right out of the gates, Lonzo needed additional time to reach better form, mentally and physically.
Low and behold here we are and both ended the season before it was suspended on a roll, with Ball playing the best basketball of his career. Many folks link Zion Williamson together with either Ball or Ingram when the conversation is rooted around the Pelicans’ future. But Ball and Ingram could ultimately be the most two important elements of this entire equation from a roster perspective.
Neither are perfect and both have further areas of improvement going forward. But the steps that have been taken in shooting the basketball and revealing dedicated work ethics should help both players continue their establishment as bright young stars.
You may not see Brandon Ingram as Kevin Durant yet, or Lonzo Ball as Jason Kidd, but they may be closer than you ever imagined possible in their age-22 seasons.
Jamile Dunn: Zion Williamson’s immediate impact
If the Pelicans fail to play another game, I would still consider this season an enormous success for the organization. Entering training camp, Alvin Gentry had an entirely new roster brimming with talent, but he and the rest of the coaching staff needed to put the pieces together. After completing 64 games on the schedule, New Orleans management should feel great about the information they’ve gathered thus far. Brandon Ingram proved to be All-Star worthy of an impending max contract offer and Zion Williamson became an instant impact player. Add in Lonzo Ball’s massively improved shooting and budding on-court relationship with Williamson, New Orleans has a team to really be excited about moving forward.
Of all the positives witnessed this season, my favorite development was definitely Zion’s immediate impact. After sustaining an injury in pre-season, there were real questions about whether Williamson could live up to the hype, yet somehow he exceeded them during his all too brief 19-game glimpse. Williamson dominated veteran NBA front lines with a combination of strength and speed we’ve rarely seen before in the Association. Zion is the linchpin for all the future plans so the development of the Pelicans’ prized rookie was always going to be the most important part of this rebuild and did he ever get off to a great start.
Preston Ellis: Pelicans starting lineup
Zion is a star and the Pelicans are set for the future with the three-man core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Williamson. In addition, Jrue Holiday and Derrick Favors are the perfect complement to the trio, at least in the short term. This five-man lineup was the best in the NBA and for good reason: it’s the perfect blend of defense and playmaking. The Pelicans went from the eighth-worst offense and the fifth-worst defense on Christmas morning to boasting a top-ten ranking in each category since. This group, when healthy, worked. The depth, on the other hand, needs a significant boost.
Nicolo Melli was a disaster in the first half of the season (as were many), but he earned himself the benefit of the doubt for the 2020-21 season with his impressive play alongside Zion. Josh Hart was a revelation, but beyond them the Pelicans faced levels of inconsistency at every position. JJ Redick’s shot-making was some of the best in the NBA, but his defensive impact was damning at times. Jaxson Hayes, Kenrich Williams, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Frank Jackson, E’Twaun Moore and Jahlil Okafor provided serviceable minutes in select situations but aren’t yet proficient enough to be relied upon in an eight or nine-man rotation of a solid Western Conference playoff team.
Running this season back with expanded depth is the smart play.
Charlie Gonzalez: Trio of B.I., Zo and Zion oozes star potential
My favorite Pelicans realization is that this team has it’s core already in place for the future and it’s a near perfect complement. Zion, Ingram and Ball are a trio that fits so wonderfully in both attitudes and play styles it’s hard to conceive of a better one.
Many may say this stance is hyperbolic and overly optimistic, but I believe they have the opportunity to become the next Curry/Klay/Draymond trio, albeit in an entirely different fashion. Zion is clearly the A1 star of the trio who dominates in an unusual and spectacular fashion like Steph, B.I. is the easy going assassin who can heat up and take over at any point a la Klay, while Lonzo is the motor who does all the dirty work and facilitates while playing great defense like Draymond. You’d almost say it’s an inversion of the small-ball Warriors, where the Pelicans can now take advantage of all the teams who stylized themselves to beat that roster.
David Grubb: Evaluating the fruits of the 2019 offseason
The takeaway is the vindication of the franchise in being patient in its dealings with the Anthony Davis trade. From the outset of the season, the goal was to evaluate the incoming players and determine if they were long-term fits for the franchise. The Pelicans rookie class, led by Zion Williamson, showed tremendous athleticism and potential. The key free agents, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick, met expectations. Finally, the holdovers pretty much confirmed what we already knew about them.
The Pelicans, all things considered, are set up to go into this offseason with more optimism than they’ve had since they were still the Hornets. Their potential core is young and healthy. They have leverage in finding complimentary pieces with a bevy of draft picks and youngsters who other teams may covet. For one year at least, everything David Griffin was looking to see, except for how this team would respond during a playoff chase, he saw.
Oleh Kosel: Zion’s explosion in his debut
To be perfectly honest, it’s difficult to narrow down this Pelicans season into a single tidy selection. There were so many positives, from the individual improvement witnessed up and down the roster to the complete 180 this team made after getting off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. One can’t be wrong about gushing over Williamson’s rookie campaign to the future prospects of this remarkably talented core; however, for the sake of adding a little variety to this roundtable, I’ve elected to choose a highlight because who doesn’t love having their senses overwhelmed to the point where one can’t think clearly but only utter garbled sounds of wild exuberance.
Oh, there were a lot of great candidates — Redick’s game winner against the Kings, Brandon Ingram’s jumper that should’ve been the game-winner against the Jazz, Jrue Holiday’s clutch-time 14 points against the Pacers and take your pick of Jaxson Hayes’ ‘WHAT DID HE JUST DO?’ dunks — but a particular 3:43 minute stretch by Zion is going to stay with each one of us for the rest of our lives.
During his NBA regular season debut, Zion went bonkers in the forth quarter, scoring 17 straight points for the Pelicans. His domination was so complete that the kid without a jumpshot canned four three-pointers and even out-rebounded the entire Spurs team by a 3-1 margin. In all my years of watching this league, I’ve never witnessed such a coming-out party. The most hyped first overall draft pick in some time started off the game eerily quiet, but he proceeded to turn the basketball world upside down, showing us a glimpse that anything is truly possible when he’s on the floor.
Those magical 223 seconds by Zion Williamson were not only symbolic of his potential, but when considering his burning desire to just win and some darn good teammates in their own right, the New Orleans Pelicans future should really be considered boundless.
Ben Pfeifer: Emergence of Zion Williamson
It has to be the emergence of Zion Williamson as a young superstar in the league. Even if his first game wasn’t the greatest as a whole, that 17-point explosion in the fourth quarter against the Spurs was an unforgettable moment, and as the season went on, Williamson continued to prove that he’s a future superstar in this league.