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Pelicans vs. Lakers in regular-season finale

No postseason for Nola, but more to learn about youngsters

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Los Angeles Lakers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Thanks for coming by, Pels fans!

Yes, the postseason will again exclude New Orleans, a disappointing finish to the first two-year, COVID-impacted Zion run for the franchise. But hey, as long as there’s a game, may as well watch it!

So, tune in Sunday for an 8pm showdown against last year’s champs, the LeBron and AD-fueled Lakers.

Would we be more excited about the future had the Pelicans finished in the play-in game both years? Certainly. But player development, particularly that of Big Z, will be what we look back on in the future. Just how great will he be?

Lonzo Ball’s upcoming free agency is a big test (or gamble) for the future of the program, as is the development of other pieces like Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes, and freshly imported Didi Louzada.

So, let’s check them out against a Lakers team still fighting for their position in the playoff or play-in scenario. LA needs a win.

So, what is there to consider as the Pelicans play out the string?

Didi on D!

After being selected 35th overall in 2019, the Brazilian national played for our summer league squad, before heading off to Australia as a preferred NBA prospect through the country’s new professional talent pipeline called the “Next Stars” program in the National Basketball League. Former Thunderman Terrance Ferguson went this route, as did current rookies LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton.

Louzada averaged about 10 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 46 games down under for the Sydney Kings. He’ll turn 22 in 2 months.

Expect more American talents to head that way, as playing professionally in a top-flight pro league might be more helpful than limited practices and games while attending class at State U. College basketball stinks, anyway.

Didi looks accustomed to guarding, and hard. Offensively, he may have a clear concept of spacing and court awareness; shooting and dribbling skills will be improved, too. But defensively, this guy could make an impact next year, particularly if the team offloads one or both starting guards. I think we’ve all seen enough of E*** B******.

With Zion, Ingram, NAW, and another creator (Zo? Someone not currently on the roster?) hoisting up shots and creating for others, Didi could slot in as a 3-and-D type who can space to the corner or find open cutting lanes. But he’s a secondary player, folks. Don’t expect him to jack up 18 shots a night, at least, not next year when we’re trying to make the playoffs.

In Lakerland, the defending champs are just trying to get everyone on the floor and healthy at the same time. In its preview for Saturday’s noon game against the Pacers, our friends at Silver Screen and Roll noted just how rare their stars’ minutes have aligned:

When the Los Angeles Lakers overhauled their team during the offseason in an attempt to upgrade the roster for a title defense, a core tenet of their identity was supposed to revolve around LeBron James and Anthony Davis having their offensive load eased by the addition of Dennis Schröder.

Those three players were starters for the team on opening night, but they haven’t played a ton together since then. Lineups featuring Davis, James and Schröder have played just 468 minutes total together this season in only 24 games. For context, that ranks just eighth among lineups used by the Lakers this season, and would be outside the top 250 most-used three-man lineups in the NBA this season (only six Lakers lineups would cross that threshold).

As seen last year, Schroder can be a difference-maker — his time on the floor as a Thunderman guard with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul was instrumental in that team’s success.

Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy could always stick Didi on the German, still just coming off of COVID-related protocols, and properly welcome him back to NBA play.

We’ll be watching!

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Pelicans

When: Sunday May 16, 8pm

Where: Smoothie King Arena

How: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass, ESPN 100.3FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @Trabeta.