The New Orleans Pelicans are in trouble, but they might want to start focusing on the good things that come out of Zion Williamson. The 20-year old rookie is already putting up historic numbers and proving his worth as one of the NBA’s best young talents – something which could be crucial for a desperately struggling team.
The New Orleans Pelicans have 99 problems and Zion Williamson is just 1. The New Orleans Pelicans are struggling to find their identity without Anthony Davis, but the team has a big opportunity in the 2019 NBA Draft with Zion Williamson. Read more in detail here: how much does zion weigh.
For supporters of the struggling New Orleans Pelicans, the notion that Zion Williamson has played more games in his first two NBA seasons than fellow No. 1 overall selection Greg Oden is small solace. Williamson is still out with a fractured foot that was meant to be healed before the start of the season. And the rest of the team is on fire, as a dog in a meme (probably David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations) says, “This is great.”
Following an ugly 108–100 defeat to the not-quite-moribund Oklahoma City Thunder, new coach Willie Green chastised his players. In the second quarter of the defeat, the Pelicans received not one, not two, but five technical fouls. However, the issues in New Orleans extend much beyond complaints about officials, unfortunate injury breaks, and even bad bounces.
The New Orleans Pelicans will not be rescued by Zion Williamson anytime soon.
With the first overall choice in the 2019 NBA Draft, the New Orleans Pelicans selected Zion Williamson with the intention of creating a team around him. After trading away yet another franchise player, this time Anthony Davis, the Pelicans made that choice. He drove to LA on the same roadway that Chris Paul did almost eight years ago.
Williamson, on the other hand, suffered a knee injury in his first and only Summer League outing. Despite the fact that he only played 24 games as a rookie, he showed potential. He was an All-Star last season, averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game.
Williamson’s fitness is a near-constant issue at 6-foot-7 and 284 pounds. Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, TNT commentators, recently chastised the young star over his weight. The only players in the league that are labeled as being heavier than Williamson are also taller. Tacko Fall, who stands at 7-foot-6 and weighs 311 pounds, Boban Marjanovic, who stands at 7-foot-3 and weighs 290 pounds, and Jusuf Nurki, who stands at 6-foot-11 and weighs 290 pounds.
Williamson has a total of 85 NBA games under his belt. That’s one less than Bill Walton, the poster child for injured superstars, had in his first two seasons. The Pelicans must decide whether to extend Williamson’s contract next summer or risk him departing New Orleans like every other superstar before him.
The Pelicans are just not in the same league as the other birds.
The New Orleans Pelicans are off to an NBA-worst 1-11 start without injured Zion Williamson and are dealing with more issues than Zion’s fractured foot. | Getty Images/Jonathan Bachman
After the Thunder’s defeat, Green slammed his teammates. It wasn’t so much about the technical fouls as it was about the eight defeats in a row. According to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez, it was more about the team’s effort:
“It’s not the losing streak,” says the player. It isn’t even a quarter. It’s how we’re going to play this game. There were times throughout the game when we just didn’t have enough players competing hard enough for me. It’s difficult enough for our group. For me, it is a non-negotiable. That’s all there is to it. We are who we are. That’s something I can’t have as the team’s leader. I can’t put men on the court until they’re willing to give 110%.”
With the exception of Green’s faulty arithmetic, the New Orleans Pelicans meet the description of a 1–11 squad. They rank 26th in offensive efficiency and 29th on defense in the league. Their minus-11 net rating per 100 possessions is the lowest in the NBA.
They traded Lonzo Ball and replaced him with Devonte’ Graham, a former Charlotte Hornets point guard. Graham is a poor defender compared to Ball, a little guard who is vulnerable to mismatches. He’s also a poor shooter, making 37.3 percent of his shots overall and 34.9 percent from 3-point range.
Those aren’t outliers. Graham has a career field goal percentage of 37.5 percent and a long-range percentage of 36.3 percent. It’s simply salt in the wound that Ball is shooting a career-high 44.7 percent from long range for the 8–4 Chicago Bulls.
Griffin seems to be undecided about his future with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Griffin signed a contract with the New Orleans Pelicans after the 2018–19 season finished. In three seasons, Green has had three different coaches. After 2019–20, he fired Alvin Gentry, the coach he inherited. After one season, Van Gundy’s successor, Stan Van Gundy, was fired. Green is now in charge of turning things around.
In the past, professional basketball in New Orleans has been fraught with danger. Before departing for Memphis, they played three seasons in the old American Basketball Association. The former New Orleans Jazz only lasted five years in the Crescent City before relocating to Utah.
The Charlotte Hornets have made seven playoff appearances and won two series since their inception in 2002. They’ve never progressed beyond the first round.
And what about superstars? They’ve been hard to come by. In 2011, Paul pushed his way out of the Lakers, initially to the Clippers until David Stern enforced his will. Griffin’s first action in 2019 was to send Davis to the Lakers (unofficially in any event).
Even with Williamson out for a few more weeks (“indefinitely” coming soon to a press release near you), the New Orleans Pelicans shouldn’t be this dreadful with Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valancinas. A formula for catastrophe has proved to be listless players, a lack of direction from the front office, and a first-time head coach. And it doesn’t seem like brighter days are on the horizon very soon.
Basketball Reference and NBA.com provided the statistics.
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