New skyline in New Orleans

The requirement of the NBA forces each franchise to have as many stars as possible to get closer to the title. In times when a great name per team falls short, there are teams that leave good feelings even without being able to count on their best player throughout the season. These, in particular, were New Orleans Pelicans last campaign.

In a year where questions were on the local front pages even before the season began, the Pelicans responded in the best possible way. And now, with the return of Zion Williamsonits great star of 22 yearsAre you ready for settle your interesting project in the Western Conference.

Last season, after winning the ‘play-in’ at San Antonio Spurs Already Los Angeles Clippersthey would manage to get into the third parties playoffs in the last ten years. In these three runs through the postseason they have managed to pass the round just one time (vs. Portland in 2017-2018).

The sensations were spectacular. Louisianans would get two surprising victories in view of phoenix in the first round, but could not beat (4-2) the first in the West in the regular season. Now, a new horizon opens in New Orleans.

Premieres and absences

With Willie Greenwho was a player of New Orleans Hornets Y Los Angeles Clippersamong others, debuting as head coach in the league and the unknown of the possible return of the star, the Pelicans began with a record of 2 wins and 13 losses in the first 15 games.

With Brandon Ingram as the main reference, those from Louisiana they couldn’t find the right chemistry and rhythm to row forward in a conference as competitive as the West.

The problem was obvious: the one who was forward of the Lakers it wasn’t enough to win on a regular basis without Zion on the track. Green did not finish finding the five he trusted, the system where he could get the best out of each player.

Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans)

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Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans) Sean GardnerGetty Images

Youth to the rescue

Zion’s absence allowed other youngsters to have more minutes than expected. This happened with Herb Joneschosen in the 35th position of the 2021 Draft, Joseph AlvaradoAmerican international player with Puerto Rico who was not selected in the Draft and Trey Murphy IIIselected in position number 17.

The first of them showed unusual defensive skills, placing himself as one of the senior defensive perimeter specialists of the entire league. He was selected in the second best rookie quintet of the season. Alvarado showed the delivery that he is capable of contributing every minute on the track and Murphy established himself as a good scorer medium and long distance.

These young men served something more than being punctual patches. Without them, the New Orleans project will not be understood in the coming seasons. The absence of fixed ideas in the franchise has served to consolidate Green’s scheme.

Herbert Jones vs. the Phoenix Suns

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Herbert Jones vs. the Phoenix SunsMark J. RebilasUSA TODAY Sports

In addition, this season they will have in their ranks Dyson Daniels Y EJ Liddell, selected in the last Draft. The first, chosen in the 8th positionwas the basis of Igniteteam of the G-Leaguelast season and has FIBA experience with Australia. A different player, who contributes in all areas. Of the second, Liddell, no one expected it to drop to 41st. Small forward, former player of Ohio Statewith good physique and ability to put together the shot that can become one of the ‘robberies’ From the past draft.

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veteran and points

This absence of a colleague of guarantees for Brandon Ingram would be resolved in the month of february. From New Orleans they wanted to make a ultimate move to solidify the project, with or without Zion on track.

The Pelicans sent Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzadathe 2022 first round Y two future seconds a Portland in exchange of CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. Y Tony Snell.

From Louisiana they had the “fortune” to find some Blazers who wanted to turn 180 degrees to transform everything that had not worked in recent seasons into a new competitive team for Damian Lillard.

CJ McCollum in New Orleans against the Phoenix Suns in the 2022 Playoffs

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CJ McCollum in New Orleans against the Phoenix Suns in the 2022 PlayoffsLayne Murdoch Jr.Getty

McCollum’s arrival in Louisiana secures a plus immediate to the aspirations of New Orleans and, above all, the confirmation of a trio of top players in a project that takes shape. In the 26 games played with the Pelicans last regular season, the shooting guard averaged 24.3 points, 5.8 assists and 39% success from the triple.

Every piece is important

In a project that takes shape, each piece is irreplaceable. Leaving aside the core formed by Zion, Ingram and McCollum, the secondaries play a fundamental role. In addition to the role of young people mentioned above, figures such as Willy Hernangomez, Jaxson Hayes, Jonas Valanciunas either Larry Nance Jr. they occupy significant spaces in Green’s schemes.

Three great players, but with wide differences. While Willie settled in rotation last season with 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds on average in 17 minutes per match, Nance can supplement in defending to Zion and Valanciunas. This section is important, since New Orleans was the 18th team in defense last season.

Precisely the Lithuanian is the subject of rumors about his departure. Maybe those from Louisiana could use a pivot better that can protect the rimalthough Valanciunas’ rebounding ability is unmatched in the league.

Willy Hernangomez and Jaxson Hayes

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Willy Hernangomez and Jaxson HayesSean GardnerGetty Images

The ‘Zion effect’

All these parts cannot come together without the consistency of a player called to mark an era. Since years before joining the University of Duke his plays went viral on the Internet, Zion Williamson presented himself to the basketball world as something unique.

Your continuous injuries and the frequent controversies surrounding its fitness They have not let a different, special player shine. After not having disputed not a single minute last seasonZion faces his year of consecration in the elite of the NBA.

Zion Williamson during a New Orleans Pelicans game.

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Zion Williamson during a New Orleans Pelicans game.Steve MitchellUSA TODAY Sports

This is no longer only understood on an individual level, mentioning that he was chosen for the All-Star in the 2020-2021 with averages of 27 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists with a 61% FG in the 61 games he played, but on a collective level as he was the spearhead of a project that grows by leaps and bounds in the Western conference.

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