The New Orleans Pelicans, fresh off from trading their franchise player, have managed to compete for the 8th seed in the Western Conference riding the strength of their elite young talent.
After trading Anthony Davis last summer and going into rebuild mode, the Pelicans are only 3.5 games back from the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies this season. Since Zion Williamson made his NBA debut in late January, the Pelicans have gone 9-8 with the first overall pick from the 2019 NBA Draft.
It is remarkable how dominant Zion has been so early into his career. In February, the first full month of Zion’s career, he averaged 25.7 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 2.6 APG. The dude is a monster, and he’s just getting started.
Pairing Zion with Brandon Ingram gives the Pelicans one of the best young duos in the NBA. Ingram, who was acquired from the Lakers in the Davis trade, has taken his game to another level this season averaging 24.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 4.3 APG.
The Pelicans genuinely have two young superstars at their disposal, and tons of young talent to build around Zion and Ingram. Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart came over with Ingram from the Lakers and have established themselves as quality basketball players with room to grow.
Lonzo is averaging 11.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 7.1 APG while starting at point guard for the Pelicans. Lonzo is one of six players in the NBA who are averaging at least 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game. If he can improve his shooting skills, Lonzo can turn into an elite point guard.
Josh Hart, considered an afterthought amongst the massive package from the Lakers, is averaging 10.3 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 2 threes a game. The swingman is an excellent rebounder and three-point shooter who may be the Pelicans starting small forward of the future.
Don’t worry, even though fans of the NBA consistently underrate him, we didn’t forget Jrue Holiday. As the starting shooting guard, Holiday is averaging 19.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 6.8 APG. Holiday is one of the best guards in the NBA and is the recipient of two NBA All-Defensive Team awards.
The Pelicans have a playoff-contending core with Zion, Ingram, Holiday, and Lonzo. New Orleans is one of the most productive three-point shooting teams in the NBA, and are talented enough to compete with the Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, and Sacramento Kings for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
The Pelicans struggled to begin the season, but they didn’t have Zion for the first three months. Now that Zion has come into the league and is absolutely dominating, the Pelicans should be able to come back from 3.5 games from the 8th seed.
While nobody expected the Pelicans to compete for the playoffs this season, the dominance of Zion and Ingram gives New Orleans a path to the 8th seed.
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Image Source: AP Images