The New Orleans Pelicans have unfinished business to take care of in the 2022-2023 season. Last season, with Zion Williamson still recovering from injury, the Pelicans managed to squeeze into the Play-In Tournament. They shocked the world by making it into the playoffs, something they hadn’t done since the 2017-2018 season when Anthony Davis led them to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Adding C.J. McCollum in February, only a day before the trade deadline, proved to be another blockbuster move from GM David Griffin. With a stellar year for Brandon Ingram and emerging talent in Herbert Jones, the Pelicans finished as the 9th seed with a 36-46 record, and after beating the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers in the Play-In Tournament, no one expected them to make any noise in the playoffs. But they did.
Their sudden spark on defense and the genius IQ of McCollum took them to six games against the defending Western Conference champions, Phoenix Suns. Who knows what could have happened if Zion had been in the mix?
Arguably the best offseason move by David Griffin and the Pelicans was re-signing C.J. McCollum to a two-year, $64 million contract. He is undoubtedly their new leader with proven experience and unlimited potential. When you add in the re-signing of Larry Nance, Jr. to a two-year contract and the absolute must-move of signing Zion Williamson to a Designated Rookie contract extension, the sky’s the limit for this team can accomplish.
The Pelicans also drafted well, which led CBS to rank them as one of only eight teams with a grade of “A” for offseason moves. They drafted from down under with the number eight pick from Australia in 6’9 guard Dyson Daniels. They also picked up a couple of forwards in Karlo Matkovic and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell.
Projected Starting Five
PG: C.J. McCollum
SG: Herbert Jones
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Zion Williamson
C: Jonas Valanciunas
Projected Outlook: Potential Top 5 Team in the West
With a new Big Three in C.J., Zion, and Brandon, the Pelicans are projected to be above .500 and possibly one of the top five teams in the Western Conference.
McCollum’s killer instinct, impressive handles, and propensity for getting hot from behind the arch will propel the Pelicans deep into the postseason. Brandon Ingram’s 22.7 points per night and 46.1% field goal percentage is a nice compliment. And, of course, the dominant force of Zion, who can easily average 27 points and seven rebounds a night, is enough to give the defending champs a run for their money, just like last year.
Only this time, the Golden State Warriors and all teams will have to contend with a healthy and formidable foe, a foe looking to finish the business of winning a championship.
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