The New Orleans Pelicans left the 2021-22 season on a high note. While they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, the franchise took some massive strides in the right direction. Highlighted by the growth of Brandon Ingram and the trade for CJ McCollum, the Pelicans are turning into a contending team. Last season snapped a three-year drought without a postseason appearance and the franchise managed to win two games against the top-seeded Suns.
The Pelicans made their most notable move this offseason by locking up Zion Williamson to a long-term extension. While he has played just 85 games at the NBA level, the former top pick has shown impressive flashes. There have been whispers behind the scenes of him being unhappy, but Williamson has done his best to squash this. Officially signing a long-term deal is a sign of relief for the franchise moving forward. The other notable move by the franchise was drafting Dyson Daniels with the 8th overall pick.
After signing the contract extension, Zion Williamson immediately called Pelicans owner, Mrs. Gayle Benson to reach out his gratitude 🙏pic.twitter.com/khEmDoKG1o
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) July 7, 2022
While it was an overall promising offseason, the Pelicans still have work to do. Their worst move may not be something the franchise did, but rather what they failed to do.
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Pelicans’ worst move of 2022 NBA offseason
One of the notable holes on this current Pelicans roster is the lack of three-point shooting. Long-range shots have become increasingly important in the modern NBA and are a key ingredient to a successful team. Last season the Pelicans ranked 27th in the NBA in three-point attempts per game at 31.4. They also ranked 27th in three-point percentage at 33.3%. This simply will not cut it if the team looks to take the next step as a contender.
The bulk of the scoring is expected to come from Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum, however, but both seem more comfortable in the midrange. Zion Williamson has had some nice flashes from deep but will never be at his best on the perimeter. Dyson Daniels is a nice connector but his shooting of him is his largest red flag of him. Daniels shot just 30% on three-pointers while attempting 3.4 per game. He also concerningly connected on just 45.4% of his free-throw attempts with the G-League Ignite.
The hope is for some of the young talents to develop as shooters. Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and Kira Lewis are all guys who could improve their stock. Although it should be noted that Trey Murphy III connected on an impressive 38.2% of his three-point attempts in his rookie year. While each attempted under 100 three-pointers, Jared Harper, Gary Clark, and Tony Snell all ranked in New Orleans’ top four three-point shooters. They also all elected to leave the Pelicans this offseason.
When looking at the roster moving forward, it is clear there is a lack of perimeter production. Jonas Valanciunas and Jaxson Hayes are currently set to be the third and fourth best three-point shooters based on last year’s percentages. While this is a credit to the big men for flashing their shot, it is far from the ideal makeup of a team. Valanciunas was one of just three Pelicans players to shoot above the NBA average of 35.4% from behind the arc last season.
Adding a few deadeyes to surround the Pelicans’ core would have been a great move for the franchise. Three-point shooting is essential to space the floor and demand the respect of the defense. With the return of Zion Williamson looming, this will become increasingly important. Having these types of three-point threats would also open up the floor to make life easier for Ingram and McCollum to get to their spots as well.
While the Pelicans’ roster is far from complete and likely they will be patient in putting the pieces together, making this type of win-now move would have accelerated the team’s window to win.
Regardless, New Orleans is still in a great place moving forward. The franchise likely took the stance of allowing the young players to continue to develop rather than looking for win-now veterans at the moment. There are sure to be shooters available on the trade market during the season if this continues to be a need. The core of the Pelicans has now been established and adding Zion to the mix next season will change things greatly. Look for the team to be ready to make a statement and improve on their impressive 2022 performance.