Sports Writer and Analyst. Occasionally, I will write about other topics.
Player Health was the main impediment for the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2019-20 season. The Pelicans should consider signing Brandon Ingram to a longterm deal
The New Orleans Pelicans had an exciting 2019-20 season and were close to making the 2019-20 playoffs. With Zion Williamson returning healthy, the Pelicans will likely be a playoff contender for the 2020-21 season.
With the Pelicans fully healthy, they should be able to compete for the 8th seed in the 2021 playoffs. The Pelicans should consider keeping their roster from the 2019-20 season and seeing how their team performs with Zion healthy. Derrick Favors, E'Twaun Moore, Frank Jackson, and Jahil Okafor have played well for the Pelicans. Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, and Williamson form a formidable “big-three.” Retaining Ingram could be critical for helping retain Zion and Holiday in the future.
The Pelicans have amazing depth at each position, particularly in their backcourt. However, the Pelicans have some payroll issues for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 season. First, Ingram is a restricted free agent for the 2020-21 season. Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and J.J. Reddick will need to be re-signed after the 2020-21 season. Holiday will have a player option after next season. Many of the other players including Favors, Moore, Jackson, and Okafor will be free agents for the 2020-21 season.
The future draft picks the Pelicans received from the Anthony Davis trade could help the Pelicans build a team around Zion. However, they will have to wait for the 2022 NBA draft to start utilizing the draft assets they obtained from the trade.
Many analysts agree that the Pelicans need to show they can build a competitive team if they want to keep Zion and Holiday long term. New Orleans is a smaller market for most NBA franchises and the Western Conference is extremely competitive. It is going to be difficult to surround Zion with talent. Moreover, Zion may have to significantly “load manage” in the future. Minute restrictions and missing games will require a supporting cast that can win without Zion on the court.
Without Ingram, the Pelicans are going to likely have an abysmal 2020-21 season and there is no chance they will make the playoffs. It is going to be difficult for the Pelicans to sign a free agent to replace Ingram. However, there are a number of free agents in 2020 that could help the Pelicans reach the playoffs in the Western Conference.
Ingram has shown amazing player development and that he can be the primary scorer for the Pelicans. He has also shown amazing chemistry with his teammates Ball and Hart. Ingram's scoring abilities take the pressure off of Holiday and Zion. Holiday is one of the best two-way players in the NBA and having Ingram makes him that much more of an effective defender. For the 2019-20 season, Ingram has also shown that he can stay healthy and handle the responsibility of leading a team.
It is going to be difficult for the Pelicians to get another All-Star in the 2020 or 2021 free agency market to pair with Zion and Holiday. This is part of the reason the Pelicans should have retained Julius Randle. Randle played well for the Pelicans and scored 25.2 points per 36 minutes for the Pelicans. His help would have been invaluable for the Pelicans with Zion missing a significant part of his rookie season.
Despite not making the 2020 playoffs, their current roster gives the Pelicans a competitive chance to make the 2021 playoffs. For many teams, success in the regular season comes down to player health. Making the playoffs is not a given for any team in the Western Conference. Many analysts agree that player health was the dominant reason for the Pelicans not making the 2020 playoffs.
For the 2019-20 season, with zero days of rest or “2 or more” days of rest, the Pelicans are 10-4 at home. The Pelicans are not a bad team. If Zion could have played more minutes and/or more games, the Pelicans would have likely won significantly more games. Holiday also missed 12 games, Ingram missed 11 games, and Ball missed 10 games. The Pelicans had 23 different starting line-ups for the 2019-20 season.
The Pelicans are an exciting team and Ingram is a key piece to the team's success moving forward