When you think of the NBA’s Western Conference, what comes to your mind? If I were to ask what your favorite team in the West is, many of the answers would probably be the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, or the Phoenix Suns.
What if I were to tell you my favorite team is the New Orleans Pelicans? Would you shun me off?
The New Orleans Pelicans are young, athletic, and talented. Their head coach Willie Green is a gritty coach who knows how to get the best out of his players. So, despite being in a tough Western Conference, led by the reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. The Pelicans have a bright future as the expectations should exceed that of last season.
With the Pelican’s key players Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum, alongside a hungry young core group of fighters, it wouldn’t give me any reason to doubt this team will give the NBA’s Western Conference headaches this upcoming season.
Last season’s success without their star player
Last season proved to be a successful season for the New Orleans Pelicans despite having a losing record (36-46). The team showed no life early in the season, with a (3-16 ) record, the bottom of the Western Conference. However, coach Willie Green and the Pelicans somehow managed to fight their way into the playoffs. The Pelicans earned the 8th seed, only to face the top seed in the West, the Phoenix Suns. No one expected the series to be competitive. The Pelicans were eventually eliminated in game six against the Suns. The success came without their star player Zion Williamson. So imagine what Zion will add to the Pelicans now that he is back from his injury last season.
Zion Williamson signs a massive long-term deal with the Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans and Zion agreed to a five-year $193 million dollar designated maximum rookie extension that could be worth up to $231 million dollars. The power forward has much to be thankful for signing the deal having not played a single game last season.
Just a few days away from his 22nd birthday, Zion Williamson signs a five-year max contract with the Pelicans 🔥 In his young NBA career, he's played only 85 games 👀 pic.twitter.com/vNOTjDZwpg — 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) July 2, 2022
So why would the Pelicans take such a big gamble? When on the court, Zion is unstoppable. He shoots at a high rate from the field at .604 and averages 25.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.2 rebounds. If he can stay healthy this season, it will be far from a gamble. Just imagine what Zion will bring to the Pelicans after what they were able to accomplish last season.
Brandon Ingram is turning into a star
Since being the No.2 overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers was traded, Ingram has blossomed into his own in New Orleans. Having played with the Pelicans for three years, Ingram takes on a more leading role. He is becoming as much of an asset to the team as Zion. Especially on offense. As one could argue who the number one option is. Last season his numbers were 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists.
Watching Brandon Ingram while he’s in a rhythm is pure art. 🖼 pic.twitter.com/8pfFh9ifll — mike (@mikelovesherb) August 15, 2022
Ingram is a great scorer, and his long slender frame allows him to shoot over anybody. With Zion returning to the lineup, it will take some pressure off of Ingram and give him more freedom to be an artful playmaker.
The addition of CJ McCollum
The addition of CJ McCollum turns out to be huge for the Pelicans. CJ is a true scorer who adds depth for the Pelicans. He also brings experience the young and talented Pelicans lack. His shooting ability will open up the floor and give Zion more room to slash to the basket and wreck havoc on opposing teams.
3J McCollum 👌 Read more about CJ's season with the Pelicans ⬇️ 🔗: https://t.co/42EWEZ2cEx pic.twitter.com/btSQyNJEBS — New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) May 10, 2022
It will be an exciting season to say the lease for the New Orleans Pelicans. If Zion can come back and be the player we know him to be along with Brandon and CJ, the Pelicans will be an entirely different team. And instead of fighting for a spot in the play-in game. We will see the Pelicans as a team who can win one or more playoff series.