New Orleans Pelicans: How did Didi Louzada do on his debut?

Didi Louzada, New Orleans Pelicans

(Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Didi Louzada finally made his New Orleans Pelicans debut in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Louzada was drafted by the Pelicans in the 2019 draft, but was then stashed overseas in the Australian league. He played most of the last two years for the NBL’s Sydney Kings, featuring in an important role as the team finished first in the regular season standings last year.

During his stint down under, Louzada provided the most value on the defensive end of the floor. The Brazilian forward has good size to guard the point of attack, but can really be used on most guards and wings. Eventually, I expect to see him be able to guard 1-through-3 in the NBA.

As Pelican Debrief’s Vance Abreu broke down a few weeks ago, “Louzada has swift hands and feet” and, while his stats don’t jump off the page, that is because he played in a conservative defensive system. Something else Louzada is good at is navigating screens, as “his agility and awareness” allows him to “rarely stick to screeners” and “[force] ball handlers into the paint.”

All of those things that Vance mentioned are useful to the Pelicans, who have failed to establish a defensive identity all season long. If Louzada can lessen the burden on the likes of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram defensively, that is already a win—and we already saw glimpses on his debut versus Dallas that he might be able to do just that going forward.

Louzada played just a hair under 15 minutes against the Mavericks, but he was a team-high +10 during his time on the court. Of course, this must be taken with a grain of salt given that the game was a total blowout by the time that the former Franca swingman checked into the game, but it is something to hold on to.

Louzada was particularly impressive with his level of activity on the defensive side of the basketball. He really got after the ball, getting in a stance and making things hard for the Dallas offense in a way that no other Pelican had done the entire game. Often, it seemed like the Mavericks were up by 20 points but effectively completing a relaxing workout on the treadmill.

The Brazilian wing made Luka Doncic feel him. The impact on the overall game result was null—the Mavs won by 18 points regardless of how well Louzada moved his feet—but the flashes of discipline and intensity were encouraging.

Take this possession, for instance. Louzada stays attached to Doncic as he moves to collect the ball and then doesn’t get caught as the Mavs’ all-star tries to draw the foul. Instead, Doncic takes a wild shot and Louzada should be credited for getting the Pelicans the ball back. This is ultimately meaningless in a blowout, but it’s the type of play that matters during a close game.

On offense, Louzada was more of a mixed bag because he looked so eager to score his first NBA points. That is only fair, but his first four possessions consisted of getting blocked on a drive, rushing and missing a stepback three, airballing a spot-up wing three, and then not even hitting the rim on a lay-up in transition.

It’s worth pointing out that Louzada’s biggest areas of improvement have always been on attack. Even with the Sydney Kings, he never excelled, never shooting above 40 percent from the field in either of his seasons and shooting just 24 percent from three this season.

He will need to grow in the NBA to avoid going down the path of Wes Iwundu, for instance, who has defensive tools but is a non-factor offensively. Hopefully, Louzada will develop more like Naji Marshall.

Overall, it was a positive debut for Louzada, who I hope will get plenty of game time in the Pelicans’ two remaining games. That should be the case if Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Josh Hart, and Steven Adams are kept out for the rest of the season.