The New Orleans Pelicans can be next season’s Suns

Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans aren’t where they want to be right now but they are headed in the right direction.

The Phoenix Suns know the feeling, last season they were left out of the playoffs even after an improbable undefeated run in the bubble that built excitement for the future.

The Suns had an offensive superstar in Devin Booker who couldn’t defend and a group of mostly role players around him that led to a 34-39 season in 2019-20 in which they ranked 17th in defense.

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Flash forward one season and the Suns are in the playoffs as the second seed with a 51-21 record and the 6th rated defense who unfortunately got the bad luck of drawing the Lakers in the first round though they are currently tied.

The Pelicans have a couple of offensive superstars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram who are also poor defenders and they also have a group of miscast role players that led to a 31-41 record and the 22nd rated defense, which sounds pretty similar to last year’s Suns.

So how can the Pelicans make the leap to the top of the standings like the Suns did? It’s easy.

The New Orleans Pelicans don’t need a superstar, but they need a Chris Paul

The obvious reason the Suns got so much better this season was the addition of Chris Paul. Adding a Hall of Fame point guard to any team is going to make it better and Paul certainly deserves a lot of the credit.

The Pelicans are lucky in that they already have two offensive stars, unlike Phoenix which only had Booker before acquiring Paul via trade.

But the Pelicans do need someone like Chris Paul, a vocal leader who unifies the team, fights the right battles with the referees and plays good team defense. This player doesn’t need to be a superstar like Paul but needs some of his characteristics.

The New Orleans Pelicans need to find the right role players

Another thing the Suns did right was get the right role players, including several that I thought the Pelicans should have pursued.

They targeted guys who can play versatile defense and shoot 3-point shots and though guys like Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and Torrey Craig aren’t stars, they all know their roles and play them well, one of the reasons the Suns defense has improved so much.

If the Pelicans can find a vocal leader and the right role players, they can compete for the top of the Western Conference soon, as they already have the stars.

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