New Orleans Pelicans: Centers
The Pelicans will roll with two-thirds of their 3-man center group from last season with one notable change: Steven Adams has been replaced by Jonas Valanciunas.
First off, I love Steven Adams and wish his time on the Pelicans could have gone differently. He played through injuries for most of the season, and even though he had some huge games on the boards, he was never a great fit with Zion Williamson on offense.
Valanciunas is a much better offensive player than Adams, and even though he has never been a volume 3-point shooter, he can step away from the hoop and knock down a shot. Adams pretty much doesn’t look at the hoop unless he’s right under it, so having a guy who can spread the floor a little more should benefit Zion.
The question is whether Valanciunas is going to shoot more 3-point shots? He averaged less than one a game last season, so this idea that he is a “Stretch-5” is a little premature.
He has nice form and is a 78 percent free throw shooter for his career, so I could see him going the Brook Lopez route and starting to launch more 3-pointers.
Either way, he is a big improvement from Adams as a shooter and should give the Pelicans a boost at the position.
Also, don’t rule out that Jaxson Hayes starts shooting more from long range as well. He hit a few at the end of last season and looked very comfortable doing it, so I could see him launching more this season himself.
I do think the Pelicans’ shooting will be improved next season, but only marginally, so they may need to add another shooter or make a trade if some of these guys don’t step up.