The New Orleans Pelicans are in a strange position as a franchise.
They are a rebuilding team and one of the youngest in the NBA, but since they have superstar Zion Williamson, they are still expected to make the playoffs.
They also have a new coach, so the Pelicans are going to have some challenges if they want to meet expectations.
They traded away Steven Adams, Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe and got two veteran replacements in Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte’ Graham, who would both love to have big seasons to show their teams made a mistake.
They also have some exciting rookies in Trey Murphy III and Herbert Jones, but if you are counting on rookies to get you to the playoffs, you will probably be disappointed.
If the New Orleans Pelicans want to improve, they need internal development from the guys they already had, especially these three players, whose improvement is going to be the difference between the Pels making the playoffs or not.
The New Orleans Pelicans need improvement from these 3 players
Josh Hart had a pretty good season for the Pelicans last season but they need more from him if they are going to make a leap. Hart is now one of the veteran leaders of this team, so he needs to be vocal, especially on defense.
Hart is already a very good defender and rebounder but has to get more consistent as a shooter to really make an impact. If he can shoot the ball efficiently, Hart could be a 6th Man of the Year candidate, which is exactly what the Pels need if they are going to make the playoffs.
Perhaps no player is more important to the potential improvement of the New Orleans Pelicans than guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Part of the reason the Pels let Lonzo Ball go was that David Griffin has faith in NAW, who has shown flashes of stardom but has also looked lost at times.
His confidence should be boosted by a stint with Team Canada as well as a strong close to last season. NAW has put up great stats as a starter and the Pels need him to step up and be the third scoring option that they currently lack.
NAW’s improvement really is the X-factor in the Pels making the playoffs.
It might seem strange to see Ingram on the list, as he had a good season and is obviously one of the cornerstones of the team.
Ingram is an elite scorer but he has to get better on defense if the Pelicans are going to be contenders in the near future.
While Zion Williamson showed some improvement as last season went on, Ingram continued to struggle. I am not as concerned about this as most, as I think the additions of a full season of Naji Marshall and Trey Murphy III are going to help Ingram, but it’s tough to win consistently when your two best players are below-average defenders.
This has to be the area to focus upon this offseason, as Ingram has the athletic ability and wingspan to at least be a competent defender.
The New Orleans Pelicans need internal improvement from their own guys, as the additions they made this offseason are not going to be enough to make a leap as a team.