The New Orleans Pelicans should lean into youth with Zion Williamson out

New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

With or without Zion Williamson, this was going to be a rebuilding year for the New Orleans Pelicans whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

This is not to say that they can’t make the playoffs or have team success, but with one of the youngest rosters in the NBA and a new head coach, the Pels are going to have some growing pains, even with all of their talent.

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Even without 21-year-old Zion Williamson, the Pelicans are still very young, as they will feature rookies Trey Murphy III and Herb Jones to go along with second-year guys Kira Lewis Jr. and Naji Marshall, as well as Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who will be entering their third seasons.

Coach Willie Green will be tempted to lean on veterans like Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and Willie Hernangomez early in the season as the Pelicans try to stay afloat with Zion Williamson out.

But I say lean into the youth movement, and here is why.

New Orleans Pelicans: Pels can get key developmental minutes for their young guys with Zion Williamson out

There are probably going to be nights when Temple and Satoransky give the Pels the best chance to bring home a victory, so I am not saying they shouldn’t play at all.

But neither of these guys are part of the long-term plans, so if I was coaching the Pelicans, I would leave the veterans on the bench and just lean into the youth movement.

For one, this is a time when the Pelicans can get valuable developmental minutes for their young players, as no one really expects them to win with Zion out anyway. They will make mistakes, but they will also learn, which is where the Pels are at this stage in their development.

Guys like Alexander-Walker are brimming with talent but still need the reps to learn the nuances of the game.

Secondly, if the Pelicans are going to salvage this season and make a run at the playoffs, they are going to need all of these guys to contribute at various points in the season. Why not start building their confidence now, so when Zion does return his young teammates have already been tested, played some clutch-time minutes and will be ready?

At some point, you have to give the reins to the young players if you are a rebuilding team, which the Pelicans are. With Zion Williamson out, coach Green has been afforded the luxury of getting the young guys minutes without a ton of pressure, which will pay dividends later in the season when the Pels are trying to make a run at the playoffs.

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