The New Orleans Pelicans look improved in this area in 2021-22

New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans have started the season 1-4 but it’s not all grim.

Both Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas have played well and look like they’ll be nice complements to Zion Williamson when he finally returns.

The bench has been bad, but that’s to be expected for a young team missing two of their key players in Zion and Josh Hart, as everyone else has had to step up and take on different roles than they might have with the Pels at full strength.

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But even with all of the offensive woes, the Pels have still hung in against quality opponents and don’t seem to have too many problems that can’t be fixed by the addition of a giant Point God who scores 27 points per game.

In fact, there have been some noticeable improvements, especially in one of last year’s areas of real weakness.

The New Orleans Pelicans are making free throws!

The New Orleans Pelicans are shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line as a team this season, a big improvement over last year’s 72 percent, which was near the bottom of the league.

However, there are some caveats to this. The first is that the Pels are shooting ten fewer per game on average, or pretty much the number Zion Williamson normally shoots. Brandon Ingram’s free throws have been down as well, so even though the Pels are hitting a higher percentage, they aren’t shooting nearly as many.

Zion shot under 70 percent last season, so the addition of his volume will be great, but it will probably hurt the overall team percentage. Hopefully Zion Williamson will come back healthy and hit a higher percentage from the line this season, which will keep the Pelicans closer to their current mark as a team.

One real positive sign is that Jonas Valanciunas has yet to miss from the line, hitting all 24 of his attempts. His free-throw shooting is going to be a monumental improvement over Steven Adams, who was one of the worst in the NBA last season, which was a real problem for the Pelicans late in games.

This season they won’t have to bench their center when they are trying to close out games for fear the other team will intentionally foul him, as teams did last season with Adams who shot a pathetic 44 percent.

Free throws should be a weapon for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, so let’s hope they keep knocking down a high percentage as a team.

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