New Orleans Pelicans 2021-22 season: Week 3 awards

Head coach Willie Green of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Head coach Willie Green of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans
Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans MVP of the Week

This award is pretty much a cakewalk for our winner but I feel we should take a moment to highlight the efforts of a couple of guys who played their way into the conversation.

Devonte’ Graham has carried a much greater burden offensively than expected going into the season. Now he’s proven capable of this in the past but the best-case scenario in Nola was for Graham to be a secondary or tertiary ballhandler in lineups featuring Zion, BI, and Jonas Valanciunas. As the season wears, on Graham has only been given more and more responsibility for the Pels offense.

Graham’s scoring was down this week compared to the season (12.0 this week vs 15.7 on the season) but his assist numbers went up in a week where JV was the opponents’ main concern. Last week Graham averaged 6.7 assists per game while also managing to turn the ball over less frequently than he had in the weeks prior. I think it’s safe to say the addition of Graham has already paid off and he’s proven to be a good addition to the Pels roster.

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The next player I want to highlight is a man who missed a chunk of the still early season but came back ready to ball, Josh Hart. Maybe I’m partial to Hart because he’s a glue guy who does the little things that help a team perform instead of hunting his own numbers. Maybe it’s because Hart has a bit of throwback to his game. Maybe it’s because Hart is fun to watch and has great reactions to events that transpire on the floor.

Whatever the reason, I always like it when Hart is on the floor, even if he doesn’t shoot the ball quite as well as you’d expect. Hart put up a 22/6/5 stat line against Dallas in the Pels’ last game. He was also one of three New Orleans Pelicans to post a positive net rating while on the floor in that game. With Hart back in the fold and playing well, everyone after Graham and JV will see their responsibilities shifted down the ladder and Hart will fill the void. Every team needs players like Hart.

Finally, the winner of this award for the unprecedented second consecutive week is Jonas Valanciunas. The step down from JV to Jaxson Hayes is so noticeable that Green is doing his best to play Hayes as little as possible without running JV into the ground.

Valanciunas is rewarding his coach when on the floor though, JV averaged 18.7 points and 12.3 rebounds last week. The cliche around basketball is that someone has to put up the numbers on a team but JV is no good stats/bad team guy, as without JV the Pels would be even more of a train wreck. His ability to initiate the offense on the low block is something New Orleans hasn’t had in years and that wrinkle in the teams’ offense will create open skip lanes once the team is fully healthy.