The New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs this season without star Zion Williamson, which has to make fans hopeful for the future.
Brandon Ingram took his game to another level, Jonas Valanciunas and CJ McCollum provided boosts and valuable veteran leadership, and the Pelicans have a trio of promising rookies who all played impact roles in the playoffs.
It was a positive season overall, but it’s also important to remember that the Pelicans were 10 games under .500 and can’t expect to make the playoffs most seasons winning 36 games.
As much talk as there was around Zion Williamson not playing this season, Ingram was also injured quite a lot and played just 55 games.
After playing 79 games in his rookie season, Ingram hasn’t played more than 62 games in a season, so the Pels have built their foundation on two guys who haven’t been very reliable.
I thought this was the main reason they couldn’t give Lonzo Ball a big contract, as that would have been a Big 3 of injury-prone players that was far too risky.
The Pelicans can’t go into next season without a Plan B to give them some insurance against losing another season to injuries.
The New Orleans Pelicans need another veteran forward
While the Pelicans might look like title contenders at full strength, they can’t just assume that is going to happen for long stretches of the season.
Even if Zion Williamson does return at full strength, which is no guarantee, are you really going to pencil him into 70-80 games next season? Me either.
Same for Ingram, who is far from an Iron Man himself, as he’s averaged just 57 games per season over the last four years.
Larry Nance Jr. will provide some relief, as he can back up both guys, but he’s had a career plagued by injuries and has never played more than 67 games in a season and has played in 56, 35 and 46 games in the three seasons since he did.
The Pelicans could use a reliable veteran forward who can back up both spots and give New Orleans some insurance against Zion and B.I. having to miss significant portions of the season.
The Pelicans could also use another guy who will help them go small against teams like the Suns in the playoffs.
Over the next few days, we’ll have some ideas of who the Pelicans should pursue to fill this role, but one thing is clear: The New Orleans Pelicans can’t go into next season without some kind of backup plan or we could be talking about “what could have been” again next season.