This player could be the X-Factor for the New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans head coach Willie Green Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2021-22 NBA season for the New Orleans Pelicans was one filled with highs, lows, and unpredictability.

Without their 2019 first-overall draft pick, Zion Williamson, the Pelicans started the 2021-22 NBA season with a 3-16 record through 19 games behind Brandon Ingram and rookie head coach Willie Green.

When the trade deadline came around, the New Orleans Pelicans had a measly 22-33 record with no hope of a potential turnaround in the eyes of NBA fans and analysts.

GM David Griffen had enough of losing and decided to take action.

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On February 8th 2022, The Pelicans made a blockbuster trade with the Portland Trailblazers for 2015-16 Most Improved Player CJ McCollum, Tony Snell, and Larry Nance Jr in exchange for Josh Hart, a handful of young prospects, and three future draft picks (2 seconds and 1 protected first).

New Orleans, who was ranked 22nd in ESPN’s  NBA 2021-22 pre-season power rankings, made the play-in tournament by the season’s end, going on a 33-30 run in their final 63 games after their abysmal start to the season.

The Pels eventually won the tournament and were followed by a competitive six-game first-round series playoff series with the defending Western conference champion Phoenix Suns, which the Pels ultimately lost.

Heading into the 2022-23 NBA season, New Orleans is a serious dark horse contender for the NBA championship. They maintained many of the pieces that proved to be successful for them, such as Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum through multiyear extensions along with valuable bench pieces in Nance and guard Jose Alvarado.

Arguably the most exciting player to join the team in the Big Easy is rookie Australian guard, Dyson Daniels.

Dyson Daniels: The New Orleans Pelicans’ X-Factor

Daniels, who was selected with the eighth overall pick by the Pelicans, spent the season prior with the G-Leauge Ignite and averaged 11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks through 14 games with an average of 31.3 minutes played per game.

While rough around the edges in some areas of his game, Dyson has all the physical intangibles necessary to transition into the NBA style of play seamlessly with a 200-pound frame, 6-foot-11 wingspan, standing at 6-foot-8.

In order for Daniels to truly have an X-Factor-type impact this season, he needs to have a consistent role in the Pelicans’ daily line-up. Luckily for Dyson, the odds look to be in his favor.

Daniels is one of four guards coming off the bench, but with the rookie’s high defensive IQ and ability to guard multiple positions, he has a serious chance to work his way into a more prominent bench role as the season ensues, especially if the Pelicans eventually trade Devonte’ Graham.

Combine these assets with clear three-level scoring promise and you have a legitimate potential draft steal. Luckily for Daniels, he has an assistant coach who is renowned for his work with players on developing their jump shots and comprehensive offensive arsenals in Fred Vinson.

Coach Green in his short time working with Daniels has only had high praise for the young rookie in a recent postgame press conference.

“Fearless,” Green said about the young rookie’s style of play. “I mean he’s 19 so to have that level of maturity is pretty spectacular to see.”

Green gave this praise to Daniels on a night where he led the team in points and came up with a few big-time defensive plays. If Daniels can continue to ball out the way he has demonstrated thus far this preseason, his role will become clear and the production will translate.

He gives the Pelicans another weapon on defense and much more lineup versatility because of his size and ability to defend all over the perimeter. The depth he provides at multiple positions could be one of the X-factors in a deep playoff run.

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