New Orleans Pelicans: Season predictions for the forwards

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports /

The small and power forward positions for the New Orleans Pelicans are heavy in depth this season.

Each player at each of the forward positions has vastly different skill sets, making for back and forth amongst Pels fans regarding where these players fit into the team and rotation this season.

Here are our predictions for the Pelicans’ forwards this season:

New Orleans Pelicans: Zion Williamson, A Career-Defining Season

Zion Williamson enters this season for the first time in his career where fans in the Big Easy can actually feel secure about his commitment to the franchise.

After signing a max rookie scale extension this offseason and healing up from a foot injury that kept him out for the entire 2021-22 season, expect a  career-defining season from the Duke alumni.

Fans should expect at least 25 points per game scoring, elite FG percentage, along with rebounds within the 6-8 range. They should also see an improved emphasis on the defensive end with a noticeably slimmer frame.

If Zion can stay healthy and lead this team to the top of the Western Conference, then he will be in the MVP discussion.

Brandon Ingram: Finally getting his due

Brandon Ingram has long been one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and if his first preseason game was any indication, that isn’t going to be the case for long.

Ingram once again looks like he has put on strength in the offseason, and as long as he stays healthy, could lead the Pelicans in scoring and get back to the All-Star game.

Ingram should benefit from Zion’s return, as he won’t have to shoulder all of the scoring and playmaking load as he did for most of last season. He’s going to get more easy shots and will be even deadlier in the mid-range with Williamson drawing in defenders.

This should lead to Ingram’s best year as a scorer, as he’ll be more efficient and possibly hoist a few more 3-point shots per game. Expect Ingram to averaged 25+ as well and for he and Zion to be one of the league’s best duos.

Related Story. Are Zion and BI the best young duo in the NBA?. light

Herbert Jones: A Bruiser

Herbert Jones was the biggest surprise player for the Pelicans last season, emerging as a pivotal piece in coach Green’s system.

In his rookie season, Jones averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game in 29 minutes. He proved his worth in New Orleans early into his tenure, playing himself into the starting lineup for 69 games last season, often with the most difficult defensive assignment.

Expect Jones to maintain a hefty workload, taking on each team’s best players defensively each and every night. His scoring might take a dip due to Williamson’s return but his efficiency will improve and he will help space the offense more in the process.

If the Pelicans secure a top-six seed, don’t be surprised to see Jones get DPOTY votes at the season’s end.

Trey Murphy III: Prominent Role Player

Murphy’s first season in the NBA was not what fans had foreseen when he was selected with the 17th overall draft pick in 2021.

He struggled to adapt to the quickness of the NBA style of defense, failing to read and react to opposing teams’ offenses. This inability to adapt led to coach Green giving the rookie inconsistent minutes and an unclear role within the team until late in the season.

However, Murphy apparently added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and has gotten his teammates’ attention regarding his confidence behind the arc during training camp. Expect Murphy to get his opportunity this season and make the most of it. He will be a nice scoring and rebounding option off the bench with more consistent minutes if he can prove to no longer be a defensive liability.

Naji Marshall: An Ongoing Project

Naji Marshall brings many different valuable intangibles to the New Orleans Pelicans. He runs the floor well on both ends, he’s a solid multiple-position defender and an improving ball handler.

Much of Marshall’s game is raw and unpolished. He is fine to have on the roster in case of injury to one of the Pelican’s more established forwards, but expect slight improvement from all his overall counting stats and a limited role deep on the bench.

Garrett Temple: Veteran Stability

When Temple was signed by the New Orleans Pelicans last offseason, he was brought in to do one very specific thing: be a professional and set an example for the younger players on the roster.

The stats really don’t matter for Temple, his value goes beyond that. As long as he can play an Andre Iguodala-like role off the bench, building relationships and setting an example for the young guys on working like a true NBA player, he will bring a positive impact to this entire team.

The forward position should the Pels’ strongest this season and their health and production will be the difference in how far they go.

Next. Season predictions for the Pelicans' guards. dark