3 disastrous mistakes the Pelicans must avoid making this summer

Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans (Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports)
Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans (Mandatory Credit: Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports) /
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CJ McCollum veteran presence
CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. /

3. Don’t value veteran presence

Every team needs veterans, but the Pelicans need a very specific kind of leadership. Of course, bolstering the bench with some experienced veterans this summer wouldn’t hurt, but this is more about someone who can get through to Zion Williamson (and Brandon Ingram as well, to an extent).

What the Pelicans need more than anything else is buy in from Williamson to take care of himself and stay on the court. He is the difference between them being a contender and a mid-level team. That is where CJ McCollum, the one lone true veteran the Pelicans have right now, comes in.

On the court, McCollum had an up-and-down season. Most of that can be ascribed to the fact that with Williamson and Ingram missing time, he had to take on a much larger role. He is supposed to be the third option on this roster, not the leading scorer and playmaker. McCollum is at his best as a shooting guard playing off the ball, but when his two young stars are not reliably available, that is difficult to orchestrate.

To top that off, McCollum was playing through a shoulder injury and a thumb injury, for which he just got surgery. Nevertheless, he played 75 games and averaged the most minutes on the team, despite being the team’s second-oldest player. He is obviously doing something right with his body and has been pretty durable throughout his career. Williamson could learn something about durability from him, so McCollum needs to embrace that role and be more vocal toward his young teammates.

It is rare to find a player who puts up 20 points without constantly needing the ball and who can point your franchise player in the right direction at the same time. Thus, the Pelicans should not trade him, even though fans have called for it unless a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself. Since that is not very probable this summer, letting go of McCollum and not valuing his veteran presence would be a massive mistake.