3 players the Pelicans must develop (and 1 they should give up on)

Herbert Jones & Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Herbert Jones & Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Trey Murphy III Pelicans
Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans. Amir Coffey, Los Angeles Clippers. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

Trey Murphy III

Trey Murphy III built upon a strong close to his rookie year and exploded in nearly every category. A pogo stick with a jumper, Murphy is simultaneously one of the NBA’s best finishers and most accurate marksmen.

In fact, he was efficient from everywhere: Trey nearly hit the vaunted 50/40/90 mark despite shooting nearly two-thirds of his shots from deep. He splashed 41% of his triples on more than six attempts per game, one of the league’s best volume and accuracy combinations. He also canned 74% of his attempts at the hoop — better than Williamson and just a hair shy of other notable mononymous rim-destroyers like Giannis and LeBron.

Like all young players, Murphy’s handle could be better, but the threat of his shot opens up easy opportunities for him to put it on the floor (by contrast, Daniels and HJones have to work harder to find driving lanes as defenses sag off of them). Murphy can get to the rim thanks to his off-ball cutting, which is superb. If he develops more of a dribble-drive game, the sky’s the limit on his offensive potential.

Murphy’s major development will need to come on the defensive end. Although he made major strides last season, he can still be better. Williamson and/or Ingram will likely be given the weakest opposing wings, so Murphy will have to either A) get stronger to guard bigger forwards, or B) get quicker to defend shooting guards. He’s a little stiff on defense, but his athleticism and length let him make up for a lack of lateral agility. Effort is never a question.

Murphy is a C-plus defender against a broad spectrum of positions, and that’s not bad! His most common matchups include a broad range of players, from Mikal Bridges to Jabari Smith Jr. to Malik Beasley. Versatility tends to become more important than raw ability in the playoffs, and that goes doubly true on a deep team like the Pelicans. But if he stays a little lower in his stance and translates his freaky physical attributes into functional strength, he can elevate from “fine” to a valuable defensive asset.

With just a little improvement on both sides, Murphy can transcend the “role player” label and supplant McCollum as the Pelicans’ third-best player – if he’s not there already.