4 Most underrated players on New Orleans Pelicans current roster

Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Pelicans vs. Nuggets
Larry Nance Jr., New Orleans Pelicans. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

2. Larry Nance Jr.

It’s no secret that the Pelicans struggle to protect the rim. Last season, they allowed the highest opponent field goal percentage at the rim (71.6%, per Cleaning the Glass). And since rim protection is primarily provided by bigs, outsiders might presume that the Pelicans must not have great rim-protecting bigs.

And since rim protection is a big part of what centers do on defense, casual fans might also presume that Larry Nance Jr. isn’t a good defender. But that assumption is dead wrong.

In fact, according to Basketball Index, Nance Jr. experienced the biggest jump in D-LEBRON among bigs last season (as the tweet below demonstrates).

Now, it probably isn’t the best practice to cite a statistic that paints another big you just called a poor defender (Sengun) in a positive light. But there is a lot more to Nance’s case as a good defender than that one simple metric.

For instance, while he isn’t a premier rim protector, Nance is one of the best switch bigs in basketball. According to Basketball Index, Nance was in the 83rd percentile among versatile bigs in time spent guarding point guards in 2022-23 – a great indicator of his positional defensive versatility at the five spot.

And although he’s not blocking a ton of shots relative to his position, Nance does have some great hands. Last season, he ranked in the 92nd percentile in steals among bigs (per Cleaning the Glass). All in all, Nance might not be a traditionally great defensive center, but he’s a much better big defender than non-Pelicans fans give him credit for being.