3 Reasons the Pelicans improved and can compete in 2023-24

Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Trey Murphy III, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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Jordan Hawkins Pelicans
Jordan Hawkins, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

2. More shooting 

Ever since an intoxicated dad at a high school preached the importance of them to me, it has become abundantly clear to me that speed and spacing are the two most important parts of basketball.

In basketball, speed means not only knowing how to play fast, but also how to think fast. And I think, as currently constructed, the Pelicans have plenty of players who can do that. As for the spacing component, while it isn’t everything, a large part of spacing is shooting.

Last season, the Pelicans had very little of this. This is emblematic by the fact that they finished 23rd in made 3-pointers (11.0) and 29th in attempts (30.1). If New Orleans was going to keep the floor spaced for Williamson and Ingram to operate, they needed to add more shooting.

They knew this, and that is why they prioritized shooting with their first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. In his sophomore season at UConn, Jordan Hawkins shot 38.8% from three on 7.6 attempts per game.

But citing just those numbers alone undersells Hawkins’ splendor as a shooter. General Manager Trajan Langdon raved about Hawkins’ shot profile. This tells us that not only is he a great 3-point shooter, but an incredibly versatile one (meaning he can hit them in a standstill, on the move, in transition, etc.).

In college, he also flashed the skill that all elite shooters demonstrate: gravity. Hawkins was such a deadly shooter that defenses would intentionally (and sometimes accidentally) allocate extra resources to keep him from burning them from downtown. If he can keep that up at the NBA level, his Pelicans teammates will be able to profit from the extra space he creates.

We know it is hard for rookies to make an impact right out of the gates. But Hawkins has two things working in his favor. First, he played two seasons of college. So, he’s a little older and more experienced than a lot of the one-and-done guys in his class. And second, he will be placed in a very specific role. That means he won’t have a ton of on-court responsibilities early on and will be able to focus on his strengths.