Kira Lewis Jr: Earn your next contract.
Despite having the Pelicans picking up Kira Lewis Jr.’s contract option heading into 2023-24, they didn’t reach a contract extension before the extension deadline (October 23rd). The goal this year should be to play well enough to make the Pelicans want to keep him around moving forward (unlike what happened with Jaxson Hayes).
The Pelicans drafted Lewis with the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, a combination of injuries and a lack of opportunity have made it difficult for Lewis to prove his splendor as a player.
They may have not given him much of a chance to showcase himself, but the Pelicans sure could use a breakout from Lewis. When Williamson isn’t on the floor, the team struggles heavily to generate shots at the rim. Last season, Lewis was in the 83rd percentile among guards in the percentage of his shots that were at the rim. If he could give them another rim-pressure player off the bench, that might warrant keeping him around long-term.
Cody Zeller: Be ready to protect the paint.
We mentioned how Valanciunas will need to step it as a rim protector this year. If he can’t meet that goal, and if the Pelicans won’t bring in someone who can, it will be up to Cody Zeller to help fortify the inside.
Nance is the better defender between the two, but he’s more of a switch merchant than an inside stopper. If something happens with Valanciunas, New Orleans will need Zeller big time.