3 things the Pelicans need to become championship contenders

Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks
Apr 16, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) dunks / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
1 of 3

The Pelicans are so close to being a championship contender. They finished with the sixth best net rating in the NBA, and they boasted a top 11 offense and defense in the league. Zion Williamson established himself as a true superstar. Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III have developed into perfect pieces on the wing and the young duo can match any in the league when it comes to two-way play.

However, the Pelicans are also so far from championship contention. Their 49 wins were only good enough for eighth place in the Western Conference. Zion Williamson still struggles with injuries and his absence from the Pelicans' first round playoff series was a death sentence. Brandon Ingram struggles with consistency and he failed to show up in the biggest moments of the Pels' season. CJ McCollum isn't good enough on both ends to be the third banana on a championship-level squad.

So close, yet so far.

The Pelicans are entering a pivotal offseason that will define the next decade of basketball in New Orleans. They boast a true superstar, elite role players, a hungry front office, and a boatload of picks to swap for star power to surround Williamson, Jones, and Murphy III in the starting lineup. Here are the three things the Pelicans need to become true championship contenders.

1. An elite shot-creating guard

The Pelicans playoff offense was abysmal. And that's an understatement.

Yes, they were missing their centerpiece in Zion Williamson, but Willie Green failed to adjust and create open shots for his other star players in McCollum and Ingram. New Orleans' offensive rating in the playoffs was 93.5, seven full points worst than the second worst outfit, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Good shots were hard to come by, and the swarming Thunder defense erased any chance New Orleans had to get good looks at the rim.

An elite shot-creator on the perimeter would have eased those struggles. McCollum and Ingram have their strengths, but their inability to create offense was on full display against Oklahoma City. The Pelicans need an upgrade.

Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Donovan Mitchell, and Darius Garland all may find themselves on the trade block this summer. It would be a coup for New Orleans to swap either McCollum or Ingram (or both!) for one of those players to initiate the offense in the Big Easy and give Zion Williamson a running mate to reshape the Pelicans offensive identity.