The New Orleans Pelicans are currently enjoying a good form after a sluggish start to the current campaign, which saw them become the “whipping boys” in the NBA at a particular point. The team’s 13-game losing run from November to December 2019 was one of the longest losing streaks in the NBA this season. Their performances alone highlighted their weaknesses and pedigree clearly and saw them slip in the race for a playoff spot. However, the team’s fortunes have turned in recent weeks despite their recent 123-118 loss to Oklahoma City Thunder. Their strong showings at the end of 2019 have found their way into the New Year and seen the team lose just nine out of 21 games in 2020. As a result, the Pelicans are back in contention for a playoff spot with an improved 23-32 win-loss record and a massive leap to the 11th position of the Western Conference. Here is a look at some of the factors behind their recent resurgence.
The return of Zion Williamson & His Impact
Coach Alvin Gentry’s men’s recent revival has coincided with the return of promising 19-year-old rookie, Zion Williamson. Williamson had missed the opening 44 games of the New Orleans Pelicans’ season with a knee injury he sustained in the preseason after just being drafted as the top pick to the Pelicans last summer. There is no denial of his impact on this team even though the Pelicans’ recent good fortunes began in December. In Zion Williamson, the Pelicans have a young and exciting forward who is not afraid to deliver on the big stage. He also possesses the skill sets and power the game demands and can be a handful on any given day. Despite being sidelined for many months, Williamson quickly announced himself to the Pelicans straight away on his first outing for his team. On his debut, Williamson scored 22 points in 18 minutes on the court in a 121-117 loss to the San Antonio Spurs. His points tally in that game was the highest for his team on the day. It was also a showcase of his talent and ability. Since debuting for the New Orleans Pelicans, the rookie has averaged 22.1 points, 57.6 percent shooting, and 7.5 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game. He has also averaged 2.2 assists per game. Williamson also scored 14 points in the Rising Stars exhibition game between Team USA and Team World to hand his team a 151-131 win.
These numbers are staggering for a rookie whose NBA career began just this year. It also proves his mental toughness and determination after a long layoff from the game.
The Pelicans would be expecting a repeat of this great run of form from Williamson going forward. Should he stay fit, he might undoubtedly carry his team to the playoffs and maybe take those steps further to secure a historic NBA Championship. He is also undoubtedly a contender for the rookie of the year accolade.
Brandon Ingram finally proving His worth
Anthony Davis’ trade to the Lakers, along with the injury to top draft pick, Zion Williamson over the summer, created a big void in the Pelicans team. Ingram’s move to the Pelicans was initially greeted with skepticism considering his disciplinary issues and injury record at the Los Angeles Lakers. Also, in Los Angeles, he only showed few flashes of his potential and was never considered a bona fide star despite being named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in his rookie season and participating in the Rising Stars Challenge. However, he has proven a lot of critics wrong. His trade to the Pelicans is also proving to be smart business for the Pelicans.
Despite their struggles at the early stage of the season, the Pelicans performances haven’t always been a true reflection of Brandon Ingram’s performances this season. It is fair to say he has carried the New Orleans Pelicans team for most parts of the season despite joining over the summer. His move to the Pelicans has also elevated him to an All-Star after his selection as a reserve. He recorded two points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal after playing just nine minutes for Team Giannis in their 157-155 All-Star Game loss to LeBron James due to the ankle injury he sustained recently.
In 47 games for the New Orleans Pelicans in this regular season, the Small forward has averaged 34.1 percent minutes per game. Ingram has also averaged 24.9 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, and 4.2 assists per game. In all, he is ranked 13th overall for the most average points per game in the NBA this season. He also recorded a career-high points tally after scoring 40 points in a defeat to the Brooklyn Nets. Ingram’s performances also represent a rise in his valuation and ranking as a top prospect in the NBA this season.
The abundance of Promising Young Talents
One of the most prominent features of the Pelicans team is their long list of promising young talents who are gradually making headlines in the NBA. The current Pelicans team revolves around these group of young, hungry talents touted as Stars for the future. These players include Point Guard Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Frank Jackson, and Jaxson Hayes, who have proven to be outstanding players despite their young ages.
Lonzo Ball has averaged 11.9 points per game, 6.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game in his first season for the Pelicans. Josh Hart has also averaged 10.6 points per game and 6.4 rebounds and has burst onto the scene as a surprise rising talent this season.
The Pelicans are building a formidable young side that could potentially dominate the NBA in the future.
Next up for the Pelicans is a tricky encounter on the road at Portland Trail Blazers this weekend.