The New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA Playoffs of 2022 weren’t the New Orleans Pelicans when rumours circulated that Zion Williamson’s family wanted him to play for a more competitive team.
The Pelicans’ comeback victory over the league-leading Phoenix Suns on Sunday drew the first round series even at two games apiece, proving that their late-season surge was no fluke.
However, even if the Suns are still the clear frontrunners, the Pelicans have showed something in this first round.
There is a lot of pressure now on Williamson, 21, to reshape his or his family’s perspective of the team, given that the team is winning without him.
The supporting cast has already been put in place..
As much as he was missed, Williamson’s untimely foot injury allowed the team to provide more opportunities to individuals who might not have had them if he had been fully fit throughout the regular season.
Herb Jones, a rookie, isn’t only one of the league’s greatest first-year defensive players. If you’re looking for a top-tier player in the league, go no further.
Despite the fact that his play would have provided him with some minutes, having the opportunity to gain consistent minutes and work his way into the NBA season has done wonders for his career both now and in the future.
It’s no coincidence that Larry Nance Jr., who was acquired from Portland at the trade deadline along with CJ McCollum, is also playing more than 20 minutes per game for the New Orleans Pelicans in the playoffs.
Williamson’s return will cut into both Jones and Nance’s minutes, but the front-line rotation has been established.
The Pelicans’ other acquisitions, including McCollum, are far more important than McCollum’s arrival.
As a result of playing alongside Damian Lillard for so long, the veteran guard has been utilised more on-the-ball in New Orleans.
He is now the primary decision-maker, balancing playmaking and shooting, and averaging more than 24 points per game since joining the Pelicans.
What could be better suited for a Williamson return than the combination of McCollum’s creativity and ability to move off the ball with Ingram, who is still around and now averaging around 30 points versus the Suns?
McCollum and Williamson are supposed to benefit from Ingram’s versatility as a glue, when all three are healthy.
McCollum and Williamson will benefit from Ingram’s presence in pick-and-roll situations, where he is one of the NBA’s most flexible forward scorers, allowing them to operate unnoticed by opposing defences.
McCollum is a good enough distributor to get the ball out of Ingram’s hands early if defences press hard on him, enabling Ingram the freedom to move around the perimeter or cut hard to the hoop in search of open shots.
When the Pelicans decide to let Williamson run the offence, as they did during his second season, the duo of Ingram and McCollum should become passing targets for Williamson.
With Valanciunas’ ability to score in a variety of ways, any defence will have a difficult time catching up to Williamson. In addition to becoming a rim-rattling centre, Valanciunas has developed into a 36.1 percent three-point shooter.
Valanciunas can roll or pop after screens, which Williamson can exploit. Steven Adams wasn’t the primary centre at that time, therefore this was not an issue.