The New Orleans Pelicans came into the 2020-2021 NBA season with high expectations. Brandon Ingram showed glimpses of greatness last season capturing MIP and breaking out. Zion revealed to us his enormous potential with dazzling dunks and historical numbers. Lonzo Ball threw unreal lobs to the 2019 number 1 overall pick. This team was young, but exciting, and looked poised to tear the league up this season. However, that is far from the case. The Pelicans sit at 12th in the deep Western Conference at 12-16 after losing to Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers last night. This team with high expectations and a defensive-minded coach has proven to be mediocre at best. But why? What is wrong with The Pelicans? Why haven’t they been better this season?
What’s Wrong With the Pelicans? They’re young
What’s Wrong With the Pelicans? Their youth is what’s wrong. Their two best players and top scorers in Zion and Ingram are 20 and 23 years old respectively. They have 10 players at the age of 25 and under. This team is fairly young and inexperienced, and it shows in their win/loss record. They still need experience closing out games. This is evident in their recent halftime leads against the Trail Blazers and Chicago Bulls. In both games, the Pelicans had significant leads going into halftime and then were outscored in the second half. This time of inability to close games comes with youth often in the NBA. Therefore, the Pelicans are lacking in experience in that department. Plus, they have played 28 games. As the season progresses, they should garner the experience in games to close out effectively.
What’s Wrong With the Pelicans? They are bad Defensively
This is a pretty weird statement for a Stan- Van Gundy team huh? However, it is true. The Pelicans play lousy defense. Although they rank 8th in points per game at 114.6, they rank 23rd in opponent’s points per game at 114.5. This is the formula for a middle-of-the-road team. The Pelicans have no problem putting points on the board. However, they lack the defensive consistency to be a good team. Therefore, they have the record they have due to poor defense. This is evident in their two best players who often seem disinterested in playing on that side of the ball. This is odd, especially with their offseason acquisitions. The likes of Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe are supposed to supplement their defense. When in fact, it’s actually limited their spacing.
The Pelicans also rank 28th in defensive rating at 115.7. yet their offensive rating is 7th at 115.9. Their defense is offsetting their offense. Thus, they are putting points on the board, but the opponent is able to match that scoring prowess every time.
They lack spacing
What’s Wrong With the Pelicans? They lack spacing, that’s what’s wrong. Both Zion and Ingram are ball-handling slashers that need space to drive and kick out to shooters. Zion barely attempts a shot outside of 5 feet of the basket. Ingram, although a mid-range slasher and can shoot threes, is no JJ Redick. And even though Bledsoe and Lonzo can hit threes they aren’t consistent enough for a sustainable offensive game. Therefore, in tight games, their offense can easily collapse. Especially if the ball isn’t in the hands of Zion or Ingram. The lack of spacing in their starting line-up is detrimental to their success at times and it shows when Ingram doesn’t have anyone to kick the ball to. Zion often doesn’t have that problem because he’s a walking bulldozer. However, once defenses are able to show him taller and more elite defenses ( Giannis, AD, Joel Embiid), Zion can prove to become neutralized easily.
This lack of spacing can prove to be the reason as to why they make 12 ( 22nd) threes a game out of 32.5 (23rd) attempts.
Even though the Pelicans don’t look like they can guard a garbage can they still have a myriad of bright spots to get excited for. Zion is the first NBA player to average over 60% shooting in 5 of his first 50 games. A feat that proves that he is an unstoppable force at the rim. Ingram also has had a historical run in the first few games of the season and is building off his all-star season last year with 23.6 ppg, 5.4 trb, and 4.8 ast. Both rank in the top 20 scoring at the moment. The two of them look as if they can be a tandem in the league that will wreck havoc for the next 4-5 years . As of right now, they just need to sharpen up their defense, and the wins will follow.
Damian Lillard exploded last night for 43 points ( seems like a regular thing in this league now) to lead the Blazer 126-124 over the Pelicans last night. Despite injuries to key pieces, The blazers are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Zion looked like a superstar late in the 4th quarter making baskets and plays for others. Unfortunately he didn’t touch the ball on the last possession which is troublesome, especially with how brilliant he was in creating in the clutch. 36 points however is still spectacular from Mt. Zion.
Follow me on Twitter Adonis Richards! I’d love to chat all things basketball and debate if necessary, also don’t forget to follow Belly up sports on Twitter Belly up sports and check out the site more NBA coverage.