With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.
Today, we're looking at the New Orleans Pelicans.
2018-19 season record
33-49 (13th in the Western Conference)
Projected 2019-20 season record
39-43 (11th in the Western Conference)
Zion Williamson (draft)
Jaxson Hayes (draft)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker (draft)
Lonzo Ball (trade)
Brandon Ingram (trade)
Josh Hart (trade)
Derrick Favors (trade)
JJ Redick (free agency)
Nicolo Melli (free agency)
Anthony Davis (trade)
Julius Randle (free agency)
Elfrid Payton (free agency)
|PG||Lonzo Ball||Nickeil Alexander-Walker||Frank Jackson|
|SG||Jrue Holiday||JJ Redick||Josh Hart|
|SF||Brandon Ingram||E'Twaun Moore||Kenrich Williams|
|PF||Zion Williamson||Nicolo Melli|
|C||Derrick Favors||Jaxson Hayes||Jahlil Okafor|
3 key storylines
Zion Williamson's rookie campaign
Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, is unlike any player the basketball world has ever seen before.
His unique blend of size, athleticism and raw skill makes for the most heralded rookie prospect since LeBron James took the basketball world by storm in 2003. With that being said, the 19-year-old finds himself in rare company before stepping foot on an NBA court for an official game.
With all eyes on Zion, what can realistically be expected of him in his first season?
MORE: Zion delivers unprecedented promise to New Orleans
He's the presumptive favourite to win Rookie of the Year this upcoming season and naturally, is expected to have an immediate impact on his new team. With the amount of talent present on this roster, Williamson won't necessarily have to take on as much responsibility as top picks in years past, which could ultimately do wonders for his development.
As with most rookies, there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but history would suggest that Zion's first season won't be directly comparable to those of "most rookies."
Jrue Holiday's Team
As great as Williamson is expected to be, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has maintained that this is Jrue Holiday's team. Griffin has even gone as far as to comparing Holiday to Steve Nash ahead of his MVP seasons with the Phoenix Suns.
No pressure, @Jrue_Holiday11, but the @PelicansNBA have high hopes for you.- SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) July 9, 2019
When new VP @dg_riff spoke with @Jumpshot8 and @TermineRadio, he set the bar pretty high.#DoItBig #SummerLeague pic.twitter.com/o02tWWjWQ1
NBA.com has tabbed Holiday as a top 5 shooting guard in the league and now, in the first season in the post-Anthony Davis era, the 11-year veteran will likely shoulder the offensive load as New Orleans' No.1 option.
Last season, Holiday averaged a career-high 21.2 points, 7.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds over 67 games. Now, he has the benefit of sharing the backcourt with a pass-first point guard in Lonzo Ball and the Pelicans have a number of dangerous offensive weapons that defences will be forced to focus on.
The stars are aligning for the 29-year-old to have a career year, which will only mean good things for the Pelicans.
The New Guys
You might have noticed the lengthy list of notable additions above - nine new players stand to make an immediate impact in their first season with New Orleans, some bigger than others.
Zion is one of four newcomers that are projected to start for the Pelicans this season and one of three talented rookies that can make their presence felt in Year 1.
Still, one of the biggest offseason additions this team has made belongs to neither of the aforementioned groups - free agency acquisition JJ Redick brings a much-needed veteran presence and, of course, is one of the greatest shooters in the league. Redick is coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.1 points per contest while connecting on 39.7% of the 8.0 3-point attempts he took each game.
New Orleans has an abundance of talent on its roster, a good problem for head coach Alvin Gentry, who now has the personnel to run his uptempo system to perfection.
Now, the biggest question surrounding this team will be how quickly - and how well - the new talent can be incorporated. It's essentially a brand new team, and however talented it may be, these players must learn how to play alongside one another.
If the Pelicans can figure it out quickly on the fly, their chances of contending for a playoff spot become much higher.
5 games to watch
Oct. 22 at Toronto Raptors
New Orleans has the unique honour of playing in the very first game of the 2019-20 NBA season as they take on the defending champions. Williamson will make his highly-anticipated professional debut, and we'll get our first look at the new-look Pelicans, who will look to play spoiler to the Raptors ring ceremony.
Nov. 27 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
After spending the first seven years of his career with the Pelicans, Anthony Davis makes his return to the Smoothie King Center as an LA Laker. Not only will there be an electric atmosphere because of A.D.'s return, but it will also be the first meeting between Zion and LeBron, two No. 1 overall picks that were crowned before their first-ever NBA game.
Add in the three former Lakers on New Orleans' roster and there will be plenty of storylines to follow in this one.
Dec. 25 at Denver Nuggets
New Orleans has another unique honour in playing in one of the league's five games on Christmas Day in 2019. With all eyes on this one, the Pelicans get to prove themselves as they take on a legitimate title contender in the West.
Jan. 10 at New York Knicks
No. 1 vs. No. 3.
In his professional debut at Madison Square Garden, No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson gets to face off against his good friend and college teammate RJ Barrett, who was taken third overall in this year's draft.
While the rookie showdown is the main event, former Pelicans Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton will look to have big games against their old team.
Apr. 15 at San Antonio Spurs
Are the Pelicans a playoff team? If so, they'll have to earn it.
In 2015, New Orleans earned a playoff berth with a win over San Antonio on the last night of the regular season. This year, the Pelicans will again face the Spurs in the season finale; if history repeats itself, there could be a lot on the line.
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