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New Orleans Pelicans Don’t Deserve Their Fate

New Orleans Pelicans GM David Griffin really doesn’t deserve to be going through what he’s going through. Having played a large role in the sustained success of the Phoenix Suns’ Steve Nash/Amar’e Stoudemire era before helping the Cleveland Cavaliers make an NBA Finals appearance, Griffin brought high expectations with him when he took the reins in New Orleans. 

Griffin’s first task turned out to be an easy one, watching as the team landed the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and then using it to select Duke’s Zion Williamson. It’s easy to second-guess this move after the fact, but 30 of 30 NBA GMs would have made Williamson their choice given the same chance. Unfortunately, Williamson’s durability immediately became an issue and remains one to this day. He missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury and has managed just 114 games over four seasons as a pro. Williamson puts up All-Star numbers when he plays, but that’s small consolation given his perpetual injury status.

Griffin also engineered the trade that sent oft-injured Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that landed Brandon Ingram in New Orleans. Ingram quickly justified the move, putting up All-Star numbers and looking like the perfect complement to Williamson when the two managed to play together. Ingram, too, has had durability issues and missed 29 games last season with a toe injury that seemed to drag out much longer than anyone expected.

In his next big move, Griffin acquired shooting guard CJ McCollum from the Portland Trail Blazers, largely for some of the scraps that came over from the Lakers as part of the Ingram trade. At the time, it seemed the bulk of the work of building a contending franchise was done. The big three of Williamson, Ingram and McCollum had a strong supporting cast, they had depth and they had a promising young coach in Willie Green. 

Unfortunately, when the 2022-23 NBA season came to what was a merciful end for the Pelicans, the team was barely over .500 at 42-40 and sat in ninth place in the Western Conference. What was, on paper, a top four team had instead fallen well short of preseason expectations, and there does not appear to be a silver lining as training camps prepare to get underway. Even if Ingram is ready to get back to form and McCollum delivers the kind of performances that kept fans engaged last season, the gaping hole at power forward means the Pelicans will at least get off to a rough start. If the rumors of guard Trey Murphy III needing surgery on his freshly-torn meniscus are true, it just gets worse for New Orleans.

Every step of the way David Griffin made moves that looked worthy of contention, but so far the team has been thwarted at every turn by persistent injuries. 

It’s no wonder many thought the Pelicans would look to move on from Williamson on draft night 2023, as was widely reported but denied by Griffin. It would be perfectly understandable for the team to gauge what value might be out there for the former top pick. After all, the Pelicans are built to win now, and there is no return date set for their star centerpiece. Fans of the Pelicans should be eagerly anticipating the start of an exciting season, but instead it looks like another year of wondering what might have been. 

Related: When Philadelphia 76ers GM Daryl Morey brought James Harden back into the fold, he invited his new team down the same path that led to him stepping down from his last one. Now The James Harden Train Wreck Has Left the Station, and it may cost the Sixers Joel Embiid and Morey his job.

The Dallas Mavericks’ front office continues to build a team that even Mavs Fans For Life (MFFL) will have a hard time loving. Only an unprecedented season from the enigmatic Kyrie Irving can save them. Dallas Mavericks Betting on Kyrie Cryptocurrency.

Bill Ingram is Executive Editor for The Hardwood Huddle, a new website coming to soon from the creators of Back Sports Page. He has been covering the NBA for more than 20 years.


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