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New Orleans Pelicans Mid-Season Report

The New Orleans Pelicans Big 3 Has Struggled to stay on the court together

Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr.

It’s about 18 games left in the NBA season, and the New Orleans Pelicans are currently the 10th seed. With a mediocre record of 31-33, they have a chance to be in the play-in tournament for the second straight year. However, that’s not where they were expected to be. Prior to this season, many analysts and fans believed the Pelicans would be among one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

Their appearance in last years playoffs as the 9th seed made quite an impression, as the 1st seeded Phoenix Suns took them down in six close games. This effort from New Orleans was without Zion Williamson. Now that he was back and healthy for a full season, the Pelicans were ready to go all in for a deep playoff run.

Zion’s Rise and Fall

Pelicans' Zion Williamson's Breakout Year Potentially Done

Photos by Joe Murphy

For the first few months, that proved to perfection. Up until the start of 2023, the Pelicans were 23-13 and were a top 3 seeded team in the West. This was due to Zion’s resurgence in the NBA, as he was tearing it up on the court. Even with the loss of All-Star Brandon Ingram due to a toe injury on November 25th, Zion kept the team afloat. In the eighth week of the season, he earned Player of the Week Honors with averages of 33.0 points and 8.4 rebounds with an incredible 70.4% field goal percentage.

At only age 22, Zion was on a new level this season with his impactful play. However, in their first game of 2023, he suffered a hamstring injury and hasn’t been able to return on the court since January 2nd. This, along with Ingram’s absence, led to the downfall of the Pelicans hopes of becoming a top seeded team. The team has been 8-20 since Zion’s injury, which included a 10 game losing streak.

More Injuries

Aside from losing Zion and Ingram for a long period of time, the Pelicans have dealt with an increasing number of injuries to their bench.  Fan favorite Jose Alvarado just went down with a leg injury and high flying slasher Larry Nance is out with an ankle injury. Both are expected to be out until late march. By the time they are back, who knows how many more games New Orleans will lose?

Trade Deadline Failure

With their recent struggles of the injury bug, it would’ve been an ideal move to make an impact at the trade deadline. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.  While acquiring Josh Richardson isn’t a bad thing, it didn’t necessarily address the problems they had. Richardson is a reliable two-way guard, but doesn’t make a serious impact on the floor. Rival teams such as the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks have gotten stronger with their recent blockbuster acquisitions.

There’s no question that Toronto Raptors OG Anunoby was available. In fact, many other teams had interest in acquiring the Small Forward. The Big three in CJ, Ingram, and Zion have been solid when all three are healthy at the same time. This hasn’t been often, so the help of Anunoby could have relieved their injury issues this season.

The problem was Anunoby’s asking price. Even if New Orleans had to give up substantial first round picks to get Anunoby, it would help with their debilitating playoff picture. He is only 25 years old and would fit greatly with the Pelicans young roster.

Okay, Here Are Some Positives

Don’t get me wrong, there are some positives to this unfortunate season. Trey Murphy III is having an improved sophomore season, averaging 12.7 points per game with 47.1% from the field and a respectable 38.5% from deep in 29.7 minutes. He also was a finalist in the 2023 NBA Dunk Contest. At 22 years young, Murphy will provide a stronger impact the more he improves.

Along with Murphy, the New Orleans Pelicans are a very young team. As long as they keep their core intact, their playoff window could be wide open for a very long time. It’s clear they aren’t necessarily having a strong 2nd half this season. Right now, Ingram is back in full strength and is playing well, averaging 28 points in the last ten games. CJ McCollum is a durable third option with 21.1 points per game.

The problem still lies with Zion. Can he stay healthy when he returns? Not only would that be a big help to the team, but also NBA fans are eager to see his performance at full strength in the postseason. If the New Orleans Pelicans can tread water until the bulk of their roster returns from injury, they could still be a force and make an impact come playoff time.

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