Sadly! New Orleans Pelicans 2024 NBA offseason preview: Can they ever get healthy?

Highlight of the season: Saying, “Zion Williamson played 70 games,” may not sound like much of a highlight. But given that he played just 114 games over four seasons before that, it’s a highlight. It’s more than a highlight — it’s hope. Hope that was temporarily flushed down the drain when he missed the entire first round of the playoffs, but hope nonetheless.

How it ended

With too many mid-range shots. The current version of the Pelicans is likely coming to an end, given that former All-Star Brandon Ingram seemingly refuses to take 3-pointers, attempting just eight in the first-round series loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s not eight per game, mind you. That’s total. Over the course of 145 minutes.

With defensive ace Herb Jones becoming a much-improved shooter this season, canning 41.8% of his shots from downtown, now seems like the right time for the Pelicans to make substantial changes to their lineup. Long-range gunner Trey Murphy is also worthy of more minutes and more responsibility, particularly to aid Williamson, who can use as much space as humanly possible.

This raises a question about the future of Jonas Valančiūnas. The Lithuanian center would probably have been an All-Star had he played in the ’90s, but his huge frame and advanced post skills aren’t necessarily a needed commodity in today’s NBA, especially when paired with Williamson, who isn’t a strong shooter. You can survive with one subpar shooter in a starting unit, but not two.

Valančiūnas will be a free agent this summer and could leave the Pelicans outright. However, the Pelicans could be smart about it and re-sign him, only to flip him near the 2025 NBA trade deadline. Or, alternatively, they could seek out sign-and-trade deals during the offseason.

The biggest piece, however, is Ingram. The 26-year-old proved himself completely unreliable with his shot selection after finishing strong last season.

With players such as Jones, Murphy and rookie guard Jordan Hawkins being far more willing participants to space the floor for Williamson, it’s time to make a drastic pivot and streamline the roster.

Zion Williamson’s season once again ended with him in street clothes. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

A realignment. The Pelicans are running their actions mostly through Williamson and C.J. McCollum, meaning they have to get a roster in place that can help flank and optimize their playmaking capabilities. Whatever executive VP of basketball operations David Griffin and general manager Trajan Langdon decide to do this summer, symmetry and roster alignment has to be top of mind.

The Pelicans deferred the No. 17 from the Los Angeles Lakers — part of the Anthony Davis trade — to 2025. Given the lack of quality in this year’s draft class, and the possibility the Lakers could be much worse next season, it’s likely the right call by the Pelicans to defer the selection to next year.

In a draft that’s completely wide open, the middle of the first round is a great place to be. There’s flexibility to draft a backup point guard with perimeter shooting like Jared McCain of Duke or add some size with versatile 6-11 forward Tyler Smith from the G League Ignite, Kel’el Ware from Indiana or Purdue star Zach Edey. — Krysten Peek

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