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Rating the New Orleans Pelicans Roster for 2020-21

| December 19, 2020 6:01 am PDT
New Orleans Pelicans Roster for 2020-21

The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. Only one team ran at a faster pace last season, and the Pels were among the most explosive squads in the league.

Picking Zion Williamson with the top pick in last year’s draft took a fun team and brought it to another level. Then the organization upgraded at head coach by switching from Alvin Gentry to Stan Van Gundy, and also corralled more assets in a trade involving Jrue Holiday.

Nothing is guaranteed for the Pelicans going into the 2020-21 NBA season, but there is no denying that this team is fun and probably has a bright future.

Sports bettors are likely fixated on the here and now, though. Can the Pels make the playoffs? Are they worth betting on in any capacity? Let’s find out in this New Orleans Pelicans roster analysis for the 2020-21 NBA season.

New Orleans Pelicans 2020-21 Roster

  • Key Additions: Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams, Kira Lewis Jr.
  • Key Losses: Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors, Jahlil Okafor
Likely Starting 5
  • PG: Lonzo Ball
  • SG: Eric Bledsoe
  • SF: Brandon Ingram
  • PF: Zion Williamson
  • C: Steven Adams

As stated, the Pelicans were pretty fun on offense last year. They pushed the pace and scored a lot of points, while they were a nightly terror from long range.

I doubt too much of that changes with SVG running the show considering offense is still this team’s strength, but when you look at the 2020-21 Pelicans coaching staff, you can tell defense will be a point of emphasis.

Van Gundy-led teams tend to care about defense, and the new head coach has suggested that a fast pace of play needn’t be attached to turnovers (Pels ranked 29th in that department last year).

On paper, this is a nice starting five and a very interesting overall roster. The Jrue Holiday trade absolutely hurts, but Eric Bledsoe is a solid defender who can score effectively.

Starting him over an aging J.J. Redick does take some shooting off the floor, of course, especially when you factor in the minus Lonzo Ball can be offensively.

New Orleans will also want to figure out what lineup they like best. Adams is a strong traditional center, but would this team be better off rolling with Zion at the five?

This lineup should be able to score points, and the moves the Pels have made should also simultaneously lead to a big leap on the defensive end. If this team can somehow still threaten offensively and tighten things up on defense, they may really have something here.

New Orleans Pelicans’ Bench

  • Kira Lewis Jr.
  • J.J. Redick
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker
  • Theo Pinson
  • Sindarius Thornwell
  • Josh Hart
  • Wenyen Gabriel
  • Nicolo Melli
  • Jaxson Hayes
  • Willy Hernangomez
  • Ike Anigbogu
  • Willy Magnay

The Pelicans have a solid yet unproven bench. Redick stands out as a useful sharpshooter who should provide a spark offensively, while NAW and Josh Hart will look to eat into his minutes as guys who do similar things but should be part of a youth movement.

Maybe that ends up getting Redick shipped out of town in a trade, but it’s easy to see that New Orleans is better off the bench with him in town.

Elsewhere, the Pels leave a lot to be desired. The jury is still out on Jaxson Hayes and the rest of their reserve bigs, and they really don’t have a shutdown defender to be used in relief.

Kira Lewis Jr. is this year’s lottery pick, and he offers upside as a core piece down the road. Overall, though, this bench was merely a middle of the pack unit last year and didn’t get better.

Pelicans’ Best Player – Zion Williamson

I flirted with putting Brandon Ingram here. New Orleans just re-signed him to a huge contract, and he’s easily the team’s most skilled scorer (23.8 points per game last year).

With Jrue Holiday out of town, he might only ascend from here.

But if we’re talking pure talent, what we saw last year, and where we’re going, you can’t tell me the pick isn’t Zion.

Williamson gets a knock for health and played just 24 games as a rookie, but he was still sensational when he was on the floor.

He only looks better after making his preseason debut, too.

Rookies don’t just come in and put up 22.5 points per game every year, while he offered serious promise as a rebounder, interior scorer, outside shooter, shot-blocker, and rebounder.

Potential is the name of the game here, and there’s always going to be an injury risk when you marry Zion’s size with his athleticism. However, he can do everything at a pretty high level. If he hardens his skill-set and keeps getting better, he’s going to put up monster numbers and be the main reason New Orleans pushes for the playoffs.

Pelicans’ X-Factor – Lonzo Ball

The Pelicans x-factor has to be Ball. The 23-year old is already a plus defender in the league. If you’re wondering what he does well, just watch the tape.

The playmaking is top shelf, he’s one of the best rebounding guards in the league, and he has the ability to break his man down one-on-one.

The ability is even there for Ball to develop as a shooter, and hitting at a 37.5% clip from long range has to quiet his critics some.

He’s not where he can get to as a scorer just yet, but Ball flashed potential with 11.8 points per game in year three. The trick is whether or not he can parlay his talent and role into a major leap in his age-23 campaign.

ESPN seems to think so, as the sports media giant caught major heat for seemingly putting him too high in their preseason rankings. 

They did that because Ball is a complete player, though. 

Right or wrong, Ball isn’t just about one thing (scoring, in particular). His ability to defend and create offense makes that debate a bit more compelling than some might think.

Ball is a nightly triple-double threat when you look at his athleticism, size, and overall talent. If he can get to 15 points per game and keep his hands in those other stat categories, he could be a huge reason why the Pels take things up a notch this season.

Final Assessment of the New Orleans Pelicans Roster

The 2020-21 Pelicans are going to remain fun. They have several interesting young players for the fanbase to be excited about, they’re going to score points, and they’re going to compete.

Van Gundy’s arrival ensures that, and his defensive background and ability to adjust on the fly give the Pels a nice coaching upgrade. This team with a defense? Yeah, that’s something to get excited about.

The Western Conference remains pretty stacked, so a deep playoff run is out of the question, and even making the playoffs is far from a lock. But that’s a bet you can entertain, and 35+ wins are also on the table.

Betting on the Pels on an individual game basis is also going to be both fun and potentially profitable this year.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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