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Top Needs for the Pelicans Ahead of 2021 NBA Season

| November 15, 2020 4:27 am PDT
New Orleans Pelicans' Biggest Needs 2021 NBA Season

The New Orleans Pelicans have a very bright future. They kind of have Anthony Davis to thank for that. 

Never able to go far in the NBA playoffs with him, the Pels shipped the star big man off to L.A. in a trade last offseason, and landed a young core (plus Zion Williamson) in the process.

As they stand, of course, the Pelicans aren’t a playoff team, and they probably need to make some key changes before they can become one.

With an eye on 2021 and beyond, here’s a look at the New Orleans Pelicans’ biggest needs, and how they can address them.

Trade Jrue Holiday

I am not telling the Pelicans to trade Jrue Holiday because I want them to. I love Jrue Holiday. And if you ask around the NBA, the consensus is that he’s pretty much the most underrated player in the league.

I tend to agree. Holiday can score, create, shoot, and defend at an elite level. Or more than can, he has consistently done this.

Not only does he not deserve to waste his prime years for an organization that isn’t quite ready to contend, but he also doesn’t fit the Pels’ window of opportunity.

Throw J.J. Redick into that conversation, too. Yes, these players are very good and useful, and you always need veterans. But the value they bring back is too much when you consider they won’t be part of the winning while they’re around.

Holiday is awesome, but he could bring back serious assets. His departure could give way to the long-term fix at shooting guard, or address another need.

But New Orleans can’t really take things to the next level in their rebuild until they let Holiday go. Only then will they really know what pieces they can go to war with.

This isn’t just speculation, either. The wheels are already in motion on this one.

Bring Back Brandon Ingram

Next up on the Memphis Grizzlies team needs list is retaining free agent small forward Brandon Ingram. I don’t always love his iso ball, but Ingram finally broke out as a potential star to build around last year.

Ingram was seemingly restricted while with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he averaged 23.8 points per game last year, and was this team’s rock on offense.

This is a potential superstar, so the Pels have to make sure he sticks around. They should be able to do that since they can match whatever offer he receives, but it’s still crucial.

If Ingram somehow leaves, for whatever reason, then their biggest needs become small forward, and also replacing all of that offense.

Get Some Defensive Help

The big dark cloud hanging over the Pelicans is without a doubt their atrocious defense. You tend to play bad defense when you run like they do and get into shootouts, but the numbers don’t lie.

New Orleans ended the year ranked 27th in points allowed per game, 29th in fastbreak points allowed, 28th in points allowed in the paint, 18th in steals, and 13th in blocks.

Across the board, they can and need to be better.

Trading Jrue Holiday would make this even worse, as the Pelicans don’t really have any other defensive stoppers. Lonzo Ball is a solid defender and Derrick Favors was good down low, but the latter is headed out the door.

If the pace of play is going to stay how it is – and it should – New Orleans at least needs to be a bit more efficient on defense.

New Orleans ranked 18th in the league in defensive efficiency, which probably wasn’t so bad considering their style and lack of defensive stoppers. But they could always get better.

Fix the Center Position

Lastly, the Pelicans probably need to figure something out at center. Derrick Favors is probably leaving in free agency, Jahlil Okafor likely shouldn’t be back, and Jaxon Hayes is pretty much all they have.

Maybe that’s not a terrible thing. Hayes was a lottery pick, he can rebound, he’s a great shot-blocker, and he offers tons of upside. But a proven commodity, he is not.

Is it likely the Pels will roll out a lot of small ball lineups with Zion Williamson at the five, too? Perhaps, but they’ll still need to replace their departing bigs.

New Orleans may just end up doing this in the 2020 NBA Draft, of course. They still have the 13th pick this year, and which could put them in position to trade up and nab James Wiseman.

Netting Zion and Wiseman in back to back drafts would potentially set the Pelicans up to dominate over the next decade. If they can’t make that happen, though, they can scale things back and target guys like Aleksej Pokusevski, Isaiah Stewart, and Zeke Nnaji.

Taking any of them at 13th overall wouldn’t be that big of a reach considering how big of a need it might be.


The New Orleans Pelicans are in pretty good shape. Zion Williamson needs to be the guy they drafted him to be, but everything else should eventually sort itself out if he indeed is.

I tend to lean more towards bust than franchise savior when I look at him, but for the NBA’s sake, I hope to be proven wrong.

Going into 2021, though, the Pelicans know they can’t hold onto Jrue Holiday, and if they find a taker, they should drop Redick, too. The team needs to keep Ingram, and then find a way to iron out their defensive wrinkles.

If that all happens, the Pelicans can start figuring out which young pieces are part of the solution, and how to adjust from there. 

In a loaded Western Conference, making the playoffs in 2021 is no lock. But if the Pels can make the right moves and address key needs now, they can set themselves up for one heck of a future.

With the 2021 NBA season rapidly approaching, get ready for the new year with some extra NBA content below.

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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