The New Orleans Pelicans have been having a good year so far. Zion Williamson’s injury has led to more time for their other players, including Darius Miller and RJ Barrett. The Pels are currently in the midst of an 8-game winning streak. They remain one of the best teams in the Western Conference, with a lot riding on whether they can keep it up when Zion returns from his ACL tear next month
The “zion williamson birthday” is a reason why the New Orleans Pelicans are stealth contenders in the West.
This season, the New Orleans Pelicans were considered an afterthought. The club finished last in the Western Conference due to Zion Williamson’s absence for the whole season and a general lack of competitive fire from everyone. The many rumors that surrounding Williamson only served to add gasoline to an already smoldering trash fire.
CJ McCollum, an unexpected firefighter, stepped in to rescue the Pelicans’ season. Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and other assets were acquired from the Blazers in exchange for the former All-Star guard. NOLA has been on fire since that trade deadline transaction, just lately been humbled by Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
Despite squandering a chance during a five-game winning run, there are many reasons for Pelicans supporters to be happy when Zion Williamson returns. Let’s have a look at them.
When Zion Williamson returns, there are two reasons why the Pelicans will be stealth contenders in the West.
CJ McCollum is Zion’s missing connection.
Zion Williamson was arguably the Pelicans’ best player when he was healthy. The former first-round selection has an incredible combination of athleticism and touch that made him mentally dangerous. We generally know Zion from his high-octane mixtapes, but he’s proving in the NBA that he can do it all with a little elegance.
The problem with playing Zion is that when the Pelicans are on the court, opponents can swarm the paint. It will be tough for Williamson, no matter how good his hands are around the rim, if he is up against numerous opponents. Someone had to pull Williamson’s focus away from the squad in order for him to reach his greatest potential.
CJ McCollum enters the picture. During his stint with the Trail Blazers, the Pelicans guard made way for Damian Lillard. He has, however, consistently shown his ability to play as a lead guard in an offense. McCollum was given the go-ahead to run the offense in New Orleans, and he’s done an outstanding job.
Having McCollum handle the rock, a legitimate danger on all three levels, will make Williamson more difficult to protect. For any Western Conference club, that alone will make them a scary matchup.
Even without Zion, the Pelicans remain a formidable force.
The major reason we’re discussing the Pelicans is their ability to succeed even without their great player. Zion’s supporting cast is tremendously underappreciated, with a slew of players capable of filling different offensive positions when called upon.
In New Orleans, Jonas Valanciunas is experiencing a resurgence. The former Raptors lottery selection has kept his good back-to-basket style, but he’s also developed a reliable three-point shooting. His defensive improvements make him a wonderful match for Williamson, who can struggle on that end of the field.
This season, Herbert Jones has also been a nice surprise for the Pelicans. Jones’ defensive flexibility has come in handy for a squad that is short on defensive components, despite his 6-8 stature. It’ll be intriguing to see how he and Zion do in a small-ball lineup.
Brandon Ingram, of course, is also in the mix. Despite missing out on the All-Star game this season, the Pelicans forward has had a strong season, scoring over 22 points per game. His ability to produce for himself and his teammates will be crucial in relieving Williamson of some of the pressure.
Other intriguing players may be found on the Pelicans’ roster. For supporters, Jose Alvarado has been more than a happy ending, offering a much-needed energy. Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell, who joined McCollum from Portland, are defensively sound.
This isn’t the same Pelican as earlier in the season. They’ll be an obvious favorite for an upset if they can keep this up after Zion returns (which may be sooner than other West contenders desire).
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