Once again, the New Orleans Pelicans enter this upcoming season with renewed hope that Zion Williamson will finally put together a healthy campaign. It goes without saying that the Pelicans' success relies heavily on whether Williamson is available or not. With the 2019 No. 1 overall pick, New Orleans went 17-12, which, if sustained, could have made New Orleans the third seed in the Western Conference. Without Williamson, they were just 25-28.
The Pelicans should use this training camp to see where the 2019 No. 1 overall pick is at in terms of his game shape and overall health. With Williamson's impending return, one player is certainly in danger of losing his starting job. That man is Trey Murphy III.
Trey Murphy has become a diamond in the rough for the New Orleans Pelicans after he put together a strong sophomore campaign. Though he barely saw any playing time during the regular season in his debut campaign, he still showed flashes of brilliance. Murphy especially showcased his potential during New Orleans' 2022 playoff run, where he shot over 47 percent from three in their first-round series versus the top-seeded Phoenix Suns.
The next season, the versatile 6-foot-9 wing earned a larger role — partly due to his postseason emergence and the several injuries (not just Williamson's) the Pelicans went through. Murphy started in 65 of his 79 appearances for the 2022-23 season, where he averaged 14.5 points and shot over 48 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. He is certainly capable of popping off on any given night like he did when he scored 41 points during a mid-March game last season.
Nonetheless, despite everything he proved in his sophomore year, Murphy remains one of the more obvious picks to get demoted to the second unit should Williamson come back in full health this season.
It goes without saying — Williamson obviously isn't coming off the bench. He's the face of the franchise and there is no way — even with the odd trade rumors and all this summer — the Pelicans move him to the second unit.
Brandon Ingram certainly isn't going to accept a bench role or else he could gripe and create more problems for the Pelicans. CJ McCollum also carries a ton of responsibility offensively with his ball handling and shot creation which makes him a necessity in the first unit. Jonas Valanciunas also provides them with a steady force inside the paint with his size and rebounding. So, that leaves the final starting job to either defensive stalwart Herbert Jones or the sharpshooter Murphy.
Nonetheless, unfortunately for Murphy, it seems like the basketball gods have spoken.
It doesn't help the Virginia standout's case that he sustained a meniscus injury that will keep him off the basketball court for 10 to 12 weeks. So, he won't even be able to participate in training camp and prove his worth there as a potential starter for the Pelicans. With that said, Jones remains in the starting five heading into the season and could keep the job for the entire year, granted New Orleans' health as a team.
Murphy certainly had a chance to start over Jones, even with Williamson back and that is primarily because of his elite three-point shooting. His ability to space the floor would complement Williamson's game very well and this could have drawn head coach Willie Green to prioritize fit and put him in the starting unit.
But due to his injury, he won't even be able to vie for the spot and could potentially never get the chance to if the Pelicans start out the season strong without him. Nonetheless, it shouldn't take a starting role for Murphy to make an impact. He is still capable of becoming a spark plug off the bench for this Pelicans roster with his ability to stroke it from beyond the arc.