3 bold reasons Zion Williamson, Pelicans will be surprise playoff team next season
The New Orleans Pelicans have a generational star present with Zion Williamson in the fold. Despite this, there are still some doubts about the team’s chances at qualifying for the playoffs in the 2021-22 NBA Season. Perhaps it’s due to the lack of reliable role players in their squad or the fact that they have a new coach. Or the mere fact that the Pelicans are in the Western Conference where a handful of powerhouse teams reside.
Whatever the case may be, there are three bold reasons why the Pelicans, amid all the doubts surrounding them, will be a surprise playoff team.
Williamson’s 27.0 points per game on 61.1 percent from the field kind of went unnoticed last season. It felt like fans and analysts were busy talking about LeBron James (as always) and other narratives of elite teams. From the looks of it, Williamson has adjusted to the NBA with relative ease. You don’t get to those monster averages just because of your God-given abilities. Everyone in the NBA is a beast. We can comfortably say that Williamson, at this point in his career, knows how to play the game at a very high level. And he’s just getting started.
With this in mind, we might see another side of Williamson’s game in his third year in the NBA. Will he have a reliable jump shot? Will he be a top-notch defender? Or will he be a playmaker? This is a matter of wait-and-see. Sky is the limit for Williamson.
Devonte’ Graham’s breakout year
Pelicans fans were disappointed that the team did not make an effort to keep Lonzo Ball in the fold. After all, the man seemed to have great chemistry with Williamson as they often connected through alley-oops and fastbreak finishes. However, their frowns turned into bright smiles once again after the front office traded for guard Devonte’ Graham.
While Graham is no Ball, he can certainly fill the role in his own special way. A look at his numbers reveals a crafty playmaker and an offensive master. He’s averaging 5.4 assists per game for his career. In his second year in the league, he boosted it up to 7.5 per game — a number we might see this time around. He’s also a 3-point assassin and knocked down 3.3 shots from deep last year. This might even go up, especially since Williamson and Brandon Ingram will likely attract a hoard of defenders.
Sturdier defense under coach Willie Green
It’s always tricky to bet your chips on a team with a new coach. It’s quite rare for a newbie head coach to immediately guide his team to the playoffs. However, looking at Green’s resume, we can confidently say that the Pelicans are in good hands. As for one, he was one of the coaches of the Golden State Warriors from 2016 to 2018. For all his troubles, he snagged to titles as a member of Steve Kerr’s crew. Last season, he was with the Phoenix Suns. He was in charge of shaping the Suns’ defense, which finished sixth in the league with a 110.4 defensive rating. This particular aspect of Green’s coaching background will be essential in honing the likes of Williamson, Ingram, Hart, and most of the squad who do not necessarily have a penchant for defense. This will propel the team to squeeze out key victories here and there. And at the end of the season, it might just power them for their first playoff appearance in three seasons.