It may have been unexpected for a casual NBA fan, but the New Orleans Pelicans crushed any sort of doubts on their current 2021-22 campaign. Despite the 1-12 start and not having Zion Williamson for even one second this season, coach Willie Green propelled this squad to a six-game series against the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

In the exit interview of the Pelicans, Williamson spoke with the media and expressed his interest in signing a contract extension with the organization. CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and Jonas Valanciunas are still under contract for New Orleans, so they will have the time on improving their performance with a similar core. Defense and playmaking are still two major issues for this Pelicans roster, so these are some familiar names they must consider signing in free agency.

Jalen Brunson

After losing Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday over the last few years, the point guard position of the Pelicans has been severely depleted. Even with McCollum and Ingram leading the charge as two fabulous folks who could create shots for themselves, the missing link on their arsenal is facilitating and setting up their teammates for easy baskets.

A free agent class that lacks talented guards, Jalen Brunson would be a perfect fit in the system of Green. He has proven to flourish as a secondary scorer and prioritize setting up his current Dallas Mavericks teammates like Luka Doncic and Spencer Dinwiddie. Brunson has the humble mentality of accepting any sort of role given by his coach so being the point guard in a serious contender like the Pelicans would be an ideal situation for him as well.

Bruce Brown Jr.

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As an unrestricted free agent and coming off a spectacular first round series against the Boston Celtics, Bruce Brown Jr. will be a hot commodity in free agency this season. With most teams already stacked up in terms of their payroll next season, the integral moves would be on the role players of each contender. If Brown Jr. decides to don the Pelicans jersey, him and Herbert Jones would cause headaches for opposing players every night.

Brown Jr. is another athlete who could have a massive impact on the game without having a high usage rate. He thrives as a cutter, hustler, and corner threes shooter, which is perfect for a New Orleans team that has three ball-dominant guys in McCollum, Ingram, and Williamson. Green can mix it up as well if he will start or have Brown Jr. off the bench because the defense of the Pelicans is a weakness they must quickly address in the offseason.

Robert Covington

The Larry Nance Jr. addition to the McCollum trade was an enormous acquisition for David Griffin and the Pelicans franchise. Nance Jr. finally found a team wherein he could be utilized as a four or small-ball five, which would be fantastic for someone like Robert Covington as well. Valanciunas and Williamson are two their bigs who will receive the most minutes, but they could easily be exposed defensively.

If Nance Jr. and Covington are on the roster, Green would have several options of various lineups that could excel both offensively and defensively. Similar to Brown Jr., Covington can also emerge as an excellent role player who could fill certain gaps in the lineup of New Orleans. When they go against are more athletic and versatile big men like Karl-Anthony Towns or Anthony Davis, Nance Jr. and Covington would be vital in limiting their impact because Valanciunas or Williamson would be overmatched in these matchups.

By almost upsetting Phoenix in the playoffs, individuals vying for a contract and a new roster spot would consider the Pelicans as a legitimate landing spot. A young core with McCollum, Ingram and Williamson will be a sensational sight to see for their fans, but this upcoming free agency must be the time for them to bolster their team and continue their success.