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Why JJ Redick to the Pelicans is exactly what Zion Williamson needed

It’s official, there has never been a better time to be an NBA player. Shortly after free agency officially opened, teams had already spent north of $3 billion in contract signings, according to Jeff Siegel with Early Bird Rights. Aside from the headline-grabbing signings of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving with the Brooklyn Nets, there were dozens of other players switching teams. With Woj and Shams competing to be the first to tweet out every new move, it was easy to get lost in it all.

Flying under the radar, the New Orleans Pelicans swiped JJ Redick away from the Philadelphia 76ers. The sharpshooting Redick is heading to the bayou on a two-year, fully guaranteed $26.5 million dollar deal. The Pelicans knew they needed to surround Zion Williamson with shooters to fully maximize his unique skill set. That’s what makes this signing a near perfect fit.

Redick has made his name, and his livelihood, on his ability to shoot it from distance. He’s been one of the NBA’s best and most consistent lights out shooters since he came into the league. His presence will open up the floor for Zion, Brandon Ingram, and the rest of the Pelicans slashers. Alvin Gentry couldn’t have gotten a better veteran for his run-and-gun style of play.

It will be interesting to see if Gentry deploys Reddick alongside Jrue Holiday in the starting lineup or brings him off the bench. A particularly intriguing possibility would be for a lineup featuring Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Redick, Ingram, and Zion. That group would be an absolute terror in transition. Zion is equally adept as a passer and finisher. As a de facto point-center, he would be the focal point in a group that should look play at break-neck speed. Keeping defenses on their heels and letting Zion move the ball will be both exciting and efficient.

In transition, Redick will be responsible for running to the corners and waiting for the ball to find him. He shot 45% on catch-and-shoot looks last season and an absurd 57% from the left corner. Defenses will have to choose between letting Zion or Ingram get clean looks at the rim and letting Redick get an open look off from his favorite spot. When the game slows down Redick is almost Steph Curry-like in his ability to weave through defenses to find his spot.

Redick will guard the less intimidating member of the opponents’ backcourt. He’s a solid but not great defender. He knows where he’s supposed to be and is a knowledgable team defender. Additionally, New Orleans has two very strong defensive guards with Holiday and Lonzo Ball. Those two should have no problem covering up any shortcomings Redick has on the defensive end.

As important as his contributions on the court will be, Reddick’s veteran leadership in the locker room will be just as valuable. Including Redick, New Orleans now has a sizeable group of Duke alumni surrounding Zion. The Duke brotherhood is real, Redick’s ability to leverage that connection with Zion, Ingram, and Jahlil Okafor will be invaluable. Furthermore, did you know Redick has never missed the playoffs?

Seriously, since he came into the league with the Orlando Magic he’s been playing postseason basketball. New Orleans is a playoff contender, Redick’s been there every year. He knows exactly what it takes to get there and will push this young group to that level.

Redick has been around for a while. He’s a thirteen year veteran on one of the youngest teams in the league. The NBA experience has been unconventional for Ingram, Ball, and Josh Hart thus far. Their time in Los Angeles was full of tabloid moments but not much meaningful basketball. And Zion’s superstardom offers a unique set of potential distractions. Having another veteran presence like Redick around to show these younger players what it takes to have a long, productive career in the NBA will be essential for the sustained success of the Pelicans.

New Orleans was only a few key pieces away from being a playoff team. They’ve found an ideal fit in Redick. He fits in perfectly with what they’re trying to build on offense and is complemented by players who cover his defensive shortcomings. There’s not much he hasn’t seen in his time in the NBA. Passing that knowledge on to the Pelicans younger players will pay dividends down the road. All of that for only $26.5 million over two years. Tip your cap to David Griffin, this is one of the biggest steals of free agency.