NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Every team’s biggest question

Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images /
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Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images /

New Orleans Pelicans: Are the former Lakers ready for breakout seasons?

For a team that just traded away an all-world talent in Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans are feeling pretty good these days. The Pelicans and new executive vice president David Griffin have enjoyed one of the most exciting offseasons in the NBA. At its core: 18-year-old phenom Zion Williamson.

Williamson is still just a rookie, however. It’s difficult for even the most talented of players to impact winning basketball in their first NBA season. Veterans Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors and J.J. Redick will help, but if the Pelicans want to surprise the league and break into the Western Conference playoffs ahead of schedule, their chances likely depend most heavily on the trio they received in exchange for their former franchise player: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart.

Disregarding the rabble that always seems to follow young players from the Los Angeles Lakers, there are pathways for all three to contribute to this Pelicans roster this season. Ball is a long, versatile defender and a wunderkind passer who should thrive alongside Williamson in transition. Ingram is the kind of smooth, lanky wing that makes you dream of a young Kevin Durant, and while such an outcome is obviously unlikely, he has the talent to be an impactful NBA scorer. He could be the best one-on-one scorer on the team. And Hart is a prototypical 3-and-D guard who should see plenty of open looks in Alvin Gentry’s offense.

The most substantial concern for all three players might simply be their ability to stay on the court. None of the trio managed more than 67 games in Los Angeles last season, after all. Ball’s season came to an abrupt end in January after suffering a severe sprain and torn ligament in his ankle, while Hart struggled through a nagging knee injury that would ultimately shut him down for the season in March. Perhaps most concerning, Ingram’s season would come a close as well after the discovery of a blood clot in his right shoulder.

All three are expected to open the season healthy and ready to contribute. If they can stay on the court and deliver on some of their significant potential, the youthful Pelicans might just be on pace for a breakthrough season.