3 Reasons Why You Should Not Give Up on the Pelicans
With the NFL season coming to a close and the NBA season almost to the all-star break, the NBA is in the heat of its season. The Pelicans started the season off on fire. At one point this season they were the number 1 seed and since the injuries to both Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the Pellies have fallen to the 4th seed.
Here are 3 reasons why you shouldn't give up on the team!
Brandon Ingram Is Back
As you are reading this, it was reported that Brandon Ingram would make his return on the 25th against the Timberwolves. This is huge because the Pelicans really missed both of their stars and with one back they can begin to climb back to the top of the Western Conference. And even when Zion Williamson was healthy it was apparent to anyone who watched the Pelicans that they missed Ingram.
Ingram adds a dynamic that without him they miss. He is the bonafide finisher of this team. He is the guy that when you need a bucket in the closing minutes of a game or a half, you give him the ball and let him cook. Also when the team was with Williamson there were periods of time when the Pelicans couldn't score unless it was Zion, and with Ingram that gives you someone you can always rely on. Also with Ingram back in action defenses can't pack the painted area of the floor due to the fact of how well he can hurt you from the mid-range and from 3. He also is a leader of the team and his voice was missed on the court. All in all, this is phenomenal that he is back, especially before any more damage could happen to their record. Even if he was out longer, the goal was to make the playoffs healthy because when healthy this team is one of the best teams if not the best in the Western Conference. With him back now the team can start to rebuild their chemistry.
CJ McCollum & Jonas Valančiūnas Have Been Amazing
To start the season many fans were either worried about CJ McCollum's lack of shot-making or they wanted to consider a trade. Since the injuries to both Williamson & Ingram, McCollum has stepped up tremendously and without him and Valančiūnas the Pelicans would be in a really rough situation. McCollum has been lights out shooting averaging 21 points per game and 5.7 assists. His numbers would be even higher if it wasn't for the shooting slump he went through at the beginning of the season. But we all know McCollum can play offense, the real impressive feat is the fact that he has been phenomenal on defense. He went from a below-average to at best average defender and now he is easily an above-average defender. I'm not saying he's the best by any means; however, his willingness to sacrifice and defend has been impressive. Whether that's getting steals, playing great help defense, or just communicating and making sure everyone is on the same page has been a great addition to his game.
And then there's Valančiūnas, who has in my opinion solidified that he is a top 5 center in the league. He is number 5 on that list but it can't be overstated how much he means to this team. And yes there are centers on the list of NBA centers who average more points but Valančiūnas impact is greater. The only centers I have over him are Jokic, Embiid, the Kings' Sabonis(having an incredible season this year and the main reason why the Kings are the 3 seed), and Karl Anthony Towns who is injured. For the season Jonas is 3rd among centers for the most double-doubles(someone who scores 10+ points and grabs 10+ rebounds or assists or blocks. Really it's any two stats with 10 or more). Valančiūnas has 25 double-doubles only behind the 2-time MVP in Jokic and Nikola Vucevic from the Bulls with 27. That stat shows how much work Valančiūnas has been putting in. He is also averaging 14.8 points per game, 9.9 rebounds(he is almost averaging a double-double which is amazing), is shooting 82% from the free throw line, and shooting 54% from the field. When the Pellies need a bucket they know they can iso Valančiūnas on the block and be better than okay. Between McCollum and Valančiūnas they have kept the Pellies alive and in the hunt in the Western Conference.
ZION WILLIAMSON IS COMING
Just like the first reason, this one is similar. When Zion Williamson comes back, watch out. The Pelicans reported that he is on pace and doing well in his hamstring recovery. He will be re-evaluated in two weeks to make sure he's healed and can get back on the court. Zion Williamson showed that the hype that he received coming into the NBA is real. Without Brandon Ingram, he led the Pelicans to the number 1 seed. Whether as point Ziom or the monster on the block, he was phenomenal. The only player comparable is a dragon ball z like fusion of Giannis and Shaq. Zion showed that he is the real deal.
I understand how the fans got worried during the Pelicans' losing streak while the main all-stars were out. But you can't even begin to judge this team without those two or at least without one. But the good thing in all of this is that McCollum found his shooting stroke. And the rest of the guys got valuable minutes to prepare them for the journey that is the playoffs. As long as this team is healthy, Louisianians be ready because we have a monster of a team. And the Blender will be rocking come playoff time.