The New Orleans Pelicans were shaping up to be one of the most exciting teams in the NBA before Zion Williamson went down with an injury. Now, they are left searching for their immediate future with Lonzo and Ingram at the helm. Even with nice talent other than Zion, they have not been convincing at all.
Ingram has developed into a better player, as expected, but neither Lonzo or even Josh Hart have taken the necessary steps of becoming anywhere close to star players. Not to mention, the Pelicans are playing in a Western Conference that is just loaded from 1-8 seeds. They have to make up a long term plan and stick to it if they want to have an actual impact in the NBA. Here is what they should be focusing on.
1. 2020 NBA Draft
The Pelicans are not going anywhere this season, especially with the news of Zion's injury. So they must take this season as another "growing pain" for their young players and continue to develop while they plan for acquiring a top pick in the draft next year. In order for the Pelicans to build a potential championship team, they need to land a valuable pick by trying as much as possible to tank.
Even if the Pelicans have enough talent to compete for an eighth seed, the most they can expect is a first-round sweep. Rather, they should miss the playoffs and aim for exciting young prospects to join their exciting mix of talented players. This way, Zion can ease his way back into the lineup (and hopefully drop some pounds) and help the Pels be a factor next year.
2. Brandon Ingram Re-Signs With The Pelicans
Next, they need to ensure that Ingram returns to the team next year (and many years after). Ingram must re-sign, for multiple years, if the Pelicans want to even dream of deep Playoff runs in the next few seasons. New Orleans is not a very attractive market, so they need to keep the current crop of stars they already possess. Ingram has shown steady improvements and looks to be a star in the making.
Keeping Ingram is of top priority and the Pelicans front office needs to make it happen as soon as possible by offering a max extension at the next opportunity. Ingram can be a core player for this team thanks to his scoring and playmaking and has the tools to be an excellent defender as well.
3. LaMelo Ball Is Perfect Fit With The Pelicans
If the Pelicans get some luck, and if they can set themselves up perfectly this season, they have a chance at drafting LaMelo Ball. Since Lavar Ball speaks things into existence, his two boys might as well be playing together very soon. It is hard-pressed to find two players who can have better chemistry than two brothers since they grew up playing with each other.
LaMelo is looking like a very talented player in the making and actually looks to be a better raw talent than Lonzo. Still, he might bring out the best in his brother and finally deliver the Lonzo we are all waiting for. This can be down to competition for his position and because they enjoy being with each other.
LaMelo, Lonzo, Ingram, Zion, and Hart would be a very intriguing core of players who can do many things on the court. If the Pelicans focus on these key points they can potentially be contenders in the near future.