In the end, they almost made Chris Paul cry and caused Monty Williams to talk himself out of $15,000. Then at one point, they had over 16,000 people chanting the name Jose’. How bout them Pelicans? Yes, they lost. And yes, they’re out of the playoffs after 6 games. They did lose to the Phoenix Suns at home. But that week and a half was something, wasn’t it?
First off, no one expected this. When the playoffs started, we were like, it’s all gravy baby. We’re just happy to be here. Then when the Suns lost Devin Booker and the Pelicans won a game, we were like, hold up. Wait a minute! We just might win this thing. And now here we are, after 6 tough, competitive, and emotional games, pumped for next season. Even Zion, in his first interview since September, has said count me in. To quote Chris Paul, “there ain’t been this much energy here in a long time.” And now comes the part of capitalizing off of it.
The first thing the Pelicans need to do, besides getting Zion on the court, is find a starting point guard. They swung and missed widely with Devonte’ Graham during the offseason, like 4 years and $47 million widely. He started off fine. But by midseason his play had gotten so bad that Wille Green benched him. And by the end of the season, he was barely playing. During the series with the Suns, he scored 24 points. That’s 24 points total, in 6 games.
The second thing they need to do is find a dependable 6th man. Jose’ Alvarado is a nice hustle player. Trey Murphy can hit some threes when he gets hot. And Larry Nance Jr. is tough in the middle. But none of them consistently provide double digit points off the bench. NBA teams live and die off of bench scoring. The Pelicans never had enough of it this season.
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But even if they don’t do either of those, the one thing they really, really can’t do is get off to a slow start to begin the season. All the emotion the fans poured into the Smoothie King Center these past two weeks, will be on tap when the new season begins. But another 1-12 start or a losing record for the first month will suck all that energy right out of the building. And that would be a shame. It should be an interesting off season.
Speaking of energy, the Saints might have finally brought some energy to the offense with their first pick in the NFL draft last week. The Saints traded up 5 spots to pick wide receiver Chris Olave from the Ohio State University in the first round. Olave is a 4-year senior and was Ohio State’s leading receiver last year. He also runs a 4.3, which means, yep, you guessed it, deep ball.
The Saints haven’t had a legit deep threat since 2018. Back then Ted Ginn Jr. was on the last legs of his prime. That was also the last time they legitimately threatened to make it to the Super Bowl. Now, getting a potential deep threat doesn’t automatically make them a Super Bowl contender. They have a lot of other unanswered questions. But it does, or could, provide other passing options besides the Michael Thomas show we saw when he last suited up for the Saints.
Eventually, the Saints will also need to find a running back to complement and step in for the soon to be suspended Alvin Kamara. Who knows what their plans are for Mark Ingram. But the Mark Ingram that was on the field last season was not the one who left here 3 years ago.
Both the Saints and the Pelicans have all kinds of intrigue leading into their upcoming seasons. How will Dennis Allen do as head coach? Will Willie Green do for the Pelicans what Sean Payton did for the Saints (make them a respected franchise)? Will the fan base have the energy to support both franchises? We’ll see. But right now, on paper, this coming fall should be something.