New Orleans Pelicans Holiday Wishlist: The Return Of Zion Williamson

This was supposed to be a big year for the New Orleans Pelicans. After an ugly season that was marred by the Anthony Davis trade drama, the organization was ready to set its sights on the future with a host of promising young players and a potential generational superstar in Zion Williamson. Heck, there was even some talk of them fighting for a playoff spot out West.

But so far, it’s been hard to get excited about anything that’s happened on the court for New Orleans this season, and any hope that they might somehow transform into a borderline playoff team vanished as those brutal losses started piling en route to a 9-23 start.

Now, the focus has shifted once again, and New Orleans is simply biding their time until they can start their future in earnest. With that in mind, we’ve come up with a small handful of items that the Pelicans can add to their holiday wishlist to help get their new year started on the right foot.

#1. Zion Williams, healthy and playing basketball

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Zion situation was that there had been few to no updates on his progress or what a time table for a return might be. Finally, there was some news this week, via an interview he did with ESPN, wherein he talked about his rehab process and how it’s requiring him to learn how to walk and run differently.

If that development was supposed to assuage our fears, then it probably accomplished the opposite. There have been all sorts of concerns about his physical fitness and conditioning, two euphemisms usually synonymous with weight management, which has long been a talking point with Zion and has been a source of intrigue for amateur social media sleuths who like to pore over every pixel of every photograph of him that appears online.

The Pelicans claim that they expect Zion to play at some point this season, though there’s no real reason to rush him back until he’s physically ready for the rigors of the NBA. But make no mistake, the team’s future depends on him, er, rounding into form.

#2. A trade for Jrue Holiday

According to a recent piece in The Athletic, David Griffin wanted Holiday to stick around solely for the possibility of the Pelicans vying for a playoff spot this season. Those plans have since evaporated, and now the organization should look for a new home for him as they try to figure out who will remain in their core moving forward.

Holiday is one of the league’s most underrated guards, and there is plenty of interest for his services around the league. You might immediately be thinking of some of the title contenders out West, but given their cap situations, we’ve broken down some of the more viable destinations here. The front office is said to be reluctant to part with veteran sharpshooter J.J. Redick, but perhaps we will see Holiday in a new uniform come February (or sooner).

#3. More player development

Lonzo Ball hasn’t quite had the breakout season the Pelicans were hoping for, as he’s shooting his lowest percentage from the field since his rookie season and has stagnated in other areas of his game. The brightest spot in that Lakers trade so far has been Brandon Ingram, who’s averaging 25.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on better than 41 percent from downtown, all career highs and part of a compelling case as a Most Improved Player candidate.

Josh Hart, the other former Laker, has likewise shown some promising strides, as he’s posting careers highs in points (11.3), rebounds (6.0) and three-point percentage (36.9) this season. The problem remains, however, that none of this has translated into any progress in the win-loss column. They’ll need to see continued improvement from their young players — and positive steps forward from rookies like Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker — if they want to get over the hump.