Zion Williamson is a superstar. While the New Orleans Pelicans scuffled to a 31-41 record in 2020-21, the biggest story for the franchise was Williamson’s performance, lifting the team’s offense with “Point Zion” and showcasing his sky-high ceiling. Still, the Pelicans do have considerable uncertainty, including a new head coach, and New Orleans has roster decisions to make from free agency to a mid-first round pick.
Williamson and Brandon Ingram are the team’s top players, and they moved to add Jonas Valanciunas prior to the draft to anchor from the center position. Beyond that, the Pelicans have tremendous uncertainty in the backcourt with Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart hitting free agency and young, unproven players behind them. New Orleans has a (very) wide range of outcomes, both for 2021-22 and beyond, but the Pelicans can also add to their talent base with another lottery pick to flank Williamson through a long-term lens.
Roster Needs: Guard clarity, defensive talent, shooting
Trey Murphy (No. 17 Overall), Grade: B
The Pelicans are clearly setting up for some win-now maneuvering after their pre-draft trade with the Grizzlies. Murphy aligns with that while also providing New Orleans with shooting and defense they need for the future. The former Virginia forward is limited in terms of upside, but the shooting is very real and the Pels want to surround Zion with spacing and players who don’t need the ball to operate successfully. Value-wise, it’s perfectly fine in this range, and that makes this a solid “B” move.
Kira Lewis Jr.
Wenyen Gabriel (non-guaranteed)
2021 Free Agents
Lonzo Ball (RFA)
Josh Hart (RFA)
Willy Hernangomez (UFA)
James Johnson (UFA)
Didi Louzada (UFA)
James Nunnally (RFA)