2021 New Orleans Pelicans Depth Chart
|Point Guard||Lonzo Ball||2||Kira Lewis Jr.||13|
|Shooting Guard||Eric Bledsoe||6||Nickeil Alexander-Walker||0|
|Small Forward||Brandon Ingram||14||Josh Hart||3|
|Power Forward||Zion Williamson||1||James Johnson||16|
|Center||Steven Adams||12||Jaxson Hayes||10||Willy Hernangomez||9|
The New Orleans Pelicans shocked a lot of people last season when they snuck into the playoff picture, and then sweeping the Trail Blazers in the first round, but they had plenty of talent on that team that centered around All-Stars Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins went down after just 48 games, which led to a monster season from Davis, but they also got solid contributions from Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic. Despite losing Cousins to the Warriors in the offseason, the Pelicans are poised to improve on their 48-34 season last year. They added depth at every position with the acquisitions of Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Troy Williams and Jahlil Okafor, all of which should help alleviate some of the burden surrounding Anthony Davis. A healthy Solomon Hill should help improve their 14th ranked defense while adding a stat stuffer like Elfrid Payton will help on the offensive end of things. The Pelicans had a top-10 offense in the league last season, with a 109.6 offensive rating, and posted the third-highest point per game mark at 111.7 points per game, but they surrendered 110.4 points per game which was the 29th most in the league.
With Rajon Rondo heading to Los Angeles in the offseason, the Pelicans will need to replace on of the league’s best passers and assist men which is not an easy task to do. Rondo averaged 8.2 assists per game for the Pelicans last season and the young Elfrid Payton will look to match that. Payton is now on his third team in two years but has shown the ability to be a stat sheet stuffer in his short career. It is likely that he will start at point guard, which will move Jrue Holiday over to the position of shooting guard, which will greatly weaken the team’s depth at the position. It also weakens the starting lineups three-point shooting as Payton has connected on just 29.8 percent of his three-point attempts in his career. Frank Jackson and Ian Clark will be the team’s primary backup point guards should Payton start, with Jackson not having any NBA experience. With Holiday at the shooting guard position, the Pelicans will have a decent amount of depth. Holiday will help alleviate some of the shooting woes that Payton potentially brings to the starting lineup but he is not known as a knockdown shooter either. Despite being the probable “shooting guard” Holiday will still dominate the backcourt usage and will act as the primary ball handler a decent amount. The aforementioned Ian Clark will spend some time behind Holiday as the backup shooting guard but Holiday will play about 36-38 minutes per game which does not leave a lot of time for a backup to see the floor. It is possible that E’Twaun Moore will be the primary backup behind Holiday, although he is better suited to start at small forward, so that will be something to monitor through training camp.
The forward positions are entirely up in the air at this point so there will be plenty of training camp battles to keep an eye on. Solomon Hill would best be suited as the team’s starting small forward if Alvin Gentry wants to focus on defense but the combination of E’Twaun Moore and Darius Miller would open up the court and give Gentry some three-point shooter on the wings. Alvin Gentry has some decisions to make when it comes to who will start at the power forward position but that is a luxury most coaches would love to have. Nikola Mirotic was excellent for the Pelicans last season, averaging 14.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for them, but would be a valuable offensive threat off the bench. A starting lineup of Holiday, Moore, Mirotic and Davis could be absolutely lethal as evidenced by last season when that lineup, plus Rondo, outscored opponents by almost 17 points per 100 possessions. Randle gives the Pelicans a lot of flexibility regardless of who starts but we will see closer to the start of the season which direction Gentry is leaning.
With All-Star Anthony Davis anchoring the paint for New Orleans won’t have to worry a lot about their center depth. Davis figures to eat up a heap of minutes, as he averaged almost 37 minutes per game last season, but we will see one of Jahlil or Emeka Okafor and Julius Randle get minutes as the team’s backup center at times.