• Look up and down the Pelicans roster and you will notice a few themes, and one of them is something that David Griffin has talked about frequently: athleticism. Monstar Zion Williamson fortuitously fell in Griffin’s lap as the lottery gods once again showed their favor, but the canvas of all Griffin’s moves shows that the athleticism that permeates this roster is absolutely intentional.  Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Jaxson Hayes, Derrick Favors, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram are all at least “very good” athletes for their respective positions, and these are, for now, the core of this team.

    Shooting will be mentioned ad nauseam in preparation for this year, and for good reason, because there isn’t a whole lot of it on the Pelicans roster.  But there is something in spades, and that is the athleticism/versatility mix that could jell into a nightmarish defense.  And that starts with the perimeter.

    Jrue Holiday is no longer under the radar, as people seem to have caught on that he can flat-out play after he dominated Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in their 2017-18 playoff series.  Jrue is a monster defender on the perimeter, and what makes him particularly special is how seamlessly he can shift between guarding any perimeter position, with little exception.  He has been embarrassing bigger guys who try to post him up for years, sans pretty much Kevin Durant, who feasted on the height difference in the Pelicans’ second-round exit versus Golden State.  Now added to the equation is Lonzo Ball, who is a ball-hawk with similar versatility, albeit with less core strength than Karate Jrue.  Add in Derrick Favors to contest shots at the rim, and you have the bones for a pretty great defense.

    I don’t know what kind of NBA defender Zion Williamson is in his rookie year.  History tells us that most players don’t become solid team defenders for years, and that may hold true for him.  However, Zion is one of the best athletes to come out of the draft in years, and I expect he will at least register as a chaotic defender in game No. 1, even if he is an undisciplined one.  The discipline will likely take more time, but Zion is on a team with an elite perimeter defense and an elite rim protector that can help cover for that.

    I am of the opinion that Lonzo starts games, so let’s go with that theory for now.  No matter the 5th guy, a Lonzo-Jrue-Zion-Favors lineup is already one of the most athletic lineups in the league, with plus rebounders to boot: Lonzo rebounds like a forward, Zion rebounds like a center, and Derrick Favors rebounds like a center.  So this lineup cannot only move about the perimeter, but it can finish possessions with multiple people.

    Here is what is uncertain, and what is really key to unlocking the potential of the starting unit’s defense: continuity and experience.  Despite the physical tools present in this lineup, this is a team that will be starting four new players, and defensive coach Darren Erman is out of the picture.  Rumors seem to point to guru Jeff Bzdelik stepping into Erman’s role, but whoever it is, it will likely include a shift to the defensive principles, and none of these guys have played together as pros, aside from Lonzo/Ingram if both are starting.

    This is the burning question for the year: can you take a bunch of guys who haven’t played together and construct a great defense with them, particularly when several of them are very young?  And can the team’s bench unit continue that defensive excellence?  These are questions that will have a sizable say in whether the newly-constructed Pelicans reach the playoffs this year.

Fantasy News

  • Lonzo Ball
    PG, New Orleans Pelicans

    According to Andrew Lopez, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have been full participants in voluntary team workouts.

    It's great news for the two former number two picks as they enter their age-22 seasons with a fresh start. Neither Ball nor Ingram has played in 60 games in either of the past two seasons due to injuries. Ingram has never cracked the top 110/170 (8-cat/9-cat), but he could easily beat that in New Orleans with a quick tempo and new role. Ball had a top 60/85 finish in his rookie season, so there's definitely upside here. Lonzo does have a very wide range of possible outcomes, so draft him only if you're feeling risky.

    Source: Andrew Lopez on Twitter

  • Yante Maten
    PF, Miami Heat

    The Celtics are signing F Yante Maten to an Exhibit 10 contract on Tuesday.

    Maten had a strong season with the Skyforce in the G-League last year averaging 23.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He was also productive in Summer League action with the Heat this summer.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for "load management" next season, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

    This is pure speculation by Kosmider, but this does hold some weight after the Nuggets' playoff run last season and the league-wide popularity of resting players. Millsap would seem to be at the most significant risk to get rested due to his age and quality of depth behind him. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would be the biggest beneficiaries should Jokic or Millsap miss time.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Thabo Sefolosha is among the attendees at Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas with a host of other notable free agents this week.

    Sefolosha will be joined by the likes of Nick Young, Luc Mbah a Moute, Raymond Felton, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. The odds of someone making the Rockets' roster increased with Iman Shumpert declining an offer sheet from the team.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter

  • Iman Shumpert
    SG, Free Agent

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the contract offer from the Rockets and will not attend team minicamp in Las Vegas this week.

    It'll be back to the drawing board for Shumpert. It's unsure exactly where he'll end up now, or if he and the Rockets will come to a new agreement in the future. Shump can get steals and threes, but otherwise isn't much of a fantasy asset, unless he finds himself in an ideal situation.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After an extraordinary summer of 2019, which saw a cavalcade of stars change teams, executives around the league expect that this year’s transaction wires will be dominated by the trade market.

    “We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager said. “I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very robust trade market this winter for a few reasons.” The big driver figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on and trades will be the only way to go. If you enjoyed the twist and turns that came with the very busy NBA free-agency period this summer, then buckle up as the trade market means more could be on the way this season.

    Source: Sean Deveney on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    The Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association are trying to bring Michael Beasley back to China.

    Beasley agreed to terms with the Pistons last month but he never officially signed with them as the team opted to go with Joe Johnson instead. Beasley has already played in China with Shanghai, Shandong and last year with Guangdong averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Source: Sportando

  • Justin Simon
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Former St. John’s guard Justin Simon has signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Bulls.

    Simon is 6’5” and went undrafted out of St. John’s, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, while also being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Bulls currently have 14 players on guaranteed contracts with guard Shaquille Harrison all but locked in to the 15th and final one, so that means Simon is likely headed to the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

    Source: Adam Zagora on Twitter

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston