October 9, 2019, 1:59 am
Basketball is FINALLY here. The Pelicans faced off against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday and we are officially in the Era of Zion. The Pelicans won the game by a substantial margin, but this is, erm, preseason, and the Pelicans played the, erm, Hawks. This is not an appropriate time to get overexcited about what we’re seeing; conversely, this is a time to start building mental data of actual, observable basketball instead of hypothetical constructions.
Without further ado, here are some observations from the first game.
— This is roster is full of secondary and tertiary playmakers. Although it isn’t loaded with elite primary options to initiate the offense, once the ball is moving, this team sports a ton of guys who can make the right pass in motion based on how the defense has shifted. This was apparent very early on and I expect that this will be a thing the entire year. The result is the ball moving a lot, and this makes the Pelicans a fun team to watch.
— Lonzo Ball’s shot form held up fairly well in game play and that is a good sign. I am of the opinion that it would be preferable for Ball shoot horribly for a year or two with better mechanics than for his mechanics to fluctuate and produce slightly better short-term (and worse long-term) results. I think Lonzo and Jrue is going to be an excellent pairing as Lonzo is a much more natural playmaker for others and it allows Jrue to be aggressive.
— Nicolo Melli can play. In previous podcasts and posts, I didn’t want to offer an opinion on a guy who I had never watched. What he appears to be so far is a smart, skilled big who can put the ball on the floor and make decisions. He is not particularly quick and this shows on defense, where his experience may put him in the right position but his lack of quickness/speed limits his ability to recover. His shot was not falling tonight, but he was not shy hoisting them anyway.
— Nickeil Alexander-Walker stepped behind screens several times to launch 3s. This doesn’t matter if he winds up being bad at it, but it’s also a skill that I highly value and that the Pelicans haven’t had in some time. NAW will have his work cut out for him to get minutes, but will be someone that we should monitor as the season goes along. He could really turn into something, but there will be bumps and bruises along the way even if he does. The time for those might be in the second half of the season and next season.
— Zion Williamson had some MONSTER dunks and his explosive athleticism was on full display. He also showed, however, that finishing against length in the NBA is much different than overpowering college athletes. Like I’ve said for a while, this will be an adjustment. When he gets to a launching pad, it will be less of an issue, but he will have to add some craft to finish from a standstill. He was lost a bit on defense, but you can also tell that he is someone who is aggressive enough to possibly be a 1.8-2.0 steal per game guy as he figures things out.
— I am still convinced that Jrue-JJ-Lonzo-Zion-Favors is the best starting lineup the Pelicans can put out there.
In summary, it was a good game for a Pelicans team that was much deeper than the Hawks and with a few more seasoned top contributors as well. I don’t get too excited over preseason games, but the team passed the ball well, got out and ran, and was very exciting to watch. It’s going to be a fun season.