August 2, 2019, 1:45 am
One of my favorite things to do is to predict changes in players’ shots/points per game. For as much as scoring is often overrated, it is unequivocally still a primary consideration when constructing an offense. You aren’t getting many offensive rebounds if you have an offense devoid of anyone who can bend a defense, nor do passes mean much when the players receiving them aren’t threats to score.
With this in mind, I wanted to identify who will be the guys looking for theirs as Pelicans, and in what order they’ll be receiving these looks.
1. Jrue Holiday
It has been mentioned ad-nauseam this summer: Jrue Holiday is THE GUY on this team, and you better believe that he’ll get the touches to back this up. I talked about this last article, as Jrue’s usage was understandably different when Anthony Davis was not playing. If I had to guess, Jrue Holiday will generate 18-plus shots a game this year, which would easily eclipse any other season in his career.
Whether Jrue plays “point guard” is a more difficult question, as the Pelicans believe he is best while not assuming a full-time distribution load. How much he plays with Lonzo Ball will undoubtedly factor into this analysis, as Lonzo can alleviate this burden. The Pelicans really don’t have a guy capable of running point outside of Lonzo and Jrue (I am anticipating a learning curve for Nickeil Alexander-Walker), so it’s safe to assume that Holiday will shoulder at least some of this responsibility.
In short, Jrue will both get his shots and his time to initiate offensive actions, whether he’s labelled a point guard or not.
2. Brandon Ingram
Ingram projects to be the second-highest Pelican in terms of usage. As Michael McNamara pointed out this summer, we really should evaluate hierarchy in terms of who gets looks in halfcourt situations, and that is why I have Ingram over Zion.
It will come as no shock to anyone that Ingram generated more shots while LeBron James was off the court last year, as LeBron tends to have the ball in his hands a whole lot each possession. Without LeBron on the court, Ingram basically got an extra two shots per 36 minutes.
Whether Ingram starts or not is up to debate in my mind, but I don’t have much doubt that he’s going to get his looks. Aside from Holiday, Ingram is easily the second-best Pelican in terms of creating his own shot.
3. Zion Williamson
This one was a bit harder, as I was between Zion and Derrick Favors for this spot. I gave Zion the edge for this reason: I think he’ll get opportunities to handle the ball in pick/roll situations to take advantage of mismatches, and what’s more, I think he’s going to be absolute dynamite in transition, much like Blake Griffin was when he came out of Oklahoma.
I think Zion is also going to create a lot of his own opportunities, as there really aren’t many guys I can think of who can absolutely punish switches quite like Zion projects to do. He’ll have adjustments to make of course, like finding a way to finish against NBA length when he can’t get the launching pad, but his athleticism translates excellently to the NBA and I fully expect him to find ways to generate volume even if plays aren’t drawn up for him.
4. Derrick Favors
This is also a difficult choice, as it will heavily rely upon how many minutes Favors gets. When I had Ben Dowsett of Utah on my podcast, he mentioned what unbelievable shape Favors is in, and now Favors gets a chance to run slower fives out of the gym as he transitions into a full-time role at center. Shamit Dua has also been screaming from the rooftops that Favors should get run in an uptempo offense.
It is somewhat hidden because he only played 23 minutes per game last year, but Favors was scoring at an 18 points per-36-minute clip, which is very solid. Normally, I would expect a player in Favors’ position to generate fewer shots per minute in a full-time role, but I think that number will actually go up since he will be in closer proximity to the basket. Favors has no business shooting from the perimeter and should no longer be asked to do that since he isn’t paired with Rudy Gobert, and I would expect Favors to gobble more shots and rebounds as a result.
5. JJ Redick
Redick was the obvious choice here, and really could be as high as third depending on how many minutes he gets. Redick is an absolute gunner, and if anything, registers FGA/possession in the neighborhood of Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram. Redick will serve a very particular purpose for a team that doesn’t have a lot of outside shooting and could be seeing close to 30 minutes per game if the team feels it needs someone to unclog lanes for its primary options.
However the minutes shake out this season, fantasy fans should fully expect several of the guys on this team to have career seasons. The Pelicans took over 90 shots per game last season and there is a huge usage void where Anthony Davis was last year. The team’s clear advantage in games is going to be its depth and athleticism, and I would guess that they’ll actually register a higher pace than they did last season. That makes for big numbers and excellent fantasy basketball prospects.