The bleak outlook for The Pelicans is now sunny now that the team has played all the right tunes | swans

1 year ago, New Orleans Pelicans They were in a bad place.

Executive Vice President David Griffin, who went into his third year in office, was his third coach. He inherited Alvin Gentry, and the two clashed. Griffin Gentry replaced Orchard Van Gundy, only to have Van Gundy sacked after eight months due to the veteran coach’s inability to communicate with his players.

Pelicans were also breathing in free agency. They stalked Kyle Lowry but were scorned when he signed a three-year contract with the Miami Heat.

Most disturbingly, Zion Williamson was wounded. The team revealed at media day last year that Williamson broke his foot in a summer practice, an injury that cost him his entire third season in the NBA.

Improbably, the swans managed to change their forecast from gloomy to sunny.

Williamson signed a five-year contract over the summer, and New Orleans entered the 2022-23 season with playoff ambitions. Front Office has compiled one of the most talented rolls in the history of the unadorned franchise.

How did New Orleans get back on the right track? Here are four meaningful steps.

Hiring Willie Green

Green came on board as head coach in July 2021. He had to navigate turbulent waters in his first few months on the job. He lost 12 of his first 13 matches.

Things started to turn around in late November. Green was able to get approval from players like Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, who were miserable playing Van Gundy. Green Hart encouraged the attack from the dribble, and worked with Ingram to make faster decisions when the ball was in his hands. The players had the most influential seasons of their NBA careers.

Green was very familiar with when to pay his team and when he should lose the reins in year one. Before taking up his position at New Orleans, Green said he believed the most important part of training was the human element.

“She does it all from a place of love,” Green said. “People feel it. And if I can develop a relationship with the players, the coaches and the front office members, and I can be critical but out of love, they can get it better.”

Memphis Trade

Two of the key pieces that the Pelicans acquired in the Jrue Holiday trade with Milwaukee in November 2020 – Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams – didn’t fit well with New Orleans.

In July 2021, the Pelicans traded the pair with the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas. The cost of giving up their contracts and reclaiming one of the most productive under-scorers in the NBA was (a) moving down seven slots in the 2021 Draft (from #10 to #17); and b) the 2022 first-round pick for the Los Angeles Lakers (top 10 protected).

Valancionas scored nearly 18 points per game and helped New Orleans finish in the top five in both offensive and defensive rebound ratio. He also immediately embraced the organization, signing a two-year, $30.1 million extension before the regular season began.

The Pelicans ended up not having to send the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick to the Grizzlies. They stuck with him because of the Lakers’ collapse last season. That allowed them to capture Dyson Daniels, a 6-foot-8 Australian guard, with the eighth pick in the June draft.

Project 2021

In the first-round playoff of the Pelicans against the Suns, nine New Orleans players averaged double-digit minutes. Three of these players were beginners. Green felt so confident in his first-year players in New Orleans, that one-third of his playoff games consisted of one-third of them.

Trey Murphy, seeded 17th in last year’s draft, played a few games in the G League before reclaiming his place in the New Orleans rotation in March. Murphy has had some big moments in his home this season. He scored 21 points in the second half of a win over the Lakers in March, and hit four in the Pelicans’ championship win against the Clippers in April.

Herb Jones, ranked 35th by New Orleans, was one of the best ocean defenders in the NBA in his first year. He ranked third among all players in thefts (130) and fourth in deviations (243). Green couldn’t take it off the ground. He led the playoff team in total minutes, a rare second-round feat.

Uncut free agent Jose Alvarado became an important contributor off the bench as the season progressed. He was a steady hand in the reserve point guard who loved getting under the skin of opponents. Nothing symbolizes Pelicans punching above their weight more than forcing Alvarado to “The Point God” himself, Chris Paul, in multiple eight-second violations in the playoffs.

Trading for CJ McCollum

After trading holiday, the Pelicans lacked a guard who could reliably create their own shot. In February, they remedy that weakness by acquiring CJ McCollum, a player who can cook like a Michelin-starred chef with the ball in his hands.

The team is unlikely to have gone through the playoffs without McCollum. He averaged 24.3 points and 5.8 assists in 26 regular season games with New Orleans. He earned 32 points in the Pelicans’ championship win over Tottenham.

Besides offensive firepower, McCollum provided leadership. Was willing to talk when Williamson went to MIA during the seasonHe and Williamson have since developed a healthy working relationship.

“Since we added CJ, from the moment I met him, he’s been an amazing teammate,” Williamson said in July. “CJ has been in the league for a long time. He really put me in the game for a few things in order to extend my life. Like I said, the Pelicans are always there and they give advice and solutions to help. I feel like I’m in a great position now.”

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