Pelicans Rumors

Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown Named Players Of The Week

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram and Celtics guard/forward Jaylen Brown have been named the NBA’s players of the week, the league announced on Monday (Twitter link).

In three games last week, all victories, Ingram averaged 32.3 points, 10.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds on a stellar .525/.462/1.000 shooting line. It looked for a while like New Orleans was in serious danger of falling out of the playoff race, but the team is now 37-37, the No. 8 seed in the West.

Brown, the East’s winner, averaged 31.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists on a similarly excellent .559/.391/.714 shooting line. Boston blew out the Kings, Pacers and Spurs last week to go 3-0. The Celtics have the second-best record in the league at 52-23, trailing the top-seeded Bucks by 1.5 games.

According to the NBA (Twitter link), the other nominees in the West were Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jaren Jackson Jr., Nikola Jokic and Naz Reid, while Zach LaVine, Tyrese Maxey, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Franz Wagner were nominated in the East.

Southwest Notes: McCollum, Kyrie, Sochan, Porter

In his latest diary entry for Andscape, Pelicans guard CJ McCollum discussed a handful of topics, including injured teammates Zion Williamson and Jose Alvarado and his expectations for the home stretch of the season. Perhaps most notably, he confirmed that his own right thumb injury will require surgery during the offseason.

“I knew the final outcome would probably be surgery, and I was notified that that’s what it’s going to have to be,” McCollum wrote. “It’s my shooting hand, so you’re always a little nervous. So, I’ve just been checking in with a hand specialist out of New York and just making sure things are progressing and continue to get images every couple weeks to track the progress as to what type of surgery I may need, what’s the process going to look like and I’m comfortable with what I’ve been hearing so far, so I’ll be all right.”

McCollum acknowledged that it hasn’t been ideal playing through the thumb injury, which has “affected how I dribble, shoot, pass, (and) absorb passes.” However, he said that shutting it down for the season has never been an option he seriously considered, since he believes he can still be effective.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Dallas is just 7-12 since Kyrie Irving made his Mavericks debut and has slipped out of the top 10 in the West, but Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) has heard only positive things about the guard’s professionalism and locker room presence since last month’s trade. Blaming Irving for Luka Doncic‘s recent frustration wouldn’t be “fair or accurate,” MacMahon adds.
  • A nagging right knee injury will sideline Spurs forward Jeremy Sochan on Sunday for the seventh time in his last 11 games. However, the rookie has downplayed the issue as “nothing serious” and head coach Gregg Popovich said the team “probably” won’t shut down Sochan for the season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). It sounds like there’s no concern that the knee problem will turn into a major injury, and the Spurs want to give Sochan all the reps they can before his first NBA season ends.
  • Despite the way in which his time in Cleveland ended, Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. still values the time he spent with the Cavaliers and said he’s looking forward to playing in Cleveland on Sunday, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “I would say that’s the first time I learned about the business of the NBA,” Porter said of the trade that sent him to Houston following a locker-room incident with the Cavs. “But we’re all still close, still. Those relationships are still there and very valuable to me, and (to) the other side, too. Definitely, a lot of people would say it was bad, a bad (ending). It was (for) the best for both of us.”

Pelicans Still Unsure About Zion Williamson's Potential Return

  • Pelicans coach Willie Green couldn’t offer any insight into whether Zion Williamson will play again this season, according to Christian Clark of NOLA. The team announced Wednesday that Williamson is able to resume on-court activities after being sidelined since January 2 with a hamstring injury, but he won’t be reevaluated for two more weeks, which will delay a potential return until at least the final week of the season. “Because of the re-injury, we are taking a slower approach with his rehabilitation,” Green said. “He’ll get on the floor. He’s starting to do some running, doing some shooting. But we’re taking it kind of slow.”

Zion Williamson, Jose Alvarado Out At Least Two More Weeks

If Pelicans star Zion Williamson is going to return to action before the postseason begins, it will have to happen during the final week of the regular season. The team announced today that Williamson has been cleared to resume on-court activities, but will be out at least two more weeks before being reevaluated (Twitter link).

Williamson has been sidelined since January 2 due to a right hamstring strain, having suffered a setback during his rehab process. While the fact that he’s doing on-court work is a positive sign, two weeks from today would be April 5 and the regular season ends on April 9. So even if he gets the OK to return when he’s reevaluated in two weeks, the former No. 1 pick won’t be able to play in more than two or three games.

The Pelicans will wrap up their season with home games vs. Memphis (April 5) and New York (April 7), followed by a road contest in Minnesota (April 9). At 35-37, New Orleans currently holds the No. 12 spot in the Western Conference, but is only a single game back of the seventh-seeded Thunder. Those final three games could determine whether or not the Pels make the play-in tournament.

In addition to being without Williamson for at least two more weeks, the Pelicans will also continue to have another important rotation player unavailable during that time. According to the team, guard Jose Alvarado will be reevaluated in about two or three weeks.

Alvarado has been on the shelf since February 27 due to a stress reaction in his right tibia. According to today’s announcement, he has shown “incremental improvement.” However, it sounds like he may be a long shot to return before the regular season wraps up.

If the Pelicans can earn a playoff spot, either via the play-in tournament or by finishing as a top-six seed in the regular season, there would be a clearer path for both Williamson and Alvarado to potentially return, since the first round will run into late April. The club has had an inconsistent second half though, so even securing a play-in berth could be an uphill battle at this point.

Southwest Notes: Brooks, Valanciunas, Christopher, Doncic

Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks was fined $35K by the league for knocking over a camera operator during a road game against the Heat last week. Brooks has since apologized for the incident and stated that he plans to call the camera person, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I didn’t mean to hurt him in any way possible,” Brooks claimed. “I’m not that type of person… Whatever the NBA did is what they did, but I’m not that type of person. I play the game hard.”

Cole notes that Brooks’ cumulative tally of lost cash via suspensions and fines now total $200K for the 2022/23 season.

According to Miami radio play-by-play announcer Jason Jaxson (Twitter link), that camera person was physically injured by Brooks, to the point where he was still being evaluated by doctors a couple days after the incident.

“The fine was on point,” Jackson wrote, “but the max ($50K) would have felt like a sliver of justice after disregard for another human – an incredible one at that.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The struggling Pelicans managed to pull off a 117-107 Sunday win against the Rockets by playing through veteran center Jonas Valanciunas, writes Christian Clark of Valanciunas was a big part of the team’s early offensive attack, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds. “It makes it a lot easier, especially when we have him more engaged on the offensive end,” forward Brandon Ingram said. “You see him do more on the defensive end. He’s down in a stance. We just kind of fed off him today. Every time he caught it, he was aggressive, and he made the right play.” 
  • Second-year reserve Rockets shooting guard Josh Christopher recently explained how he has improved since the 2022/23 season began, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I’m growing up,” Christopher said. “Of course, with more experience, I’m going to keep on getting better. Me slowing down is a part of me getting better. I’m starting to read the game a little more and I’m more decisive. It’s helped a lot… My teammates tell me to go out there and be myself. Coaches tell me to be myself. I watch a lot of tape. I stay in the gym. It makes everything easier, on top of me knowing when I’m going to play, and I am in the rotation.”
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic remained out for Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies with a left thigh strain, Dallas has tweeted. He has now missed the team’s last five contests, including three against Memphis, with the injury. That said, head coach Jason Kidd indicated today that Doncic is progressing well from the ailment, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “He’s going in the right direction, so hopefully [he will be back] soon,” Kidd said. “I think these last couple days have been really, really good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Pelicans Reportedly Came Close To Acquiring Beasley, Vanderbilt

Before the Jazz agreed to trade Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt to the Lakers as part of a three-team deal last month, the Pelicans came close to acquiring the duo from Utah, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on The Lowe Post podcast this week (YouTube link).

“The Pelicans were close to getting Beasley and Vanderbilt from Utah at the trade deadline, or close-ish,” Lowe told ESPN colleague Kevin Pelton. “They had a pretty good offer on the table. It was a draft equity-based offer with a pick that maybe was not as good as the Lakers pick that they ended up trading, but pretty close, I think, from what I’ve heard.

“But one of the issues was – maybe the picks weren’t exactly equivalent – but then another issue was (Mike) Conley and the Jazz’s determination to get off of Conley (who is owed at least $14MM in 2023/24), and could the Pelicans figure that out somehow? And it became a little complicated.”

The trade that the Jazz eventually completed also included the Timberwolves, who acquired Conley and flipped D’Angelo Russell to the Lakers. Los Angeles, in turn, send a top-four protected 2027 first-round pick to Utah as part of the three-way agreement.

The Pelicans still possess all of their own future first-rounders and control a couple others, including the Lakers’ unprotected 2024 pick (which could be deferred to 2025) and the Bucks’ unprotected 2027 selection.

It’s not clear which of those first-rounders they offered to the Jazz, but based on Lowe’s comments, it’s possible the Pelicans wanted to protect the pick they were offering more heavily than the Lakers protected theirs. Or Utah may have simply liked the upside of the ’27 Lakers first-rounder more than any single pick New Orleans was willing to put on the table.

It’s also worth noting that matching salaries for Beasley and Vanderbilt (who earn a combined $20MM) using only expiring or pseudo-expiring contracts would have been nearly impossible for the Pelicans, whose prime salary-matching piece at the deadline was Devonte’ Graham ($11.55MM).

Adding either Jaxson Hayes ($6.8MM) or Garrett Temple ($5.2MM) to Graham would have been sufficient outgoing salary, but Utah likely wouldn’t have been eager to take on Graham’s guaranteed $12.1MM cap charge for 2023/24, especially without Conley involved in the swap. So the Pelicans may have offered additional draft compensation beyond a single first-rounder if Graham was part of the package.

In any case, the Jazz ultimately decided to deal with two other teams in the Western Conference playoff race rather than the Pelicans. That presumably increased the sting of missing out on Beasley and Vanderbilt for New Orleans, as Lowe and Pelton point out.

At the trade deadline, the Pelicans were in a virtual tie in the standings with the Wolves and were 3.5 games up on the Lakers. The slumping Pels – who ended up trading Graham and four second-round picks to San Antnio for Josh Richardson – now trail both teams.

Community Shootaround: New Orleans Pelicans

After finishing last season strong without star forward Zion Williamson available, the Pelicans enjoyed the best of both worlds in the first half of 2022/23. Williamson appeared in 29 of New Orleans’ first 37 games and played at an All-Star level, while the team also performed well in the games he didn’t play, winning six of eight.

When Williamson went down with a right hamstring strain in early January, the Pelicans looked like they were still in pretty good shape. They’d gotten off to a 23-14 start and – with Brandon Ingram set to return later in the month from a toe injury – there was reason to believe they’d remain competitive even without Zion in the lineup.

That’s not how it’s played out, however. Since January 4, the Pelicans have gone just 10-23 and have cratered offensively, posting a 111.3 offensive rating — only the bottom four teams in the NBA’s standings (the Rockets, Pistons, Spurs, and Hornets) have been less productive offensively during that time. Prior to Williamson’s injury, New Orleans had the league’s eighth-best offensive rating (114.7).

With Williamson still sidelined, having suffered a setback in his rehab process, New Orleans’ months-long slump has caused the team to plummet from a top-three seed to potentially missing the play-in tournament entirely. Heading into Sunday’s games, the Pelicans’ 33-37 record places them 12th in the Western Conference, one game behind the No. 10 Jazz.

Friday’s contest in Houston was supposed to be the start of the softest part of the Pelicans’ rest-of-season schedule. A 4-0 run against the tanking Rockets (twice; on Friday and Sunday), Spurs (Tuesday), and Hornets (Thursday) would’ve helped right the ship in New Orleans and likely allowed the club to reclaim its place in the West’s top 10 entering the season’s home stretch.

Instead, the Pelicans dropped the first of those four favorable matchups, falling 114-112 in Houston.

New Orleans will have a chance to avenge that loss to the Rockets later today, but time is running out for the Pelicans to turn things around. Even if they capture a play-in berth, they don’t look like a great bet to earn a playoff spot, given how they’re playing as of late.

This was supposed to be the year that the Pelicans evolved from exciting young upstarts to genuine contenders — there were comparisons to the 2020/21 Suns, who made the NBA Finals a year after narrowly missing the postseason despite winning all eight games they played in the Disney World bubble. New Orleans followed that blueprint in the early part of the season, but have fallen apart without Williamson in the second half.

The Pelicans have continued to express optimism that the former No. 1 overall pick will return before the end of the season, but that’s hardly a lock. And whether or not he returns this spring, another injury-plagued year for Williamson has raised serious questions about how heavily New Orleans can rely on him going forward.

Williamson’s maximum-salary rookie scale extension will go into effect in 2023/24, so he’s ostensibly the cornerstone the franchise is building around, but he has made just 114 appearances since entering the NBA in 2019.

We want to get your thoughts on both the current and future versions of the Pelicans.

Will this year’s team earn a playoff spot, be eliminated in the play-in tournament, or miss out on the play-in altogether? If the Pels don’t start to climb back up the standings soon, does it even make sense to bring back Williamson this season?

And what about the seasons beyond this one? Do the Pelicans just have to hope for the best regarding Zion’s health or is it time to start getting more serious about potential contingency plans?

Take to the comment section below to let us know what you think!

Pelicans' Offense Has Sputtered Without Zion Williamson

  • The Pelicans‘ decision to let Zion Williamson run the offense has resulted in a lot of inefficiency when he’s not available, states Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has the fourth-worst record in the league since Williamson was lost with a hamstring injury in early January and is 26th in points per 100 possessions over that span.

Trade Breakdown: Josh Richardson To The Pelicans

This is the seventh entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into a deal between the Pelicans and Spurs

On February 9, the Pelicans sent guard Devonte’ Graham and four second-round picks (details here) to the Spurs in exchange for swingman Josh Richardson.

The Pelicans’ perspective:

Acquiring Graham via sign-and-trade in 2021 didn’t work out for New Orleans. The team wound up dealing for CJ McCollum last year and running him at starting point guard, and Graham got outplayed by undrafted free agent Jose Alvarado in each of the past two seasons.

The Pelicans also had former first-rounder Kira Lewis Jr. return from a torn ACL in 2022/23 and drafted Dyson Daniels No. 8 overall last summer. Carrying five players on the 15-man roster who primarily play the point isn’t ideal.

There’s also the fact that, when healthy, both Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram handle the ball a significant portion of the time and are play-makers. That makes a short (6’1″) subpar defender like Graham an awkward fit.

The 6’6″ Richardson, meanwhile, fills a positional need at shooting guard and is a much better defensive player than Graham. At his best, Richardson uses his 6’10” wingspan, athleticism and quick hands to be disruptive on that end of the floor — he has averaged 2.6 SPG and 0.8 BPG through nine games with the Pelicans (his career marks are 1.1 SPG and 0.6 BPG).

Shedding Graham’s salary over the next couple of seasons — he’s owed $12.1MM in ‘23/24 and a partially guaranteed $2.85MM ($12.65MM base) in ‘24/25 — likely cost the Pelicans at least two second-round picks, if not three. Replacing him with Richardson for an extra second or two was a low-risk maneuver.

Richardson is on an expiring $12.2MM contract, making him an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If the Pelicans can bring him back at a similar rate — essentially swapping Graham’s salary slot for Richardson — that would be solid value. Letting him walk is also a valid option if they’re concerned about the luxury tax going forward.

Richardson has bounced around quite a bit after spending his first four, most successful seasons with Miami, having played for Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston, San Antonio and now New Orleans over the past four seasons.

As is the case with nearly every NBA player outside of the superstars, how a player fits within the dynamic of the rest of the roster largely determines whether he’s successful or not. Richardson is a quality role player, but not on every team.

The 29-year-old sometimes gets the generic 3-and-D label, which I think is a little bit of a misnomer in his case.

While Richardson is a solid defensive player, his offensive game is more varied than just spotting up for open threes. He’s an erratic outside shooter, converting 36.4% for his career from deep, which is right around league average (35.9% over the same eight seasons). However, he has been as high as 46.1% (on his lowest volume as a rookie), and as low as 33.0% (two separate seasons).

Richardson plays with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball and understands how to optimize spacing offensively. If things look congested on one side of the floor, you will see him flying around to an open area to create more room and better passing angles. 90.5% of his career three-point attempts have been assisted — he’s not looking to create his own shot from beyond the arc.

He is a crafty complementary pick-and-roll operator who particularly favors getting his defender on his hip and then stopping and pulling up around 12-to-17 feet. He has been very efficient from mid-range this season, converting 48.5% of those opportunities — that ranks in the 85th percentile, per

If the right-handed Richardson gets all the way into the paint, he prefers to finish with his left hand, often using a scoop shot. He will use hesitation moves or his speed to get to the rim during pick-and-rolls.

The eight-year veteran is an unselfish passer and has a soft touch when throwing lobs, though his handle is a little loose at times, which can lead to turnovers. He generally does a solid job of taking care of the ball and making good reads though, especially for a secondary or tertiary ball-handler – his career assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.97-to-1, a respectable mark for a shooting guard.

This season represents the first time in Richardson’s career that he’s taken more threes than twos, and from an efficiency standpoint you could argue he should have been pushed in that direction sooner, even if he’s just an average shooter from long distance. He’s also not a great rebounder for a two guard and can struggle with bigger, more physical players on defense, as his frame is relatively thin (he’s listed at 200 pounds).

Another weak point is that Richardson will gamble on occasion defensively, reaching instead of using his feet to stick with his opponent. Still, when he’s engaged, he’s an above-average defender.

Overall, this trade made a lot sense for New Orleans. The Pelicans were able to fill a positional need in the short term and get rid of Graham’s contract, which had become problematic given his poor fit and the long-term commitments to other players.

The Spurs’ perspective:

Richardson played some of his best basketball since his Miami days with San Antonio, but he’s 29 years old and on expiring contract. The Spurs are in the midst of their first rebuild in decades, so extracting value for Richardson was logical.

While Graham was redundant on the Pelicans, the Spurs had a glaring need at point guard – Tre Jones is the only other true lead guard on the roster. In fact, Richardson was serving as the backup point at times, and though he did a respectable job, Graham is better suited for the role.

Graham is a good ball-handler and passer. He also takes care of the ball, posting a career 3.09-to-1- assist-to-turnover ratio – 3-to-1 is generally considered a very good benchmark. He is more of a shoot-first point guard who can play off the ball than a traditional pass-first floor general.

This trade is a good example of how statistics can be misleading without context. Richardson is a career 36.4% three-point shooter, while Graham is at 35.7%. On the surface, that seems like Graham is a worse three-point shooter.

Yet if you watch the two play, it would immediately be evident that Graham is a much more dangerous outside shooter. He has taken more than twice as many threes as twos in his career and is able to find shots from long distance in multiple ways.

Graham doesn’t hesitate to pull up from deep in transition, and utilizes dribble moves – including side-steps, crossovers and relocation dribbles – to create his own shot. He can shoot on the move coming off screens, in addition to the typical catch-and-shoot threes.

The Spurs rank just 26th in the league in three-point attempts and 25th in the three-point percentage. Graham’s shot selection can be a little questionable at times, in my opinion, but his ability to stretch the floor and make good reads while passing adds a different dynamic to their offense.

If the young draft picks on San Antonio’s roster can learn from some of Graham’s offensive skills, that would be an added bonus. Several of them are still in the early stages of their development.

In 53 games with the Pelicans this season (15.3 MPG), Graham was averaging just 5.3 PPG and 2.2 APG on .368/.347/.746 shooting. In 11 games (28.1 MPG) with the Spurs, he’s averaging 15.8 PPG and 4.2 APG on .394/.378/.825 shooting. He’s attempting 8.9 threes per game with San Antonio, which is right around what he averaged a few years ago with Charlotte.

Graham is a limited defensive player due to his size and doesn’t always give the required effort; the Spurs are dreadful on that end, ranking dead last in the NBA. Still, they’re barely better on offense (29th), and I do think Graham is an upgrade over Richardson in that regard. In a vacuum, their values are closer than this trade might make it seem – look how similar their contracts are (Graham makes $11.55MM this season).

Unlike New Orleans, San Antonio has plenty of cap room going forward, so adding Graham’s longer-term salary isn’t burdensome. He just turned 28 years old and has already showed in his brief stint with the Spurs that he can still play, so trading him in the future for more assets could be an option.

Another aspect of this deal that I found interesting is that both Graham (No. 34 overall in 2018) and Richardson (No. 40 overall in 2015) are examples of successful second-round picks. The Spurs added four second-rounders in this deal while filling a positional need – that’s a quality return for a solid role player on an expiring deal.

Injury Notes: Nance, Mitchell, Kuzma, LeBron, Suns

After missing six games due to a left ankle sprain, Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr. returned to action on Sunday vs. Portland. However, Nance logged just eight minutes and acknowledged after the game that he isn’t at full strength yet.

“I think it was pretty clear that I’m not 100%,” Nance said, per Christian Clark of “For me, it’s more about if I can play, you’re going to get what I got at all times. We got a win. I did my job.”

Even though Nance – who has averaged 22.0 minutes per game off the bench this season – couldn’t reclaim his usual rotation role in his first game back, head coach Willie Green appreciates the 30-year-old’s willingness to play through pain with New Orleans in the thick of a playoff race.

“Larry is a leader,” Green said. “He wants to be out there on the floor. He has been talking about it the last three, four days. These guys understand that coming down the stretch, it’s going to be a tight race for the playoffs. He’s trying to get himself ready for the last 14 games. It was huge to have him on the floor. His presence was felt.”

Nance isn’t on the Pelicans’ injury report for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, so he’ll be available for that one, even if his minutes are once again limited.

Here are a few more injury notes from around the NBA:

  • The Cavaliers have ruled out Donovan Mitchell (finger sprain injury management) for Tuesday’s contest vs. Charlotte, tweets Chris Fedor of Starting center Jarrett Allen (right eye contusion) is also unavailable for a second straight game.
  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against Detroit due to a sore right knee, tweets Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Washington is currently a half-game back of Chicago for the No. 10 spot in the East.
  • Lakers star LeBron James, who is making his way back from a right foot injury, did his first on-court activity at a Tuesday shootaround, taking a few free throws after he completed his weight lifting and rehab work, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter links).
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams called it a “good sign” that GM James Jones said Kevin Durant would probably be available now if the playoffs had begun. “With those kind of injuries, you tend to get better every day, and he’s getting around-the-clock treatment,” Williams said of KD (link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). The Suns’ coach added that Landry Shamet‘s return from a right foot injury isn’t imminent: “He’s just been getting up shots. He’s about the same. He’s just getting more treatment. Just trying to figure it out. How can we get back to a place he can get back to a full practice and then progress from there.”