2023-24 Pelicans Season In Review Part I: Standout Performers

Let’s not dwell on the New Orleans Pelicans’ disaster of a sweep at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s plenty of nuance in explaining the loss, but at some level, they had little chance without their best player healthy against the top seed in the West. Despite this disappointing ending, we can identify positives from the Pels’ season.

Herb Jones’ ascension on the offensive end changes what he can be for New Orleans. He defended at an All-Defense level once again, but the offensive elevation turned him into a star-level impact player. Jones registered career highs in true shooting percentage (63.2%), three-point percentage (41.8%), points per game (11.0) and assists per game (2.6).

Herb Jones should be a lock for his first All-Defense selection.

Jones threatens defenses more than ever with his shot and his confidence as a driver has only grown. He puts the ball on the floor in traffic as an improved scorer and playmaker. Regardless of the roster changes New Orleans will make this offseason, Jones’ development locks him in as a foundational piece.

For the second season in a row, the Pelicans finished the season with a top-six defense. Aside from Jones’ greatness, this reflects their defensive depth, especially on the wing, and schematic goodness. New Orleans aggressively pressures the ball and digs on drives to prevent shots at the rim, sending taggers and low men early to add an extra layer of protection. This strategy rendered efficient offense-challenging even in their series loss to OKC; New Orleans still posted a strong 109.6 defensive rating across those four games.

Naji Marshall and Dyson Daniels are excellent complementary wing defenders. Daniels especially blossomed as a point-of-attack defender, locking down stars on the ball on a nightly basis. Offensive development from Daniels should place him as a valuable role player and a focal point of the Pelicans’ future.

CJ McCollum struggled in a primary creator role in the postseason, but he was excellent all year in a complementary role. Playing off of other stars, his elite shooting, secondary pick-and-roll game and ball-handling shined. On a Pelicans’ team devoid of passing and ball-handling talent, his abilities stood out. When he plays his natural role as an off guard, he adds significant offensive juice to a Pels team that can struggle on that end.

Though the season didn’t end as the Pelicans would have hoped, they learned what this team can and cannot achieve with its current roster. Griffin and Company have been searching for those answers for years and seem to have found them. If nothing else, knowing how and why you failed is a success in itself.

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

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