2023-24 Pelicans Season In Review Part III: A Critical Offseason Ahead

It’s easy to argue that the New Orleans Pelicans finished the 2023-24 season with more questions than answers. Injuries marred an otherwise promising end to the season, especially given Zion Williamson’s performance in the first play-in game. Maybe New Orleans could have challenged OKC with Williamson and Brandon Ingram at full health. But what will the Pelicans do this offseason?

Brandon Ingram’s place on this roster looms large heading into the Summer. With just one year left on his deal, will the Pelicans look to ship off Ingram? After making the All-Star team in his first season with the Pelicans, he’s failed to return to that status in the subsequent four years. Ingram has dealt with injuries throughout his Pels tenure, playing an average of 57 games each year.

It could make sense to move Ingram if the Pels don’t intend to extend the 26-year-old wing. His fit with Zion and CJ McCollum causes friction; B.I. struggles as an off-ball player, and defenders are able to muddy up the offense when Zion barges to the rim.

If they choose to break up this core, the Pelicans could benefit from swapping Ingram for a more defensively-oriented big up front or some additional perimeter playmaking.

Will the Pelicans look for an upgrade at center? Jonas Valanciunas’s scoring remains solid, but the Pels have been in dire need of rim protection since David Griffin took over the franchise. On the whole, the Pelicans need to get taller. Against bigger, stronger teams, their lack of size shows up on defense and the glass. Do the Pels trade for a player like Nic Claxton or Clint Capela? Will they look to draft another big?

Even if the answer feels nearer, this edition of the Pelicans’ ceiling remains a mystery. Maximizing Zion Williamson should be the roster-building priority going forward. Point Zion functions in a pinch, but the Pelicans’ offense would benefit from stacking great playmakers to make Williamson’s life even easier.

Four of the Pels’ five starters being neutral at best defenders won’t cut it either. Critically, the Pelicans must build their roster with Williamson’s injuries in mind. For the moment, missing games seems like a part of life with Zion as your star.

The Pels must hone in on a solid identity, especially on offense. Will they go all in on bludgeoning opponents inside and lean on physicality or will they add more three-point volume to their offense? This offseason will be as critical as any in the David Griffin tenure and we’ll begin to answer burning questions in the coming months. 

Analysis by Ben Pfeifer

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