This article is part of our NBA Team Previews series.
2022-23 New Orleans Pelicans Team Preview
The Pelicans' biggest offseason development was inking Zion Williamson to a max contract extension. With the No. 8 pick in the draft, New Orleans selected Dyson Daniels -- a lengthy guard with passing and defensive upside.
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2021-22 Record: 36-46; lost in first round to Suns
2022-23 NBA Win Total Odds: 44.5 wins (DraftKings)
2022-23 NBA Title Odds: +4000 (DraftKings)
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New Orleans Pelicans Fantasy Basketball Preview
The Pelicans underwent significant changes last season. Lonzo Ball was sent to the Bulls in a sign-and-trade, Jonas Valanciunas came over from the Grizzlies, and Zion Williamson started out on the sidelines. Williamson would end up not appearing in a single game, leaving Ingram to shoulder more of the scoring load. New Orleans eventually brought in CJ McCollum to help offset the loss of Ball, but Ingram still finished with terrific averages of 22.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.3 three-pointers per game. With a full season of McCollum in the fold, and Williamson looking ready to return, Ingram could see a decline in two areas. First, it will likely be difficult for him to duplicate what was a career-high 29.3 percent usage rate. Second, his assists totals could decline. Not only is McCollum a good passer, but Williamson averaged 3.7 assists during the 2020-21 season. Ingram's overall averages could still make him a valuable fantasy option, but asking him to match his numbers from last season might be too much. On the bright side, he's an asset with his efficiency, shooting at least 46.1 percent from the field and 82.6 percent from the free-throw line in each of the last three seasons.
The brief flashes that we've seen of Williamson have been impressive. He showed he can be a dominant fantasy force during the 2020-21 season, averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists while shooting 61.1 percent from the field. However, injuries have been a problem. He only appeared in 24 games during his rookie season, 61 during his sophomore campaign, and he didn't play at all last season. It appeared late in the season that he might have been healthy enough to play, and there was speculation that he might try to force his way out of New Orleans at some point. Those worries have been put to rest with him signing a five-year, $231 rookie maximum contract this summer. With big money in hand, all signs point to him being ready to play at the beginning of the season. He'll have the most talented group around him yet, with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas all in the fold. There is plenty of injury concern that comes with drafting him, and he could sit out one game of back-to-back sets to begin the season. If you want him, though, you'll likely need to spend a second or third-round selection to add him to your roster.
After spending the entirety of his career with the Trail Blazers, McCollum found himself on the trade block last season with them floundering without the injured Damian Lillard. He was ultimately dealt, landing with an up-and-coming young team in the Pelicans. He thrived with his new squad, averaging 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals and 2.7 three-pointers per game. His most noteworthy difference with New Orleans was him shooting 49.3 percent from the field, compared to 43.6 percent over 36 games with Portland. Now with a full offseason to build relationships with his new teammates, McCollum will be tasked with helping the Pelicans make a playoff run. One big difference, though, will be that he should be playing alongside a healthy Zion Williamson, who sat out all of last season. It's possible that Williamson's return could result in a decline in points and assists for McCollum, but he's still a reliable guard option in fantasy who can contribute in multiple areas. Playing alongside Lillard, he had six straight seasons in which he averaged at least 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
Last season marked Valanciunas' first with the Pelicans after he signed a two-year, $30.1 million extension with the team following a trade from the Grizzlies. Zion Williamson missing the entire season allowed Valanciunas to see plenty of usage, and he picked up right where he left off in Memphis. Last season was arguably the best of his career, and he reached career highs in points (17.8), assists (2.6) and made threes (0.8) per game, as well as free-throw percentage (82.0%). That resulted in the center ranking 43rd in eight-category fantasy on a per-game basis -- his third straight year in the top 55. His numbers may take a slight dip this season while playing next to the high-usage trio of Williamson, CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram. We also may see Valanciunas shoot more threes to help space the floor for Williamson, who does all of his damage at the rim. Playing alongside Williamson could lead to more competition for rebounds, too, but Valanciunas should still be a walking 15-and-10, making him a high-floor option in the early-middle rounds of most fantasy drafts.
Despite a slow start to his rookie season, Jones ended as a must-roster player across all category leagues come April, thanks mainly to his productivity in the steals department. Playing in 78 of a possible 82 games, Jones compiled averages of 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks in just under 30 minutes per game. His durability saw him end the campaign as a top-40 talent in total value -- an outcome that no one could have seen coming. The Pelicans have once again upgraded their roster, and while there will be more competition for minutes, Jones has established himself as an essential part of the rotation. His lack of peripheral contributions limits his overall upside, but he has a genuine chance of putting together another top-100 season despite the Pelicans' depth.
New Orleans Pelicans Depth Chart for 2022-23
Click ahead for a detailed New Orleans Pelicans Depth Chart.
- PG: CJ McCollum, Jose Alvarado
- SG: Brandon Ingram, Devonte' Graham
- SF: Herbert Jones, Trey Murphy
- PF: Zion Williamson, Larry Nance
- C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jaxson Hayes
New Orleans Pelicans Predictions for 2022-23
The more I look at this team, the more I like it. Its starting five has proven talents in McCollum, Ingram and Valanciunas, plus a fantastic role player in Jones and, of course, a potential superstar in Williamson. The bench is surprisingly capable and versatile. It should compete with opponents' second units. If Williamson stays healthy, this team can make noise. It did last year against the Suns in the first round.
- Pulls off a first-round upset before losing in a competitive second-round series.
Zion Williamson finishes Top 5 in MVP voting.
NBA Award Contenders