The New Orleans Pelicans have a solid foundation to build on as they head into the 2022-23 NBA season. New Orleans went through two playoff games to earn its first playoff spot since the 2017-18 season.
What made that playoff appearance more impressive was that they did it with star Zion Williamson all season. A trade at the deadline for star goaltender CJ McCollum certainly shook up the run, as he brought experience and leadership to the young group. Brandon Ingram also solidified himself as a star with a stellar playoff performance. Ingram averaged 27 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in six games against the Phoenix Suns in the first round. He shot 47.5% from the field and 40.7% from behind the arc.
The Pelicans have a good youth team and Williamson’s return will make him a threat to other Western Conference teams. However, they still have room to improve if they want to compete for the title.
With that said, here are the two biggest needs New Orleans still needs to meet to become a 2023 NBA Finals contender.
*Watch NBA Games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
The most important needs of pelicans
2. Add another wing
The NBA is filled with talented guards and forwards, which made the winger’s position crucial. In previous eras, the central position was the most important, but this turned into wings. The Pelicans have a good starting lineup but could use another wing off the bench.
Herb Jones excelled in that role last season as a rookie, but ended up starting out. Jones averaged 9.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals. If New Orleans keeps him in the starting lineup with the return of Zion Williamson, the need for a backup winger becomes even more vital. The Pelicans will face big offensive scorers at guard and up front in the playoffs, like Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic and more.
To deal with teams that have stars like that, having defensive wings that can limit them would be very beneficial.
1. Acquire a 6th man
The most important thing the Pelicans are trying to add is a 6th man. While the starting lineup is elite, the bench could use a primary scorer. Devonte Graham could take on this role, but his efficiency hasn’t been great.
Last season Graham averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 assists in 63 of his 76 regular season games as a starter. Those numbers are solid, but he only shot 36.3% from the field and 34.1% from downtown.
Acquiring a 6th man who can be a reliable scorer with better efficiency would help the Pelicans become a contender. Malik Beasley could be a potential target as the Utah Jazz look to rebuild their roster for the future. If New Orleans can get a quality sixth man, it will help them prepare for a title chase.
While these moves are helpful, the most important thing for Pelicans is to stay healthy. Williamson is a very talented player and it’s hard for defenses to shut down when he’s on the ground. When he last played in the 2020-21 season, he earned his first All-Star nod and had a phenomenal season. He averaged 27 points per game, along with 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Williamson shot 61.1% from the field, being a very effective and dominant scorer going into the paint.
If Zion Williamson is healthy and the Pelicans make those moves to improve their depth, they could be in contention for a title this season.