Zion's physique, Lonzo's head ... the Pelicans fail in year I post Davis

The first year of the 'Zion era' has been marked by the physical problems of the rookie and the irregularity of a team that has ended up leaking.


The first year of the 'Zion era' in the NBA has not ended as many thought. The playoffs will have to wait for the young New Orleans squad, who have fallen into problems that they could have controlled and others that not so much in a season marked by the coronavirus for the competition and due to injuries for them. The Pelicans fell last morning against the Spurs and remain without contesting the qualifying rounds for the title, that goal set at the beginning of the season. The inertia of March allowed them to maintain options and have better sensations in their game than after the restart, when their defensive defects, the particular problems of some of their players (Zion among them) and even the apathy with which they seem to have been very evident. led certain clashes despite having a unique opportunity to reach the playoffs, sponsored by an NBA very friendly to the audiences that gave an opportunity to what he wants to be his new face, also showing all the games on national television. Including the one that will face the Kings tomorrow, a rarity with both teams out of the game.

Zion's pull has been diluting and growing in equal parts, with the player suffering physical problems that prevented him from making his debut until January 22, an eternally postponed and excessively announced date to give the man who comes to occupy a hole in the best league in the world, who knows if its final face. With LeBron's career in the making, the goal is to find a new reference that will grab the spotlight and for good stories, something that Zion himself has not yet achieved. Beyond his physical problems, his apparent naps on the bench and the little care he seems to have about his diet raise doubts among experts. Much will be known about this topic at the start of 2020-21, when it will be seen how the star arrives and if he will have enough commitment to become what everyone expects him to be, the leader of a team in rebuilding that has lost its first and only reference since the Hornets was renamed to Pelicans back in 2013, Anthony Davis.

Talking about failure may be excessive at this point in the project, but what looked like it was going to be a spectacular season has come to nothing, with not very positive sensations in the bubble and a mentality of the young sector still to improve. Derrick Favors and JJ Reddick have been the ones who have supported the Pelicans at Disney, leaving aside that horde of players who arrived in the transfer of Anthony Davis and who, with the acquisition of Zion via draft, allowed them to dream of a playoffs that the team has played only twice in seven years. Former Lakers players have walked between shadows and lights, but they have not become the reference they were expected to be in Los Angeles and their maturity has been called into question in tight endings, big games and moments when It is really decided what the ceiling of the workforce is, right now uncertain.Zion's problems star. He began his career in the NBA against the Spurs with 4 of 4 in triples and in the 19 games he played before the break he went to 23.6 points and 6.8 rebounds with 58.9% in field shots, numbers that They encouraged optimism and that they opened, with a small mouth, the debate for a Rookie of the Year that Ja Morant will surely end up taking. However, their numbers have suffered after the resumption, despite that photo that seemed to show how much care had been taken in quarantine, falling to 18 points per game and with an initial minute restriction that generated controversy and caused a certain estrangement with the coach, Alvin Gentry, who pointed out the doctors. Leaving the bubble to re-enter, a 10-day quarantine included, together with his injury problems, caused the minutes to be as reduced as on his return, breaking schemes with or without him and kneading the offensive when he was, with which made the difference in the game that developed with or without his presence even greater.In addition, in the 24 games that the Pelicans have played, the record has been 11-13, and the shortcomings in the game of the young promise have been evident. On defense, Zion is a sneaker, with an attitude that even borders on pasotism at times. Something that has been strengthened in the bubble, with special emphasis on the last game against Spurs: 25 points in 27 minutes, but -21 with him on the court. A very big slab for a man who, in addition, has not stolen a single ball or made a block in the six games played at Disney, considerably reducing his number of rebounds and being a drag on a team that is already weak in defense , receiving 117 points per night, the fourth but best in the entire NBA. Not even the signing of Jeff Bzdelik, a magician in the Rockets, has helped them to improve in this aspect of the game. And all this, being the second squad that loses the most balls per game and the second with the worst percentage of success in free throws (something essential to be able to close the matches even). A very large slab in a very small market, which seemed to have hit the mark but is now without room for maneuver.

Returning to Zion, its limitations do not end there. What at first seemed like an all-rounder is now a good player with shortcomings. It does not go well, he does not rebound or he knows how to defend, and in attack he is a difficult mass to stop on the inside but he does not have the resources to shoot from medium distance or from the line of three. He dribbles little, dribbling is not his best weapon and he is a machine that produces points in a few minutes, but always being in the zone conditions the team's play and prevents him from being a constant danger. For now, he has plenty of time to add weapons to his game, but just scoring under the basket will make it difficult to hurt his rivals, especially in some hypothetical future playoffs in which the defense can drown rivals and cancel his plan principal effectively. And that's when plan b becomes a necessity that penalizes those who don't have it. And if not, let them tell the Rockets.

Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and the future

Aside from Josh Hart, another of the Lakers who arrived in New Orleans ending the Anthony Davis farce that unwound the Angelenos a season ago, Ingram and Ball remain two promises with a undeniable talent that they do not end up exploiting. It seemed that Ingram did it, and he was even All Star for the first time in his career, but he began to lose steam with the arrival of a Zion with whom he has not finished everything. A certain laziness has taken over his game in the bubble, where he is at 19.8 points per game for the almost 24 he reached before. And with just 42% in field shots, being a slab that has shown that he lacks maturity and mentality to close the games. The responsibility overwhelms him and the bad decisions pile up, being several minutes without making a shot, as happened in the last intantes of the opening game against the Jazz, in which they were winning comfortably but ended up making water in the final minutes . And with little ability to pass, causing holes for his teammates in the penetrations but without knowing when and how to find them.

The Lonzo thing is another song. Irregularity has completely taken hold of him, and he has encounters in which he begins to hit shots and add triple-doubles with ease, but combines them with streaks that are difficult to bear in a regular season of 82 games. The lows are almost embarrassing; In the last five games leading up to the break, Lonzo had gone to 20.8 points per game, with 54% shooting from the field and 52% in triples. In the bubble it has sunk, with 5.7 points, 26% in field goals and 19% in triples. A spectacular crisis that has done a lot of damage to a team that floats and fails to get the free shots, something essential to develop your career in the current NBA. Lonzo has skills, is a good defender and rebounds and passes with solvency, but his mental fragility makes him give some very big lurching that alters the Pelicans' game scheme as it happened before in the Lakers.

Good for the New Orleans franchise is business as usual. There is margin and future ahead. Ingram and Lonzo are on their way to 23 years old and have a career to develop. Reddick and Favors are temporary acquisitions, with the guard ending his contract in 2021 and the power forward this year. The only problem will be to sign Ingram, who wants the maximum and has not finished fitting in with a Zion that will be the definitive bet of the Pelicans. Future they have, but the first year after Davis has not gone as expected. It is not the failure of the project, but the attitudes and the bad game developed in the bubble can provoke a rethinking of the future. Will Alvin Gentry, a nice guy, continue on the team? Will they offer the maximum to Ingram? But above all, the most important thing is to know if Zion Williamson is going to become what everyone wants to see and that he has promised himself that he will be, a star capable of leading a franchise. The world is before him, but his rookie year has not been exactly the adventure he dreamed of. So far, things have gone more bad than good. The rest, we'll see.

Photos from as.com
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