The NBA has gone through one of the craziest coaching carousels in recent memory. These days, a good regular-season record is not enough to secure job security.
The Clippers, 76ers, Rockets, Pelicans, Thunder, Pacers, Nets, Knicks and Bulls all moved on from their head coaches.
New Orleans — which notoriously traded Anthony Davis before the 2019-20 season leading to a Lakers championship — had the most recent coaching hire with Stan Van Gundy named Pelicans head coach. Van Gundy replaces Alvin Gentry, who was let go after New Orleans didn’t make the playoffs.
The last time we saw Van Gundy in a head coaching position for the Detroit Pistons, and he was also the general manager. Detroit has arguably the worst (if not one of the worst) rosters in the league and are in a sticky situation with Blake Griffin’s contract.
But we aren’t here to talk about the Pistons. The Pelicans have one of the most interesting roster situations in the league.
On paper, there are not too many names that stand out above the rest, but there also aren’t names that you think are bad.
It all begins and ends with Zion Williamson. Projected to be a generational talent coming out of Duke last year, we saw him perform in limited capacity after a summer league injury in 2019. Health is his biggest question mark, but should he play he automatically throws the Pelicans into the playoff conversation.
All of the pieces from their Lakers trade have peaked and valleyed. Brandon Ingram looked like he could wind up as one of the most improved players in our game.
He excels on the defensive end with his long arms and quick feet, and we were able to see his three-point shooting improve considerably.
Josh Hart was a serviceable role player off of the bench. While some of the most head-scratching play came from Lonzo Ball.
Throughout the season before the COVID shutdown, Lonzo really looked to be winding into form as a starting guard next to Jrue Holiday. Once bubble play hit, his progress shot downwards, and he fell into many bad habits and it seemed like he could not stay on the floor.
One other note on their roster is two expiring contracts in Derrick Favors and E’twaun Moore. Combined, the two make about $25 million, so they can serve the role as trade pieces should a deal strike their fancy.
Van Gundy has never been a coach to punt on seasons, and with a player like Zion on your roster it would be unwise to bring about a losing culture to try and net more assets.
With Zion rolling as a small ball center, having shooters surrounding him like Holiday, Ingram, Alexander-Walker and more can give a similar feel to the 2009 Magic team that was led by Dwight Howard to make the NBA Finals.
For Van Gundy at the time, that Magic team was revolutionary and was one of the pioneers of quick shooting offenses along with spacing for three point shots as a focal point.
Players at his disposal now can fill similar roles to that of Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Reddick and Dwight Howard, but the job is an uphill battle.
This Pelicans roster lacks experience from top to bottom, so signing some savvy, veteran free agents should be top priority for the Pelicans front office.
With all of the experience under Van Gundy’s belt, he should be able to maximize the young players at his disposal. With a healthy star like Zion at your disposal, it’s no wonder why this job was so enticing for him to jump on.
Turning Zion into an All-NBA type player will be top priority for Van Gundy moving forward. In a loaded Western Conference and a shortened offseason, with Van Gundy named Pelicans head coach, there is work to do.