Former Los Angeles Lakers face a challenge with New Orleans Pelicans

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images /

The New Orleans Pelicans appeared to be a team headed for disaster last season. The Anthony Davis controversy was taking its toll on the franchise, and all signs pointed to long-term failure. In a few short months, the Pelicans managed to get significant talent in return for Davis, along with the No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson. This team is in position to succeed in the near future, but there’s a serious hurdle that must be overcome before that can take place.

Through the Anthony Davis trade, the New Orleans Pelicans acquired Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart. Those three players were expected to play a significant role in the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. Even after the arrival of LeBron James, it was believed that they would mature under his tutelage, and bring the Lakers back to championship form.

But the NBA is a business, and the Lakers did what was best for the organization. You can’t blame them either. Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the league. Pairing him with LeBron James is an opportunity that you can’t pass up on. Still, it’s uncertain if Ball, Ingram and Hart see things that way as they join a new roster.

Lozno Ball briefly addressed the trade as “good” in a Facebook video.

Josh Hart had nothing but kind words for both his former and current team.

Even Brandon Ingram threw up a cryptic peace sign on Instagram.

Perhaps all three of these players were ready to leave the turmoil in Los Angeles. They were part of LeBron missing the postseason for the first time in 14 years. Magic Johnson quit minutes before a game. Who knows how many more stories about Kobe Bryant and Heath Ledger that Rob Pelinka will be willing to fabricate?

While there is relief for the opportunity to avoid the drama that surrounds playing in L.A., it will be interesting to see how this group handles starting from scratch on the basketball court.

Defensively, a backcourt featuring Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday will wreak havoc on opponents. Offensively, it’s possible that Lonzo will struggle to find his rhythm. Jrue Holiday sometimes operates as the primary ball-handler on this team. Only time will tell which of the two will be the more efficient floor general. Coach Alvin Gentry hasn’t given any inclination as to how the guards will operate, but if the decision is to to go with Holiday, Lonzo will need to settle into a role as a spot-up shooter.

That’s something that he’s only had experience doing last year as LeBron’s teammate. It’s one thing to have to change your game for LeBron, but can he show the same willingness to adjust for a veteran point guard who has never made an All-NBA team?

Josh Hart will once again come off the bench in his third NBA season, but the expectations may be a bit higher. He averaged just 7.9 points per game last season, along with 1.4 assists per game. He’s going to have more of an opportunity to get involved in the offense, and the Pelicans are going to need him to produce. New Orleans finished 25th in bench scoring last season and could desperately use Hart to turn things around in that area.

Brandon Ingram has the easiest transition of the three former Lakers on the floor. He possesses the ability to attack the basket and fill the lane on fast breaks. Defensively, he will have the same struggle that’s affected him throughout his career.

At 6’9”, 190 pounds, Ingram often gets pushed around on defense. Last season he had rim protectors like Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and JaVale McGee to help out. As the current Pelicans’ roster is constructed, guard Jrue Holiday is the leading shot-blocker, averaging just 0.8 blocks per game last season. Zion Williamson possesses the ability to block shots and defend the rim, but it will take him some time to adjust to doing so at the NBA level.

Zion may possess additional abilities on the floor that will alter the roles that each of the former Lakers play on the Pelicans. New Orleans has every intention on gradually developing the No. 1 draft pick into the future of the squad. General manager David Griffin made that clear when he said the former Duke star isn’t “here to save this franchise.” 

That can very well change if Zion takes off, and proves that he is more than your typical inexperienced rookie. Right now he’s expected to work hard, run the floor and deliver thrilling dunks. But if Zion can score with some consistency in the half-court offense, and defend his position without getting into foul trouble, you can expect to see a shift in the play-calling from Gentry. Can the former Lakers handle adjusting their individual games for a rookie?

Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball played for the biggest franchise in the NBA. There is nothing in the league that can compare to playing for the Lakers. They’ve also played alongside LeBron James, which is one of the most challenging and exciting NBA paths.

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However, there is one thing that none of them have been able to accomplish so far in their careers. They have never suited up in the NBA playoffs. If these players can set aside personal agendas and overcome the hurdle of learning their new roles, that feat can certainly be accomplished in the near future.