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Friday, September 22, 2023

2023-24 Projected Starting Lineup For New Orleans Pelicans

  • The New Orleans Pelicans missed the playoffs last season
  • Zion Williamson only played in 29 games in 2022-23
  • The Pelicans project to have a talented starting lineup in 2023-24, headlined by two All-Stars 

The New Orleans Pelicans took a step back in 2022-23. The team went only 42-40 and missed the playoffs after losing the 9-10 play-in game at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder.  

Zion Williamson only played in 29 games last season, while Brandon Ingram appeared in just 45 games. For the Pelicans to get back to the playoffs in 2023-24, both Williamson and Ingram have to stay healthy. 

The Pelicans project to have a talented starting lineup next season, headlined by Williamson and Ingram. Let’s take a look at the three players who will join Williamson and Ingram in New Orleans’ starting five. 

Point Guards

Starter: CJ McCollum

Reserve: Jose Alvarado

CJ McCollum averaged 20.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists for the Pelicans last season while shooting 43.7% from the field, 38.9% from beyond the arc, and 76.9% from the free-throw line. The 2015-16 Most Improved Player of the Year signed a two-year, $64 million veteran contract extension with New Orleans in September 2022.

The 31-year-old McCollum will make $35.8 million next season. He has career averages of 19.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 665 games with the Portland Trail Blazers and Pelicans. 

McCollum is averaging 21.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 101 games with New Orleans. He has never made an All-Star team in his career despite being a skillful scorer. It will be fascinating to see if McCollum can make his first All-Star team in 2023-24.

Shooting Guards

Starter: Herb Jones

Reserve: Dyson Daniels

Herb Jones had a solid second season with the Pelicans. The lefty averaged 9.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 46.9% from the floor, 33.5% from 3, and 76.4% from the foul line. 

Jones is one of the best defenders in the NBA. Surprisingly, he hasn’t made an All-Defensive team yet. That could change next season since voters now have Jones on their radar. 

The 24-year-old Jones has career averages of 9.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 steals. 

Small Forwards

Starter: Brandon Ingram

Reserve: Naji Marshall

Brandon Ingram averaged 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the Pelicans last season while shooting 48.4% from the field, 39.0% from beyond the arc, and 88.2% from the free-throw.

The Pelicans acquired Ingram from the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2019 in the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade. Ingram is averaging 23.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 223 games with New Orleans. The Duke product won the 2019-20 Most Improved Player of the Year Award.

Ingram is eligible for a contract extension with the Pelicans, but he will wait until next offseason before engaging in extension talks, according to NBA insider Christian Clark of NOLA.com. Ingram signed a five-year, $158.3 million contract with the Pelicans in November 2020.

“Multiple sources told The Times-Picayune that Ingram will wait until next summer before engaging in extension talks with the franchise that acquired him in the Anthony Davis trade four years ago,” Clark wrote.

Power Forwards

Starter: Zion Williamson

Reserve: Larry Nance Jr.

There have been several questions about Zion Williamson’s diet and commitment to basketball since he’s only played 114 out of a possible 308 regular-season games since being drafted by the Pelicans with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke. 

Williamson played in 24 games in his rookie year and 61 games in his sophomore year. The lefty then missed his entire third year and appeared in just 29 games last season.

Williamson signed a five-year, $194.3 million designated rookie contract extension with the Pelicans in July 2022. New Orleans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told Sirius XM NBA Radio during Summer League in Las Vegas that the franchise’s relationship with Williamson is “as good as it’s ever been.”

Williamson has career averages of 25.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists with the Pelicans. He must find a way to stay healthy next season for the Pelicans to get back to the playoffs and it sounds like he’s had a productive offseason. 

According to NBA insider Will Guillory of The Athletic, Williamson is “really focused” on making sure his body is ready for a long season.


Starter: Jonas Valanciunas

Reserve: Coby Zeller

Jonas Valanciunas has one year left on his contract. He will make $15.4 million next season. The big man averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 2022-23 while shooting 54.7% from the floor, 34.9% from 3, and 82.6% from the free-throw line. 

Valanciunas recorded 43 double-doubles in 79 starts in 2022-23. 

The Pelicans acquired Valanciunas from the Memphis Grizzlies in August 2021. The veteran signed a two-year, $30.4 million extension with New Orleans in October 2021. Valanciunas is averaging 15.9 points and 10.8 rebounds in 153 games with the Pelicans.

There were rumors this offseason that the Pelicans were interested in trading Valanciunas to move beneath the luxury tax. However, Valanciunas is still on the roster. 

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