Willie Green has the Pelicans excited about this season
New Orleans head coach, Willie Green, described his training camp as “competitive” by building a culture promoting an importance in defense and limiting transition points. The Phoenix Suns eliminated the 2021-2022 Pelicans in the first round. Experience was key to the Pelicans learning how to win in the postseason by winning their first play-in tournament game against the 10th seed San Antonio Spurs, and then eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers for the 8th and final seed.
Coach Green retained several important parts to a potential defensive juggernaut. Point guard, Jose Alvarado, returns to split the position and playing time with Devonte’ Graham. The guard play of the Pelicans was 8th in the NBA last season averaging 8.3 steals per game. Coming off a stellar season, Brandon Ingram recorded a career high with 12 assists, 24 points and 8 rebounds. The key to BI’s success will be based on his health and durability. The return of Zion Williamson to training camp had everyone buzzing. His fitness regiment during the off-season will allow the Pelicans’ to flex their forwards and Centers. Jaxson Hayes, Larry Nance Jr, and Jonas Valanciunas will benefit from the dynamic ability that Zion displays in the paint. Ultimately, health, efficiency, and shot selection will plateau Zion to a potential All-Star season. Mix in wild-card players like Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, and Naji Marshall, round out an intriguing bench of role players. The most important reason that New Orleans can make a deep run in the NBA Playoffs will come down to one player. Some may describe him as the master of the mid-range, also known as CJ McCollum. CJ displayed a vision of awareness and playmaking when he was traded to New Orleans from Portland last season. McCollum’s assist to turnover ratio is essential to wins vs. losses.
New Orleans has started the season 4-2 and has secured early season wins over favorites Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks, and the Los Angeles Clippers. CJ McCollum ranks tied for second in the NBA by averaging 7.2 assists per game in 6 games played and tied for 6th in the NBA averaging 20.5 points per game. The Pelicans are 13th in the NBA in points allowed (allowing 111.3 ppg) which head coach Willie Green must approve of the defensive awareness that his team is showing early in the season. After Green’s 12-year NBA career as a player, his coaching experience under Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors he became very aware of how a defensive culture was created.
Coach Green attests many of his early coaching success to no longer approaching the game with just Xs and Os. He has created a tireless work ethic and authenticity of character throughout the entire hiring and first year process. Nets head coach, Steve Nash, stated, “Willie’s a good friend. He’s someone I really admire and respect so I’m really excited and happy for him. He deserves this success. He’s a high-character person and a very talented coach.” The Pelicans have caught the attention of the national media, and more importantly the players have expressed how much they love playing for coach Green. If New Orleans is to make the Western Conference Finals, they will have to follow coach Green’s approach “Continue to learn about each other. Continue to get better. When we do it in practice it makes it easy to go out there and follow the game plan.”