Self-awareness is key in all aspects of life. It is essential around nba change deadline.
At this point in the NBA schedule, teams are spending countless hours evaluating assets and what it may cost to load up for today or prepare for the future.
Getting that process right doesn’t start with evaluating the other 29 teams. It’s about looking in the mirror.
This is especially true for a team like the pelicans.
After losing six in a row and 11 of the last 14, the confidence once exuded by this group has diminished considerably. Losing your two best players for several weeks will have that effect.
However, the biggest concern is the ground they have lost in the race for the West during this recent slump. After posting the second-best record in the conference earlier in the month, New Orleans and the 13th seed lakers now they are only three games apart.
After missing 29 games with a toe injury, Brandon Ingram is finally back to Wednesday’s lineup. It was the jolt of life the Pels needed to regain some of their swagger. But it also increased the sense of urgency around everyone within the organization.
If they’re going to return to the upper echelon of the West, they need to start proving it sooner rather than later, with a brutal road trip next week that includes games in Milwaukee, Denver and Dallas.
And this is where self-reflection comes into play.
It’s clear that the Pelicans have enough talent to be considered a serious threat to reach the Western Conference Finals when fully healthy. Zion Williamson, Ingram, and C.J. McCollum having what it takes to trade blows with anyone when they’re in their prime.
It makes sense that a team with those aspirations and this amount of talent would seriously consider what it takes to go after difference-makers like OG Anunoby, bojan bogdanovic Y john collins.
But the Pelicans are in a unique position.
Their “Big 3” have only played 172 minutes together this season. As good as they’ve looked in stretches, they still have a long way to go to develop the chemistry and cohesion needed to perform on the playoff stage.
History tells us that experience is one of the most valuable assets any team can bring to the postseason, and the Pelicans are sorely lacking in that area. Ingram got his first taste of the brighter lights last season, and Zion is yet to record his first playoff minute.
Even with the addition of another savvy veteran, the Pels would be fighting an uphill battle against battle-tested teams like golden state, memphis, dallas, phoenix, denver and the Los Angeles Clippers.
That doesn’t mean New Orleans can’t beat either of them in a playoff series. When fully healthy, Pels have enough firepower to scare anyone.
The real question is this: how much of the future should they be willing to sacrifice for a better chance in the present?
Ingram and Williamson are obviously untouchable. Dyson Daniels and Trey Murphy are seen as central pieces of the puzzle. grass jones, jose alvarado Y marshall naji they look similar, but it’s even harder to find deals that work with them because they each make less than $2 million this season.
Devonte’ Graham and jaxson hayes they’re the main culprits that have cropped up in Pelicans trade rumors since the summer. They have shown some flashes, but have little value on the open market.
Most of the talk around New Orleans leading up to the deadline will be the franchise’s willingness to give up a first-round pick (or two) to make a deal happen. They have future Lakers picks (2024 or 2025) and the Dollars (2027) in the hidden treasure, along with trade rights to the Lakers in 2023.
The Pelicans can put enough on the table to become a serious player for anyone expected to be available before the February 1 deadline. 9.
This is where self-reflection comes into play again.
Would it make sense for this team to forgo future picks to improve the current roster?
And that question goes beyond whether Bogdanovic or Collins is worth giving up future picks for.
The far more important assessment is how New Orleans plans to build a roster in the near future with Williamson, Ingram and McCollum earning more than $30 million per season. In 2023-24, the “Big 3” and Valanciunas are on the books for more than $118 million.
There are only four players.
As much as they’ve avoided it in the past, it’s becoming clear that the Pelicans will eventually have to pay the luxury tax at some point in the near future to hold the major parts of this roster together. But don’t rush to that date.
The smart move would be to continue using draft picks to acquire young players on cost-controlled contracts. This should provide the flexibility needed to build out the rest of the roster without feeling the pressure to part with valuable veterans like Valanciunas or Nance.
This doesn’t mean they should ignore calls from anyone asking about Milwaukee’s 2027 first round. But it will be crucial for this franchise to continue to build internally with the assets that they have. The roster they’ve put together is a great example of how much freedom having young, impactful players on rookie contracts can give a team as they plan for the future.
If anything, a team like Memphis has laid out a great blueprint for what the Pelicans can do to maintain their viability as a serious contender without delving into luxury tax waters.
Of the 15 players on the Grizzlies’ current roster, 12 were either acquired through the draft by Memphis or dropped out of college as undrafted free agents. They have done an amazing job developing talent within their organization and it has made it easier to envision a future with ha morantJaren Jackson and Desmond Bane everyone stays long-term on massive contracts. That’s not easy to do in a market like Memphis.
New Orleans will have to deal with the same challenges.
But there’s another factor here that the Pelicans can apply to themselves.
The Grizzlies have also felt similar pressure in recent seasons to make a big move for a better title shot. They’d be more justified in pushing their chips now with the team they’ve built and their experience over the past two postseasons.
Memphis has held out for the most part, and most people expect them to do so again this year. Their main reason is simple: they’ve built a team full of guys who enjoy playing together and don’t want to mess up something special.
It’s not the end of the world if a smaller market team sits back and enjoys the fruits of what they’ve built. There are benefits that can come from a team saying, “We’re going to ride with the guys that got us here.” Putting that amount of trust in a group will often make them feel more invested in the overall progression of the franchise.
This is not the approach that the Pels should have for the rest of the time. Of course, the pressure to put Zion in position for a championship run will mount each season he stays in New Orleans.
But with this team they have been able to develop something special in the dressing room. The bond that has grown between them individually and the city of New Orleans is unlike anything the franchise has experienced in over a decade.
If they can recreate that magic with a few more healthy bodies in the lineup, there’s no need to sell future assets to improve a spot or two in the back of the rotation.
They have earned the opportunity to show that what they have as a whole can be greater than the individual parts. That’s the path to true culture change that lasts for years, not just the accumulation of talent.
Given the financial outlook of this team and what they’ve shown when Zion is fully healthy, it makes sense to take it slow and not rush anything. We’ve seen elsewhere how much that patience can pay off in significant ways.
(Top photo of Zion Williamson and Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Grifin: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)