Pelicans stock up, stock down


Overall, he scored 133.5 points per 100 shot attempts, putting him in the top four percent of small forwards. He also held onto the ball, with a turnover rate of 7.3 percent, putting him in the top eight percent. Murphy was second on the team in steals and in blocks, as New Orleans finished with the league’s sixth-rated defense.

Alongside volume scorers like Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, the low-usage Murphy is a perfect complement. If those two stars can stay healthy, Murphy should get even better shots. And given his improvement from his rookie year, the Pelicans have a potential third star.

Herb Jones: Jones proved his standout rookie season was no fluke by going out and essentially replicating his statistics from 2021-22. While injuries limited him to 66 games, Jones was within seven percentage points of last season’s numbers in field goal, two-point and three-point percentage on slightly more volume. He upped his assists and rebounds slightly (from 2.1 to 2.5, and from 3.8 to 4.1), and shot 0.3 more free throws per game.

The encouraging part of Jones’ season is how good he was after the All-Star break. Jones shot 44.4 percent from three-point range in New Orleans’ final 23 games, and the team was 9.2 points better per 100 possessions with Jones on the floor. He was hampered by an ankle injury and a bout of COVID early, but Jones was very good when healthy.  

The advanced stats liked his offense and defense very slightly more in year two, but Jones was already a valuable player for the Pelicans. The team’s defense was their most impressive quality last year, especially for a team whose two max contract players, Ingram and Williamson, missed 90 games combined. And Jones is the team’s best defensive player.

Stock Down

Zion Williamson: There’s no question that Williamson is a dominant force when he’s on the court. The key phrase is, “on the court”. Williamson played just one game in 2023, missing the Pelicans’ last 45 games after a hamstring injury. For his career, he’s played 114 out of a possible 315 of his team’s games, including the play-in tournament and playoffs, both of which he missed entirely.

In his rookie year, a torn meniscus kept him out until January. He was fairly healthy in his sophomore season, playing 61 of 66 games before a broken thumb cost him the end of the season. He missed the entirety of his third season. And according to Pelicans insider Jake Madison, some members of the team “feel very fed up with Zion”, whether it’s his reluctance to do offseason workouts with the team or the regular injuries.

He’s still only 22, the same age as Joel Embiid was when he first began to shake the injury woes that cost him most of his first three seasons. But now that Williamson’s max extension is kicking in, the Pelicans’ patience is running out. and it’s getting expensive.

Jaxson Hayes: When New Orleans traded Anthony Davis to Los Angeles, part of the return was the No. 4 pick in the 2019 draft. They used it on De’Andre Hunter, who the Pelicans then flipped to Atlanta for Didi Louzada, Nickell Alexander-Walker, Herb Jones and center Jaxson Hayes. Louzada is out of the league, Alexander-Walker has been traded three times and Hayes has never lived up to the promise of being the No. 8 pick in the draft.

Last year, Hayes played 47 games, averaging a career-low in points, minutes, rebounds, blocks and field-goal percentage. While Hayes has incredible athletic gifts, with speed and leaping ability, he simply hasn’t translated them into NBA production. And he hasn’t helped himself off the court.  

Hayes got three years of probation after a domestic violence arrest that involved an altercation with police.

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