The New Orleans Pelicans have been one of the more surprising teams in the NBA this season, as they sit firmly in the middle of the Western Conference standings, currently sitting in the 4th seed. Despite the Pelicans’ surprising success, one constant for the team has been its steady rotation of young, athletic players, but the team has lacked a consistent leader. Enter Zion Williamson. The 19-year-old rookie phenom has become the face of the Pelicans and a leader of the team, and he’s going to need one.

The New Orleans Pelicans have a lot of good young players on the team, but Zion Williamson is the most exciting one. Williamson is a freakish athlete, and his ability to leap over people and throw down huge dunks is almost unmatched in the NBA. But he’s not the only one that can help the Pelicans reach the Western Conference playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans have been forced to trade a first round pick to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for center Zion Williamson. This trade has been hotly debated by NBA fans, and the debate is not just on Twitter. It’s been an interesting few weeks for the Pelicans, and general manager Dell Demps has been in the spotlight more than usual. Whether you’re a fan of Demps or not, this trade has certainly shown him he’s no fool. He’s made some questionable trades, he’s made some questionable decisions, and now he’s made some questionable trades.

During the Anthony Davis era, the New Orleans Pelicans were a complete failure. They only reached the playoffs twice in seven seasons, and he ultimately left to join the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won a championship. Pelicans supporters must now hope that their club does not make a mistake with Zion Williamson.

Williamson has shown that all of the hype around him was justified over the past two years, but the Pelicans have failed to construct a winning team around the former Duke star. However, their most recent transfer may have put them on the correct track.

Devonte’ Graham was acquired by the New Orleans Pelicans.

When the Pelicans lost point guard Lonzo Ball to the Chicago Bulls, several heads turned. However, the club was able to address that need by signing Devonte’ Graham from the Charlotte Hornets.

Graham will be acquired in a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans, and his new contract will be for four years and $47 million, according to ESPN. In addition, New Orleans is said to be giving Charlotte a lottery-protected first-round NBA Draft selection in 2022.

Graham was a strong contender for the Most Improved Player title in 2019-20, but his statistics dipped somewhat last season. The Pelicans have a potential to become a formidable force in the coming several years if his production can return to where it was two years ago.

Devonte’ Graham has the potential to assist Zion Williamson and the Pelicans in reaching the playoffs.

When comparing last year’s statistics to this year’s, Graham doesn’t seem to be much of a step up from Ball. In comparison to Ball’s 14.6 points and 5.7 assists, he averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists.

Ball, on the other hand, had his greatest scoring season in that year. Graham, on the other hand, averaged 18.2 points and 7.5 assists in 2019-20, with his statistics only dropping when the Hornets selected LaMelo Ball. Graham’s shooting percentage dropped from 15.3 to 12.2.

Graham could have an opportunity to play a bigger role at point guard for the Pelicans, and his skill set may be ideal for Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

In 2020-21, Williamson and Ingram both had great scoring seasons, averaging 27.0 and 23.8 points, respectively. Despite shooting 38.1 percent from beyond the arc, Ingram made nearly 65 percent of his shots from inside 2-point range. On the other hand, Williamson tried 96.7 percent of his attempts from inside the arc. When opponents double-team those two inside, the Pelicans could use someone who can catch and shoot.

Graham will be able to deliver it to them in the end.

According to ESPN, he not only shot over 37% from 3-point range each of the past two years, but he also hit 42.6 percent of his long-range catch-and-shoot efforts. 

Overall, Graham not only has the skill set to outscore Ball — like he did two seasons ago — but he was also one of the top catch-and-shoot shooters in the NBA last season and can help Williamson and Ingram when required.

That might be the difference between New Orleans ending two games short of a play-in tournament berth (as it did last year with Ball on the club) and reaching the playoffs.

With the Pelicans, Zion Williamson has the potential to become an all-time great.

New Orleans Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson in 2019.

New Orleans Pelicans superstar Zion Williamson in 2019. On Oct. 11, 2019, Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans poses before a preseason game. | Getty Images/Jonathan Bachman

No, Graham won’t immediately cure everything and turn the Pelicans into a top Western Conference club. He can improve in certain areas, as he hasn’t shot better than 38.2 percent from the field in each of his first three seasons in the league. However, Zion Williamson and the Pelicans can benefit from his ability to score and even assist after handing out 7.5 assists per game in 2019-20.

Williamson, like Anthony Davis, has a potential to be an all-time great. Williamson earned an All-Star selection in 2020-21 with 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game after averaging 22.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 24 games as a rookie. He shown that he can develop into one of the league’s greatest players, and that he and Ingram can form one of the league’s most potent scoring duos.

New Orleans, on the other hand, must do everything it takes to retain him and create a winning team.

Year after year, we’ve seen players depart clubs because their organizations have failed to create championship teams around them. Just a few instances are LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers twice, Kevin Durant leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder, and, of course, Davis departing New Orleans. Williamson’s dissatisfaction has previously been documented, with The Athletic reporting in June that certain members of Williamson’s family want him to play for another club.

So, if the Pelicans want Williamson to remain, they need to start winning, and bringing in Graham is a good start.

Within the last decade, Williamson has become the Pelicans’ second franchise-changing player. They can’t afford to screw up this scenario as well.

Basketball Reference provided the statistics.

RELATED: Zion Williamson’s Superstardom Led to a Famous Actor Nearly Naming Their Child Zion Williamson’s Superstardom Led to a Famous Actor Nearly Naming Their Child Zion Williamson’s Superstardom Led to a Famous

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