Does anyone remember Zion Williamson? Strange as it sounds, he still exists most clearly in my mind as a cannonball at Cameron Indoor. Basketball Reference tells us that there have indeed been three professional seasons for Zion, but none of them have been able to dislodge the image of him in the clean white and blue from my mind, youthful explosiveness so undeniable that the shoes on his feet crumble when he steps. Teenage Zion made quite an impression.

While Williamson exists in amber in my memory, the team that employs him — no, not Nike, the New Orleans Pelicans — have been mired in 30-win muck down on the bayou for three straight seasons. The last time the Pels won more than 34 games, Jrue Holiday was still on the roster. Despite last year’s underwhelming 31-41 mark, there’s the unmistakable feeling that something is going on down here. Head Coach Willie Green seems to have it, and the roster is buying what he’s selling. Coming down south revitalized a stagnating CJ McCollum; Brandon Ingram continues his dance of steps forward and back and sideways and forward again; Herb Jones and Jose Alvarado walked out of the second round/undrafted realms and onto the floor ready to guard just about any living soul; JV is still a hulking bully with pretty soft touch — there’s sizzle here. The common understanding of momentum would lead us to believe that another step forward is coming, and that’s before you factor in the big fella’s return. What happens now that the team that pulling together to patch a hole finally gets the All-NBA piece back?

I have no idea, really, but I’ll sure as hell watch it.

Notables Out: None

Notables In: Dyson Daniels, Dereon Seaborn

Depth Chart

PG CJ McCollum Jose Alvarado Devonte’ Graham Dyson Daniels
SG Brandon Ingram Kira Lewis Garrett Temple Dereon Seaborn
SF Herb Jones Trey Murphy II Naji Marshall
PF Zion Williamson Larry Nance Jr.
C Jonas Valancuinas Jaxson Hayes Willy Hernangomez

Guards and Wings

Change is a good thing, but don’t just take my word for it. Look at what a change of scenery did for CJ McCollum when the Blazer lifer came down Nawlins way for the last 26 games of the season:

  • Blazer CJ — 20.5/4.3/4.5/1 on 43/38/70 shooting splits
  • Pelican CJ — 24.3/4.5/5.8/1.3 on 49/39/66

It was an ideal circumstance to walk into for CJ, as much of the existing Pelicans backcourt was either hurt (Kira Lewis), unproven (Jose Alvarado), or proven ineffective (Devonte’ Graham.) McCollum left town having been a second banana for his whole career and stepped into a tailor-made role where his operating with the ball in his hands was the best option by far. Even with the added bump in counting stats, CJ finished the year as a top 50-ish player, territory that is hardly unfamiliar to him. Despite his history as a bucket-getter, McCollum’s efficiency has never been good, and though inexplicable to me, the FT% has been unsightly for three years running. A guard who’s below-average in both percentages will leave you with a bit of a problem when integrating him onto a lot of fantasy rosters, but the assists, points, and threes should hold up okay. New Orleans was good for McCollum’s steal rate, but considering his longer track record there, I’m not exactly sold. He seems safe enough as a sixth-rounder, but I could see the numbers slipping a bit with the return of big Z and the continued emergence of some of the supporting cast.

Speaking of that supporting cast, how much fun was Jose Alvarado‘s hounding of the Point God in last year’s postseason? As much joy as Grand Theft Alvarado was responsible for last season, he’s not going to be a fantasy viable player unless life gets really challenging in the Big Easy. There’s a great steal rate, sure, but there’s limited usage and little else that he brings to the table outside of a smattering of dimes. Similarly, after three consecutive seasons of dwindling playing time and output, the bloom has come off the rose for Devonte’ Graham. If there are minutes for Graham, I suppose there will also be some triples. There just won’t be enough of either to be viable.

Kira Lewis Jr., who never has been healthy enough to have much of a job to lose, might have just been Wally Pipped by New Orleans’ latest lottery pick Dyson Daniels. Lewis is still working his way back from shredding his knee last December, and the selection of Daniels can only be read as a turning of the page. The Aussie teenager was limited by an ankle injury in the preseason but generally looked good while he was out there. Over the offseason I remember hearing a Pelicans beat writer saying that Dyson would be taking someone’s job as early as this season, it was just a matter of time. My guess is it will be Devonte’ Graham who is the odd man out. Beyond playing time concerns, Graham was already off my radar, but I’m looking to acquire Daniels in dynasty formats. Dyson almost certainly won’t get enough run to be under consideration for streaming in the early season, but it could happen later. He’s bouncy.

Brandon Ingram and his erratic fantasy output continue to vex me. I haven’t drafted him once this season (maybe ever?), mostly because I don’t feel like I have a good idea of what’s coming back to me if I do roster him. Sometimes there are threes, sometimes there are rebounds, sometimes there are steals — but only sometimes. The points and dimes are steady, but the FG efficiency also tends to wax and wane. Drafters begin considering him as early as the fifth round, but most of the time I feel more comfortable with waiting (or drafting Khris Middleton) and pursuing other options at forward. It seems totally possible that this is the year where BI really puts it all together and we get good rebounding, steals, and three-point shooting to go along with the more bankable stats, but it almost certainly won’t be happening on one of my rosters. Add in the bite Zion will make in usage and staying away gets easier and easier.

Herb Jones was a defensive revelation as he played his way into 69 starts as a second-round rookie. Stocks were the name of the game last season (1.7 steals, 0.8 blocks per) and if nothing else, I would expect steady defensive production from Jones again this year. As with all the other major pieces of the Pelicans rotation, Zion’s return will siphon off some of Herb’s already minuscule usage rate (13.9% last year.) It’s hard to see where exactly the improvement comes from Jones as a sophomore, especially with so many better options on the court offensively. I’d take Herb if I needed a defensive superhero, but my expectations are already in check for any production beyond that.

Perhaps not for the standard 12-team league draft, but keep an eye on what happens with Trey Murphy III. A deadeye from deep as a rookie last year, Murphy has had a strong preseason and the additional spacing that he offers should be all the more important with the return of Williamson and the defensive attention his presence in the paint will attract. A strong start to the season could make him a priority add early.

As for Naji Marshall, Garrett Temple, and Dereon Seaborn — you’re probably okay ignoring them for now.

Bigs

It’s all about health for Zion Williamson. In the phenom’s one full season he was knocking on the door of an All-NBA team on the back of 27 points, 7.2 boards, 3.7 dimes, 0.9 steals, and 0.6 swats. A scoring beast, he’s presently healthy and could be a steal in the fourth (or third) round of fantasy drafts if he can stay on the floor and some of the defensive stats tick up. Williamson possesses elite FG% and points upside, and if you’re punting FT% and can find the defensive stats later as an insurance policy, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Zion’s on a lot of championship teams. There’s a risk to go along with the tremendous upside, of course, but in the right build, Zion makes a lot of sense at this price. It might be the last year that you’ll be able to get him at this value. I could be buying.

Add Jonas Valancuinas’ name to the list of Pelicans who could see their numbers erode a bit with the return of Williamson. JV averaged 30+ MPG for the first time in his career last season and posted beefy big-man stats with the opportunity. A career-best 17.8 points per game, 11.4 boards, and strong percentages powered Jonas to a top-50 finish. There aren’t a ton of blocks to be had here, and I would expect the gaudy points and boards totals to dip in response to Zion’s return, but JV feels like a rock-solid center and a good bet to be in the neighborhood of the top-50 again — just make sure to get your swats somewhere else.

Larry Nance Jr. and Willy Hernangomez could both be in line for decent usage should Williamson return to street clothes, but I don’t think they need to be prioritized as long as the roster is intact. Unfortunately, fourth-year big man Jaxson Hayes was unable to escape the preseason unscathed, suffering a torn UCL in his non-pitching elbow. At the time of writing, he’s rehabbing and slated for a re-evaluation once the season gets rolling, but surgery is definitely in play here. A UCL tear is what kept Paul George on the sidelines last year, so a lengthy absence for Hayes is definitely on the table.

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Chris
Chris
3 months ago

Hi Mr. Hooper,

Good morning.

Finish my draft last night for 12 team H2H, Standard Scoring.

I liked my first picks, but then I loss some focues. Anyway, below results (pick 3):

pg: Gilgeous Alexander (4)
sg: Bane (5)
g: Jamal Murray (6)
sf: Butler (3)
pf: Embiid (1)
f: Anthony Davis (2)
c: Poetl (7)
utl: Keegan Murray (8)
utl: Monte Morris (9)
bn: Cameron Johnson (10)
bn: John Wall (11)
bn: Jaden Ivey (12)

Didnt like my AD pick followigng Embiid, but at Pick 22 I saw good value.

I like Poetl at 7th, but then other blah I think.

Im low on 3s and in assists.

What are your thought?

In waiver I can take Eason. Is he better option than one of the above?

many thanks,
Chris

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago

I accidentally submitted a comment from the wrong account with my full name. May I trouble a moderator to delete it and I can re-submit?

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Hooper

Thank you!

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago

Yep. This is that comment!

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago

Was scrolling through some articles and saw Mr. Hooper and was like, well I have to say hello and follow-up on an earlier exchange!

12-team, 9-cat, h2h. $100 waiver budget. No IL slot.

Team: Lamelo, Conley, Monte M, Booker, Bane, D.Hunter, Bojan, Jerami, Jaren, Horford, Gobert.

It was a less than ideal draft because I drafted 12th (with Ball and Bane as keepers at a cheaper price). Between draft position and keepers there were no 1st round values left when I started so I stuck with our plan and went with Booker at 12 and Gobert at 13. I did suffer from a couple of unexpected runs on assists and steals – perils of winning and therefore drafting at the end of a serpentine draft – so I had to over draft certain guys.

Do you see any waiver wire add/drops from these undrafted guys below? Wall, D.White, Dosunmu, Caruso, B.Brown, LeVert, Duarte, Eason, Jal.Williams, Vanderbilt, Kuminga, I.Jackson, Claxton

The tricky part in my league is that owners ARE very active, waivers clear only a couple of times a week, and any undrafted players added off of waivers you can keep for two years at 11th and 10th round prices, so you definitely don’t want to sleep too much on someone who can be a key contributor (like Bane) and be with you for three seasons on the cheap. At the same time, you don’t want to give up on a potential contributor, even if merely as a solid role player and glue guy, only to speculate on fool’s gold. Welcome any feedback!

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Hooper

Good point re blocks. I guess I tend to not focus too much on them because there’s always a slew of SF/PF guys who can get you a boost in boards, but assists and steals are hard to find on the wire even when you’re willing to sacrifice some in other areas.

Yeah, not sure why I added Hunter last. I think I was just tired (late draft for me). I can swap for Eason. Too early to consider ditching Monte or Conley for Jalen? Conley I guess is a question mark because he’s likely to get traded, who knows to where, but he has a reliable place as a role player when healthy with assists, steals, and percentages that usually don’t kill you. Monte has some upside, depending on whether Beal lets him ever have the ball. Jalen has more upside than both, but also more downside because it’s OKC, they have Giddey and Shai (when healthy), and they’re always a threat to trade anyone for whatever reason. I really like I-Jax, but it’s a question of how long it will take Indiana to trade Turner, and whether them trading Turner will really mean it’s I-Jax time. I’d be more inclined to consider him if Jaren has a setback, since we don’t have a spot for injured players, so housing someone until January may get you knocked out of the playoffs.

Would welcome any further thoughts on swaps but also on how much to bid out of the $100. Don’t want to blow it all early, but then again, those $14 I spent on Lamelo (who was dropped onto waivers by an impatient owner) seemed a lot at the time, but what a bargain.

Joe Beisbol
Joe Beisbol
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Beisbol

I meant good point re: boards*

OldMilwaukeePounders
OldMilwaukeePounders
3 months ago

What’s up Mr Hooper?

Just had my 12 team, 8 cat, h2h, (with 4 keepers) draft. Went with a punt FT% and a soft punt on 3PM (this was mostly due to how the draft developed, not my original design). What do you think of the squad:

PG- Curry (K)
SG- Jrue (5)
G- Lowry (10)
SF- Wiggins (7)
PF- Zion (K)
F- Bam (K)
C- Giannis (K)
UT- Poeltl (6)
UT- Draymond (8)
UT- Mitchell Robinson (9)
B- Nic Claxton (11)
B- Vanderbilt (12)
B- Ayo (13)
B- empty
IR- Chet (14)

I’ve got a claim in on Santi Aldama, watch listing Kessler Walker & Jalen Duran. Any constructive criticism or players you think might fit this build well?

Thanks in advance & happy hoops season!

OldMilwaukeePounders
OldMilwaukeePounders
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Hooper

Kesssler & Duren are mostly keeper speculation adds, yeah. Going to just watch list them at this point.

And your call on Aldama is about the same as my thinking. I figure to use that as a stream spot mostly. Figure he might have 100-120 value for some time. But yeah – perhaps streaming triples even. I could use another SF eligible piece, but the available options are very “meh” without seeing how rotations shake out!

Thanks, Mr Hooper!

OldMilwaukeePounders
OldMilwaukeePounders
3 months ago

Do you think Duncan Robinson gets 25+ min run in MIA? Or Jovic? Joe Harris feels like kind of a fit but his health is up in the air still too.