McCollum, depth leads Pelicans to flying start

Benny Greenspan, Staff Reporter

Merrie Afseth

Two weeks after the NBA season tipped off, the New Orleans Pelicans found themselves off to a strong start, with a 4-2 record after six games. Their performance so far has been night and day comparatively to last season, where the Pelicans started 1-12 in their first 13 games.

This turnaround can largely be attributed to the return of Zion Williamson, who has lived up to the expectations entering the season. Williamson so far has averaged 21.8 point per game to go along with eight rebounds and has been an interior force, especially on the offensive end. 

Williamson has also been able to fit right into this Pelicans team that was already intact from the end of the last season, as he, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum have thrived as the leading trio so far. Ingram has started out this season strong, averaging 22 points per game, while McCollum has averaged 20.5 points to go along with seven assists. 

That being said, this trio has only been able to play three out of the six games together due to injuries already starting to affect the team. Williamson got hurt in the home opener on a scary fall that led him to suffer from a right posterior hip and lower back contusion, which kept him out of the next two games. In that same game, which resulted in an overtime loss to the surprisingly good Utah Jazz, Ingram suffered a concussion after colliding with teammate Naji Marshall. 

Despite the injuries, the depth of the Pelicans roster has caused them to not miss a step and continue to win big games without their star players. Most notably, on Oct. 25, the Pelicans defeated the Dallas Mavericks in a close game at home. Without Ingram, Williamson and their main defender Herbert Jones, the Pelicans utilized a balanced attack to beat the Mavs, where eight players finished in double figures

Despite the absence of their star players, other Pelicans players have risen to the occasion, notably Trey Murphy III, who has averaged 15 points per game and is shooting a remarkable 54.3% from the three point line. Naji Marshall has also stepped up, averaging 17.6 points per game in the last three games, all of which were without Ingram. 

While Ingram’s return from his concussion is imminent, Williamson came back this past Monday against the Clippers, where he carried the Pelicans to a win with 21 points and 12 rebounds

Going into the next part of the season, it will be interesting to see how Williamson, Ingram and McCollum continue to grow with each other — assuming the three of them stay healthy. The Pelicans have already established themselves as a key player in a wide open Western Conference, and they have to continue building off of their strong start in order to cement their position as the season continues. 

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