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Since the much-hyped 2019 draft, Zion Williamson has become one of the league’s most intriguing physical specimens. Although the NBA had a much shorter offseason, one move has flown under the radar: the acquisition of a player who’s used to mucking it up with the Western Conference’s best bigs. Let’s look at the deal that brought Williamson a strong teammate and how they’ve fared in New Orleans so far.

Zion Williamson’s strong teammate

Steven Adams and Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans look for a rebound
The Suns’ Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker and the Pelicans’ Steven Adams and Zion Williamson go for a rebound | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

During the offseason, details, New Orleans was part of a four-team trade that landed them guard Eric Bledsoe as well as center Steven Adams from the Thunder.

Known as one of the NBA’s toughest big men for years, Adams has been the glue that anchored the defense while the offense went through stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The 27-year-old is regarded as tough to move off of his spot in the post. Fans often see him altering shots and showing off his ability to lobby for position in the post.

The Pelicans’ record so far

Although Williamson and Adams make for a tough one-two punch to attack on offense, the Pelicans haven’t seen that translate into many wins. At the time of this writing New Orleans is 11-14, coming off of a 143-130 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Williamson is having an MVP-caliber season, averaging nearly 25 points and seven rebounds per game. 

Adams is putting up a respectable eight points and nine rebounds per game. But his defensive plus-minus rating of -1.0 is glaring to us. The Pelicans rank 23rd in points allowed per game (113.8) and are 26th in defensive rating. You can’t win championships without defense, and it seems the Pelicans roster doesn’t have the playmakers on that side of the ball to make a run at the title.

Can New Orleans be a playoff team?

It’s a challenging year to fight for the playoffs in the West. The Pelicans are currently two and a half games out of the No. 8 seed (currently the Golden State Warriors), according to ESPN. But the teams ahead of them right now will be tough to catch. The Grizzlies and Mavericks both have players in the backcourt who can carry them into the playoffs.

Lonzo Ball and Bledsoe make up a decent back court. But when it comes down to a playoff push, can the backcourt be trusted to make enough stops in crunch time situations? The extremely young roster only has three players with five years of experience or more (Adams, Bledsoe and JJ Redick). That lack of experience makes the closing months harder to handle.

There are potential rumors swirling that New Orleans could make a few moves before the trade deadline, reports the NBA Analysis Network. We think a smart play would be to ship out Bledsoe or Redick for a younger athletic player, while possibly picking up a draft pick or two in the process. If the Pelicans decide to keep the roster intact, they could be looking at another offseason without the playoffs.