While the New Orleans Pelicans started the 2022-23 NBA season on a strong note, one glaring problem stares them straight in the face: injuries.
In Tuesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, three of the five Pelicans starters were disabled with injuries.
Many thought prior to the primetime matchup that an exhausted Pelicans team would use this game to give replays to the younger players in the roster. Few thought they would win this game, let alone emphatically.
In the first seven of the competition, the Pelicans’ young guns put on a show for home fans, leading the Mavs 24-13. They finished the first quarter nine points clear and combined for 40 points.
While the Mavs eventually fought their way back into the Luka Doncic-led competition, the Pels held their own in a back-and-forth contest.
Featuring some of the best Pelicans players from the lineup, it was a big win for a team that ranked 11th on ESPN’s Future Power rankings for the same day. After such a victory, without the Pelicans’ two main stars, they will almost certainly rise to the top.
One thing became abundantly clear about the future of this roster after defeating the Mavericks: The Pelicans’ younger role-playing players are developing rapidly, leaving New Orleans with one of the deepest rosters in the NBA.
New Orleans Pelicans: Depth Overcoming Injury
Jose Alvarado, Naji Marshall and Trey Murphy combined for 50 points on 80 percent shooting from the field after making the start for New Orleans against Dallas. Larry Nance Jr., Devonte’ Graham and Dyson Daniels combined for 36 points on 61.9 percent of shots from the field when they came off the bench.
Each of these guys brought something different to the table. Alvarado and Graham delivered the decisive blow. Marshall and Nance brought the courage and Murphy played the role of do-it-all focus.
For Murphy in particular, this game felt like a coming-out performance. We all knew the potential he had from the University of Virginia, but when he showed all those skills in the form of a perfect evening of 22-point shooting from the field and from distance on Wednesday, fans must be excited about his future looks like in this team.
For Dyson Daniels, this game was his first real test. After playing just three minutes in Pels’ first three games combined, the rookie had 11 points, three steals and a block on 80 percent shooting in 22 minutes.
Marshall, on the other hand, may have proven his true worth to this team in Wednesday night’s win. In the last guaranteed season of Marshall’s rookie contract, he took on the opposing team’s toughest matchup and held his own.
While Luka ended up dropping 37 points, Marshall kept him on 2 of 13 shots from long range and played an aggressive defense throughout the game that kept things going.
These young Pelicans players gave it their all and showed their home fans why they should love this team. The injury virus will continue to plague the team this year but this time they have more depth to withstand it although obviously they will need to get their three starters back healthy to really compete.
The young role players are ahead of schedule and showing they can step up when needed, giving the New Orleans Pelicans a huge advantage in a long NBA season.
Whether by design or signing veterans like Larry Nance Jr., the Pels have invested in depth and it’s paying off.