3 Phoenix Suns Observations From Game One vs New Orleans Pelicans

Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Phoenix Suns Observation #2: Pelicans need CJ McCollum to Carry their Offense

The Pelicans acquisition of CJ McCollum could very well be the equivalent to the Suns acquiring Chris Paul in the 2020 offseason. After the McCollum trade went down with the Portland Trail Blazers on February 8th, the Pelicans posted a 15-14 record—they were 21-32 prior to it.

The only difference is that Phoenix has several other weapons besides Paul to sustain an elite-level offense. New Orleans only has Brandon Ingram as another top-tier scorer to threaten teams with. Besides Ingram, the Pelicans do not have anyone else available other than McCollum to sustain their offense at a league-average level.

The Suns realized quickly that the Pelicans offense depends solely on McCollum’s offensive brilliance as both a scorer and facilitator. McCollum is playing out of position at point guard, but the Pelicans have no one else who can consistently bring the ball up the court.

Notice how many Phoenix players swarm McCollum once he threatens to score. He has no choice but to give up the rock to a less-threatening Pelicans scorer.

To give you an idea of how much McCollum means to the Pelicans offense, they scored 37 points in the third quarter compared to 34 points in the entire first half. The only difference was that McCollum played reasonably well in the second half but had a terrible first half.

The Suns need to continue to pressure McCollum full-court with Cameron Payne, Mikal Bridges, and whoever else is capable of guarding him.

Phoenix’s depth represents a huge advantage in this series with how many defenders can pressure McCollum. The only way the Pelicans have a chance in this thing is if McCollum averages 30 points and 10 assists per game. His 25 points and 6 assists were too little and too late in this opening bout.