When the 2019-20 NBA season tips off, the New Orleans Pelicans will look like a completely new team. Only a few players (and likely just one starter) are returning from last year’s squad and there are plenty of new pieces to get excited about including Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, JJ Redick, Derrick Favors, Jaxson Hayes, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Josh Hart among others.
E’Twaun Moore, who’s entering his fourth season in New Orleans, can’t wait to take the court alongside his new teammates. Last year, he averaged 11.9 points on an incredibly efficient 48.1 percent shooting from the field and 43.2 percent from three-point range. HoopsHype caught up with Moore to discuss the Pelicans’ wild offseason, Anthony Davis’ departure, the Zion Williamson era, expectations for 2019-20 and more.
Before we get into this offseason, I want to talk about last season. With Anthony Davis requesting a trade and all of the behind-the-scenes drama, was it kind of draining to go through that?
E’Twaun Moore: Yeah, it was kind of crazy. With the trade [request], it brought a lot of uncertainty and we didn’t know what was going on. But with things like that, you just control what you can control, you know? You just go out there and play the game and focus on the team that’s there with you and ready to fight alongside you. It was a difficult time, but we got through it.
Throughout the year, did you look over your shoulder and worry that you could be traded? It’s always possible that you get packaged with Anthony in a trade and some wondered if the organization would blow up the roster and move other veterans (like Jrue Holiday) too.
EM: Yeah, of course. You have one of the best guys in the league asking to be traded, so that can change the whole franchise. You have to be prepared for anything. It’s definitely possible that you could be involved in any trade or any trade talks. But, like I said, you just control what you can control. You can’t tell yourself, “No, I’m not going to be traded. That’s not going to happen…” because it’s always a possibility. It’s always possible, especially when you have a top-tier guy like that getting traded. That can affect the whole franchise, so you just try to focus on the things you can control.
What are your thoughts on Zion Williamson’s game and how good he could be?
EM: Man, he’s a generational player. Guys like that come once every 10-to-15 years. He demands so much attention on the offensive and defensive end. He can control the game on both sides of the court and that’s very unique. Who wouldn’t want a player of that caliber on their team?! I’m definitely excited to have him on my side. I can’t wait to get the season started, man. I’m getting excited right now!
Because Zion requires so much attention from the defense, how much easier does he make things for you and what was your initial reaction when you learned you’d be playing with him?
EM: It’s great! He’s someone who demands a lot of attention on the court, so he can really help guys like me and JJ Redick. He’ll make things easier for us, and we’ll make things easier for him because guys won’t want to help off of us. If they do, we’ll be the ones to make them pay. We’ll help our team be dangerous.
Once Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, many people were surprised by how much you guys got in return. When you saw how much New Orleans was receiving, what was your reaction to the deal?
EM: Man, that was exciting! It was like, “Wow, I didn’t know we were going to get all of that back.” I just thought we’d get a couple young guys and that would be it, but we got a whole lot of young guys and draft picks! David Griffin did a great job with the transaction. I don’t think it could’ve been done any better.
Lonzo Ball is one of the young players you guys acquired. What are your thoughts on his game and what he’ll bring to the team?
EM: Lonzo is a floor general and a true point guard. Now, the game doesn’t have too many true point guards – it’s dying down because everyone is a scoring point guard. He’s a great player. I’ve always liked his game, even going back to his time at UCLA. He can do some things on the court that you can’t teach – that vision and feel for the game and ability to make certain passes and plays. Defensively, he’s very good. He might be underrated defensively. Guys don’t understand how much he impacts the game by pressuring the ball with him being a tall, 6-foot-6 point guard. Man, he’s definitely going to help us out a lot. It’s going to be exciting.
With Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday, that could be a dominant defensive backcourt.
EM: Oh man, they could be real dominant. Both of those guys hawk the ball and are really aggressive. They can both switch one-through-three or one-through-four. They can lock down most people. They’re going to make us very versatile and they’re going to be really tough to play against.
Brandon Ingram is also coming over in the trade. His development has been discussed a lot since he’s still just 21 years old. What do you think of Ingram’s game and what he could become?
EM: Oh man, I don’t think he’s come close to being the player he’s going to become in the next few years. I think he’s just now starting to feel out the game and feel out his own worth. He probably doesn’t even realize how good he’s going to be himself. He’s so young still. Sh**, he’s still got a lot of time. I think he’s really going to be nice and blossom over these next two years. That’s when you’re really going to see what he can do and be like, “Oh, wow!” He has so much potential. It’s through the roof. He could be one of those guys who we’re talking about as one of the best in the league.
You’ve always been someone who has helped younger players and mentored them. Are you looking forward to helping some of these young players and sharing your experiences with them?
EM: Yeah, I’ve had the chance to be on some really good teams. I haven’t won a championship, but I’ve been on some teams that were capable of winning a championship. I want to be a veteran presence. I’ll talk to these guys and share my advice with them, and I think that can help them and go a long way. Anytime you have good veterans, it definitely makes the transition a lot smoother for these guys – especially when they’re in their first few years in the league. I’m definitely looking to help them. When I was in Boston, I had vets like Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo who really helped me and instilled a lot of confidence in me. They gave me a lot of their wisdom and I definitely want to pass that along.
Speaking of veterans, I was excited when you guys added JJ Redick and Derrick Favors this summer. It shows that this team could be competitive right away and maybe even compete for a playoff spot this season. What did you think of those moves, and what can Redick and Favors bring to the team?
EM: Oh man, it was surprising! I didn’t know we were going to get those guys. When I saw it, I was like, “Oh, okay! Nice!” Those are two guys who have been key contributors on winning teams and they play basketball the right way. They bring that winning mentality and they’re great guys off the court as well. I got a chance to play with JJ in Orlando; he’s a great teammate and a great guy. I’m definitely excited to add those two guys to our team.
What aspects of your game are you focused on improving this offseason?
EM: I’m just trying to continue being a good overall player. I think my versatility is what has allowed me to bring value to our team. Some nights, I’ll be playing shooting guard or small forward; some nights, I’ll be playing mostly point guard. Either way, I need to be able to knock down shots, of course. I’m a shooting guard naturally, but I like being versatile. One of things I want to do is shoot more threes off the bounce.
This will be your fourth year with this fan base. Do you feel like the fans in New Orleans are rejuvenated a bit?
EM: Yeah, for sure. When I first got there, it was more about football. Actually, it wasn’t even close. So it’s been exciting to see them get behind our basketball team and see how excited they are about it. There’s room for us too. Every year, it’s been increasing more and more. More and more people are coming over to the basketball side. This year, it’s going to be cool to go to the games and see the full arena and know that everybody is excited for the new season.
Right now, we’re just talking about a team on paper, but when you look at this group and the potential, what are your expectations and how good could this team be?
EM: I mean, you never want to put a limit on it because you never know. If we play well and get hot at the right time, we could be a championship team. But, first things first, we need to take it game by game and try to get into the playoffs. That’s gotta be our first [goal]: becoming a playoff team. But I think we have the potential to go very far.