With 15 seconds left, leading 109-107, the New Orleans Pelicans delivered a glimmer of faith amidst a month of frustration.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker dribbled around Charlotte Hornets defender Caleb Martin, drawing center Bismack Biyombo’s attention, freeing Jaxson Hayes for an opening at the low block. The pair of Pelicans’ first-rounders connected, allowing Hayes to take one dribble, position himself in front of the rim and dump in a hook shot.
About 12 seconds later, the Pelicans won a close game. A particularly rare feat for this squad. And they did it on the backs of their two second-year reserves, who just two months ago were marooned to the end of the bench for weeks at a time.
Is that enough to call this year a success? Of course not.
But, it’s also too easy to only label this a lost season.
Individual development matters. Especially for the Pelicans’ class of 2019.
While Zion Williamson is the All-Star, centerpiece and main attraction with the world’s most obvious growth curve, the complementing selections around him have quietly grown into reliable reserve roles. What looked like a lost cause has now morphed into optimistic curiosity, as Hayes and Alexander-Walker grow into the next phase of their careers.
They are far from known entities right now. But it’s also not fair to brand them as failures, which was an easy label to apply just a few months ago.
But where is the line between individual…