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The Pelicans should find more minutes for Jordan Hawkins moving forward

The Pelicans should find more minutes for Jordan Hawkins moving forward

When the New Orleans Pelicans were missing the services of sharpshooter Trey Murphy III to start the season, head coach Willie Green turned to rookie Jordan Hawkins. The 21-year-old from Connecticut can shoot the lights out and he filled in the shooter role nicely, becoming a release valve for drive and kicks to stretch out the defense.

In nine games as a starter, Hawkins averaged 15.4 points while playing 35 minutes a game. As the Pelicans got healthier, his minutes decreased. For his first 20 games, Hawkins averaged 26 minutes a game, stepping up as a reliable bench piece even as a rookie.

However, once Murphy returned, Green relegated Hawkins back to the bench, and he hasn't seen daylight since. Over his last 20 games, the shooting guard has averaged just 9 minutes per game (including four DNPs). He has been buried on the bench behind guys like Jose Alvarado, Dyson Daniels, and Naji Marshall all of who have played specific roles for the Pelicans over the past two years.

Despite this up-and-down role, Hawkins has delivered every time he has been given an opportunity.

While shorthanded against the Dallas Mavericks, Green started Hawkins again and the rookie had 34 points with 6 triples on 11-of-19 shooting from the field. He added 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, leading the Pelicans as they stole a game on the road without Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson and Murphy.

Hawkins has shown signs of improvement as the season has progressed. In his first few games, the usual scouting report on him was to run him off the three-point line. But on two separate occasions in the first quarter against the Mavs, he displayed an expanded way of attacking closeouts: dropping it off to his teammates twice (one to Daniels and one to Herb Jones) for an assist.

Improving his playmaking and consistently doing stuff like this would be the next step in his development and allow him to earn significant minutes again.

Another area where he could improve is the in-between game. While he doesn't have that elite burst that allows him to separate from defenders to get to the rim, he can just stop and shoot the pull-up jumper. Against the Mavs, Hawkins drilled three of these mid-range jumpers.

Given his natural ability to stretch out the defense because of his threat from deep, knocking down those middies will be essential to earn a place in Green’s rotation once again.

Hawkins' impact has become undeniable and he clearly provides value to this team. With his ability to stretch the floor as a respected shooter, teams won't sag off of him that much compared to his fellow reserves. This gives Williamson and Ingram more space when operating from inside the paint, and they know they have another guy they can kick out to when they get doubled and they trust him to knock down threes consistently.

In a league that values spacing more than anything, Hawkins should have a place in Green’s rotation.

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