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RIVALRY WEEK: The Pelicans are coming, it’s just a matter of when

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The other team with a young sensation is poised to make a leap into the conversation out west

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

[EIC’s note: This is the third piece in a series we’re calling “Rivalry Week” — running up until the start of the season talking about Mavericks’ rivals, whether historic, current, imagined, or something else. The pieces will be sometimes serious, sometimes funny, and sometimes both. Catch the first two here and here!]

The Pelicans are coming.

After years of mediocrity led by supposed superstar Anthony Davis, the Pelicans might very well be on the verge of something. And of course, it’s right at the exact same time the Dallas Mavericks have something special of their own brewing with the pairing of Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

The arc of history bent on May 14th, 2019 when the New Orleans Pelicans, tied with both the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks in lottery odds, leapt to the top of the draft. With generational pick Zion Williams waiting at the top of the draft and Anthony Davis refusing to budge from his desire to be trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin had moves to make.

In mid-June, the Lakers agreed to send a king’s random to the Pelicans, including Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and future picks and pick swaps. Just days later on draft night, Griffin selected Zion Williamson number one, flipped the 2019 pick sent by the Lakers to New Orleans to Atlanta for their 10th and 15th over all picks, where the Pelicans selected Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. In free agency in July, New Orleans signed J.J. Redick and traded for Derrick Favors.

Between May 1st and July 31st, the New Orleans Pelicans transformed from a team on the brink to the NBA darling of the 2019-20 season.

The New Orleans Pelicans look exactly like the team for a future Dallas Maverick rival. Despite being in the same conference and division, the Mavericks and Pelicans have a fairly mundane history. They’ve played 63 regular season games, of which the Mavericks have won 41 times. The Pelicans own the lone playoff series win from 2008, when they defeated Dallas 4-1. During the Anthony Davis era (2012-13 to 2018-19), the Mavericks won 16 of 28 games.

With three games against New Orleans in the first twenty or so contests, things have a change to get heated quickly against a team that realistically has more top to bottom talent compared to the Dallas Mavericks. Though Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are at the top end of the talent pool for both teams, guard Jrue Holiday is an underappreciated gem and Zion Williamson may well prove to be a force of nature this season. Even players like Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball, both of whom I personally do not care for, are very talented at minimum.

Since Williamson will be in New Orleans for at least the next half decade plus and Brandan Ingram could well sign a multiyear extension before the season begins, the cores of both Dallas and the Pelicans could be set for some time, allowing for an organic rivalry to grow between two division opponents hoping to claw their way into the regular Western conference playoff crowd. That Williamson will miss the first contest against Dallas, the full measure of this potential rivalry may have to wait. But it will happen eventually.

Things don’t always come together as they should, just look around at how much player movement seems to happen every season. Yet the Southwest Division has two teams (and possibly three if you consider the Memphis Grizzlies) primed to grow with young, extremely talented players as we head into the future. Here’s to hoping for the start of a new rivalry in the 2019-20 season.