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United States | Basketball: Missi Could Break The Mold For Pelicans Bigs

The Pelicans spent their first-round pick on Baylor center Yves Missi, a prospect we profiled in depth before the draft. He’s a monstrously athletic, mobile big with a huge defensive ceiling as a rim protector and versatile pick-and-roll defender.

Par panorama papers
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By Adam Newman

Missi is raw, especially offensively, but his presence above the rim should bring some value as a rim runner and rebounder. How will Missi fit on the current variant of this New Orleans team?

Currently, Missi is New Orleans’ only center locked on the roster for next season. They just traded Larry Nance Jr. in the Dejounte Murray trade and Jonas Valanciunas is an unrestricted free agent who New Orleans may not have interest in re-signing. We’ll likely see a full rebuilding of the Pelicans’ frontcourt room this offseason with Missi at the center of it. It would be surprising if the Pels entered the season with Missi penciled in as their starting five-man; that’s a lot to ask of any rookie, especially one drafted in the 20s who will likely take time to develop. Missi should be able to contribute as a rookie, even if the role is more limited to dunking and shot-blocking.

In the Zion Williamson era, the Pelicans haven’t rostered a center with Missi’s athletic gifts outside of Jaxson Hayes, who never found his footing in the league. Bigs like Valanciunas, Adams, and Favors all held down the middle but never skied above the rim like Missi. That vertical spacing is foreign and an exciting new avenue for the Pels offense, possibly leading to more easy assists for Williamson and company.

There’s some concern about Missi’s lack of spacing pairing with Williamson, as those two sharing the court for extended periods could muck up offensive flow without careful attention to detail. True spacing centers are hard to find, but rim-protecting ones are just as valuable for this Pels team. Last season, the Pelicans placed 25th in opposing rim finishing (65.1%) and Missi’s injection will work to correct that. 

If Missi hits his ultimate ceiling, he could impact the game like Jarrett Allen or Clint Capela, dominating above the rim on both ends with efficient off-ball scoring and defensive prowess at the hoop. Early in his career, Missi could look similar to rim runners like Daniel Gafford and Isaiah Jackson. He’ll make mistakes on both ends but the tools, athleticism, and defense will help him provide positive value when he’s on the floor.

New Orleans probably won’t roll into the new season with Yves Missi as their sole option at center. Even as a backup, though, Missi will have his shot to earn real playing time, adding a new dimension to the Pelicans. 

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