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2020-21 Pelicans Season in Review: Kira Lewis Jr.

  • Age 20
  • Experience One seasons (one with Pelicans)
  • Games Played/Games Started 54/0

As was the case for New Orleans teammate and fellow recent first-round draft pick Jaxson Hayes, early in Lewis’ rookie NBA season, it didn’t look like he’d be on the court much, but as the season progressed, the Alabama product gained valuable experience. Lewis and the Pelicans are hopeful those minutes pay off in Year 2, as they did for Hayes.

Lewis appeared in only 21 of the season’s first 36 games, but he played 33 of the final 36, partly due to injuries to backcourt players Lonzo Ball and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

“The opportunity for him to play these minutes will give him an opportunity to understand what it takes to be successful and productive in this league,” Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon said. “If he didn’t have that chance to get true, meaningful minutes – to have good games and bad games – he would never understand going into the offseason what it really takes. He has that barometer, and we’re going to really attack some of those things he can get better in. He’s got so many things he brings to the court – the change of pace, the electric speed, explosion and ability to get in the paint. And he’s a really good passer.”

Indeed, Lewis demonstrated his potential during the second half of 2020-21, including a series of games in which he figured prominently in wins over quality opponents. During a seven-game April stretch, he shot 9/22 from three-point range, but his perimeter accuracy fluctuated, as is the case for the vast majority of first-year guards coming from college hoops. Next season, he’ll focus partly on upping his shooting percentages of 39 percent from the field and 33 percent on treys (coincidentally, almost exactly what Alexander-Walker shot as a rookie).

    Kira Lewis Jr. Key Stats from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • PTS Per Game 6.4
  • AST Per Game 2.3

“The areas where he’s got to improve are his decision-making and shot-making in the paint when he gets downhill (driving to the basket),” head coach Stan Van Gundy said of Lewis. “He’s had trouble on those shots, particularly from the restricted area out to the arc. He’s certainly shown he can get downhill. He’s a work in progress defensively as well. He’s got quickness; he plays hard. He’s gaining the experience and the reads – when to go over picks, when to go under, being more active. He’s got a long way to go, but the fact he’s been able to play every game here in the second half of the year is certainly going to help.”

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Lewis also hopes to get stronger during his first normal NBA offseason, while maintaining his elite quickness.

“The main thing is adding on weight, but at the same time, making sure I’m still explosive, not putting on too much weight and losing a step,” he said. “I’m going to do the best I can to gain weight and keep my speed, to be as effective as I can.”

Lewis, Hayes, Alexander-Walker and Zion Williamson were all first-round picks over the past two years, giving New Orleans a large crop of early-20s youngsters with promising futures.

“We’re really confident that we have rotational pieces moving forward,” Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin said. “We hope Kira becomes that, someone we can count on to play winning basketball in a playoff-caliber setting. We don’t know that yet.

“I think you’ve seen Kira show flashes; I think you’ve seen him show a lot of the work he has left to do, particularly from a strength standpoint on the defensive side of the ball.”

Kira Lewis Jr. | By The Numbers

  • 8

    Rank among all NBA players in assist-to-turnover ratio for Lewis, who finished his rookie campaign with 124 assists against only 34 turnovers (3.65 ratio). First-year guards are often mistake-prone, but Lewis had six games of 20-plus minutes with no turnovers.

  • 96.8

    Free-throw percentage for Lewis after the All-Star break. A very good foul shooter in college (79 percent in two seasons with the Crimson Tide), he was 30/31 from March 18 through the end of the regular season. He shot 84.3 percent overall (43/51).

  • 38.1

    Lewis three-point percentage in the 27 home games he played in the Smoothie King Center. Like many young players, he was more accurate at home than in less hospitable road arenas, shooting 28.1 percent from beyond the arc in his 27 away games.

Kira Lewis Jr. | Most Notable Games from 2020-21 NBA Season

  • #1, March 23, New Orleans 128, LA Lakers 111

    Lewis led a stellar performance by the Pelicans’ bench by scoring 16 points, his top offensive output in a New Orleans victory (season high was 21 points vs. Atlanta on April 2). He also dished out a season-best six assists and went 3/5 from three-point range against Los Angeles.

  • #2, March 27, New Orleans 112, Dallas 103

    In the most efficient offensive game he played as a rookie, Lewis shot 6/7 from the field, en route to a 13-point night vs. the Mavericks. As a playmaker, he did not commit a turnover while handing out five assists, one of three Lewis games of five-plus dimes with no miscues.

  • #3, March 14, New Orleans 135, LA Clippers 115

    Perhaps his best all-around outing, Lewis notched 13 points, three rebounds, four assists and two steals in 27 minutes against the Western Conference’s eventual No. 4 seed. He shot 6/11 from the floor, helping the Pelicans build a 27-point lead through three quarters.

Sourced from Pelicans

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