2021-22 Pelicans Season in Review: Larry Nance Jr.

Age: 29

NBA experience: Seven seasons (one with Pelicans)

Games played/games started: 9/0

Key stats: 7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 55.1 FG percentage

Larry Nance Jr. 2021-22 Pelicans Season Overview

Given the sizable impact he made in the Crescent City this spring, even avid New Orleans hoops fans might be surprised to realize that Larry Nance Jr. only played a total of 17 games and 350 minutes for the Pelicans. Then again, roughly half of that court time occurred during the postseason, where the reserve forward/center delivered massive contributions in some of the club’s biggest wins.

Despite not making his New Orleans debut until March 24, the next month-plus for Nance was filled with noteworthy games, including him filling a vital role in a play-in win at the LA Clippers and two playoff victories over Phoenix. The Pelicans immediately benefited from Nance’s presence, winning five of his first seven appearances, highlighted by an April 1 road win over one of his previous teams, the Lakers.

“I love this group,” Nance said in his April 29 exit interview. “I think us not knowing much about each other, just being inserted into the lineup, I just tried to give the team whatever I thought they needed on any given night. Sometimes it’s offensive rebounds. Sometimes it’s being more aggressive offensively. Sometimes it’s less (aggressive). Every night it’s defense. For me, I was thrilled to be able to play. The wins and the playoff run were just icing on the cake.”

Part of the February trade that also yielded CJ McCollum and Tony Snell from Portland, Nance proved to be exactly what New Orleans’ second unit needed, a leader and versatile glue guy who filled in the gaps from night to night. That group morphed from one that provided below-average production early in 2021-22 to a game-changing force after the All-Star break.

“I would describe myself as a winning basketball player,” Nance said. “That manifests itself in a lot of different ways on a lot of different nights. Whatever the team needs from me. I was coming in with an open mind, and just trying to get in where I fit in. One thing I can tell you, there’s a place on every single team for a winning player. That’s all I tried to be night in and night out.”

Nance was forced to acclimate on the fly, debuting for the Pelicans in their 74th game of 82. Knee surgery kept him sidelined from Jan. 5 through his first New Orleans contest, but he described the procedure as one that helped him greatly.

“I didn’t even realize it, but a little piece of meniscus in my knee was bothering me for the last few years,” Nance said. “Getting that cleaned up and cleaned out, coming back and able to play this last stretch of games fully healthy was great. My body is in a great place right now. (I’m going to) take a few weeks off and get right back at it.”

Nance made the second playoff appearance of his pro career, having previously come off the bench for a 2018 Cleveland team that reached the NBA Finals. In between, he’s dealt with significant instability and upheaval, something he hopes to put behind him in Louisiana.

“I just finished Year 7,” the No. 27 pick of the 2015 draft said. “Willie (Green) is my eighth head coach. I’ve had seven different general managers. I’m so tired of it. This organization has been incredible since I got here. These people are great. The fan base is incredible. I would love to make this a permanent stay, but again, that’s not up to me. I have a year left on (his contract). I’ll play as hard as I can, be the good veteran in the locker room, and hopefully that leads to more years.”

Highlights: Larry Nance Jr. 2021-22 Pelicans Season Recap

Larry Nance Jr. By the Numbers

14.1: Offensive rebounding percentage for Nance during the playoffs, ranking him third among players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game (through Round 2). Jonas Valanciunas (19.2) topped the list.

1.4: Blocks per 36 minutes for Nance during the regular season, tied for the lead among New Orleans players with Jaxson Hayes.

9.2, 5.8: Scoring and rebounding average for Nance during the first round of the playoffs against Phoenix. Coincidentally, his father was a standout forward for the Suns in the 1980s.

Larry Nance Jr.’s Three Most Notable Games

No. 1: April 15, New Orleans 105, LA Clippers 101

The Pelicans overcame a second-half deficit to earn a spot in the playoffs, with Nance figuring prominently. His 14-point, 16-rebound, four-assist night featured 7/8 shooting from the field and seven offensive boards.

No. 2: April 19, New Orleans 125, Phoenix 114

An epic road playoff victory was highlighted by Nance registering 13 points and six rebounds in Footprint Center. He shot 6/9 from the field and the Pelicans were plus-8 with him on the court.

No. 3: April 7, New Orleans 127, Portland 94

Facing the team that traded him two months earlier, Nance helped the Pelicans secure homecourt advantage in the 9-10 play-in tournament matchup by posting 12 points and five rebounds.

From the 12

Each player review features a poll or question directed to the New Orleans fan base. For Nance, the question was: What were the most beneficial aspects of New Orleans acquiring him in a midseason trade from Portland?

@Kimballer5: Twitter memes. (Editor’s note: Nance was particularly fond of creating memes featuring rookie Herbert Jones, who at one stage apparently told Nance to reduce his production, but that did not seem to deter the veteran).