Didi Louzada is officially available — what he’ll bring to the Pelicans now and later

Didi Louzada, Sydney Kings, New Orleans Pelicans

Photo credit: SLAM Online

Didi Louzada will be available for the New Orleans Pelicans in a regular season game for the first time tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Taken with the No. 35 pick in the 2019 NBA draft, Louzada was selected as a draft and stash project by the Pelicans, due to David Griffin and the rest of the front office seeing his potential as an NBA-level, three-and-D player.

Given the Brazilian’s inability to speak English, his slight frame and need for growth in the knowledge of the game of basketball, the move was made to send Louzada to play in the National Basketball League (NBL) as a member of the Sydney Kings. Louzada spent the entire 2019-2020 season and part of the 2021 season in Australia. During his 2019-2020 campaign, Louzada spent time under head coach (now an assistant with the Houston Rockets) Will Weaver, while also playing on the same roster as NBA veterans Andrew Bogut and Casper Ware, as well as another new Rocket, Jae’Sean Tate. 

There’s several reasons for bringing over Louzada at this point in the season, but there are three key factors. Due to injuries sustained by the backcourt of New Orleans (Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Lonzo Ball at one point in time), the Pels were in need of filling a roster spot. Louzada’s frame and skillset foot the bill. Along with the fact that the Pelicans are hard-pressed against the luxury tax (his tax hit would count as zero years of service because he was drafted by the Pels) and the fiery Brazilian has a lot to learn about what New Orleans does on the floor, the timing makes sense. 

Over 40 games with the Kings, Louzada averaged 9.5 points, 1.9 assists and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 39.8 percent from the field and 29.8 percent from three in 23.5 minutes a game. Not exactly gaudy numbers for a player who was seen as having super-star potential in the NBL. However, there’s been no love lost by Griffin since sending Louzada overseas. 

“We were able to get Didi really far ahead of the curve in his development,” Griffin said in March of 2020. “Because we knew unequivocally that (Weaver) and his staff were going to do a phenomenal job. It was a really positive thing for us that Sydney was the team Didi ended up with. His development on a very veteran team that had the best record in their league the vast majority of the season, as a starter and defensive stopper, is exactly what we wanted. The future is very bright there as a potential three-and-D stopper who can guard multiple positions.”

The question remains, though: why such optimism despite the lack of statistics to back it up?

The topic was discussed on a recent episode of Pelicans Plus, where lead writer for the NBL website and co-host of NBL Overtime on ESPN Australia, Liam Santamaria, joined the show. 

The excitement surrounding Louzada is largely based on his defensive intensity and engagement. His perimeter defense is widely renound in the NBL. 

“He’s been an impact defender for the Kings this year,” Santamaria said. “Adam Ford (current head coach for the Kings) has had the ability to put Didi on the opposition’s primary offensive weapon on the perimeter. … He’s been a really good on-ball defender. His ability to fight over picks, impact the ball, play from a low, wide base, be really physical and use his lateral quickness: those things have been big (positives).”

He’s also shown great off-ball defense this season: 

Along with building his reputation as a defensive-minded wing, Louzada has shown time and again that he’s willing to make winning plays. 

Considering the amount Stan Van Gundy has mentioned the issue of defensive pride and lack of getting back on defense, a player that brings the desire to win like Louzada could be huge for New Orleans for the remainder of this season as well as next year. 

Pelicans fans got to see a glimpse of what Louzada can do in the 2019 NBA Summer League: 

“He plays the game the right way,” the former NBL player said. “He plays with great passion and energy each possession. He has not been an issue in defensive transition. He’s locked in. He gives tremendous effort, he fills the lanes offensively and he’s a guy who appreciates the success of his teammates.”

His increase in size over the past two years has aided in his drastic improvement on the defensive end as well. According to the ESPN story that reported Louzada would be making his way to the United States, the now 6’5, 210-pound wing gained 40 pounds in his span training with the Kings and their staff. 

“(When) he came over he was quick, light and athletic,” Santamaria added. “He’s combined that now with a little bit of extra strength that will provide him with some extra stead as he plays against some more physical guys at the NBA level.”

The increase in size hasn’t just improved his already high-level capabilities on the defensive end, though. Didi can get aggressive and attack the basket when it’s the smart move to make. 

“He looks like he’s made a concerted effort to put heat on the rim,” Santamaria said. “(Around the rim) is where (his added weight) becomes most apparent. He has this tremendous ability to body-up, establish contact as he’s attacking the rim, give a really well-timed bump to his defender that he’s got slightly out of position and then finish over the lip of the rim. … I’m hopeful that when he (plays for the Pelicans) he plays with the mindset of getting on the front foot — that he shows what he can do off the bounce. That’s something to be keeping an eye on. If he’s doing that, he’ll put his best foot forward.”

Santamaria also noted that Louzada isn’t known as one to necessarily beat his opponents off the dribble to the basket, but is best when he’s attacking off hard closeouts from opponents. Louzada’s ability to attack off the dribble will be beneficial at times for the Pelicans, but will still need improvement to provide consistent value in the NBA.

And now, the final and most justified concern surrounding what Louzada can and will provide for New Orleans — his shooting.

Based on the aforementioned stats over his two years in the NBL, the member of the Brazilian national team hasn’t shown much consistency in his stroke from deep. To be labeled a three-and-D player at the highest level, that 29.8 percent from deep will need to improve significantly. Louzada has also shot just 61.4 percent from the free throw line as a member of the Kings — a statistic that generally relates to efficient three point shooting. 

The brightside is that his percentages aren’t exactly indicative of what he could become for the Pelicans.

“His percentages shooting the ball have shocked me,” Santamaria added. “I expected him to be a much more efficient shooter, because it looks good. He shoots the ball with confidence. He has these games where he can’t miss! He has games where he goes 6-7 from three and follows it where he goes 0-5. When I watch him play and you evaluate his shooting technique, those are the games that are more surprising than when he’s knocking down shots. My suspicion would be that the Pelicans feel the same.”

While encouraging to hear that a basketball expert believes that Louzada can fix his shooting percentages, it also doesn’t hurt to have Fred Vinson on the sideline for the Pelicans. One way or another, Louzada’s jump shot is more than fixable. 

All in all, it isn’t likely Louzada gets much playing time unless the Pelicans fall out of the play-in conversation. Considering the upcoming schedule (76ers tonight, followed by the Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers to finish the season), it’s certainly possible for things to go either way. 

One thing is for sure, though — the Pelicans front office believes in the future of Didi Louzada, and he gives fans plenty of reason to be excited. 

Link to the podcast with Liam:

BootKrewe site: https://bootkrewemedia.com/2021/04/didi-louzadas-immediate-and-future-impact-with-nbl-expert-liam-santamaria/

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/didi-louzadas-immediate-future-impact-nbl-expert-liam/id1516066404?i=1000518157294

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5vFWUe5HdIdf00dx62dwx9?si=2iCTVQ3ARTmtgvlkmk4TJg

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