New Orleans Pelicans
Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews continues with Houston Rockets and their Southwest Division opponents. Next up the New Orleans Pelicans:
Record: (45-37) 8th in the Western Conference, 5th in Southwest Division, Lost in first round of playoffs to Golden State Warriors
Rank: Offense: 105.4 (9) Defense: 104.7 (22) Differential/Net: plus +0.7 (15) Pace: 93.7 (27)
- For a team with so much youth and natural athleticism not to mention Anthony Davis and Omer Asik it’s crazy they allow more shots in the restricted area than any other team as per John Shuhmann of NBA TV. They allowed (1.494 field goals which is worse than the Lakers and Sixers!)
- Or that they are the 26th slowest team in the Association
- And have rank 22nd on the defensive end!
- Anthony Davis joined elite company of 5 others (Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O’Neal and ABA player Artis Gilmore) as the only players to score 3800+ points, with 500+ blocks in their first 3 seasons.
Off Season Moves
Key Areas Needing Addressing:
- Improvement of Paint Protection
- Improved Defense
- Faster Pace
- Staying Healthy
Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:
- Alexis Ajinca – 4 years, $20M
- Dante Cunningham – 3 years, $9M
- Omer Asik – 5 years, $60M
- Eric Gordon exercises his option
- Alonzo Gee – 2 years, $2.75M
- Luke Babbitt 2 years, $2.5M
- Kendrick Perkins – 1 year, veteran’s minimum
- Norris Cole
- Anthony Davis signs a 5 year, $145M rookie extention
- Jimmer Fredette
- Jeff Withey
- Branden Dawson selected 56th in second round traded to L.A. Clippers
- Toney Douglas
Rising Star: Anthony Davis is the obvious answer, yet it’s more a matter of when he ascends then if he ascends. Staying healthy will be the priority as he starts the season with a very similar plot of several injured teammates out putting even more pressure on him to carry the team (thankfully he added between 10 and 15 pounds of muscle this summer, so putting the Pelicans on his back will be somewhat easier).
On The Bubble: Eric Gordon will earn $15.5 million this season in the last year of his contract. He’s failed to live up to the early hype he generated in the league, but this writer anticipates a productive season from him as he tries to nab another contract that will overpay him based on his lack of production until he’s enters another contract year!
Jrue Holiday (and Tyreke Evans) have certainly suffered their share of untimely injuries. While both players offer solid intangibles and could ascend to become part of the triumvirate Big 3 in New Orleans they need to get through a season healthy. Holiday has played a total of 74 games the past 2 seasons after registering between 65 and 82 games in each of his first 4. If Jrue can stay on the court this season his production and capabilities will remove a big portion of Davis’ load and if Evans can come back and play how he finished last year the versatility of the Pelicans sky rockets.
Best Case: Sure Anthony Davis is going to be dominant this season and will post numbers worthy of MVP consideration, but they are already starting the season with minute restrictions on Jrue Holiday and several key injuries (see below). Gentry will improve their offense (specifically pace and versatility) but how much can he do on the other end of the court? Best case scenario they get home court.
Anthony Davis is a freak of nature who has the capacity to be one of the best the game has ever seen, but he has to stay healthy
and he needs his teammates to as well
. Cut to present day and this is the list of players who’ll be out to start the season (and I point you back to the list of core players and key reserves!)
- Tyreke Evans – knee, targeting a Christmas return
- Luke Babbitt – hamstring, out indefinitely
- Norris Cole – ankle, out indefinitely
- Alexis Ajinca – hamstring, targeting early to mid November
- Quincy Pondexter – knee, targeting November
- Omer Asik – knee, targeting late October
And that doesn’t factor in Jrue Holiday’s restrictions or the fact Ryan Anderson missed 60 games two seasons ago and 21 last season making him susceptible.
Given the roster status to start the season Davis will quickly learn that intangible pressure of leadership. If there was a gaffe on the part of New Orleans management this off season it was not adding more veteran experience . Moreover the right veteran is key (an Andre Iguodala or Kevin Garnett type) to help show him the ropes, shoulder part of the load and accelerate his learning curve.
To that end, it will be interesting to see the exchange between Davis and Harden the next time they play Houston as he’s getting a first hand account of what the runner up to the MVP had to accomplish last season (and for the majority of the season).
Prediction: Expect the Pelicans to increase pace this season while expanding their offensive variety.It’s also safe to assume New Orleans and Gentry know how vital improvement on the defensive end of the court is.
Now that the Pelicans cleared the hurdle of making it into the post season their new goal becomes repeating that feat and getting to the next round. The West is stronger as a whole this season and there are other up and coming teams such as Utah and Minnesota who’ll also vie for the lower playoff seeds or potentially Sacramento if DeMarcus Cousins and George Karl can find common ground.
Looking at the Timberwolves specifically they’ve done a great job of bringing in solid veteran leadership and experience who’ll no doubt help expedite the young core’s growth. Despite losing out on Jason Terry look for New Orleans to continue pursuing veterans who can serve as Davis’ mentor on how to become a perennial playoff squad and teach him what’s required to push this young group up the ladder.
Ultimately health will determine if they are 6th, 7th or 8th seed or fall out of the playoffs completely depending on how many of the core players remain out. Until they add more veterans and iron man type players to the squad they won’t climb into the upper echelon of Western squads or get out of the first round.
Games versus the Houston Rockets
- December 2nd: At Toyota Center in Houston
- December 26th: At Smoothie King Center in New Orleans
- January 25th: At Smoothie King Center in New Orleans
- March 2nd: At Toyota Center in Houston
Fansided Affiliate Site: Pelican Debrief
Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.
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