Starting Five: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Eric Gordon, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, PF Anthony Davis, C Greg Stiemmsma
Key bench players: G/F Tyreke Evans, PF Ryan Anderson, SF Anthony Morrow, C Jeff Withey
Offseason additions: Holiday, Evans, Stiemmsma, Morrow
Offseason subtractions: PG Greivis Vasquez, C Robin Lopez
FACT OR FICTION: “New Orleans Pelicans” has a good ring to it.
FICTION. Let’s move on.
FACT OR FICTION: The Pelicans did the right thing by trading for Jrue Holiday.
FACT. Potential is a funny thing. It’s impossible to put value on an unknown, so it allows us to overvalue just for the sake of doing so. Nerlens Noel, drafted #1 overall by New Orleans but subsequently traded to Philadelphia, is brimming with potential, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Today’s rim protectors are more valuable than ever because the league is moving toward efficient offenses. For example, the pick and roll is designed to give the ball-handler a plethora of options that result in high percentage shots, such as layups, corner 3s, and any open shots that may force the defense to foul. Furthermore, pairing Noel with Anthony Davis would give the Pelicans TWO protectors, which is a sweet fallback whenever the opposing offense forces one of them into a high-PnR situation.
If Noel were healthy, the trade would obviously be more scrutinized. But he’s not. The ACL injury severely depletes Noel’s potential and made this an easy decision for New Orleans. While many applaud Philly for essentially tanking, NOLA’s front office should be happy with this deal. No more shrugging of the shoulders after acknowledging that a first round pick won’t help you (read: Austin Rivers, who should STILL be at Duke).
If it weren’t for the all-world play of Paul George last season, Jrue Holiday would have been the 2012-2013 Most Improved Player. Holiday is strong on the dribble, has a deft left hand, and set career highs in points and assists last season. He showcases athleticism with above-average on-ball defense. And to build on his career season, he’ll be flanked by some young talent in Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Anthony Davis.
FACT OR FICTION: Tyreke Evans will be the Sixth Man of the Year.
FICTION, but he will make people think. Evans is not a superstar, at least not now. In Sacramento he was asked to do too much after a promising rookie season. Then, in an odd twist, he was asked to do too little this past season. Evans is a true athlete, so much so that maybe the Pelicans should go the football route and list him as offensive weapon, because we’re all still trying to find out his best position.
That may work in his favor as the Pelicans’ first guard off the bench. He’ll play a little quarterback and he’ll play off the ball on the wing, probably in equal portions. Coaches look for energy to come off the bench, and Evans will provide that jolt. He can check just about any guard in the league. If Monty Williams can connect with him, the sky is certainly the limit.
Best case scenario: 8th in the West. A lot of things will have to go right for New Orleans to make the playoffs, namely Anthony Davis making The Leap sooner than expected. But the Pelicans have the weapons to be the young upstart that has always contended for the last playoff spot, a la Baron Davis’ Golden State Warriors.
Absolute apocalypse: Noel comes back in January and shows glimpses of what he can really be. The new pieces fail to mesh in time, putting New Orleans in the early lottery once again…only this time, Philadelphia will take advantage. The Pelicans are all in right now for that reason, and that might be too much pressure for a young team.
Expected outcome: 5th in the Southwest, 12th in the West. The major issue is that New Orleans is playing in the best division in basketball, which means extra games against good teams.
Do you smell what MAMBINO is cooking? Check out the rest (so far) of our 2013-2014 NBA Season Preview series: