2015-16 NBA Record: 30-52
Additions: Buddy Hield (draft), Lance Stephenson (Memphis Grizzlies), E’Twaun Moore (Chicago Bulls), Terrence Jones (Rockets), Solomon Hill (Indiana Pacers), Langston Galloway (New York Knicks), Cheick Diallo (draft rights traded from Los Angeles Clippers)
Subtractions: Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets), Ryan Anderson (Houston Rockets), Toney Douglas (Cleveland Cavaliers), Norris Cole (free agency), Kendrick Perkins (free agency)
Projected Starting Line-up (via ESPN.com)
PG – Jrue Holiday
SG – Tyreke Evans
SF – Dante Cunningham
PF – Anthony Davis
C – Omer Asik
Last year was supposed to be a step-up year for the Pelicans, when they got new coach Alvin Gentry from the Golden State Warriors and their star player Anthony Davis was being touted as a candidate for MVP. However, none of these expectations materialised as injuries prevented the team from making any progress, missing out on the playoffs entirely. The Pelicans are hoping for a healthier 2016-17 and also hope to be more accustomed to Coach Gentry’s offense. The team lost two important pieces in Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson in free agency, but replaced them by signing many unheralded and underrated players such as Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore and Terrence Jones to help their team. It also helps that they drafted last year’s college basketball player of the year in sharpshooter Buddy Hield to replace Gordon.
As the face of the franchise, the Pelicans will only go as far as Anthony Davis takes them. However, during his young and promising career, Davis has been hit by the injury bug numerous times and here’s hoping that this season will be an exception. The Brow has never played more than 70 games in an NBA season, which is a huge concern. In order for the Pelicans to be a chance for the playoffs, Davis will have to play at an MVP-caliber level every night. Davis has been able to bulk up during his career in order to match his opposing bigs and he is effective as both a pick-and-roll man or a shooter from mid range. We know Davis has the length to block shots, but advanced statistics show he is not at the top of the defensive charts for his position. (ranking 16th among all power forwards on ESPN’s Defensive RPM statistic). The Brow will have to become more consistent on defense and form a chemistry with teammates, especially if injuries hurt the team again. Although Jrue Holiday has been listed as the starter, he is out indefinitely to be with his wife for an upcoming brain surgery. This means that guys like Langston Galloway, Tim Frazier, Lance Stephenson and Tyreke Evans will have to step up in the playmaking role. Frazier showed flashes in the last 16 games of last season. However, Evans is hurt at the moment, while Stephenson is not the same player he used to be back in Indiana. As a result, Anthony Davis may also have to become a playmaker from the front-court in order to nullify the fact that their true point guard is not playing to start the season. Rookies Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo are strong additions who can make an impact right away. All eyes will be on Hield, but his game translates very well in today’s NBA, as a shooter and efficient scorer. Quincy Pondexter is an important piece of the Pelicans for his three point shooting and lockdown defense, which is needed for this side.
The Pelicans will have to put their faith in Anthony Davis and hope he can become an iron man for this team. Davis is the number one option on offense and is just waiting to burst under Alvin Gentry. However, one issue for Davis is that he’ll need to communicate better on defense. The Pelicans had the third worst defense last season, giving up 107.3 points per 100 possessions. You can put this towards the injury bug, but even when the star players were on the court, the team struggled mightily. Nevertheless, the Pelicans are a playoff-caliber side when Davis, Holiday and Evans are all on the court. With Holiday out indefinitely and Evans hurt, it’s put more pressure on the role players to step up. I think because of this, the Pelicans will end up playing catch up all season and will end up last in their division.
Prediction: 5th place in Southwest Division