NBA: New Orleans Pelicans year to soar
Let alone making it to the playoffs, questions were asked of the New Orleans Hornets (named Pelicans prior to this season) even being a competitive team after their top two scorers – Chris Paul and David West – departed for greener pastures prior to the start of the lockout shortened season.
What followed were two years of disappointments, finishing 21-45 (worst record in the West) in the 2011-2012 season and 27-55 in the following year.
This year’s performances were all the more disappointing keeping in mind they were expected to improve with the addition of 1st overall draft pick in 2012 Anthony Davis. However all they managed was to finish a place above last spot in the West.
That should sum up their condition in the league right now but opinions and predictions changed after reviewing the busy offseason the New Orleans Pelicans had.
They acquired All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia 76ers in a sign and trade on draft night, sending the 6th overall pick Nerlens Noel, 42nd pick Pierre Jackson and a protected first round draft pick in 2014 to Philly.
Two weeks later in a three-team deal, the Pelicans sent Robin Lopez to the Portland Trailblazers and Greivis Vasquez to the Sacramento Kings to acquire 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
Rather than building slowly through the draft, the Pelicans have jumpstarted the process by surrounding Davis with players who can complement his game better. Whether it’s enough to take their team from the basement of the Western Conference to the playoffs is hard to say but let’s take a closer look at their chances:
Effect of offseason signings:
If Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon could stay healthy through the season; the addition of Jrue Holiday certainly makes a serious back court contend with.
Coming off his best season for Philadelphia 76ers with career highs in point, rebound, steals and assists, Holiday is known for his speed and ability to quickly turn the corner and finish at the rim.
He is a proficient enough three point shooter (37.4%) to not allow the defence’s to sag of him. On a 76ers team bereft of talent, Holiday still managed to stack up eight assists a game thanks to his incredible lane penetrating ability.
The speed which allows him to be a great on offense is what will come to his aid even on defence. Along with Davis they would be one of the best pick and roll defences in the league with their considerable length and athleticism.
Evans, a 6 foot 6 inches shooting guard capable of playing the three is an asset. At his position to grab the number of rebounds he does and dish the number of assist he does his spectacular. He is the only fourth player to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists in their rookie season apart from Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and Lebron James.
Although playing at three he would be giving up inches on defence, his shooting percentage to go along with his ability to use his strength and speed to finish strong at the rim makes him a healthy contributor New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams cannot overlook.
Keep up the good work:
You would ask me what is good about a team finishing with the records that this team has in the past two seasons. Well it was their shooting from the free throw line. Ranked 8th in the league they were a 77.6% percent shooting team. Surprisingly, their trio of big men – Ryan Anderson, Davis and Jason Smith shot 75%.
To be able to play a line-up consisting of 5 players who shoot excellent from the field is a great assist.
Work on defence:
The New Orleans team ranks third worst in the league of defence. Only Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats rank lower. Despite grabbing defensive phenomenon Davis through the draft the team ended the season with a defensive rating of 110.1.
We all know how offense starts at the defensive end and the Pelicans need to pay attention there and defend their own basket if they want to fight for a playoff spot.
The best case scenario:
Their defence starts improving starting with Davis and Holiday doing a great on the pick and roll. Davis finally starts impacting the team’s defence with his long wingspan to block shots at the rim. If everything goes well, they might be contending for the last two playoff spots in the Conference.
The worst case scenario:
The trades don’t reap rewards and Pelicans have no option but to have patience with the squad, as they have traded a first round pick in the star-studded draft of 2014 to the 76ers. If the roster takes time to gel, then they could be faced with a similar prospect of disappointment.
But their off season activity and present roster should only see them going one place: up.