Season Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-two’s release of a season preview ends up being Anthony Davis’s New Orleans Pelicans. I will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.

New Orleans Pelicans:

Last Season’s Record: 45-37

Playoff Status: Swept 4-0 in the First Round by the Golden State Warriors.

New Orleans was not looked at as a playoff team going into the 2014-2015 season, they were looked at as a fringe team, likely in the 9-10 placement in standings. Anthony Davis did not let this happen, as he continued his rising dominance in the league. Davis was All-NBA, fifth in MVP voting, second All-Star appearance, lead the league in blocks for a consecutive year, fourth in scouring average, and eighth in rebounding. Now this was only Davis’s third year in the league, so he should only continue to develop into the mega-star he likely will become. However, the rest of the roster was not as dominate as Davis. Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon battled injuries, hurting the perimeter offensive and disrupting the back court’s rhythm throughout the season. Tyreke Evans looked like a way better player overall, and now looks to have found his spot in the league. The bench had quite a few floor spacers, but they never developed into a deadly unit. Even though New Orleans had to ride Davis the entire year, he was able to help the Pelicans fight off Russell Westbrook, and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final playoff spot. The playoffs were a learning experience for the Pelicans, as they found out Davis alone will not be able to lead them to a championship, and were eventually swept by the Golden State Warriors. The offseason was going to be about overall team development, and finding a new head coach, as Monty Williams was fired after the playoff loss.

New Orleans did not have a first round draft, as they had previously traded it to Houston, so their draft night was relatively quiet. In the second round, New Orleans selected, Branden Dawson, a small forward out of Michigan State. New Orleans traded his rights to the Los Angeles Clippers almost immediately, leaving for New Orleans to not have any draft picks in the 2015 NBA draft. New Orleans did sign a multiyear deal with undrafted rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones, a guard out of Iowa State, who will be able to contribute some offense off of the bench for New Orleans.

Heading into the offseason, New Orleans was looking at adding productive players to their bench, and finding a coach that fit their players. New Orleans signed Alvin Gentry to be their next head coach. Gentry will be a clear upgrade over WIlliams, and players have already talked about how much they like him this offseason during workouts, and what he has planned for them this season. Gentry will help maximize Davis’s potential, and should help him emerge as the best player in the league. The only free agents signed by New Orleans were Alonzo Gee and Kendrick Perkins. Gee will help bring proven depth to the forward position, while Perkins will bring a meaner attitude to the low-post, and a veteran leader for the playoffs. Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and Norris Cole were resigned this offseason as well. Although Asik and Davis were not a good tandem in the middle, New Orleans is hoping Gentry can figure them out. Ajinca helps bring a floor spacer to the bench, and standing 7-2, Ajinca is a huge mismatch, who is beginning to develop a better offensive game. Cole will help bring a spunky backup point guard, that can handle the offense and contribute offensively. The biggest move this offseason was the long-term extension of Anthony Davis. Davis will now anchor the city of New Orleans for the next half-decade. Although New Orleans is sticking with their roster from last year, the addition of Gentry should help keep New Orleans stay competitive, and make this offseason a successful one.

Heading into the season, the key question for New Orleans is whether or not they can stay healthy. Jrue Holiday can be a devastating two-way player when healthy, but since his arrival from Philadelphia, Holiday has not been able to stay healthy, hurting New Orlean’s development as a team. Eric Gordon will also need to stay healthy, and provide three point shooting for the squad. Tyreke Evans, as stated above has found his role in the league, and can be an effective third option for New Orleans to count on. Anthony Davis, well he will be in consideration for MVP once again, if he can stay healthy for the entire season he might win the award, and stake a claim for best player in the league. Asik will just need to keep playing defense and rebounding. Asik is not asked to score a lot, as he is happy doing the dirty work. The starting five has a ton of potential this season, but health will be the only thing that holds this unit back. The bench is a question mark on how big of an asset they will be. Ryan Anderson has said he lost 20 pounds this offseason, and is feeling better than ever, so he will be able to give New Orleans a destructive stretch four off the bench. The rest of the bench is still questionable for reliable production, but with Gentry as coach, he should be able to get the best out of his players. New Orleans will likely make the playoffs, with the talent fall off of Dallas and Portland, but without a solid bench they will not get far in the playoffs, and for that reason I see them as a playoff team, but not a contender just yet.

By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17

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