- NBA Rank: 29
Conference Rank: 14
- New Orleans Pelicans
A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belican
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.Dixon Lanier Merritt
Come on, pelicans! Fly, fly away!Tony Montana, while watching flamingos on TV in Scarface
You'd think a young team would have to improve right? But add up questionable drafting choices, bad free agent pickups, and a supremely tough conference and you get a result that won't be pretty. Somebody has to lose the games.
I suspect that by midseason, Pelican fans will actually wish they were Flamingos that could fly away. This is a team that has pretty high expectations, but they aren't really justified. Having said that, there's a fair bit of variability in the model, and it is mostly because it is very hard to tell by how much their young core will improve.
Two reasons that fans have high expectations for improvement are the acquisitions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. But as we'll evaluate below, there are lots of reasons that such optimism is misplaced.
|Greivis Vasquez ||2685||27||.111||6.2|
|Robin Lopez ||2136||25||.108||4.8|
|Roger Mason ||1219||33||.058||1.5|
|Xavier Henry ||625||22||-.035||-.5|
|Louis Amundson ||209||30||.130||.6|
|Dominic McGuire ||145||27||.129||.4|
|Hakim Warrick ||7||31||.326||0|
|Donald Sloan ||6||26||.017||.1|
|Henry Sims ||5||23||.244||0|
Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.
Last year's Pelicans got a bit unlucky in games (i.e. they lost more than their fair share of close ones) and in health (losing so many minutes to Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon, from whom they hoped a return to form). Davis, when he was healthy, looked every bit the dominant young big we expected him to be. Unfortunately, Austin Rivers also proved to be just as terrible as we expected him to be.
One big problem was that Ryan Anderson was a mere shadow of his former self. It was troublesome that his offensive rebounding dropped off a lot. I've speculated that this also explains why his shooting efficiency and his free throw attempts went down -- fewer offensive rebounds means fewer putback "gimmes". Furthermore, his attempts from 3-9, 10-15, and 16-23 feet all went up, while his 3-pt field goal attempts did not. Increasing your midrange shot attempts isn't part of a modern NBA recipe for success. If Anderson's performance in Orlando had as much to with playing alongside Dwight as some think it did, the Pelicans must hope that playing a full season next to Davis will help him return to form.
Another big problem was shooting guard. Austin Rivers is a shooting guard who cannot shoot, so his poor performance here wasn't surprising, and Eric Gordon's rehab clearly wasn't over yet. Roger Mason provided the only hint of competency at the two last year.
One thing that wasn't really a problem was the point. Vasquez was servicable if not spectacular, which is why it surprised me that the Pelicans gave up so much for Holiday. Giving up next year's number one pick and the potential to have a future twin terror front court just to make a moderate upgrade at point guard (come on folks, they didn't exactly get Rajon Rondo here) was, in my opinion, the height of lunacy.
|Jrue Holiday ||1.0||2890||23||.116||7.0|
|Tyreke Evans ||2.2||2290||24||.095||4.5|
|Greg Stiemsma ||5.0||785||28||.064||1.0|
|Jeff Withey ||5.0||663||23||.015||.2|
|Lazar Hayward ||2.7||276||27||-.031||-.2|
|Anthony Morrow ||2.5||190||28||.032||.1|
Indicates that the player is new to the team.
As you can see, our projection is that Holiday won't really move the needle by replacing Vasquez. Don't get me wrong, his play style will be very different. We just don't see that translating to wins. The preseason seems to indicate that Davis will be a beast, but sadly for Pelicans fans, our numbers already project that.
And here's where it gets confusing. Given that shooting guard was such a sore spot for them, one would think the acguisition of Evans, who's begun to develop into a productive player, would solve that problem. And normally, I'd agree. Except that it appears the Pelicans plan to play Evans at the 3 some of the time, or the point. Their problem is that if they insist on giving Gordon and Rivers minutes, there is just no room to showcase their best talent. Aminu should be getting the bulk of minutes at SF, and instead we project that he'll get fewer minutes while far inferior wing players will start.
Compounding all of this is that they gave up Lopez to get Evans, meaning that now the backup center minutes have gone from "perfectly servicable" to "Oh my god what is Greg Stiemsma doing to that poor ball?" and "Why does Jason Smith still get money for playing basketball?" So, even if Aminu gets to keep his minutes, getting better at shooting guard while getting worse at center doesn't usually create more wins.
The best-case scenario is that Anthony Davis goes from "beast" to "monster" and Eric Gordon has a 5th season that takes off where his second season ended (and before his injuries), and Jrue Holiday makes an unexpected improvement. Oh, and somebody in management decides to finally pull the plug on the Austin Rivers experiment. But I wouldn't advise a betting man to go for that parlay.
The Second Opinion Arturo offers some harsh truth
The worst-case scenario is actually that Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon can't stay on the court and the combo of Greg Stiesma and Austin Rivers gets to start games in a division featuring, by my numbers, three contenders and a dark horse. Not good times.
Big fan of the under for this team. Particularly since their 2014 draft pick is top 5 protected (i.e. if it's pick 6 or above they lose it). Combine that with the fact that they have an uphill climb for fourth in their division? They're going to be tanking on Bourbon street.