Today's installment of Better Know An Opponent focuses on the New Orleans Pelicans. Let's take a look.
Projected Starting 5
Projected Starting 5
Jrue Holiday (Stats)
Eric Gordon (Stats)
Greg Stiemsma (Stats)
Anthony Davis (Stats)
Al-Farouq Aminu (Stats)
2012-13 New Orleans
Hornets Pelicans By The Numbers:
Offense: 102.7 points per 100 possessions (17th)
Defense: 107.6 points allowed per 100 possessions (28th)
Net: -5.0 points per 100 possessions (25th)
Pace: 90.86 possessions per game (30th)
Games vs. the Brooklyn Nets:
February 9th -- New Orleans Pelicans @ Brooklyn Nets (StubHub)
March 24th -- Brooklyn Nets @ New Orleans Pelicans
Key Additions: Jrue Holiday (trade), Tyreke Evans (trade), Anthony Morrow (FA), Greg Stiemsma (FA), Jeff Withey (trade, rookie)
Key Subtractions: Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez, Lou Amundson, Xavier Henry, Roger Mason Jr.
Strengths: For one, Anthony Davis. Davis has the potential to be a terror on both ends of the floor as a pick-and-roll threat and rim protector. The Pelicans were a dismal 28th in the NBA defensively last season, but after a year of NBA seasoning you have to imagine a Davis-Stiemsma frontcourt pairing will improve that. Not only that, the Pelicans picked up All-Star (at least in distinction) point guard Jrue Holiday, who should complement both Davis and Eric Gordon well.
Weaknesses: Holiday may be a bit of fool's gold -- he's not a terribly efficient shooter and doesn't get to the line enough to offset his poor shooting inside the arc. Gordon is a very talented shooting guard, but he's oft-injured and has said openly he doesn't want to play for the New Orleans franchise. Outside of those three, the Pelicans don't have a lot of depth -- they're planning on bringing newcomer and "0 guard" (combo guard doesn't seem right here) Tyreke Evans off the bench as a sixth man small forward, which has potential disaster written all over it.
Why You Should Watch: Because Anthony Davis is a 7-foot pterodactyl armed with a unibrow the length of a Pelican's wingspan.
But seriously, Davis had a historic rookie season, arguably the best by any teenage big man ever. His PER of 21.7 and WS/48 of .159 are both the highest for any rookie forward/center in NBA history under 20 years old. He averaged 17-10 with over 2 blocks per 36 minutes, shooting just under 52% from the field. He was a monster in transition, converting on 78% of his attempts on the break, and was a devastating pick-and-roll threat. Watching him go up against Garnett & Lopez is sure to be a treat.
Plus, former Nets draftee Ryan Anderson and Brook Lopez were once best friends, and I'll take any excuse to post this video of the two of them at Comic Con in 2009:
Asking The Other Side: New Orleans Pelicans blogger Joe Gerrity of ESPN TrueHoop's New Orleans Pelicans blog Bourbon Street Shots.
Most important move: Bringing on Tyreke Evans seems like the obvious choice, but in reality they just slightly overpaid for a young quasi-star. The most important move was trading the rights to Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick (top-5 protected) for Sixers All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. That signaled the Pelicans are ready to shoot for a playoff spot, and that we can finally stop waiting for next year.
Expectations? Somewhere between 27 and 47 wins. I went with 37 for ESPN's Season Forecast, but if things click early on and they can avoid major injuries, it's possible this team will be in the playoff race. I don't think there's a team in the league that's harder to predict.
What's the team system? Drive and kick with some pick-and-roll magic. They have a lot of guys who like to create their own shot on the outside, and a few who can let it fly from deep. Expect Ryan Anderson to take a ton of threes, and for Gordon, Evans and Holiday to penetrate whenever they have the rock. Davis should have pretty much the same role as last year-- a cleanup guy on the boards who makes good cuts around the basket and runs the floor like a champ. I expect he'll wind up with a bunch more easy buckets this year a bit more this year as a result of the addition of three (if you count Gordon's return) scoring threats who can create their own shot.
Matching up with Brooklyn: Well, this is pretty much youth versus experience. Both teams will be trying to establish an identity throughout the season, making it pretty hard to predict just how they'll play each other. I believe the Pelicans to play at a much faster pace this year, so they may just try to run the aging Nets out of the building. Frankly I expect the Nets to be a superior team throughout the year, but on any given night the Pelicans will be capable of getting hot from the outside. When they do, watch out. They'll be a tough offensive team to handle.
The New Orleans Pelicans in under 100 words:
After a few years of waiting for something to happen, we're finally on the verge of a playoff run. That is, unless one of the million potential pitfalls comes to fruition. Gordon (or anyone) could get hurt, there could be insufficient shots leading to locker room problems, or it's possible that some of these guys just won't fit with the team. How about one word? WILDCARD!