Skip to content

ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: The New Orleans Pelicans

Oct 25, 2013, 8:44 AM EST

Anthony Davis AP

Last season: New Orleans final season as the Hornets wasn’t pretty. Eric Gordon was out much of the year, Anthony Davis showed promise but looked like a rookie at times, Austin Rivers looked like a mistake, they blew a 25-point lead to the Lakers, and they ended the season with 27 wins without even a sniff of the playoffs. The brightest spot (outside the promise of Davis) was the play of Greivis Vasquez… so they traded him away. We’ll get to that.

Signature highlight from last season: How about Anthony Davis tipping in a game winner?

Key player changes: The word came down from owner Tom Benson — speed up the rebuilding process. And with that Dell Demps took some gambles and did about as well as could be expected. He swapped “he could develop into a good player someday” Nerlens Noel and turned him into All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. Them Demps signed Tyreke Evans to a big free agent deal (too big?). Also on their way in were Greg Steimsma and Anthony Morrow via free agency and the Pelicans drafted Jeff Withey.

Gone are a couple guys they will miss (Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez) and some guys they won’t (Roger Mason, Xavier Henry, Lou Amundson).

Keys to the Pelicans’ season:

1) Can Eric Gordon stay healthy? After missing most of the preseason following another ankle surgery Eric Gordon stepped on the court for the first time last week and reminded everyone why he was a max deal guy — he can flat out get buckets. He has averaged 18.7 points a game shooting 56.3 percent overall and 50 percent from three in just 23 minutes a game in the three preseason games he played. When he’s on the court the Pelicans are a much more dynamic offensive team, but in the past four years he’s missed about half his team’s games. Will he be able to stay healthy, remain explosive, finish better at the rim and cut down on the turnovers we saw last season?

If the answer to all that is yes, will the Pelicans try to trade him? Buzz around the league is they will, but with three years and $44 million left on the deal good luck.

2) Can they be a good, or at least decent, defensive team? Two seasons ago they were a top-10 defensive team (Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, Emeka Okafor protecting the rim), but last season (after sweeping personnel changes) they fell to 28th in the league, allowing 107.6 points per 100 possessions. That has to improve dramatically if New Orleans’ playoff dreams are going to stay alive. Can a potentially undersized backcourt of Holiday/Gordon/Evans funnel perimeter players properly, and can  Davis protect the rim? Defense is the biggest key to the Pelican’s season.

3) How big a step forward can Anthony Davis take? This preseason he has shown the ability to get the ball, face up and attack the rim off the dribble (he’ll take the midrange jumper but that is a work in progress). Combine that with his fantastic finishing around the rim and he can put points — and he will do it efficiently (his true shooting percentage of 55.8 percent last year is amazing for a rookie). On the other end of the court he was a strong rebounder and shot blocker, but could improve as a man defender, particularly on the block.

The bottom line is Davis is a franchise big man, an anchor, a cornerstone. People who just saw highlights or looked at the numbers last year may not have been impressed with Davis’ play, but if you watched him you would be. He is going to be something special, the only question is how fast he gets there.

Why you should watch the Pelicans: They have potentially one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league with Holiday/Gordon/Evans. They could be a force of nature and pair well with Davis along the front line — and every one of them is under 25. This could be a young team of the future coming together, or the mix could just implode in the backcourt. Either way that’s just fun to watch.

Prediction: 43-39, which likely puts them in the mix for a playoff spot but just missing out on it. At least that’s the most likely outcome. But it is possible that they don’t defend that well, the Holiday/Gordon/Evans doesn’t blend well and the whole thing just blows up and costs coach Monty Williams his job.

Latest Posts
  1. Goran Dragic keeps his options open, says he’d consider coming to Knicks

    Dec 21, 2014, 9:30 PM EST

    Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, Cole Aldrich AP

    Of course he said he’d consider the Knicks, it’s just smart business.

  2. Sources: Kings prefer George Karl, not serious about hiring Mark Jackson

    Dec 21, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    George Karl AP

    The very public meeting with Jackson was leverage to help get Karl to lower his asking price.

  3. Brad Stevens insists he won’t leave Celtics for a college job

    Dec 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Brad Stevens Brad Stevens

    Stevens dismisses rumors of Indiana University.

  4. Iman Shumpert won’t require surgery for dislocated shoulder

    Dec 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EST

    Iman Shumpert Iman Shumpert

    The Knicks guard will be reevaluated in two weeks.

  5. Larry Sanders opens up about disastrous 2013-14 season

    Dec 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Larry Sanders Larry Sanders

    Everything went wrong for Sanders and the Bucks last year.

  6. Report: Lance Stephenson has clashed with Hornets teammates

    Dec 21, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets Getty Images

    Why else would trade rumors surface 20 games or so into his first season in Charlotte?

  7. Blake Griffin with dagger tip-in to lift Clippers past Bucks (VIDEO)

    Dec 21, 2014, 8:00 AM EST

    Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul AP

    The Bucks went heavy with Brandon Knight at the end of the game. That went about as well as you’d expect.

  8. Rajon Rondo’s career highlights with the Celtics (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:30 PM EST

    Rajon Rondo Rajon Rondo

    A final look back at Rondo’s time in Boston as he gets set to make his debut with Dallas.

  9. Report: Cavaliers GM passed on trading for Corey Brewer, hopes to add defensive big man instead

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    David Griffin AP

    Cavaliers are tied with the Pistons for 23rd in defensive efficiency.

  10. Report: Kings discussing trade for Deron Williams with Nets

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:11 PM EST

    New Jersey Nets practice 05/07/2014 AP

    Kings are looking to make a splash, and Williams has been made available in trade by the Nets.

  11. Report: Multiple teams contacting Suns trying to trade for Goran Dragic

    Dec 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EST

    Phoenix Suns Media Day Phoenix Suns Media Day

    Dragic will opt out of the final year of his deal to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Featured video

Jabari Parker injury latest for disappointing rookie class
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (7136)
  2. K. Martin (6850)
  3. R. Rondo (6606)
  4. C. Bosh (6503)
  5. M. Smart (6321)
  1. T. Jones (6082)
  2. T. Parker (6054)
  3. D. Rose (5959)
  4. A. Bogut (5842)
  5. B. Lopez (5708)