Oct 25, 2013, 8:44 AM EDT
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.
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.
May 3, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Nobody wanted to talk about the future in the wake of an emotional loss.
May 3, 2015, 9:30 PM EDT
The Grizzlies have some work to do defensively to slow Curry.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT
Harden comes in second in the voting.
May 3, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
He was loudly booed by the Oracle Arena crowd.
May 3, 2015, 6:17 PM EDT
Memphis, minus Mike Conley, looks completely overmatched (as expected)
May 3, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT
Divisions and seeding have been a source of controversy recently.
May 3, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
It was a tale of two halves, and the Wizards took the key one.
May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT
Most major media members picked the Spurs.
May 3, 2015, 3:08 PM EDT
Beal looked to be in significant pain.
Doc Rivers on whether Chris Paul will play in Game 1 vs. Rockets: ‘If I had to guess, I would say no’
May 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Paul battled through a hamstring injury during his incredible Game 7 performance.
May 3, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
Wizards could make things difficult on the top-seeded Hawks.
May 3, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT
Cavaliers could be OK against the Bulls (even without Kevin Love), Warriors remain favorites and more lessons from the first round
May 3, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT
Thibs may not want to go to Orlando if he becomes a free agent as a coach.
May 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
The Clippers got a free look at the final play.
May 3, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
Tell me again how he can’t win the big one.
May 2, 2015, 11:53 PM EDT
There’s not going to be a better series these playoffs.
May 2, 2015, 10:56 PM EDT
It was going to take a shot like that to win this, the best first-round series in recent memory.
May 2, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
He was out for eight minutes the Clippers were only -2.
May 2, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
Dudley has player option for $4.25 million for next season, but hopes to back in Milwaukee regardless.
May 2, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT
The Warriors (and the Bulls, and the Hawks) may have something to say about that.
- Ginobili, Duncan, Popovich dance around questions about Spurs’ future 0
- Reports: Stephen Curry to be named MVP Monday 26
- Hawks start hot, finish cold, Wizards take Game 1 on road 104-98. 6
- PBT Second-Round Playoff Preview: Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks 4
- Adjusting for playoff rotations round two: Watch out for the Wizards 2
- Hobbled Chris Paul, Clippers’ role players do just enough to dethrone Spurs in Game 7 20
- Chris Paul banks in game winner to lift Clippers past Spurs (VIDEO) 28
- Report: Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy won’t be suspended for Game 1 against Cavaliers 22