The Bird is the Word: Beware of the New Orleans Pelicans


Watch Out West, the New Orleans Pelicans are Coming

Last night, NBA fans were treated to tantalizing slate of games that included the defending champion Spurs in a dogfight with their rival Texans, the Mavericks, as well as the first Lakers-Rockets matchup with both Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant playing.

However, the most intuitive matchup of the night was at the Smoothie King Center, where the much-improved (and now healthy) New Orleans Pelicans played host to the rebuilding Orlando Magic.

This game wasn’t significant or telling in the sense that it was a potential playoff preview or a game that featured any type of rivalry or bad blood, but rather because it was a definitive statement made by a rising Western Conference power: the New Orleans Pelicans.

Despite the New Orleans Pelicans finishing last season 14 games under .500 and 12th in the West, they gave their fans reason to believe that they can make the playoffs this year.

This game wasn’t significant or telling in the sense that it was a potential playoff preview or a game that featured any type of rivalry or bad blood, but rather because it was a definitive statement made by a rising western conference power: the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans showcased an improved defense that stifled the Magic on offense, holding Orlando to 38.1 percent shooting, as well as forcing 18 turnovers. And on the offensive end, the New Orleans Pelicans dominated the boards by grabbing 26 offensive rebounds, which played a large part in the Pelicans scoring 101 points, a total that was higher than their average last year.

Although the Pelicans did play a Magic team that was missing Channing Frye and didn’t play Andrew Nicholson, the Pelicans big men were downright dominant. Anthony Davis, Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson combined for 43 rebounds. What’s even more impressive was that coach Monty Williams was able to play all three simultaneously, without compromising much spacing or efficiency, with all three big men having at least a +11 in plus/minus rating.

Furthermore, the Pelicans demonstrated some depth at the point guard position, something that injuries and lack of talent prevented them from doing last year. Even though Austin Rivers and Jimmer Fredette weren’t able to get things going from outside (0-5 from the three-point line) they showed that they can manage a game without making crucial mistakes, by combining for no turnovers and five assists.

The guards aren’t the only ones from the bench that look like they will improve the Pelicans’ fortunes this year. The aforementioned Anderson, who the Pelicans severely missed last year, looked like the perfect complementary piece to Davis and Asik, by scoring 22 points on 3-for-6 shooting from 3, while also posting a plus/minus of +18, good for second best on the team.

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As good as the bench looked, starters Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans were relatively underwhelming offensively, finished 12-for-34 for a grand total of 28 points. But the chemistry issues on offense were cloaked by the effectiveness of the three guards on defense. The Pelicans were able to switch, cover pick and rolls, and play passing lanes well with the three guards and Davis on the floor.

If head coach Monty Williams, Evans, Holiday and Gordon can iron out how offensive responsibility will be spread out amongst them, the New Orleans Pelicans will be difficult to contain moving forward.

Maybe the most convincing case for the Pelicans’ ascension this season was how superior Anthony Davis looked compared to anyone on the court, or anybody who played in any game, last night.

Defensively, Davis resembled a 15-year-old teen playing alongside a bunch of 10-year-old kids, swatting shots left and right, and finishing with nine blocks—the most in a season opener in the last 30 years.

[H/T Talkhoops — Youtube]

In addition to being a world-beater at blocking shots, Davis showed off the 15 pounds of muscle he added in the offseason by pounding the boards, tallying 17 rebounds, eight of which were offensive. Although, it was apparent that Davis was ready to battle bigger forwards and centers in the paint this season, he still hasn’t lost any of the mobility he had perviously, evidenced by this first quarter steal and dunk.

[H/T Thomas Then — Youtube]

He also displayed that mobility on offense; where he was putting on a clinic against the Magic big men featuring an array of spin moves, head fakes, face-up jumpers, put backs and post-ups. Davis eventually finished the game with 26 points, and more impressively zero turnovers, considering that he is a big man who touches the ball often.

Whether it was on offense or defense, Davis looked like he was in a class of his own, making unbelievable plays look routine and effortless, which is something the New OrleansPelicans will need him to do if they hope to make a playoff run.

With all the positives that the New Orleans Pelicans showed in their opener, they’re not a team without faults and weaknesses. Their lack of depth behind Asik and on the wings, as well as this roster’s tendency to get injured for long periods of time, should be cause for concern.

Those flaws notwithstanding, the New Orleans Pelicans exhibited the offensive versatility, defensive toughness and tenacity, and overall star power that indicates that they are ready to spread their wings and hold their own in the vaunted Western Conference.