After making their first playoff appearance since rebranding, we take a look at how the New Orleans Pelicans can continue to build
More from Sir Charles In Charge
- LeBron James working to assemble super team for USA Basketball in 2024
- Dillon Brooks proved his value to Houston Rockets in the 2023 FIBA World Cup
- NBA Trade Rumors: 1 Player from each team most likely to be traded in-season
- Golden State Warriors: Buy or sell Chris Paul being a day 1 starter
- Does Christian Wood make the Los Angeles Lakers a legit contender?
Despite getting swept by the Stephen Curry led Golden State Warriors in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs, this season still could be considered a success for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Once again, the Pelicans battled not only the tough Western Conference, including their own Southwestern Division which I consider the best division top to bottom, but also the dreaded injury bug. Much like last season, a number of their key rotation players spent significant time sidelined with a variety of injuries.
Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson each missed 21 games, Davis missed 14, and starting point guard Jrue Holiday missed 42. But despite all that, they still managed to go 45-37 and secure the eighth seed in the playoffs, marking the first playoff appearance for Davis and for the franchise since being rebranded as the Pelicans.
This was a solid season for them to build upon, and here’s a look ahead to the future of the franchise.
Locking up AD
The Pelicans are preparing to make a max deal offer to Davis this summer to keep him in New Orleans for the next five years, valued at over $140M.
Whether he signs that deal or not remains to be seen, but I’d imagine he’ll be a Pelican for the foreseeable future. He’s the centerpiece of the organization around whom they’re attempting to build. This construction will continue in the upcoming offseason.
There are currently six players, including Davis, who are under contract next season (estimated figures):
- Anthony Davis — 1yr, $7M
- Tyreke Evans — 2 yr, $21M
- Jrue Holiday — 2yr, $22M
- Ryan Anderson — 1yr, $8.5M
- Eric Gordon — 1 yr, $15.5M*
- Quincy Pondexter — 3yr, $11M
That means they have two primary ballhandlers, a stretch-4, a decent scoring wing, and a 3-and-D wing, respectively. With Omer Asik entering free agency, a rim protecting, rebounding big man becomes a high priority.
The Pelicans need to decide if they want to bring Asik back. His fit wasn’t always fluid this season, but perhaps another offseason could help remedy that. If the two parties part ways, the Pelicans will have to look elsewhere, such as in free agency, trades, or the draft.
DeAndre Jordan would be an intriguing fit with Davis, who’s versatile enough to play in isolation away from the basket or run their favorite high post pick and pop. It would be even more entertaining on the defensive end of the ball, as both are elite athletes and solid help defenders. However, Jordan is a stretch, even for the most imaginative minds.
(But if it happens, you read it here first!)
The next area they’ll have to address is shooting. I’d like to give credit where it’s due; The Pelicans were fourth in the league in 3-point field goal percentage. However, they were only 19th in 3-point field goals made. While Gordon had a great year shooting the three (45%), it takes more than one threat.
Think of teams like Golden State, Atlanta, and Cleveland. At any given time, there are at least two, and sometimes three or four, shooting threats on the court. Not only will that give Davis more room to operate, it’ll open the floor for their playmakers Evans and Holiday and for cutters to get easy looks at the basket.
Also, depending on the matchups, it could draw opposing rebounders away from the rim, thus bolstering their already impressive offensive rebounding.
The Pelicans should also not be afraid to shake things up a little bit. If the right piece is available, they’ve got two very valuable expiring contracts in Anderson and Gordon on the books next season. Each one could be a finalizing piece on a contending team that already has its core together.
I think New Orleans should be bold and shop one around, perhaps for an extra pick or player that can come in and immediately contribute. I’m not quite sold on the New Orleans core yet. Obviously, Davis is the focus. I think Evans can be a legitimately dangerous third option, though he showed this season he can be a reliable second option for long stretches. They’ll need to establish who’s going to be that second/third option, even if that player isn’t currently a Pelican.
Then once the core is secured, finding the right pieces to fit around them should be easier, because they’ll know what skillsets to seek out.
Jrue Holiday is a major question mark. I think he’s a solid point guard when healthy, but don’t forget that in the West, he’ll have to compete against the likes of Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul, just to name a few (and I know I’m criminally leaving several names off that short list).
He also hasn’t been healthy since his All Star season in Philadelphia. I think this is the position they have to address most aggressively. It’s not an emergency quite yet, but why wait until it is?
The point guard position is the glue position that keeps everything running like a well-oiled machine and if the point guard’s engine is faulty, then the whole ship sinks.
As of this point, it’s difficult to project goals because we haven’t seen yet how the offseason plays out; However, to set some premature goals, I’ll say the Pelicans should aim for a similar win total, dropping no more than three total games.
While I still believe they’ll be over .500 next season, the question is whether or not 44 to 46 wins will be enough to make the Western Conference Playoffs next season.
But just let this sink in for a moment: Despite their injury riddled season, these Pelicans were only five wins from 50. It’s not inconceivable that they could make another jump next season, especially once we see the moves they make in the offseason.
The sky’s the limit for this young team. Perhaps getting a little older could help, too?