New Orleans Pelicans: Big Moves Needed This Summer To Retain Anthony Davis Long Term


In order for the New Orleans Pelicans to keep Anthony Davis on board long term, they’re going to have to make some big moves this summer 

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The time for the New Orleans Pelicans to start adding significant pieces is now.

The Pelicans have spent the last few years watching their former No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, evolve into a legitimate star in the NBA, while hovering around the bottom of the Western Conference. This season Davis truly broke out, averaging 24.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on 54 percent from the field, and nearly three blocks per game — leading his team to the playoffs in the treacherous West.

His game improved considerably, and he figured out how to make his teammates better as well. This season for the Pelicans was like the montage scene from Hoosiers, where the team starts to figure everything out, and the star finally learns to hone his powers. The only difference was that the Pelicans season ended in the first round, and their coach was Monty Williams, not Norman Dale. Things probably would have gone better with 85-year old Gene Hackman as their coach than they did with Monty Williams.

The New Orleans Pelicans can now feel secure that they have the star they’ve been craving since they traded Chris Paul in 2011 — The Brow is a stud, and that isn’t going to change barring some sort of freak injury.

But what’s keeping Davis from leaving when his contract expires in two seasons?

Right now, the New Orleans front office is doing its best pre-Decision Cleveland impression; surrounding their star with subpar talent, expecting him to carry the team passing the ball to guys like Delonte West and Jamario Moon, or in Davis’ case, Jimmer Fredette and Luke Babbit.

Up until this season, it was fine for Davis to have a below-average coach, and a shoddy supporting cast; it wasn’t about winning at that point, it was about developing Anthony Davis into a star. But that period is over. It’s time for the New Orleans Pelicans to get aggressive, and begin building toward something big, or they will lose Anthony Davis when he becomes a free agent after the 2017 season.

They’ve made a step in the right direction already this spring, firing coach Monty Williams. In his five years in New Orleans, Williams sported a sub-.500 record, and made just two playoffs appearances. While that record and lack of success isn’t totally representative of Monty’s coaching ability — he lost CP3 in his second season, and has been handed a bad hand every year since — it was time for a change.

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Williams is an aggressively average coach, and that’s fine for an aggressively average team. But he was never going to be the coach that took the Pelicans to The Finals. His dismissal was inevitable, and even after the Pelicans snuck into the playoffs under Williams, the New Orleans front office continued to watch the water, not the current, and made the right choice.

Long term, Williams was not their man.

This next juncture is a huge one for the New Orleans Pelicans. If they bring in the right head coach, they could strengthen Anthony Davis’ ties to the organization, but if they blow it, and the new coach doesn’t pan out, or doesn’t click with Davis, they’ll be pushing him closer to the door.

So who might one of those right coaches be? Well the two biggest names available right now are Scott Brooks and Mark Jackson. Both of them have solid track records competing in the Western Conference, and would have the opportunity to get some revenge on their former teams. I mean, Jackson isn’t even discreet about his feelings for the Golden State Warriors and the way he was fired…

Tell me you wouldn’t watch every minute of a good Pelicans team led by Davis and Mark Jackson vs the Splash Bros. and the guy who took Jackson’s job.

As much as I would love to see that, neither one of those two are the best options for New Orleans. The man they need to get in order to keep Anthony Davis is Tom Thibodeau.

Despite his teams’ success in Chicago in the past, and their success this year, the writing is on the wall for Thibodeau to leave, and the Pelicans appear to the front-runners to nab him. It’s unclear yet whether the Bulls plan to fire Thibodeau, or attempt to trade him in the same way the Celtics traded Doc Rivers, but either way, the Pelicans need to be aggressive in trying to make him their next head coach.

Thibodeau and Davis know each other from coach Thibs’ time with Team USA, and bringing in someone with familiarity seems like a strong move in attempting to keep Davis around. I’d say the only thing that should stop New Orleans from going after Thibodeau is if it required trading an unprotected first-rounder, otherwise, it’s time for the organization to get serious, and make a big move.

The other key facet of keeping Anthony Davis is surrounding him with a legitimate supporting cast. Right now, Davis is being dragged down by a trio of overpaid, injury prone guards in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Eric Gordon, Omer Asik, who makes Kendrick Perkins look somewhat competent, and a cast of mediocre role players. Ryan Anderson is one of the league’s most efficient players, but he certainly isn’t anyone’s idea of the ideal second banana.

If the Pelicans really want to improve and contend, they need to bring in some new pieces.

The team will be unloading Omer Asik’s $15 million contract this offseason, and should look to use that money, and the cap space they already have, to improve the team around Davis. The team needs to get aggressive in free agency — there is no excuse, with their cap situation, for them not make a play for some above average pieces. They don’t need much, the team as is currently constituted was able to reach the playoffs in the Western Conference — no small feat-but they are nowhere near the level it will take to actually win in the Western Conference playoffs.

They need to make moves, and they need to make them now. The team needs to go after guards like Wes Matthews, Aaron Afflalo, or forwards like DaMarre Carroll, or big men like Tyson Chandler, Robin Lopez, and Brandan Wright. Any combination that includes a few of those guys, or similar players, would give Anthony Davis tools to work with in order to improve this team.

This free agent class also includes some strong, high character, veteran players-bringing in someone like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, or Jason Terry, or anyone but Amare Stoudemire, could have a profound effect on a young team.

The Pelicans should also try to be active on the trade front. I don’t see them trying to make any kind of big splash that would shake things up drastically, that would make very little sense for them at this point unless it’s for a major star. But I could see New Orleans being the third team that allows for a major trade to occur (*cough cough* Boogie Cousins to Boston) and acquiring an asset or two in the process.

I don’t expect anything major on the Pelicans’ part, just another few pieces to get them closer to where they want to be.

The New Orleans Pelicans will be set for the next 10 years if they can hold on to Anthony Davis. Age wise, he should still be in college (imagine this past season’s Kentucky team with Anthony Davis there too…sorry had to take a break to recover from that thought).

At 22, Davis has already become a star, and done things that very few players in the past have done. It would be foolish for New Orleans, who haven’t had any success — ever — to squander this opportunity.

The New Orleans Pelicans need to take a lesson from the Cavaliers, and make moves now, in order to keep their star later, because if they don’t, and their star does leave, he won’t be coming back.

Next: Cavs' David Blatt likely to be fired regardless of what happens this season