New Orleans Pelicans have the NBA’s most underrated frontcourt

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 19: Nikola Mirotic
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 19: Nikola Mirotic /

The New Orleans Pelicans may have the most underrated frontcourt in the NBA

The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the generic NBA fandom last season by sweeping the higher seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with ease, in the first round of the playoffs. However, looking objectively, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. 

As the Pelicans, led by Anthony Davis, had one of the league’s most underrated frontcourts. Something that they managed to add to it this summer.

During the offseason, the Pelicans add Julius Randle from the Los Angeles Lakers, an odd move (by LA) given that Randle is one of the league’s best one-on-one defending stretch forwards and a solid core player for any NBA team. Randle averaged 16.1 points, eight rebounds and 2.6 assists last year with LA.

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Another potential steal that the Pelicans tallied this summer was the addition of Jahlil Okafor. Even though he’s had his rough spots to begin his NBA career, the talent is clearly there. I don’t think anyone can deny that.

Now, this kid can score at will off two man plays, passing the ball inside-out and back to Okafor to beat his man, one-on-one.

If the Pelicans have Davis as their mean jelly bean starter, they just got a reload in their new bigs who will both complement each other, even Nikola, with their distinctive games.  The only problem with all three bigs, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle, and Jahil Okafor is that playing minutes may be rationed according to who plays best alongside Anthony Davis.

Which if you check their games using the eye test, all three actually can play at up to two at a time combinations with Davis. Julius Randle and Davis can play rim-running offense from defensive stops and blitz plays.

Nikola Mirotic and Davis have already established their scoring machine tandem in the Portland Trail Blazers playoff match up where they swept a strong shooting team.

While Jahil Okafor will allow Davis to roam the midrange and even play center-guard slasher (Davis was a high school point guard who grew really tall) and receive less punishment in the paint from defenders, because the former No. 1 draft pick is going to score at will in the paint.

In his Rookie of the Year run, Okafor gunned for 17.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. It is a performance he can easily replicate given playing time and a team offense built around his strengths as a strong post up player.

With Okafor alongside Anthony Davis, it might be a chance to reverse that situation with Okafor as low post scorer and Davis handling more of the out-of-the-paint game. And the Pelicans still have Mirotic and Randle as probably the best young stretch 4’s playing the game today, both of whom were not really given a chance to shine in their previous teams.

Nikola Mirotic has already proven his scoring game from inside and from long range, and people forget he was the best player in Europe at the time he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls.

The only downside to all four breaking out this season is if the backcourt loads up on the offense instead of getting their bigs their scoring sock and then playing off their stronger frontline.

If the Pelicans choose to bank up on their forward and center offense instead of their guard scoring, they could give any team a run for their money running a traditional NBA offense instead of the high octane guard shooting deal we see with teams like the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors.

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After all, Anthony Davis’ team swept a guard scoring team in the playoffs and should prove more than a match against any other team given their new bigs.