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Season Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

With the NBA season just a month away and the majority of player movement being done, I’m going to start previewing the teams. Based on my projected order of the standings, we’ll start at the bottom and work towards the top rotating between East and West. Past previews will be linked as well.

Atlanta Hawks | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls | Cleveland Cavaliers | Dallas Mavericks | Detroit Pistons | Los Angeles Clippers | Memphis Grizzlies | Minnesota Timberwolves | New York Knicks | Orlando Magic | Phoenix Suns | Portland Trailblazers | Sacramento Kings

Overview:

With a full season of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, the New Orleans Pelicans were in a prime position to dominate teams trying to play small ball. Unfortunately everything changed when Cousins went down with an achilles injury and the Pelicans were forced to switch their style of play. Niko Mirotic was acquired, and the Pelicans ripped off ten straight wins, and steamrolled the Blazers in their first round playoff series. Davis might have secured a spot as a top three player in the NBA and was completely dominant as a center. With two starters, Cousins and Rajon Rondo leaving via free agency, the Pelicans hope that they can regroup and continue to roll like they did at the end of the season. Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are free agent acquisitions that will play a big role, and Jrue Holiday will need to continue to play like an All-Star for the Pelicans to maintain their high level of play.

Photo courtesy of sports.yahoo.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of sports.yahoo.com — by Sean Taira

17-18 Stats:

Offensive Rating 107.7 (9th)

Defensive Rating 105.6 (14th)

Net Rating 2.1 (10th)

True Shooting Percentage 57.3% (5th)

Assist Percentage 62.7% (4th)

Rebound Percentage 49.4% (21st)

Turnover Percentage 14.4% (16th)

Pace 102.72 (1st)

Record 48-34

Key Additions:

Jarrett Jack PG (free agency), Elfrid Peyton PG (free agency), Jahlil Okafor C (free agency), Julius Randle PF (free agency), Troy Williams SF (free agency)

Key Subtractions:

DeMarcus Cousins C, Rajon Rondo PG

Two Stars?

The majority of the world has seen how good Anthony Davis is, but I don't think most people realize just how good he was after DeMarcus Cousins went down. Davis averaged 30.2 PPG, 11.9 RPG, and 3.2 BPG in the 33 games played post-Cousins. Holiday played in 81 games, the most since his second season in the NBA, and averaged 19.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 1.5 SPG, on a career high 57.0% true shooting percentage. Davis has entered the conversation as a top three player in the NBA, and Holiday played at an All-Star level especially when considering he is one of the best point guard defenders in the NBA. If both players stay health (a big if), there's no reason to think that the Pelicans can't continue their end of season success.

Depth

Last season the Pelicans were bad without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday on the court. Without Holiday, they posted a -7.9 net rating and without Davis they had a net rating of -5.1. Heading into the season the Pelicans have at best nine players they can count on, (Davis, Holiday, Elfrid Payton, E'Twaun Moore, Ian Clark, Solomon Hill, Darius Miller, Julius Randle, and Nikola Mirotic) but that doesn't account for injuries or poor play. Behind the first nine there are question marks and players picked up off the scrap heap. Consider the injury history of the players currently locked into the Pelicans rotation, things could go south quickly if injuries do start to mount up.

Hill, Miller, and Moore

Solomon Hill, Darius Miller, and E'Twaun Moore are the three guys expected to log the majority of the minutes at wing for the Pelicans. Miller was originally drafted by the Pelicans, flamed out and played overseas in Germany. Last season he came back and out of nowhere shot 41.1% from three. Hill is a low usage player, who is a solid defender but adds little offensively. Moore is another excellent three point shooter but struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Are any of these players reliable starters? If the Pelicans want to make some noise in the playoffs this season they probably need to upgrade their wing position at the trade deadline.

Player to Watch: Elfrid Payton

Photo courtesy of hoopshype.com — by Sean Taira
Photo courtesy of hoopshype.com — by Sean Taira

Payton came over from Phoenix, and has a shot to be a difference maker for the Pelicans. Payton has shown flashes in his career, but has it has been marred with inconsistent play leading to him signing a one year 2.7 million dollar contract this past offseason. Already being a negative on the offensive end of the floor, Payton posted a disappointing -1.95 defensive real plus minus, which ranked 77th out of 91 qualifying point guards. The Pelicans did have success last season with a non shooting point guard in Rajon Rondo, and Payton can hopefully step in a fill the void. Payton is running out of chances in the NBA and if he falters with the Pelicans he might be on the outside looking in.

Starters:

PG: Jrue Holiday

SG: Etwan Moore

SF: Solomon Hill

PF: Julius Randle

C: Anthony Davis

Reserves:

PG: Elfrid Payton

SG: Ian Clark

SF: Darius Miller

PF: Nikola Mirotic

C: Jahlil Okafor

Westgate Projected Win Total: 45.5

Projected Record: 44-38