The way the New Orleans Pelicans reconstructed it’s team within the last 2 years is very impressive. Just one summer after finishing second-to-last in the West, the Pelicans have a very talented starting lineup. It started with picking Anthony Davis with the top selection in the 2012 draft and it didn’t take long to build around him. Not to say the Pelicans are done building a team, but what they have now can compete without a doubt. Let’s a take a look at New Orleans’ 2013-14 season preview:
Guards (B+): Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Brian Roberts, Anthony Morrow, Austin Rivers
The Pelicans made an excellent draft day acquisition, trading their lottery pick for Jrue Holiday. An Eastern Conference All-Star last season, Holiday is a proven point guard. He’s a highly efficient all-around player who can do a bit of everything. He has a respectable jumper, pretty good court vision, and has active hands on defense. Eric Gordon has a true scorer’s mentality but has struggled to stay on the court the last two years with injury problems. Hopefully that changes this season. A healthy Gordon would be a big X-factor for this team. Rivers didn’t have a great rookie campaign but he has time to improve, playing in this deep rotation of guards. Brian Roberts was one of the more underrated backups last season. He’s great at getting his teammates involved and he puts in substantial effort on defense.
Forwards (B+): Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas, Darius Miller (IR)
As well as Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans is another admirable talent who has been held back by injuries in the last couple seasons. Evans was excellent his first two years with Sacramento but his play, oddly enough, declined each year. I don’t think that’s too worrisome as the talent is definitely there and there haven’t been any major health conditions to be aware of. Evans’ natural position is shooting guard but he’s strong and athletic enough to compete with many small forwards. Ryan Anderson is starting the year off the bench but he’ll likely log the second most minutes at the forward position. All there is to know about Anderson is that he’s a deadly catch-and-shoot perimeter shooter. Even when he’s contested, he’ll fire up a three and often make it. Aminu has stuck around this organization since he was drafted. He should be a solid contributor, whether starting or coming off the bench.
Centers (B+): Anthony Davis, Greg Stiemsma, Jeff Withey
I’m aware Anthony Davis started at power forward in the preseason, alongside center Greg Stiemsma. But even if Stiemsma continues to start at center, he won’t play anymore than 20 minutes a game. With Anderson in the game, Davis is going to play center. Even with Jason Smith in the game, Davis will be the center despite his power forward label. The situation kind of reminds me of how the Wolves and Celtics treated Kevin Garnett’s position. Anthony Davis didn’t excel in his rookie season as much as some may have expected. However, he showed efficient all-around play, averaging 18.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, and 1.6 steals per 40 minutes.
Defense (B-): Anthony Davis’ rebounding and shot blocking are the best facets of his game. Davis’ presence on defense is well-known with him and his freakishly long wingspan protecting the basket. Outside of Davis, the rest of the team consists of mostly average defenders. Holiday is a pretty good defender but Eric Gordon’s weak defense helps even that out. Ryan Anderson doesn’t exactly utilize his size on defense either. On top of all that, the Pelicans are probably going to run up and down the court a lot, limiting their defense to a certain point.
Shooting (A-): Again, Ryan Anderson is lights out. That’s all that needs to be said about him. Anthony Morrow is also one of the purest long range shooters but usually doesn’t get much playing time. The starting guard duo of Holiday and Gordon will really hurt teams with it’s mid-range shooting, as both players shoot very well in that area of the court. Davis is just an average jump shooter but he has the touch to become an efficient mid-range shooter someday.
Experience (B-): Although most of these players are very young, they’ve shown they understand the game. Players such as Holiday and Gordon understand their role and have no problem fitting into an offensive system. This team will only continue to improve as it gels together.
Standing – 12th West: I know…after I’ve been preaching about how talented this team is, I’m putting it four spots out of the playoffs. Trust me, it’s not what they don’t have. It’s what too many other teams in the West do have.