Baller Mind Frame

NBA Season Preview: New Orleans Pelicans Team Preview

2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST

Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview

Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview

Top 10 by Position: PG | SG | SF | PF | C
Top 10 Lists: Sixth Men | Sophomores | X-Factors | Rookies | Games to Watch | Comeback | Contenders | Breakouts

Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five | Now or Never for Durant and Thunder After Injury

Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact

Media Day: Clippers | Hawks | Kings | Knicks | Magic | Mavericks | Nets

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

BMF-NOR

Most Important Player: Anthony Davis
Obviously, as the best player on the team and one of the up and coming stars in the league, Davis is the most important component to the team’s success. With Davis’ ability to impact both sides of the floor, he is truly one of the best two-way players in the league in just his third season. He has the ability to be the anchor of the defense, and the go-to guy on the offensive end, so Davis is very, very important.

X Factor: Jrue Holiday
A few years ago, Jrue Holiday helped lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a playoff berth and first round upset over the top seeded Chicago Bulls (albeit the Bulls were without Derrick Rose after he suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the series). Despite being known as one of the best young point guards in the league, he was traded to the Pelicans after the 2013 season in a bit of a shocking move by the Sixers, and the Pelicans thought they had their point guard of the future. But thanks to injuries, Holiday’s first season in New Orleans was a dud. Now, fully healthy, Holiday hopes to make himself and Davis the next great guard/big man combination in the league. Again, the talent is there, it is just a matter of staying healthy for a full season, specifically in the case of Holiday.

Rotations: New Orleans made one of the best moves of the offseason when they acquired Omer Asik. Bringing in Asik will allow Anthony Davis to play his natural position of power forward. A front court of Davis and Asik will almost certainly create nightmares for opposing teams.

The Pelicans starting lineup will probably consist of Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Davis and Asik. Ryan Anderson will most likely be the first big off the bench, while Luke Babbitt, John Salmons and Austin Rivers will probably be the first wing players off the bench. Towards the end of the bench, guys like Jimmer Fredette, Alexis Ajinca, Darius Miller, and Jeff Withey will probably see limited playing time. Finally, rookies Patric Young and Russ Smith should get their shots at cracking the rotation.

What Needs To Go right? Health. That’s the main point of emphasis for this team. Last season, both Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson each missed more than half of the season due to injuries. These two were supposed to start for the Pelicans, so obviously when two of your five starters don’t make it through half the season, your team is going to struggle. Anthony Davis also missed some time with injuries as well.

If this team is healthy, they will be competitive. They will have one of the best young cores in the league in Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. With the rest of the Western Conference getting older, the Pelicans can absolutely push for a playoff spot, if they remain healthy.

It’s Really Bad If … they can’t stay healthy for the second year in a row. The only way this team will be a competitor for a playoff spot is if they stay healthy. If not, it will be another disappointing season in New Orleans.

Bold prediction: The Pelicans will not only make the playoffs as one of the final three seeds (somewhere in between that 6-8 range), but they will push their first round opponent. That opponent will most likely be the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers.

PLAYER PROFILES

Alexis Ajinca, C
Strengths: Good size, high energy, athletic, good free-throw shooter.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t have a strong inside game.
Season prediction: Ajinca probably won’t see as much playing time this year as he did last, but he will probably still see 8-10 minutes a game. With Omer Asik now in the fold, the Pelicans will probably rotate primarily three bigs in Asik, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, but Ajinca could figure to be the backup center for Asik if the Pelicans choose to not play Davis at the five at any point.

Ryan Anderson, PF
Strengths: Great shooter, perfect complimentary stretch-four for a big man that primarily plays on the inside.
Weakness: Doesn’t have great size so opposing big men can take advantage of that matchup. Not overly athletic either, which is a switch from the other bigs on the roster.
Season predictions: Anderson could start, but the safest bet is that he will probably be the first big off the bench now that Asik is in town. Seems like Asik is affecting everybody’s minutes. Speaking of….

Omer Asik, C
Strengths: Excellent defender with great size. Good rebounder and overall post presence in the paint.
Weaknesses: Not going to give you much on the offensive end other than the dunk or layup set up by a teammate. Can also get a bit temperamental if he doesn’t start or receive the minutes he feels he deserves. Poor free-throw shooter.
Season predictions: If he starts, he and Anthony Davis will make up the most dominant defensive starting frontcourt in the league. He should average double digit rebounds, and with the weapons on offense that this team has, he might average double digit points as well.

Luke Babbitt, SF
Strengths: Good shooter with the ability to get hot fast.
Weaknesses: Not a great athlete or defender.
Season predictions: Will probably serve as the backup small forward behind Tyreke Evans. Probably won’t put up big stats, but should be a reliable shooter off the bench.

Anthony Davis, PF/C
Strengths: Great defender and shot-blocker. Super athletic. Good rebounder. Continues to improve offensively. Can score from the inside as well as the outside. Growing more into his frame, which will allow him to be very physical in a league with few great big men, especially paint presences.
Weaknesses: Does this guy have any? Well everyone has areas for improvement. For Davis, his main thing is staying healthy. In his actual game, as much as he continues to develop, there aren’t too many holes. Can probably become a more consistent shooter, but at this point we’re just picking at straws really.
Season predictions: Davis should be an MVP candidate this season (yes, you heard it here first). He quietly averaged 20 and 10 last season. This season, he will do it loudly.

Tyreke Evans, SF/SG
Strengths: Versatility. This is a guy who averaged 20/5/5 his rookie season while playing point guard. He’s now a small forward. Line him up at the one, two, or three and he feels right at home at each position. For his career, he is averaging 17/5/5. He’s almost a poor man’s LeBron statistically, which is still pretty impressive.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent shooter, struggles shooting from deep.
Season predictions: He’s expected to start this season. He’s probably going to average 15/5/5 or somewhere in that general area. Might not do anything great, but he will do a lot of things very well.

Jimmer Fredette, PG
Strengths: Shooting, shooting and more shooting. And did I mention…..shooting? You get the point.
Weaknesses: Undersized, and the position he plays (or is listed at) isn’t natural for him because he’s not a playmaker. He’s a shooter, not a distributor. He’s really kind of one dimensional, because the one thing he does great, he really can’t get set up for unless he plays off the ball.
Season predictions: The Pelicans have a crowded backcourt, so I don’t know how much time Fredette can expect to play. But when he does play, he will be looking to shoot.

Eric Gordon, SG
Strengths: Good scorer, solid frame for his position, strong one-on-one player.
Weakness: Short for his position.
Season predictions: Gordon should have a solid season especially if Holiday can remain healthy. Probably will average around 15 points per game.

Jrue Holiday, PG
Strengths: Good at getting to the rim. Solid shooter. Great size for a point guard.
Weaknesses: Health, but hopefully last season was an aberration.
Season predictions: If he can stay healthy, he will play a big part in getting the Pelicans to the playoffs. But staying healthy is the key. He and Davis have the potential to be a great inside/outside combination.

Darius Miller, SF
Strengths: Good size, pretty decent three-point shooter.
Weaknesses: Not overly athletic for his size, not a great defender.
Season predictions: Will compete with Luke Babbitt for minutes at the backup three position.

Austin Rivers, SG/PG
Strengths: Potentially explosive scorer, good one-on-one player.
Weaknesses: Undersized at shooting guard and not a good enough distributor to play the point for long stretches. A bit of a tweener who doesn’t do anything particularly great. Also struggles from the foul line.
Season predictions: Should be a solid option as a backup guard. Hasn’t turned out to be the pro that everyone expected but he still can be a very solid rotation player.

John Salmons, SF/SG
Strengths: Good three-point shooter, solid free-throw shooter. Excellent passer.
Weaknesses: Older player, might struggle defensively.
Season predictions: As the only player on the roster over 30, Salmons should be a good veteran presence for one of the youngest teams in the league. Will also compete for minutes at the two and three.

Russ Smith, PG
Strengths: While in college, was a good scorer and developed into a solid playmaker.
Weaknesses: Lacks size (just 165 pounds), struggled at times with decision making in college.
Season predictions: Will be interesting to see how much playing time he receives as a rookie. Behind Jrue Holiday, there is Fredette, but he hasn’t proved to be much more in this league than a shooter. Smith will probably get some time to prove that he should be the primary backup point.

Jeff Withey, C
Strengths: Good shot-blocker, athletic, solid defender.
Weaknesses: While having great height, he is still a bit skinny for an NBA center. Also doesn’t have a defined offensive game.
Season predictions: The Pelicans are deep at the center position with Asik, Davis (who is still capable of playing the 5), and Ajinca. Withey might get some time for his shot-blocking ability, but the team already has a great shot-blocker in Davis.

Patric Young, C
Strengths: His actual strength. This guy is as strong as an ox and built like a small truck (reminds me of Ben Wallace, physically). Athletic, should be a good defender in the league.
Weaknesses: A bit undersized for the center position (measured at 6’9″ or 10″ depending on who you ask). Still developing an offensive game. Can’t move to the four offensively because of his inability to score away from the basket.
Season predictions: Same story as Withey; deep rotation so he will have to fight for minutes. Should serve as a high-energy guy when he does get in the game.

SOME EXTRA PELICANS THOUGHTS

2013-14 Record: 34-48
Key Losses: Al-Farouq Aminu, Brian Roberts, Jason Smith, Anthony Morrow
Key Additions: Omer Asik, John Salmons

Significant offseason moves: The Pelicans weren’t overly active during free agency this summer, but they did trade for former Houston Rockets center Omer Asik in a very underrated and unheralded move. Bringing in Asik should work wonders for the Pelicans on the defensive end and in the rebounding department. If he starts, the Pelicans will have one of the best defensive tandems in the league between him and Anthony Davis.

Team’s biggest strengths: This team has the potential to be a defensive juggernaut, especially in the post. With Anthony Davis now probably moving to his natural position of power forward with the welcomed addition of Omer Asik, teams are going to really struggle to score in the paint against New Orleans.

The other strength that the Pelicans will have is versatility on the offensive end, as they have several players who can score on their own. Davis has developed a nice inside/outside game as seen through the FIBA tournament this summer, Tyreke Evans is a career 17 point-per-game scorer, and Jrue Holiday also has an ability to create for himself as well as for others. So this team should not struggle to put up points while also having the capability of stopping teams on a given night.

Team’s biggest weaknesses: Youth and inexperience. The Pelicans do not have a lot of guys with playoff experience. In fact, most haven’t even been in situations where they’ve played meaningful games in April and beyond. So while the talent is obviously there, the know-how isn’t, which might make it difficult for them to make a playoff push come April.

Goals: Playoffs. Simply put. For a team with a budding superstar in Anthony Davis and the solid contributors around him, the Pelicans should be looking to get into the field of 16 come next season.

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