Playoff Result: N/A
Key Additions: Jrue Holiday (trade), Tyreke Evans (sign and trade), Anthony Morrow (free agent), Jeff Withey (trade)
Key Losses: Robin Lopez (trade), Greivis Vazquez (trade)
Predicted 2013-14 Record: 35-47 (10th in West)*
What to Expect: There comes a time where a team that has their franchise number one pick on the roster decides to finally build around them. With the Pelicans, the process seems to come sooner than later with how they built around Anthony Davis going into 2013-14. They acquired an All-Star in Jrue Holiday and former Rookie of the Year winner Tyreke Evans to tackle the perimeter minutes around the University of Kentucky big man. By paying such large amounts for both – along with the max contract they have in Eric Gordon – they look to not be a bottom feeder in their inaugural season under their new nickname.
Will these moves be worth it, is a much different question. The Cavs tried a very similar set of moves with Larry Hughes and Damon Jones for LeBron in 2005, and the Magic brought in a crew of characters such as Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter to help Dwight. Neither team were able to convince their stars to stay, as the cast they brought in seemed insufficient. It seems like such a far day away, but wondering what will make this experience different in New Orleans.
In the more immediate scope, it is hard to dislike what New Orleans did this offseason. They picked up Tyreke, who really improved and inches closer to the shadow his historic rookie year casts over the rest of his career. Evans has also accepted the fact a bench role could be inevitable on this roster, which can be very beneficial to his new team. He can be the kind of high usage bench guy that really dictates the flow for New Orleans while many less talented players are on the floor.
The other big pickup was Jrue Holiday. While Jrue’s game has been highly criticized as of late, the fact remains he played well enough in the first half of the season to be an All-Star. He buckled in the second half, as the kind of offensive responsibility he had became too much. He’s still only 23 years old though, and is surrounded with more healthy talent this year than last. The kind of chemistry he could build with The Brow will be interesting early, but will be an upgrade to Greivis Vazquez instantly.
Unless the sharpshooting Anthony Morrow or rookie big-man Jeff Withey play bigger roles than expected, no other move the Pelicans made should make a huge impact. It will be interesting to see how Ryan Anderson – who feasted off of Greivis assists – will play with Jrue, and vice-versa. Also an interesting thing to look for is the amount of time Anthony Davis will play at center this year. Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma, and Jeff Withey are the only other big men outside of Ryan Anderson on the roster, and they range from unproven to untalented. Unless an unexpected pickup happens between now and the start of a season, Davis could see his minutes as center spike.
Al-Farouq Aminu isn’t a sexy re-signing, but a functional one. Aminu will likely be the best wing defender on the roster barring Tyreke progressing even further from last seasons improvements on that end. Al-Farouq may be flawed, but expect him to be defending the opposing teams most talented scorer most nights. Also watch second year player Austin Rivers. He was historically bad as a rookie, but will have the opportunity to change perceptions of himself. This year will be enormous from his career, as he may never have this much committed to him again if he puts up similar numbers to his rookie year.
Matchup with the Hawks: Unless we see an unexpected Finals this season, the Pelicans and Hawks will only meet two times during the regular season. It should be very fun when the teams do meet. Al Horford should prove to be a tough match for Anthony Davis, but the more interesting part of this is the fact Davis is one of the few big men in the NBA that actually can match Horford’s footspeed. Horford should still prove too much for Davis, but it won’t come in the normal fashion we see Al beating his defenders.
The table is really set for Paul Millsap to succeed in these battles, as he should be defended by Ryan Anderson. Anderson has been a defensive void most of his career, and nothing should change this season. One would think that Atlanta would have to get behind a strong effort from Paul in order to win.
On the wings – hehehehe bird puns – Atlanta seems outmatched on paper, but it should be closer than most think. Korver isn’t a player that gets the kind of recognition Tyreke Evans does, but offensively can be equally potent. The issue comes in him being athletically mismatched on defense whether he is guarding Evans or Aminu. As for Lou, he isn’t the scorer Eric Gordon is when Gordon is healthy, but can look to narrow the gap. Look for DeMarre Carroll to be a huge factor, as New Orleans isn’t exactly a deep team. If Carroll can be more effective than the crew of Rivers/Morrow/Aminu, that would be a huge swing in the Hawks favor.
As always, Jeff Teague could very easily be the tipping point in these games. If he can play to the level, or an even higher level, than Jrue Holiday, the Hawks day would become much easier. If Holiday beats Teague handily, the workload for Horford and company instantly becomes much larger. Dennis should be able to handle Brian Roberts with ease, and could potentially give Holiday fits when he guards the 5th year pro from UCLA.
*predicted record based on Bo’s ESPN Forecast projections for every team