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Anthony Davis' Playoff Arrival Highlights Pelicans' Flawed Construction Plan

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; Anthony Davis' postseason excellence indicates the New Orleans Pelicans had the right idea when they opted to build a win-now roster around the transcendent superstar. They just picked the wrong guys to do it. New Orleans' current series against the ...

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Old 04-22-2015, 07:32 PM   #1
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Anthony Davis' Playoff Arrival Highlights Pelicans' Flawed Construction Plan

Anthony Davis' postseason excellence indicates the New Orleans Pelicans had the right idea when they opted to build a win-now roster around the transcendent superstar.

They just picked the wrong guys to do it.

New Orleans' current series against the Golden State Warriors has revealed a supporting cast that isn't up to the task of complementing an obviously battle-ready leader. While Davis has excelled, his teammates, for the most part, haven't done enough to keep pace.

After Game 1, SB Nation's Tom Ziller wrote: "Golden State was content to let other Pelicans beat them, because, frankly, the other Pelicans cannot beat them."

True enough.

Through the first two games of the series, only Eric Gordon and Quincy Pondexter have joined Davis in averaging double-figure scoring. And while it's unfair to take a small sample against the league's best defense as evidence of the rest of the roster's shortcomings, the last few years of substandard support for Davis show this is no anomaly.

The Pelicans took a risk in mortgaging their future after landing Davis in 2012, shipping out draft picks and bringing in established veterans instead of growing organically like young, up-and-coming teams in their position often do.

The Oklahoma City Thunder stand as the blueprint for the approach New Orleans didn't take.

Since Davis has so clearly arrived as a megastar in his third season, it appears the Pelicans were actually right to surround him with talent that was, theoretically, ready to win now. But the players the Pelicans chose don't appear capable of maximizing what's possible with a superstar such as Davis, which makes it sting all the more when considering what could have been if New Orleans had held on to the commodities it surrendered.

The Main Moves

Having drafted Davis in June of 2012, the Pelicans (then Hornets) took a gamble in matching an offer sheet Eric Gordon signed with the Phoenix Suns in July. Despite just nine games of evidence the year before and apparently unworried by the fact that Gordon urged New Orleans not to match, the Pelicans took the plunge.

The results haven't been good, as Gordon has missed an average of 26 games per year over the last three seasons. And other than a nice uptick in long-range accuracy in 2014-15, Gordon's production has mostly disappointed.

The following summer, the Pellies gave up Nerlens Noel and a first-rounder for Jrue Holiday. That deal, more than any other, highlighted New Orleans' desire to sacrifice the future for immediate help.

Holiday is an injury-prone mid-tier point guard in a league full of them. He hasn't been healthy enough to contribute in the Pelicans' ongoing series with the Dubs. Worse still, Noel has become a defensive star who could have easily fit alongside the increasingly perimeter-savvy Davis in the most fearsome defensive frontcourt in the league.

Toss in the deal that brought in over-dribbling possession-eater Tyreke Evans two years ago and the swap that sent a first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for Omer Asik last summer, and you've got the core that has mostly failed Davis in this postseason.

There's obviously a component of bad luck here. Holiday and Gordon have both been hurt, and there was no way to be sure how quickly Noel would become a viable cornerstone. And it's also true that the Asik-Davis-Evans-Gordon-Holiday five-man unit was terrific during the regular season in its limited time on the floor, posting a net rating of plus-11.3 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com.

The overarching point, though, is that Davis is ready to dominate now, and his teammates, due to insufficient skill or unfortunately recurring injury, aren't ready to help.

What's the Solution?

The good news is that Davis is so absurdly talented that finding the right pieces to surround him shouldn't be that hard.

"I see the gift, and when you have that, it's your responsibility to get the most out of it," Pelicans head coach Monty Williams said of Davis after Game 2, per NBA.com.

Williams was talking about Davis' heavy postseason minutes, but he might as well have been laying out New Orleans' franchise-wide mantra.

New Orleans has about $40 million committed to next year's salaries (not counting cap holds), and it can leverage some of that financial flexibility to address its holes in the middle and on the wing. Replacing Asik (an unrestricted free agent) and Alexis Ajinca should be a major priority—assuming the Pelicans intend to use Davis out in space instead of on the block.

There are options in this year's free-agent class, but one stands as the most promising fit...and he's familiar. Robin Lopez, whom New Orleans sent off in the sign-and-trade that brought back Evans, will be available. And he's exactly the kind of affordable, defensive-minded center the Pelicans should target.

Another fun option up front if the Pellies want to get creative: Paul Millsap.

If Al Horford can play center alongside Millsap in Atlanta, surely Davis can do the same in a much stretchier, ridiculously skilled New Orleans frontcourt.

On the wings, guys such as DeMarre Carroll and Danny Green could offer the size, shooting and toughness combination the Pelicans aren't getting from Evans or Gordon, both of whom lack two-way versatility.

Depending on how aggressive the Pelicans are about restructuring, a potential Gordon trade could free up enough cash to really revamp the roster.

The good news: There are options out there, and your personnel doesn't have to be perfect when you've got a guy who can do this, per NBA on ESPN:

The better news: Either way, the Pelicans have already covered the hardest part of building a franchise. They've got Davis, and there's now absolutely no question he's capable of being the best player on a contender. Anyone who watched him this year—and even in his struggle with the fearsome Warriors during the postseason—knows AD has what it takes.

Now, the Pelicans have to hope a significant supporting-cast overhaul doesn't result in a short-term step backward.

Davis has one more guaranteed year on his deal before he'll be due a qualifying offer ahead of the 2016-17 season, which means it won't be all that long until his potential dissatisfaction with the roster could lead to him scanning the NBA landscape for greener pastures.

Good thing the Pelicans have always shown a willingness to prioritize the immediate future over the long haul. They'll need that approach to get the most out of their time with Davis—however long it lasts.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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