this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The Western Conference is a constantly evolving beast, but one that the New Orleans Pelicans were able to somewhat conquer with a playoff berth in 2014-15. New Orleans broke the bank with a five-year, $145 million extension on superstar Anthony ...
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|07-07-2015, 06:35 AM||#1|
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Have New Orleans Pelicans Done Enough to Get Anthony Davis into the Playoffs?
The Western Conference is a constantly evolving beast, but one that the New Orleans Pelicans were able to somewhat conquer with a playoff berth in 2014-15.
New Orleans broke the bank with a five-year, $145 million extension on superstar Anthony Davis in the wee hours of free agency, but will AD taste the postseason for a second time next season?
We know he’s going to be dominant again, and probably make an even stronger MVP case next year than he did in the one prior. And that’s saying something. But the Pels’ other moves this summer include re-signing Alexis Ajinca, Omer Asik and Dante Cunningham.
With the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs bringing in some heavy artillery, teams like the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz improving—and, oh, don’t forget about the Oklahoma City Thunder at full health—NOLA’s road back to a top-eight seed looks to be a bumpy one.
Unless they stay active.
Did They Need Asik?
Asik definitely brought value to the Pelicans last season. He did some heavy lifting on the boards and averaged 9.8 a game. The 7-footer was tied for sixth in the whole league in offensive rebounds per game.
Yes, Asik is a solid player—but he’s not a star. Why pay him like one?
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the franchise and big fella agreed upon a five-year, $60 million deal on July 2. For a player whose offensive game is about as sophisticated as a first-grade math class, that’s too much.
Add in the fact that Davis is believed to be more of a 5 than 4 under new coach Alvin Gentry next season, and the Asik signing becomes a real head-scratcher. Gentry’s coaching style is essentially turning the game into a run-and-gun track meet, and the lumbering, offensively challenged Asik doesn’t really fit that mold.
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver pointed to New Orleans' first-round loss to Gentry’s former team, the Golden State Warriors, as an example of why this could become a problem:
In the playoffs, it became clear very quickly that Asik was a major weak link during New Orleans's first-round series loss to Golden State. His presence on the court allowed the Warriors to ignore him and pay extra attention to Davis whenever they wanted. He also didn't engage with the necessary energy and determination on defense. Asik somehow managed to register just two field goals and zero blocks in 79 minutes during the series, and New Orleans was outscored by 36 points with him on the court. It was a full-out disaster, and the 28-year-old Asik isn't going to magically develop a better feel for the game over the course of this next deal. Williams responded to Asik's struggles by going smaller, a natural adjustment that the pace-loving Gentry is sure to consider as well.Ouch.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict Ajinca or Ryan Anderson eventually starting at power forward, with The Brow manning the middle of New Orleans' fast-paced attack.
Ajinca, a lanky Frenchman with soft touch and a smooth offensive arsenal, was a huge signing for the Pels, and it came at the bargain price of $20 million for four years. Ajinca could turn out to be a much more valuable piece than Asik, and he’ll make less than half of what the Turkish center does on a yearly basis.
The money used to bring back Asik could’ve been put toward a wing like Danny Green, who agreed to a four-year deal worth $45 million with the San Antonio Spurs. Even a sparkplug scorer like Lou Williams, whom the Los Angeles Lakers signed for a small price of $21 million over three years, could’ve been targeted.
Well, what’s done is done. But what else can the Pels do now?
One place NOLA can look to bolster its roster is through the summer league.
From its own roster, Seth Curry, Fuquan Edwin and Chinese shooter He Tianju are all worth a glance.
Curry is a former Duke product who has really improved his game in the D-League the past two years. In 2014-15, Steph’s younger brother dropped 23.8 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 48.4 percent from the field and hitting 46.7 percent of his three-point attempts.
Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans figure to dominate the ball-handling duties, but Curry could bring some much-needed three-point shooting to a team that ranked 19th in converted triples per game.
Edwin, a versatile forward out of Seton Hall, is a sound wing defender capable of knocking down an outside shot. He shot 36.4 from beyond the arc with The Hall and 39.8 percent in the D-League.
Edwin is also the Pirates’ all-time steals leader, a testament to his white-on-rice man-to-man defense and knack for jumping the lane. He’s similar to New Orleans’ Quincy Pondexter but could be a cheap option for depth purposes.
Finally, if nothing else, He is intriguing for his three-point prowess. Shark Fin Hoops’ Andrew Crawford broke it down with a guest column on The Bird Writes (SB Nation):
But what He does have in his favor is the ability to knock down three-point shots at a prodigious rate. In years past, He was respected for his accuracy from beyond the arc, yet this season he took things up to the next level. Taking an average of 5.3 shots a game from deep, the forward made 42% of them, but he also showed a real court-savvy for playing off-the-ball and drifting into the perfect spot to receive the pass. This year, he also started in the CBA All-Star game and finished the season within a hair of a famed 50-40-90 season.Granted, China is not the NBA. But He sounds like the type of assassin who would thrive in Gentry’s three-point happy system. When teams collapse on AD, he needs mobile shooters who know how to get themselves open.
Pair that up with the bulldozer driving ability of a player like Evans, and he suddenly becomes a potentially intriguing pickup.
The Las Vegas Summer League kicks off on July 10, so the Pelicans will have to keep a closer eye on their roster than most other teams, given their limited ability to bring in any more free agents.
But the Summer League isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Another avenue worth traveling—or at least thinking about—is a trade. Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post reported that the Phoenix Suns, who missed out on LaMarcus Aldridge, are interested in Anderson:
Anderson is valuable. Phoenix’s interest proves that teams would be willing to entertain the idea of trading for the stretch-4, especially as he heads into the final year of his contract.
If the Pels find a suitor willing to exchange a strong wing, some quality bench pieces and maybe a future pick or two, general manager Dell Demps shouldn’t hesitate.
Staying the Same… By Changing
The Anderson trade is only one example of what Demps could do to improve the Pels. He just needs to stay active.
Part of the reason that the team made the postseason last year was due to Demps’ proactivity in the front office. He took a chance by signing Cunningham, traded Pondexter for Austin Rivers and stole Norris Cole for the rock-bottom price of John Salmons.
All of those moves paid off in enormous ways. Demps found pieces that fit and meshed well together, so much so that the team rattled off a season-high five straight wins with AD nursing a shoulder injury from the bench.
The GM needs to stay consistent with what he did last year, and that doesn’t mean maintaining an identical roster. The summer is far from over, so there is still time to wheel and deal.
He began the offseason with a bang in canning Monty Williams (who improved the team each year during his tenure) after the franchise’s first postseason berth in four years. There is a chance Gentry could push this team over the top.
Still, booting proven success in Williams is a risk. And like some of the moves the team made last year, it could work.
After the Warriors won the title, Gentry yelled to Davis through a camera and told him that they’re going to get to the Finals.
Before worrying about that, the front office needs to work on NOLA's first back-to-back playoff berth since 2007-08 and 2008-09.
As of right now, with a thin bench and a hole on the wing, the Pels still have some work to do.
Davis will be a monster, but as we saw with LeBron James against the Dubs, one man can’t be asked to do it all.
Stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
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