New Orleans Pelicans 2013-14 Preview & Predictions





















Look out Saints, another New Orleans team is surging towards relevance.

Yes, it’s NBA season again (already!), and the New Orleans Pelicans are ready to take a big step forward. Yes, I know I said that last year as well, but this year I really mean it!

Seriously though, last year was a rough one. The then-Hornets played much better than their 27-55 record indicated, especially considering that they played long stretches of the season without key players. That team had the talent to make some noise, but not the depth to withstand extensive injuries, and that was their undoing.

That brings us to this season. This isn’t a team that will fall apart over one or two injuries. They’ve added several significant pieces, upgraded a couple of positions, and just generally brought a lot more talent on board. The improvement has been clear through the preseason, where the Pelicans went 7-1, their only loss coming in a competitive game against the defending champion Heat. This is a team that will surprise people.

Let’s take a look at your 2013-14 New Orleans Pelicans.

Leading the way will be Anthony Davis. Davis had a good rookie year despite being plagued by nagging injuries, showing flashes of the player fans hope he can be. Head coach Monty Williams said that Davis has put on about 20 pounds in the offseason (saying Davis finished last year at 212, is currently around 230) and that we will see a lot more confidence in his game this year. He had a great preseason, leading the team with 19.9 points per game while also averaging 2.0 blocks and 1.75 steals per game. Davis is clearly ready to embrace the leadership role, as Williams also noted that Davis was at almost every summer league practice for the team this year, even though he wasn’t playing with them.

Oh yeah, he also played with Team USA, and did this:

If you have Davis on your fantasy team, congratulations. He’s going to have a big year.

The second-most important guy on the team will be Eric Gordon. Gordon’s had a tough run thus far in New Orleans, spending most of his time on the injured list and dealing with a fan base that really had a hard time getting behind him. For what it’s worth, both Williams and GM Dell Demps feel as though he’s fully ready to go, and he saw training camp and preseason action for the first time since arriving in New Orleans.

Gordon has all the tools to be a top shooting guard in the NBA. He’s 6-foot-4 and muscular. He can score, he can handle the ball, he can play defense. He just needs to stay healthy and motivated.

The big arrivals this season came in a pair of backcourt players, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. Holiday was a draft-day acquisition, for which the Pelicans gave up 6th overall pick Nerlens Noel and their first round pick next year. Great deal for New Orleans. Noel may not play at all this year, and if this team performs like they’re capable of, that pick next year won’t be very high. In Holiday they get a point guard who made his first All-Star team last year, and can shoot, distribute and dribble—everything you want out of a point guard. Greivis Vasquez was a nice surprise last year, but Holiday certainly represents an upgrade.

The price on Evans was a bit steeper. The Pelicans had to give up two starters off of last year’s team, Vasquez and Robin Lopez. Just the same, worth every penny. In Evans, the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, you have a guy who can play three positions and who also brings a wide variety of skills to the table. He’ll likely start off the season coming off the bench, but will likely be on the floor at the end of games, and can also fill in various spots on the starting lineup should anyone go out with injury.

As far as the remaining faces, both old and new:

Ryan Anderson returns, and he’ll likely return to the role he occupied last year before injuries ravaged the team.   Anderson will miss the first couple weeks, but when he comes back he’ll probably go back to coming off the bench, filling in at the power forward and center spots, and shooting three-pointers as well as any big man in the league.

Al-Farouq Aminu, an athletic freak who when he’s on looks like an All-Star, but when he’s off makes you wonder how in the world he was once a top-10 pick. Aminu will likely begin the season starting once again at the small forward spot.

Brian Roberts, the point guard who returned from a four-year basketball exile in Germany to back up Vasquez last season. Roberts started off playing very sparingly, but later in the season was given a chance and turned in some impressive performances, including tallying 18 assists to help the Hornets end the Denver Nuggets’ 15-game win streak.

Anthony Morrow, a less-heralded signing, but one that could also turn out to pay handsome dividends. Morrow’s made his name as a sharpshooter, and that’s carried over to the Pelicans, where he shot over 50 percent from long range during the preseason.

Austin Rivers, the other lottery pick from last season, for whom it would be generous to say that his debut season was not very good. That said, Dell Demps has said that Rivers put in a ton of conditioning work in the offseason and played well with the Summer league team. His preseason left something to be desired, but the Pelicans don’t need Rivers to be a superstar.

Greg Stiemsma, acquired through free agency, will likely start at center. Not a bad pickup really, as he gives you most of the production that you got from Robin Lopez for around half the cost.

Jason Smith, who will be a key part of the second unit coming off the bench, and brings solid rebounding and defense to the table.

Not a bad looking lineup on paper, eh? But how will it all work out in practice? Well, let’s attempt to forge an educated guess at that with Three Predictions for the 2013-14 New Orleans Pelicans:

The Pelicans will have two All-Stars. I might not think this is the case if it weren’t for the fact that the NBA All-Star Weekend is in New Orleans this year, and the league will want to make sure the hosting franchise is represented. That isn’t to say that these spots won’t be deserved, however. There are a few players on this team that could be in the running for an All-Star nod.

I think Anthony Davis is a lock for one of the two spots. As noted, he’s going to be playing with a lot more confidence this year, and could be in line for a superstar breakout season. Furthermore, as last year’s #1 overall pick, Davis is who most fans are going to consider the face of the franchise.

The other I think will be one half of the starting backcourt. If Eric Gordon, who seems to be as healthy as he’s ever been to start a season, can stay that way, it’ll likely be him. I’ve said it time and time again, but he’s got the skills to be a top-5 shooting guard in the NBA when he’s healthy and motivated. If not Gordon, Jrue Holiday will follow up his All-Star debut of last season with a return trip in the other conference.

Monty Williams wins Coach of the Year. Williams has been doing a good job with the Hornets/Pelicans, even if the win-loss records haven’t necessarily reflected it. He’s had teams that were badly overmatched in talent competing late into games against good teams. Now he has the talent, and the league and fans will see what a good coach Williams is. Taking a team that’s been stuck in or close to last place the last two years and bringing them up to a postseason berth (keep reading) will get Williams the credit he deserves.

The Pelicans win 48 games, earn the 7 or 8 seed in the West. The pieces are in place. They have a big man and a guard that should both be superstars, and an all-star caliber point guard. They have a sixth man that would start for most teams, and for the first time in a long time, they have a lineup they’ll be putting out at the end of games that can match up talent-wise with just about anyone. They’re still a young team, and there will be growing pains as they learn to mesh with each other, but this a team that’s been built to win now, and they’ll begin doing that this year. In the next couple of years though, look out, this could be a serious title contender.

First up, Indiana. Let’s get it started.

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