New Orleans Pelicans – Off Season Report

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2015/16 Record: 30/52 – 15 wins less than previous year.

Ins:

Solomon Hill FA – 4 Years / $48mil
E’Twaun Moore FA – 4 Years / $34mil
Buddy Hield DR – #6
Langston Galloway FA – 2 Years / $10mil (Player Option)
Chris Copeland FA – 1 Year / $980k (Non Guaranteed)
Cheick Diallo DR – #33
Terrence Jones 1 Year / $980k
Robert Sacre 1 Year / $980k (Non Guaranteed)
Lance Stephenson 1 Year / $980k (Non Guaranteed)
Shawn Dawson 1 Year / $543k (Non Guaranteed)

Outs:

Ryan Anderson FA – Rockets
Eric Gordon FA – Rockets
Luke Babbitt TR – Heat
Norris Cole FA – Unsigned
Toney Douglas FA – Unsigned
James Ennis FA – Grizzlies
Jimmer Fredette WA – Unsigned
Jordan Hamilton FA – Unsigned
Orlando Johnson FA – Unsigned
Nate Robinson WA – Unsigned
Ish Smith TR – 76ers
Kendrick Perkins WA – Unsigned
Jarnell Stokes WA – Unsigned

Off Season Analysis:

Are the Pelicans actually cursed?

It’s hard to view the 2016 Off Season for the Pels without looking back at the train wreck that was the 2015/16 season. What the fuck hit this team? 21 players took the court for New Orleans last year. 351 games were missed by players on the roster due to injury or illness, 2nd most in the past decade.

in-street-clothes42 different starting line ups were used, 3rd most in the past decade.

Alvin Gentry went public with his request for a voodoo doctor to ward off the evil that had decimated this team. The Pelicans were the sexy pick to move up the standings and make a run at a top 4 seed behind the continued brilliance of Anthony Davis and the offensive wizardry of Gentry. Remember this?

Oh how 12 months can change everything.

Dell Demps, GM of the team, and the training staff have been under some pretty intense scrutiny in the wake of last season. Perhaps the players were just incredibly unlucky (probably). Perhaps the training staff is not up to scratch and needs significant upgrades (probably). And maybe the players they have who have been injured are in fact injury prone (possibly).

Aside from the injuries, the Pels needed to drastically improve on the defensive end. NOLA allowed players to shoot, on average, 1.6% better than expected (5th worst in the league) based on defensive stats from stats.nba.com. They posted a dismal defensive rating of 109.5, 3rd worst in the league. They ranked bottom 5 in defensive 3P%, 2P%, FT%(!) and not surprisingly eFG%. Only The Brow had an individual defensive rating below 107, and he also topped out on the defensive win shares at 2.8. Only Holiday and Omar Asik had a ranking higher than 1. Simply put, the D was a shambles.

So, New Orleans needed to sign better defenders, healthier players, a Witch Doctor, and Dell Demps to start making some good decisions. Thankfully, that is what happened – except for the Witch Doctor.

They might be sexy names, but Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones aren’t exactly sexy signings. But they all provide something different to what NOLA have had on previous versions of their roster: defensive mindsets, versatility, potential and a junkyard dog mentality.

Hill, Galloway and Moore, in particular, will be looked upon to be major contributors on both ends of the court. Solomon came on strong last year as a small ball 4 who could hit the corner 3, something the Pelicans have been seriously lacking. While he doesn’t quite protect the rim or guard brutish 5s like a Draymond Green, he has similar switchability 1 through 4. For a team used to Ryan Anderson: Human Turnstile on defence, Solo should become a fan favourite instantly.

In a similar position is E’Twaun Moore. He projects to take over the back up 2 and could play some spot minutes at the 1 in a pinch, although I think he could surprise some and solidify a starting position. Moore flew quietly under the radar the past 2 seasons, but has steadily improved, particularly on the offensive end. 2015/16 saw Moore average career highs in FG% and 3P%; surprisingly, higher percentages than Gordon in both. He also posted better Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Rating; not surprisingly, higher than Gordon in both. If E’Twaun can come close to EG’s production on the offensive side of the ball, he should be a major upgrade at the 2, for $19 million less.

Langston Galloway comes in to replace Norris Cole, who after a strong start in Miami has fizzled to the point he is still unsigned. Galloway offers better shooting, better ball security, better defence and better health, having played all 82 games last season.

Terrence Jones has also shown flashes of being a useful multi purpose big. He offers the ability to stretch the floor and make plays off the dribble on offence, as well as protecting the rim and cleaning the glass on defence. He could turn into the next (pre Kardashian) Lamar Odom.

Injuries and attentiveness have gotten in the way of this, but the talent is definitely there. The Kentucky connection might be just what he needs to get his career back on track. For the minimum, this was a no brainer gamble for a team that needs some potential from their young players.

The one sexy name addition is Buddy Hield. The NCAA Player Of The Year is perhaps the best option Davis has for a future All-Star teammate on the roster as it stands. Hield comes in as a ready-to-go rookie. Although not overpoweringly quick or strong, he has has a solid frame and at 22 , is (hopefully) more mature and mentally prepared for the grind of an 82 game season.

Hield will struggle on defence, but will be protected by plus defenders like Holiday, Hill, Asik and Davis. And his job isn’t really about defence anyway, he was drafted to score:

Hield should space the floor for Davis, and when teams close out he has the ability to put the ball on the floor. He struggled initially in summer league, but Hield didn’t enter College as an elite scorer, it is something he grew into:screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-12-01-45-amThe Pels are betting he is ready to grow into that #2 option quickly.

The new signings give the ‘Cans the option of going big with Moore, Hield and Evans on the wing, small with Davis and Hill at the 5 and 4, or any combination in-between. They look to have improved depth, and have subbed out minus defenders for at least average ones.

And then, there’s this guy:

Lance comes to New Orleans off the back of a pretty good stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-31-13-pmPlaying on the ball more resulted in a return to the Lance of old from an offensive standpoint. His PER of 17.1 with Memphis was the best of his career. If he is going to make the roster and make an impact, he is going to have to lift his defence back to Indiana levels. He presents the potential to disrupt a locker room, but his penetration and playmaking could be invaluable to a team missing both Evans and Holiday. Very high risk, but the reward is potentially there.

It will come back to how healthy the team can be though, and if they aren’t, expect sweeping changes to the medical staff. Evans is still out with his injured knee, and Davis has only just been cleared to scrimmage. They still need to address the hex too. Injuries are one thing, but the Pelicans have had to deal with much more already. Bryce Dejean-Jones was tragically killed when he forced his way into the wrong apartment. The young guard had shown promise as an undrafted rookie, and had signed a partially guaranteed, multi year contract with the team in February. High hopes and untapped potential, lost far too soon. RIP.

And most recently, Jrue Holiday, FINALLY HEALTHY, is now out for an undetermined amount of time to look after his wife Lauren Holiday and their soon-to-be born child. Absolute plaudits to the Pelicans and Jrue for the decision he has made and the way in which this has been handled, not that it really needs to be said. Of course Jrue would choose his wife and family over basketball, and of course New Orleans and the NBA would be supportive of this. More importantly, prayers and well wishes to their family for a speedy recovery and no complications, for the birth of their child and Lauren’s operation.

But from a basketball perspective, this is a tough pill to swallow. Primary playmaking will now likely fall to Galloway and Tim Frazier (absolute bargain deal, Portland you idiots), and increased scoring pressure will fall on Hield and Moore sooner than expected. The Pelicans have made some good moves for the future, but they will be hard pressed to reap the rewards immediately this season. Cap space finally arrives in 2017/18, along with the opportunity to create a roster that can contend around Anthony Davis. Hopefully, they have found the bones under the Smoothie King Centre by then.

Grade: B

2016/17 Prediction: 35-47

League Pass Meter: 7.5/10 with AD, 3/10 without.

Once again this comes down to health. Davis alone is must watch. Gentry should have the team playing fast again (top 10 in pace last season), and you can expect more AD at the 5 which should mean more pace, space and scoring. If Davis gets hurt, feel free to change the channel.

Depth Chart:

PG Holiday Galloway Frazier
SG Moore Hield Pondexter
SF Evans Hill Gee Stephenson* Dawson*
PF Davis Cunningham Jones Diallio Copeland*
C Asik Ajinca Sacre*

*Salary Guarantees 10th Jan 2017. 

Salary Cap Situation:

2016/17 Salaries: $97,799,631 (Over the Cap)
2017/18 Salaries: $69,959,566

Max Room: $32,040,434
Min Room: $23,394,694

Future Assets:

Incoming:
2017 2nd (76ers)

Outgoing:
2017 2nd (Wolves, protected 31-55)

2016/17 Questions:

Can this team produce points with so many defensive additions?

Can Jrue Holiday come back in time to make a playoff push?

Will the new roster stay healthy?

Is Buddy Hield Jimmer 2.0 or JJ Reddick 2.0?

Can Anthony Davis stay healthy enough to cement his ranking as a top 10 player?

Bonus – will Gentry find his Voodoo Doctor?

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