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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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    05/01/2021 4:21 PM

2013/14 NBA Team Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

Season Review 2012/13:

Advanced Stats

4 Factors

Monthly Performance

The past season was the first season of rebuilding project of the Pelicans after Chris Paul leaving the team. As the Pelicans were as expected one of the worst teams in the league in the past season, they had two Top 10 draft picks, with one of them being the #1 overall pick.

If the pick of Anthony Davis with the #1 pick was a consensual decision, the same can’t be said about picking Austin Rivers with the #10 pick. Even with the acquisition of Ryan Anderson in the offseason and Eric Gordon having a healthier season, the Pelicans didn’t still have big expectations to be competitive.

As expected, it was too soon for the Pelicans to be competitive and they were out of playoff contention by the end of the 2012 season, with a 7-25 record on the first 32 games of the season. Then, they entered tank mode in the final of the regular season in order to have another high draft pick on this offseason. What the team really wanted was to develop their young players and the results on that were mixed.
Surprisingly, Anthony Davis showed to have a good offensive weaponry, while he struggled on his defensive positioning against stronger players. On the other hand, the Pelicans wasted a pick on Austin Rivers. He had a terrible season as a rookie. Nobody expected him to be any good on defense, but he was surprisingly poor on offense by being a super inefficient shooter and playmaker.

Ryan Anderson had a good season while coming off the bench. He showed that he doesn’t need to have Dwight Howard around him to be a good player, while Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez clearly showed that they are also serviceable players on this league.

The Pelicans didn’t struggle a lot on offense, but the same can’t be said about their defense. They were passive on defense while forcing a low number of turnovers, while their perimeter defense was attroucious.

Offseason Report:

Already with the new name of Pelicans, the organization surprised by trying to rebuild via free agency and not via draft during this offseason.

With the #6 pick on the draft, the Pelicans acquired Nerlens Noel, who was supposed to be the #1 overall pick until an injury cloud made him draft value considerably decrease. Still, with Noel on the team, the Pelicans would have a potential formidable frontcourt for the next years. However, New Orleans decided to immediately trade Noel to Philadelphia in exchange for Jrue Holiday. They also picked up Jeff Withey from the Blazers, when they traded Robin Lopez to Portland.

The Pelicans surprised everyone by getting involved early and heavy on the pursuit of Tyreke Evans and eventually signed him to a massive offer sheet that the Kings didn’t match and accepted a sign-and-trade where they got Vasquez. The Pelicans struggled on much on their perimeter last season that they tried everything to reload their backup and they managed to do that without a doubt.

New Orleans also got two players as bargain deals in Greg Stiemsma and Anthony Morrow, who will give good depth in key positions for the team.

Season Preview:

The acquisitions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans will turn the Pelicans into a much more competitive team than it was supposed if they had kept Noel after the draft. The arrival of these two players together with Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis staying on the roster make me wonder if Coach Monty Williams is the right man to lead the Pelicans’ current roster. I had already mentioned that on an article during the offseason:

“From all the teams in the league, the Pelicans are the most intriguing team for me after the different moves that they made during this offseason. Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Morrow join Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson to form a very young team and with a lot of explosiveness that combines very well with Head Coach Monty Williams's system. Well, the last part is a joke of course because the Hornets/Pelicans with Monty have always ranked at the bottom in the pace factor: 

2012-13 ranked #29
2011-12 ranked #30
2010-11 ranked #29

New Orleans is coming from back to back seasons where they were the slowest paced team in the league and according to MySynergy numbers, only Chicago and the NY Knicks had a smaller volume of transition plays during the past season. New Orleans had just 10% volume on transitions, but the truth is that they were #3 in the league in effectiveness with 1.18 PPP (Points Per Possession). It wouldn't be smart at all for Monty Williams not to take advantage of the roster's speed and mobility, but this goes against his offensive system, so it will be curious to see how the Pelicans' offense will play next season.

The Pelicans were the second team in the league with more pick and roll ball handler plays with 16% volume, with Greivis Vasquez being the primary ball handler with 0.76 PPP (#97 in the league, according to MyS). Even though Vasquez is now gone, Jrue Holiday had 0.78 PPP (#80) last season on this kind of play, while Tyreke Evans had 0.84 PPP (#47), so in theory Monty will have two players who can be an upgrade to Vasquez on this kind of play that is the most important one for Monty, who had Chris Paul as his primary ball handler on his first season as the Hornets' head coach.

Offensively, Monty will have a lot more tools this season than he had last season (no more Austin Rivers handling the ball), but the truth is that the Pelicans will need a reboot on their offensive scheme. On the other hand, I believe the Hornets will also need to do some major changes on defense, as they were the third worst defensive team in the league, only in front of Sacramento and Charlotte.”

If Monty Williams manages to adapt his coaching to the current roster, then the Pelicans might surprise a lot of people in the new season.

The defensive problems on the backcourt last season will be easily solved with the acquisition of Jrue Holiday, who is one of the best defenders in the league at the PG position. His upgrade over Vasquez is tremendous and this will improve one of the worst defenses in the league last season.

Holiday was an All-Star player last season and even though he struggled during the second half of the past season (something normal for someone who had to be the team leader in both ends of the floor), we are in front of a 23 years old player who has been consistently improving season after season.

The problems with Eric Gordon are merely physical, as he played just 51 games over the last two seasons in 148 possible. It seems like Gordon is physically ready to start the new season at 100%, but we have always to doubt his physical condition throughout a whole season. He played 42 games last season, but he was quite inefficient with 40% FG and 32% 3pts. I believe that these bad numbers were due to a natural lack of self-confidence and this need to change if the Pelicans want to be competitive this season.

If Gordon isn’t able to keep himself healthy, then Tyreke Evans will need to play at SG, but the original plan is to put Evans at the SF position, where he played last season in Sacramento. Evans was a huge surprise on his rookie season, but he hasn’t reached the same level since. However, his individual numbers were still good last season: 48% FG, 15.2 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists per game. The problem was that he was always associated with the locker room problems in Sacramento, so this is a golden opportunity for him to relaunch his career.

Brian Roberts, Anthony Morrow and Al-Farouq Aminu will be the main backups for the backcourt and they look to be serviceable players in limited numbers. Regarding Aminu, he has been surprising everyone on this offseason and he might have a more important role than expected at the SF position. Regarding Austin Rivers, I doubt that he will be able to improve in such a way that he can give quality minutes to the team.

In the frontcourt, Anthony Davis is the unit leader and looking at the preseason, he seems ready to make a huge breakthrough on his sophomore season.  He has been bulking up and he looks ready to be more physically dominant than on his rookie season. His defense will have to improve this season, while on offense we are in presence of a player that might be a huge surprise, as he showed a good shooting motion on his rookie season with a great 81.2% FT mark on the second half of the season, a huge upgrade over his 70% FT college mark.

Ryan Anderson consolidated into one of the best shooters in the league with a 38.2% 3pts mark, even though he attempted almost 7 treys per game. With just 25 years old, the Pelicans have in Anderson a great piece for the future that is a great offensive weapon.

The Center position seems to be the team’s weakest position. If they had kept Nerlens Noel, they would be served for the next decade, but by trading him, the Pelicans will just have Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Jeff Withey for this position. Smith is actually an underrated offensive player, but he is a poor defender, while the opposite happens with Stiemsma. It will be up to Monty Williams to find the right balance between offense and defense for this unit.

Unlike last season, the Pelicans have a balanced roster that might become the league’s biggest surprise if Monty Williams is able to coach them well. New Orleans is built once again to be better on offense than on defense, but if they want to fight for a playoff spot this season, then they can’t be once again on the bottom 5 of defensive rankings, as they are on a division with Dallas, Memphis, Houston and San Antonio. Therefore, the Pelicans won’t have a margin for growing plans, something that seems inevitable with such a young roster that suffered so many changes on the off-season.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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