During their 2012-13 campaign, then-New Orleans Hornets compiled one of the worst records in the NBA with a 27-55 record that had them finish last in the Southwest Division and missing the playoffs yet again. While the Hornets is nothing but the past now, as the team changed their name to the New Orleans Pelicans, they are hoping to have a fresh start and begin a new era in hopes of becoming a great team.
Although the Pelicans hit an all-time low in the post Chris Paul and David West era, New Orleans’ fans should expect a much better team that is finally healthy and should be more exciting to watch in the 2013-14 NBA season.
The Pelicans are without question in a tough division with the likes of perennial playoff teams such as the steady San Antonio Spurs, the physical Memphis Grizzlies, the highly-talented Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks, though they are not nearly as strong as they once were.
Nonetheless, the Pelicans have one thing going for them and that is their youth. They should have one of the better sets of wing players in terms of their capabilities to push the ball and score with their athleticism. Already during the preseason, the young Pelicans have flashed their speed and athleticism in attacking the rim.
Before Anthony Davis went down with an injury, the 2012 No. 1 pick overall was having a solid rookie year, as he averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 64 games for the Pelicans last season.
Surrounding their rising All-Star center, the Pelicans also feature point guard Jrue Holiday, guard Eric Gordon, guard Austin Rivers and forward Al-Farouq Aminu. During the offseason, the Pelicans acquired another former first round pick in guard/forward Tyreke Evans, who is still young enough to fulfill his potential in becoming a potent scorer and All-Star caliber player.
While Gordon has only played a total of 51 games the past two seasons for the then-Hornets, having him back healthy is a huge plus for a team that struggled to score offensively. The Pelicans improved defensively as expected when they drafted Davis, allowing 97.9 points per game that ranked them 14th in the league. On the other side of the ball, the Pelicans averaged 94.1 points per game, which ranked them 25th overall in that department.
On paper, the front office has put together a solid group of athletic wing players, and their starting five has the potential to score in a hurry. Although the Pelicans seem to have the arsenal and necessary firepower to be a much-improved team, they are still very young and inexperienced, which are two important factors in a division that has plenty of both.
Still, the Pelicans are an intriguing team that should not be taken lightly anymore, as their record from last season ranked them near the bottom of the league.
While Holiday, Gordon, Aminu, Davis and Greg Stiesma round out the starting five, health has been a key issue. On the bench, however, the Pelicans have a solid stretch-four in Ryan Anderson, a hot and cold scorer in Rivers, and a former All-Star in Evans; they should have a solid second unit to give their starters a rest.
With that being said, the acquisition of Evans can either be seen as a great addition or a big mistake. While the guard was sensational during his rookie year in which he posted 20 points, five rebounds and dished out five assists per game, Evans’ numbers has dropped every single season since. At just 24 years old, however, Evans still has time to turn around his career and become a force on the court.
I believe that the Pelicans should be a completely different team and may surprise the NBA with another year under their belt. While the Pelicans have the skill and potential to be the next upcoming team, injuries and inconsistency is still a big concern. If the team can stay healthy, particularly Evans and Gordon, I predict them to improve 13 games better to give them a 40-42 record.
We will see if this team can continue to improve and head in the right direction. More importantly we’ll see the maturity of this team when adversity strikes and how they will handle the pressure.