Pelicans Free Agents: Jrue Holiday, Donatas Montejunas.
2016-17 Pelicans Weaknesses: 29th: Offensive Rebounding, Small Forward Scoring. 28th: Non-Paint Points. 25th: Free Throws Made. 22nd: Free Throw Percentage. 21st: 2-Point Percentage, Free Throws Attempted. 20th: Field Goal Percentage, Backcourt Points, Starters Points.
2016-17 Pelicans Strengths: 1st: Defensive Rebounding, Center Scoring. 3rd: Frontcourt Scoring, Points in the Paint 5th: Blocks. 7th: Field Goal Percentage Defense, Fast Break Points. 8th: Pace. 9th: Defensive Rating, 3-Point Defense. 10th: Bench Points.
Largest (3) Pelicans Contracts 2017-18: Anthony Davis $23,775,506. DeMarcus Cousins $18,063,850. Solomon Hill $11,747,073
Player Options: Dante Cunningham $3,106,500.
Does losing have consequences? Does having two big men and being almost last in offensive rebounding mean something? How about being known as an offensive coach and the offense is pretty unoriginal, uninspiring and average?How about two All-Stars but no playoff appearance?
If you think Alvin Gentry is on the hot seat, you are right. And so is Dell Demps who pulled the trigger on the DeMarcus Cousins trade thinking it would automatically mean a playoff bid, not thinking that chemistry matters. It was a rough ride with Anthony Davis and Cousins. Both were used to being the center object of their teams and now they had to learn about sharing. The other thing is their games are very similar. They both shoot over 40% in the midrange. Davis is better at the rim than Cousins but Cousins is still very good. Davis is a better three point shooter than Cousins but Cousins is a slightly better rebounder.
The presence of both big men in 2017-18 will probably absolve Gentry from this season but with both of them in tow, if they don’t make the playoffs next year, it’s a wrap in New Orleans. Every coach wants talent and Gentry has two of the top-5 big men in the game.
The problem the Pelicans faced with the offensive mastermind Gentry was skilled shotmakers and overpaying players like Solomon Hill which falls directly in Dell Demps lap. Hill is good for 7 points a game and $11 million.
To be fair to Gentry, his previous stops (Clippers, Suns, Warriors) had generational guards in Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Steph Curry. Jrue Holiday is above average but not at their level in skill nor is he adept at pushing a team to greatness, or the playoffs at the very least. It’s hard to get players to excel in an offensive system when you lack shotmakers. Having Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon defect to the Rockets was a devastating blow, particularly when the Pelicans didn’t replace them. Trading Buddy Hield means they have nothing on the perimeter and will have to reach in the draft for a scorer.
After an awful defense in 2015-16, the Pelicans rebounded this past season. In fact, the Pels are filled with defensive, not offensive players, once you move past Davis and Cousins. They don’t have drivers and finishers who can take a hit at the rim and then finish. They don’t get to the line, they are not a physical team. They don’t offensive rebound and extend possessions.
This is why they disappointed so many. In 2016-17 they won 4 more games than the year before; that year Davis injured his knee and shoulder and shut his season down. No such excuse this year which was good news for the Pelicans. But it didn’t amount to much besides speculation that Davis will pull a LeBron and leave. But that is meaningless talk. Davis has four seasons left with zero opt-outs. He is in New Orleans for the long haul. Boogie though? He will be on an expiring contract. The Pels will try to extend him over the summer but he’d be a bad businessman if he signed. It’s better for Boogie financially to wait it out and see what the market has for him. Why would he re-up right now for a team he doesn’t even know will be in the playoffs, something that has alluded him his entire career. Or for a coach on borrowed time.
With Gentry’s ability to design offenses and to pick up the pace, he should find a way to create a system to feature these spare parts he has on offense while jamming Davis and Cousins down everyone’s throat. It is the big Pelicans advantage, if he can make use of it.
The question to be answered though is can the Pelicans forget their supposed playoff run that was nothing more than an average mid-season trade that didn’t amount to anything in the short term? Can they, collectively, mesh all these pieces together and actually execute some perimeter offense? Will Boogie and Davis look better than they did after the trade? They’ll have an entire season together to make it work. Both will be All-Stars. But will both be in the playoffs?
photo via llananba