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2017 NBA Summer Preview Series: New Orleans Pelicans

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans

2016-17 Season Highlights

The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the NBA world last February when THEY were the ones to snag Boogie at the trade deadline. How could any of us forget this hilarious moment

during last year’s All Star Weekend? At the time, the Pelicans were 23-34 and going nowhere, and the package they gave up wasn’t exactly even, but at the time Sacramento didn’t really have any leverage. They needed to make some sort of move, and NO was able to capitalize. The thing is, it didn’t really make them better. They finished the year 11-14 after the All Star break, and their points per game stayed relatively the same (106.3 vs 106.5) and in fact, they were basically the exact same team in every category post trade. Honestly, this is a bit shocking to me, considering the Pelicans have one of the best frontcourt combinations in the entire NBA. Even in today’s game where teams are going smaller, both Boogie and AD fit any style, any system. How could they be so bad?

As we enter the 2017 NBA season, the Pelicans might be one of the more intriguing stories in the league. EVERYONE has gotten their popcorn and is ready to see this team be a complete disaster because it means the chances they move one or both of their prized possessions becomes more of a reality. Sure they might not work together, but you take Boogie or AD and put them with a contender, look the fuck out. As it stands today, this is how their roster looks

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All in all, you’re looking at the 9th most expensive roster in the NBA at $118,327,962. My lord. Slightly under the $119M luxury tax, barring some sort of big time trade, this is basically how they will look next year. The Pelicans have around $2M remaining from their non-taxpayer mid-level exception after signing Rondo/Miller/Jackson, they have a $3.2M Bi-Annual exception, and two trade exceptions, one for $3.5M that expires in February, and one for $2.09M that expires next June. Basically, they’re stuck. Looking at this roster, I have a couple concerns

– There is NO chance Dell Demps doesn’t regret that Solomon Hill contract. Last season, Demps signed Hill to a 4/$48M deal to be their starting small forward. He responded with a stellar 7/3.8 with 38/34% splits in nearly 30 minutes a night. Not great. The closer you look at his offensive production, the uglier it gets. Safe to say 27% from 3-10ft, 30% from 10-16ft, and 21% from 16-3P is in fact

Then factor in the news we got over the weekend.

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Is this drastically going to change the Pelicans season? Of course not. HOWEVAH, Hill was a versatile wing who could play the four at times, and perhaps was at his best when that happened. That’s now gone.

– I am not sure how this team is going to space the floor because I don’t know where their shooters are coming from. I guess E’Twaun Moore is their best outside shooter by default at 37%, and I liked what he did as a PG for the Celts, but he’s not a true SG. You could make the case for Ian Clark, who’s coming over from GS and had a 37% as well, but for me, I would expect going from GS to NO is going to cut his open looks by a pretty wide margin. Then you have guys like Jordan Crawford who I’m sorry to say isn’t the answer.

Which brings me to a guy you don’t see on that roster list, but could very well find his way onto the active NBA roster. Who could this sweet shooting high upside he just needs a chance player be? You guessed it

the #FREEJAMESYOUNG movement is going to save NO, heard it here first because if there’s one thing that can help your team heading into the season, it’s filling your bench with former Celtics players (Crawford, Moore, maybe Young, Rondo), everybody knows that.

The Pelicans entered this summer with one big question, and that was what to do with Jrue Holiday. When he became a free agent this summer, it was widely known he wanted max money. A player who hasn’t played more than 67 games since 2012, I would call Jrue Holiday a solid point guard. You can do better and you can do worse for sure, but as a player who has spent half his career in NO, he proved to be better than the player he was while spending four years with PHI. The Pelicans hands were kind of tied, chances are they weren’t going to be able to find another young point guard of that caliber of talent on the open market, so they paid him. Holiday now has the 14th highest salary in the NBA next season, and is officially one of the Pelicans “building blocks”. To me, it doesn’t feel right that Holiday is making Dame/CP3/Melo money because the reality is, he isn’t on that level. He’s made one All Star team in his career, and hasn’t come close since joining NO. When I think of players who are going to take up over 20% of my teams cap, not often do I think Holiday should be one of those players.

But part of the intrigue of the PGs on this roster doesn’t end with Holiday, because we also have what could be Rajon Rondo’s last stop. Rondo signed a 1/$3M deal to join the Pelicans, which is somewhat confusing. Are they planning on moving Holiday to the two or something? That seems weird. On the surface, reuniting Rondo with Boogie may seem like a risk, but I don’t think it’ll be that much of a problem. Whatever beef they had while Rondo was in Boston was ended when Rondo and Boogie were both on the Kings. Yes they are two emotional players who love to throw a temper tantrum, but that’s the reason I’ll probably watch some Pelicans on League Pass this year. The combination of these two guys during a losing streak will be verrrrry interesting.

Make no mistake though, this entire franchise revolves around Anthony Davis. What more can you say about AD other than he is perhaps the best, most complete big man in the NBA, and he’s just 24. The good news for Pelicans fans is he still has 3 years left on his deal, so I can’t imagine NO moving him no matter how terrible they may end up being this season. When evaluating his game, it’s pretty hard to find a glaring weakness on either end of the court. Offensively, it’s hard to find an area of the court in which he struggles. It’s interesting that of all the shot areas the NBA tracks, AD actually had more Mid-range FGA (572) than Restricted Area FGA (483). He’s a 42.8% Mid-range shooter, and 68.5% from that Restricted Area. Pretty good. It’s even crazier when you look at his offensive percentages relative to how he is guarded. When a defender is between 0-2 ft away, AD shoots 49.3%. With a guy 2-4ft away, 54.2%. When he is “open” with a defender 4-6ft away, 46.6%, and when he’s wide open with a guy 6+ft away, AD shoots 48.3%. You know it makes no sense when the numbers tell you to actually leave Anthony Davis open. That’s how you know you are a blue chip offensive player. So why is this important? Well, this becomes important when you think of the type of offense that the Pelicans run when both he and Boogie are on the floor. To me that’s what makes this team so intriguing because here are two guys that are both lethal on the block, but also can stretch the floor. This video breaks it down really well

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I won’t lie, I’m really excited to see Rondo run P&R with these guys. Say what you want about Rondo as a player, but you cannot deny the guy is still an elite passer.

But it’s also important that we don’t act like everything is all positive in NO. For starters, if they are actually bad, they run the risk of Boogie leaving in free agency. Will they trade him? Could CLE give them the BKN pick and filler for him in February? Even if he wants to stay, would he sign a 5 year extension knowing AD could be gone in three? He is for sure going to cost max money (or really close to it), and he could look at this roster and decide to take his talents elsewhere once he hits the open market. Boogie has played on nothing but trash teams in his NBA career, and I don’t really care whether you want to say he is the problem or not, we are yet to see what he could be in a good, stable franchise. As a Celtic fan, I would love him, but mostly I want to just see him on a good team period, because he is that fucking good. Remember it’s not like he cost NO an arm and a leg to acquire anyways, so while obviously their focus should be on keeping him, if they do have to trade him in February, and he starts the year really well, they’ll probably get much more than what they paid in the first place. Especially if Lebron says he wants him.

Unfortunately, I see more of the same for the Pelicans for the 2017 season. They finished as the 10th seed in the West, and that feels about right. There is still another tier for them to jump to get to the POR/DEN/MEM group, and with the offseasons that teams like MIN/SAC just had, even the teams behind them got better. I think a full year of Boogie will help, but not enough for them to crack the playoffs. The Pelicans are one of those teams I’ll absolutely watch on League Pass, but they still have a longggg way to go.

Official Greenie Prediction: 39 wins