NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #22 New Orleans Pelicans
This NBA offseason has been very eventful and we’re only a few short weeks away from the start of team training camps. To help bridge that gap for hoops junkies, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 22nd-ranked New Orleans Pelicans!
The Pelicans have arguably the best power forward in the game in Anthony Davis or, as we love calling him, The Brow. They have also managed to surround him with young, talented basketball players. From the looks of it, it seems like the birds from the Big Easy are poised for a breakout year. Or are they?
Projected Record: 37-45
Western Conference Rank: 11th
NBA Rank: 22nd
Playoff Chances: 25.54%
Championship Chances: 0.20%
According to our metrics, the Pelicans aren't ready for a big year, as we project only three more wins for the Pelicans this season. A slight improvement, but nothing to get too excited about when you have a superstar like Anthony Davis on your team. Even with three more wins, New Orleans would still finish just 11th in the powerful Western Conference - a mere one spot improvement from a year ago. But there is hope. The numbers give the Pelicans more than a one-in-four chance of making the playoffs, and a very small chance of winning a championship. As the season works itself out, you never know what could happen. Maybe Davis and company will find themselves in the playoff hunt.
Russ Smith (via draft)
Patric Young (via free agency)
Omer Asik (via trade)
As you can see, the Pelicans' offseason wasn't very loud. They didn't add a lot, but they didn't lose much either. However, they managed to acquire Omer Asik in a trade with the Houston Rockets, making for a very intriguing frontcourt duo.
Outside of the Asik acquisition, the Pelicans made a sneaky-good pick (No. 47) in Russ Smith, a very talented guard out of Louisville. Smith will most likely serve as a spark plug off the bench, which comes as no surprise after he averaged 18 points per game his junior and senior seasons. After all is said and done, New Orleans did make improvements to their roster, and they'll look for those improvements to translate to the hardwood.
Three Burning Questions
How good could the Davis-Asik duo be?
It's obvious, from our metrics alone, that this duo could be nothing but effective while on the court together. Davis posted a nERD of 12.0 last year, good enough for ninth in the league. Meanwhile, with the Rockets, Asik managed a nERD of 0.8 despite being everywhere but solidly in the starting lineup. It's no question that both will be efficient.
However, there's so much more to it. Defensively, this frontcourt could be great. This past season, Davis and Asik averaged 3.6 blocks per game combined. And that's with Asik in and out of the Rockets lineup behind and beside Dwight Howard. Imagine what they could do together for 30-plus minutes per game. They'll be having some good ol' fashioned block parties down on Bourbon Street.
Outside of Davis, who's going to score?
The Pelicans averaged 99.7 points per game this past year, almost 21 of those coming from Anthony Davis. Yes, Davis had a usage percentage of 25%, but others clearly didn't do anything with their own opportunities. Tyreke Evans had his good spots last year (14 points and 5 assists per game), but he needs to be more efficient in order to help his team. His nERD of -3.1 was only better than two of his fellow teammates.
One of those teammates is another underachieving scorer in Eric Gordon. Gordon hasn't lived up to his 14-million dollar contract. This past year, he shot just over 43% from the field on his way to a nERD of -3.8. He did average 15 per game, but he has to do so with better and less shot attempts. If guys like Evans and Gordon can help Davis and do their job scoring from the perimeter as well as off the dribble, this could be a competitive club night in and night out. It's full of potential firepower.
Can Jrue Holiday have an All-Star year?
Former All-Star Jrue Holiday only played in 34 games this past season due to a fractured shin suffered on January 8th. However, in the 34 games he played, he looked good in a Pelicans uniform. His -1.9 nERD may be hindered by his lack of games according to his otherwise gaudy numbers. The point guard at least tied his career highs in field goal percentage (45%), three-point percentage (39%) and free throw percentage (81%) while averaging 14.3 points per game. He also managed a career-high PER of 17.1 with a personal best 39% assist percentage. If Holiday can continue his improvement from a year ago, we could see him headed back to All-Star weekend sooner rather than later.
Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch
PF/C Anthony Davis (Yahoo O-Rank: 3)
The Brow is a fantasy stud. Unless you somehow only have two or three guys in your league, he is a surefire first-rounder. He's the third-ranked player overall, only behind the likes of KD and King James. The thing that sets Davis apart from the other two is his center eligibility, and high-scoring centers are hard to come by in fantasy hoops. Davis doesn't just score though. As I previously mentioned, Brow led the league in blocks while also tearing down 10 boards per contest. And unlike other fantasy superstars like James and Durant, Davis turned the ball over a mere 1.6 turnovers per game. With that, isn't there an argument for Davis as your number-one overall pick? I think so.
SG/SF Tyreke Evans (Yahoo O-Rank: 85)
Since shooting guard is arguably the thinnest position in fantasy basketball, Evans wouldn't be a bad player to target. This past year, he averaged over 14 points, nearly 5 rebounds and 5 assists. He was also good for a steal or two every game. So he clearly knows how to fill up the stat sheet.
Even without his 14 points per game, his numbers are good enough to warrant a mid- to late-round pick. The most intriguing idea of picking a guy like Evans is his versatility. As evidenced by his stat line, Evans is a solid all-around player wherever you put him. And since he has so much versatility, Evans can even play the point when asked to do so because of injuries (which he did this past year). He seems to always find his way on the court. For a player like Evans, minutes equals production. And production is what you want.