During the 2016-17 NBA season, headlines will be dominated by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on a daily basis. However, having a super-team doesn’t guarantee a championship; just look at the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Everything can change and anything can happen in the NBA. A team can implode, the injury bug could strike, or a team simply might not play to its potential. In this Last Word On Pro Basketball series, we’ll break down which two key factors will determine the fate of each NBA team in the upcoming season.
In this edition, we’ll take a look at the New Orleans Pelicans.
Two Key Factors to a Successful New Orleans Pelicans Season
Outside of New Orleans Pelicans fans, nobody really understands the Pelicans. That’s a shame, because they are an intriguing team with a good young core. Most importantly, the Pelicans are a family. Assistant coaches have been working in the off-season to support their community. Pelicans’ players have closer friendships than players on many teams in the league. Being close-knit doesn’t guarantee wins or playoff appearances, but it does count for something.
First Key: Time to Adjust to Changes
One of the problems that the Pelicans had last year was a lack of time to adjust to the front office’s tinkering with the team. Tinkering with the team’s roster is important in the NBA, and it can be positive (like for the Golden State Warriors) or negative (like for the Dallas Mavericks). The Pelicans are in the delicate middle section. Nothing has gone wrong enough to blow up the whole team, but nothing is working well enough to not tinker with it. The adjustment period for changes is such an important part of the Pelicans’ success, both in this season and in the future. Anthony Davis will be an incredible star player, provided the Pelicans keep a good, or at least decent, supporting cast around him and monitor his health.
There are several media voices that came out during the season and tried to dissect the Pelicans’ problems. A surprising theme was that there may not have been a problem before, nor was there one after New Orleans made moves. The Pelicans changed coaches, offenses, defenses, and rotations, so how could there not be growing pains? Fans like to speculate, because every fan wants to see instant success, but the problems may have simply been due to a lack of time to adjust to their changes. If the Pelicans are given that time, they will surprise not only their fans, but the entire league.
Second Key: Cohesiveness and Stability
Once the Pelicans are given all the time in the world to grow and succeed, they can move on to their next problem: cohesiveness. Last season, there was no stability within the organization. Alvin Gentry wanted to push the pace, the front office kept a bunch of slow players, and the players tried to mix it up with both playing styles. There was no cohesive nature to the plan. The blame falls on everyone in the Pelicans organization, from top to bottom. The coaches need to be more skilled at managing rotations and being flexible. If anything, the injuries that plagued the Pelicans last season were a blessing in disguise, because the coaches were forced to dig deep into their rotations and occasionally try new things with castoffs and players who came out of nowhere.
The players are at fault for trying to do more than they are capable of handling. They are admirable in their efforts and respectful with their demeanor. Still, a players only meeting, a coaches meeting, anything is better than Omer Asik trying his best to do wind sprints for 48 minutes or Jrue Holiday trying to make any stretch forward who plays work within the offense. There is a better way; there has to be. Shame on the front-court for looking at the roster and deciding to just push the pace and see how it goes. The players have simply been playing away from their strengths and beyond their abilities. Hopefully, this team gets the balance right at some point next season. Even last year’s highlights are born of chaos and hustle, not solid team strategy:
Get Ready to Rumble
The Pelicans have six preseason games to do what they couldn’t do all of last season. They need to show fans that they are ready to progress forward. There is no reason that the Pelicans won’t be dark-horses come playoff time. Their opening game is at home against the Nuggets on Wednesday, October 26.