In the NBA where the Golden State Warriors are still reigning, it’s difficult to make effective roster moves to put a team into contention. The New Orleans Pelicans are attempting to make these moves in a hope to turn around in the 2017-18 season and make a run into the playoffs. Last season the Pelicans added DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings to play alongside Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. This off-season, the Pelicans signed veteran guard Rajon Rondo and former Warrior bench player, Ian Clark. These roster moves show that the Pelicans are looking to tweak a few spots and try to make a playoff run
A New Focus for Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans
Jrue Holiday’s role
Holiday has been a point player for most of his playing career, but last season he was playing in the two spot more often while Quinn Cook took over as the point guard in limited minutes. Now with the addition of Rajon Rondo, Holiday can move off the ball more effectively and firmly place himself in scoring opportunities. The biggest concern with Holiday is his very large contract which is expected to pay him a guaranteed $104 million over the next four years. The issue being that if he doesn’t pan out or perform well as a shooting guard, this money could have been better utilized paying Cousins or Rondo next season if they decide to stay. Holiday has mixed well with Anthony Davis over the past few seasons but will need to insert himself into the new role efficiently to keep the fans satisfied.
Rajon Rondo’s role
Rajon Rondo joins this Pelicans team as the fourth University of Kentucky alumni alongside Darius Miller, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. His playing career has unfortunately been marred with locker room issues and coaching difficulty. This was evident with the Chicago Bulls rotating two other point guards alongside Rondo. However, his gameplay and abilities show through in those moments where he is needed most, which makes him a wonderful addition to a struggling roster. Rondo’s style will give the Pelicans an order to their offense and allow Davis, Holiday, and Cousins to move off the ball and give up ball handling time to Rondo.
DeMarcus Cousins role
The most severe problem the Pelicans faced last season was the mixing of styles between Davis and Cousins. In a league where wing players, stretch forwards and shooting big men prevail, the Pelicans sought out “Boogie” Cousins to join with Davis in a very odd trade that really damaged the chemistry. Hopefully, after part of last season and this off-season, they can work better together using off ball moves and now an intimidating pick and roll with Rondo or Holiday. Utilizing Cousins as a strong post player with Rondo passing into him and a Davis cut to the basket or even Holiday spot up shooting could lead to a very dangerous half-court offense.
Anthony Davis’s role
Selected first in the 2012 NBA draft is signed to the Pelicans until 2022 but with a player option in 2020. He has been one of the more exciting big men to play the game and took the Pelicans to the playoffs in 2015 to face eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors. Although the games were competitive, they were swept in 4 and have not had the same success since. Davis has been the number one option on the team and last season’s All-Star game MVP.
Last seasons addition of Cousins and this season bringing in Rondo and back up Ian Clark shows that the team is now dedicated to building the team around Davis and his future. These additions allow Davis to lower his playing time and not be the player who has to put the team on his back to win games. If the Pelicans can correctly utilize Cousins and Rondo, the off-ball play of Davis can elicit big game and potentially game-winning moments.
The Pelican’s Future
Head Coach Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans front office now have a good outlook of the next few years with limited questions to be answered. The two most prominent questions they face after this season are whether or not to resign DeMarcus Cousins and/or Rajon Rondo. Obviously, these questions cannot be answered until the team plays together and the front office can evaluate how the team chemistry is coming along.
Assuming he doesn’t have a meltdown, Cousins should be an automatic resign, but the Pelicans are not going to have space in the cap to pay him what he will want and deserve. Rondo, however, can be resigned to a similar contract to this season, 3.3 million dollars for one year. The most likely scenario will involve some minor trades or waiver moves to make cap space and sign Cousins at a three or four-year deal. This will allow the team to fill in holes on the roster and make improvements to start competing at a higher level. However, the most important issue in the face of the GM and front office is How do we keep Anthony Davis IN New Orleans?
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