Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: New Orleans Pelicans Season Preview

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WASHINGTON, USA - DECEMBER 19: New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis (23) tries to keep the ball away from Washington Wizards' John Wall (2) during the NBA match between Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans at the Capital One Arena in Washington, United States on December 19, 2017. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

After a few disappointing seasons for the New Orleans Pelicans, the duo of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins simultaneously brought success and promise to the franchise. However, with the unfortunate Achilles injury to Cousins, Davis was left to fend off the tough Western Conference. Despite losing their owner, Tom Benson, Davis was able to lead the team to their first postseason since 2015. The season was a big success, despite a second-round exit. However, with the loss of Cousins, the Pelicans look to their season ahead.

What Worked Last Season

The six-foot 10-inch power forward/center Davis has consistently elevated his game and has now become a top-five player in the game, with some arguing that he is top-three. Averaging career highs in PPG, APG, SPG, leading the league in blocks, and playing the most games and minutes in his career, Davis has stepped up his game. His leadership skills have flourished as well. Davis finished third in MVP voting and is in the conversation this coming season. It could be argued he is the glue holding the team together.

Another crucial piece to their success was Jrue Holiday. Holiday stepped up his performance and had a successful year. By averaging 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, the one-time all-star had a breakout year, and he is poised to continue to step up his performance as the season begins and be a solid support piece to Davis. Another significant player was Rajon Rondo; the elite passer set a franchise record with single-game assists, easily cementing himself as a top ten point guard in the league despite his age.

What Needs Improvement

Overall, while having impressive numbers in the offensive side of the ball, the defense leaves a lot to be desired ranking as low as 21, 25, and 29 in some categories. Their offense was near the top of the league, but a well-rounded game is needed in a stacked Western Conference. One where LeBron James has finally arrived, and one where the Golden State Warriors have five all-stars.

Despite a superstar like Davis and solid support, New Orleans needs more help to truly succeed.  Another star might be a slightly longer stretch with their cap space situation, but trading for a player is not totally out of the question. While anything can happen, Davis will be a free agent in a few years. Losing a huge talent like that can be extremely detrimental to the future of this franchise.

Off-Season Changes

Cousins left to join the Golden State Warriors. Whatever is thought of his decision is irrelevant, and the focus should be on the future. Rondo left too, signing a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, but it’s not all bad. Luckily, as far as the off-season is concerned, the Pelicans came out decent. Their biggest addition was Julius Randle. Recently let go from the Lakers, Randle signed for a two-year, $17 million contract. A solid addition, Randle stepped up his game the past season. Coming off the bench, he averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds. There was also a stretch where he averaged 19.3 points. The Pelicans will be able to utilize him as a threat in the post. Expect him and either a combo of Davis or Nikola Mirotic to be a threat to opposing teams this coming season.

To replace Rondo, the Pelicans signed Elfrid Payton. Not known for much besides his hair, Payton was signed to a one-year contract. In his brief stint with the Phoenix Suns, he recorded two triple-doubles. Given his contract, this makes him a solid grab. Armed with these new additions, the Pelicans will rally behind Davis as he makes another case for MVP.

 

2018-2019 Season Prediction

This team has a solidified superstar, an all-defensive member, and role players. Is it enough to compete with the likes of the Warriors or even the Jazz or Rockets? Probably not. However, with another solid year for Davis and strong support, 42-45 wins isn’t out of the question. With Minnesota looking to move Jimmy Butler, the Pelicans should make the playoffs. However, in the wild west, every win counts, especially with the power move of James. With Davis’ free agency in the future, hopefully, the Pelicans can be contenders.
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