In the next two weeks, the Armchair crew will be taking on the NBA Regular Season preview. We will be taking on each team individually and looking into what to expect from each.
Past Record: 45-37
Key Additions: Alvin Gentry, Kendrick Perkins, Alonzo Gee, Darre Erman, Anthony Davis’ contract extension
Key Losses: Jimmer Fredette, Jeff Withey
We are now entering year four of Anthony Davis’ NBA career and it is safe to say that we are going into the part of his biography where it will be written in blood of his opponents. Prepare for the Brow to marauder through the league for the next 5-7 years or so.
When AD put pen to paper on the contract extension the future in New Orleans got a whole lot brighter. Now they can focus on building around the most exciting, dangerous and absolutely ridiculous players in this league, and they already have some solid pieces in play.
The key change up happened I coaching when the team finally parted ways with Monty Williams and picked up Alvin Gentry. While Williams wasn’t necessarily the worst coach in the league, he was definitely not the best and Gentry runs one of those “it’s so good it’s almost orgasmic” offensive schemes that make League Pass investments worth it every year. With the right assistance from his personnel (which he has), this team should be able to carefully balance both offence and defense moving forward, unlocking Davis’ full potential (which is a scary thought to have).
It will be interesting to see how Davis’ is utilized, but it will also depend on the pieces around him. Ryan Anderson is healthy and should add much needed floor spacing where available. This will of course mean shifting Davis to five, but as most of the NBA goes smaller this won’t be an issue against most teams (although Memphis will as always trot out the supporting cast of Murderball). This is something that was much needed last year as without Anderson, the only real shooter on this team is Gordon, who happens to be streaky. Losing Fredette hurts, but then you remember that he is a liability in literally every other aspect of basketball and sleeping gets slightly easier at night.
I think Gentry will spread the floor with healthy Anderson and Gordon (who is in a contract year alert) and use the space created by everyone’s fear of AD to let Tyreke slash, cut and dish. Evans being the best ball handler on the team should see an uptick in touches and in the right offensive scheme could come back to his rookie year form. Davis’ expanded range should leave him a bit more space to operate around the rim, where he is at his best.
The question mark here is Jrue Holiday and how to use him best when he’s healthy. Not the most dead-eye shooter or the most effective ball handler, Jrue should thrive in the pick and roll with AD, which may just be their go to play. He’s serviceable across the court and they need stability at the one, which he will provide moving forward.
The one shortfall here is that there really isn’t a legitimate post-scoring threat outside of AD as most of the other bigs on this team (save Anderson) have the offensive capacity to produce at a level of a cardboard cut out or Kendrick Perkins (speaking of whom). This will eliminate some of the inside out options, but Davis operating around 12FT, I think Gentry will take this as a trade-off.
Plausible best-case scenario: They stay healthy and help Davis’ skills progress from “uranium” to “weaponized-uranium.” Gentry fits all the pieces together and we see return of Year-1 Tyreke. Gordon plays for his new contract. The Pelicans make the playoffs and win a few games, giving another team a good scare (I don’t see them making out of the first in the West even with AD, maybe like 2 ADs).
Plausible worst-case scenario: The team doesn’t buy into the scheme and Nothing works. Either Gordon or Anderson go down, completely throwing off the spacing and throwing the team into the same situation as last year. Jrue Holiday refuses to be classified as some type of player and does a few things averagely without really excelling. They make the playoffs and get bounced 0-4 in the first.