2016-17 New Orleans Pelicans Season Preview: Rebuilding Again

The New Orleans Pelicans bought themselves some extra time by re-signing Anthony Davis to a new five year deal. The question is: can they get it right this time before his contract expires?

Last season by the numbers

  • Record: 30-52 (25th)
  • Offensive rating: 105.6 (18th)
  • Defensive rating: 109.5 (27th)
  • Pace: 96.8 (9th)
  • True shooting: 53.7% (17th)
  • Turnover rate: 12.3% (6th)
  • Offensive rebounding: 21.2% (24th)
  • Defensive rebounding: 78.8% (4th)
  • Giveashitameter: 24th
  • Highest PER*: 25.0 (Anthony Davis)

(*) – minimum 1,000 minutes.

At a glance

(Converts the above rankings into a rating out of 10).

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Recap

Coming into the 2015-16 season, the Pellies’ spirits were sky-high, having just made their first playoffs the season before. Davis was being touted as a serious MVP candidate and it was time to kick on. Sadly, the Pellies started the season abysmally and never recovered, spluttering to 30 wins.

So what went wrong?

Well, for starters, Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee were the only players on the roster last season to play more than 70 games. Or, in other words, New Orleans had about $33 million of its salary cap last season tied up on the likes of Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson – who missed 109 games between them. Now that’s value. Even Davis managed to miss 21 games for good measure.

Given these things, coupled with the fact that Anderson and Gordon have now gone to Houston, it’s difficult to take too much of last season’s performance seriously.

On offense, the Pellies were fair to middling in just about every category. The only exceptions were their turnover rate of 12.3% (6th) and their three point accuracy of 36.0% (9th). But for these top-10 attributes, they would have been schlepping around with the likes of the Lakers and 76ers overall.

Given the injuries, lack of roster continuity and poor start to the season, the Pellies’ abject performance on the defensive end was hardly a surprise. It didn’t matter what kind of shot their opponents wanted, they got it – with the Pellies ranking 25th on three point accuracy allowed (36.9%) and 27th on two point accuracy allowed (51.0%). One small silver lining was that, once an opponent eventually missed a shot, the Pellies were great at retrieving the rebound – ranking 4th in defensive rebound rate.

Now that last season’s misery has passed, where to now?

Reasons to be optimistic

Holiday was solid in his comeback season, posting a PER of 19.7 and playing 65 games at 28mpg. Given that he is still only 26 years old and finding his way back, further improvement can be expected he can keep his body right.

Anthony Davis extended his contract for another 5 years. Top-5 players are a bitch to find and the Pellies have one for the next 5 years. This gives them enough time for one more do-over before seriously risking his departure.

Buddy Hield could be just the kind of shooter and back court offensive force that Davis has lacked so far in New Orleans. If he pans out, the Pellies will have just the kind of one-two punch they need to become relevant again.

Reasons not to be

Hield’s summer league performance was one to forget.

Anderson has left and has not been replaced. Unless Hield proves to be a deadly outside shooter from the get-go , the Pellies will find it difficult to maintain their top 10 three point shooting accuracy.

This team still needs a lot of rebuilding and is still at least 2-3 years away from relevance.

Team management has a terrible track record.  There’s every chance that they’ll fuck up the rebuild, piss Davis off and lose him in 5 years.

Do you know who Tim Frazier is? I thought not. Well, get used to him running the show to start the season with Evans still injured and Holiday out indefinitely as he tends to his ailing wife (with no timetable for return).  Basketball aside, everyone is wishing for her healthy recovery.

Major Ins

Buddy Hield, Cheick Diallo, Terrence Jones, Langston Galloway, Lance Stephenson.

Major Outs

Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon.

The Dunkyard’s recommended ‘death’ lineup

  • Holiday
  • Hield
  • Gee (barf)
  • Jones
  • Davis

Dave’s lowdown

This team is worth watching for Anthony Davis alone, and there will be games this season where for 48 minutes I’ll just watch Davis on every play to see the things he does on the court.

Unfortunately, history has shown he can’t do it all by himself and with Holiday and Evans already scheduled to miss the start of the season with injuries it looks to be Groundhog Day for New Orleans. At this rate ownership need to sign a Sherpa if they are going to be any chance of finding their way back into the playoffs.

Forecast record: 35-47

Overpaying the likes of Anderson, Asik, Gordon and Evans to supplement Anthony Davis hasn’t worked. The good news is that Anderson and Gordon are now out the door. The bad news is that Evans and Asik are still around and the roster still has gaping holes at the small forward and center positions.

The brilliance of Davis all but guarantees a minimum of 30 wins. However, without a bona fide second star, the Pellies aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. In the meantime, they have little choice but to hope that either Buddy is their man – or that Holiday develops into an All-star.