By: Travis Thayer (@TheTravisThayer)
2012-13 Record: 27-55
Projected 2013-14 Finish: 5th in the Southwest
Projected Starting Lineup
The Pelicans (formally the Hornets) finally have some talent. It’s only been two years since Chris Paul left, and fans can slowly start to forget he’s a Clipper now. People actually know some of the players on the team now, and that is something to be excited about. All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday was traded to the Pelicans for the rights to rookie big-man Nerlens Noel, and he will give an immediate boost to a back-court that already features sharpshooter Eric Gordon. The Gordon-Holiday combo will give the Pelicans a consistent scoring punch that they have lacked since losing Chris Paul. The bench will play a pivotal role because of their ability to score. The likes of Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers, and Ryan Anderson will be relied on heavily to score the ball. If Rivers and Evans take the next step in their development, the Pelicans will be able to score in bunches. A big part of the team’s success will hinge on the development of second year man Anthony Davis. Davis is a shot-blocking machine, but it’s his offense that will ultimately decide how far the Pelicans go. Davis has the chance to be an All-Star this year, and for that reason the Pelicans are trending up, rather than down.
Defense is the key to any team that has playoff aspirations. The Pelicans weren’t terrible last year only allowing 97 PPG (14th in the NBA), but there is room for improvement. The Pelicans allowed opponents to shoot 57% from the field last year, and that must improve if the Pelicans want to challenge for the playoffs. Scoring was a struggle for Monty Williams team last year, and that should be improved with the additions of Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans. It sounds simple, but the Pelicans need to allow fewer points or score more. If they can’t get better in at least one area then they will be headed towards another lottery pick.
This is an intriguing team to say the least. Anthony Davis is a budding star, and his supporting cast continues to get better. The biggest problem for the Pelicans is the division they play in. They have to compete with the likes of San Antonio, Dallas, Memphis, and Houston. There is a chance the Pelicans can finish ahead of the Mavericks, but even that won’t be enough to get the Pelicans into the playoffs. This team seems to be a piece or two away from getting to the playoffs.