I gave the New Orleans Pelicans some credit for justifying their signing of Eric Gordon by trading for Jrue Holiday and receiving Tyreke Evans in a sign and trade. However, what happens if things don’t work out with this core group?
The way I see it, if Evans continues his offensive struggles and Eric Gordon spends more time in a suit than in a uniform, it could cost the Pelicans their prized possession: Anthony Davis.
As it stands right now, the Pelicans have an extremely interesting core, but as we’ve seen over the last few years, an interesting core doesn’t guarantee anything (I thought the 2006-07 Sacramento Kings were interesting, but I might be alone on that one). The Pelicans’ main goal is to make the playoffs this year, but what things have to go right for them this year and beyond to keep Davis in town long term?
First of all, Jrue Holiday needs to take hold of the team. Last year, Greivis Vasquez held his own at point, averaging 13.9 points and 9.0 assists per game. This offseason, New Orleans brass determined that Vasquez wasn’t their floor general of the future, so they sent him to Sac-Town for Evans and traded some picks for Holiday. Will Holiday post better numbers than Vasquez? Maybe. I’d expect the former 76er to put up about 15 to 18 points a game, with seven or eight assists a night. Will he lead the team to more victories? He’d better.
If Holiday can emerge as a vocal leader, that’s a step in the right direction. If he can find a way to make Evans comfortable on the court, that’s another step. If he can find a way to incorporate Anthony Davis in a two-man game, most likely with the pick-and-roll, that’s huge for the team. Holiday has shown us that he can adequately run a team and now it’s time for him to create on offensive identity for a team full of talent and question marks.
On the other hand, if Evans can find some comfort in New Orleans, that would mean the world to this franchise. Evans has been mired in a three-year sophomore slump after averaging 20/5/5 in his first season in Sacramento. The Pelicans are hoping that playing him next to old AAU pals Gordon and Holiday will provide him with some offensive comfort, but that’s not a guarantee either. If we see Evans attacking the basket early in the season, as well as facilitating the offense in wins, then that’s a great sign. I wouldn’t put too much stock in Evans’ scoring numbers, as the Pelicans have a lot of capable scorers on their roster, but if his comfort level and aggressiveness are on display early, they’ll likely be on display often. Evans doesn’t exactly play the game smoothly, as his ball handling and shot aren’t textbook, but his plus/minus numbers will be telling next season. If Evans can be a part of a productive crew, he might not get the accolades due to his skill set, but he’ll be a big part of it.
Anthony Davis is only headed into his second NBA season, which means that the Pelicans aren’t going to need to sell him on staying in New Orleans long term yet, but that’s something they’ll need to address in time. For argument’s sake, let’s throw out Eric Gordon and his injury problems when talking about the future of the newest birds in the league, because that’s out of the team’s control. However, Holiday and Evans can control their own destinies and if they can lead New Orleans to some success this year, Anthony Davis won’t start dreaming of greener pastures before his third season.