As the 2013-2014 NBA season winds down, the New Orleans Pelicans are most likely going to finish the season with an under .500 record (currently sitting at 26-38). But despite their record this season, there should certainly be a sense of optimism in the Big Easy.
The Pelicans may not be in playoff contention this season, especially in the very competitive Western Conference, but the Pelicans have a firm roster base that should help them compete for years to come.
If you look at their roster, one player stands out above all, and thats Anthony Davis. The former number one overall pick and Kentucky product is having a breakout season and even earned his first career All-Star nod.
This season Davis has posted terrific numbers, with 20.8 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game, and a whopping 2.9 blocks per game. You could even argue that Davis is in the running for both Most Improved Player Of The Year AND Defensive Player Of The Year. These numbers would be impressive for almost any player in the league, but for a player only in his second season at the age of 21?
That’s something that should scare opponents in the Southwest Division.
Davis still has plenty of room to grow and develop as a player, but even right now, he looks like the type of player that can lead a franchise to much success for years to come.
But Anthony Davis isn’t the only player to help lead New Orleans to success. During the 2013 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday for the Pelicans’ draft rights to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and their selection in the 2014 Draft (currently the 11th pick).
Although Holiday hasn’t exactly had the season the fans in NOLA would’ve liked to see, the 23-year-old guard out of UCLA has put up decent numbers when he has seen the floor: 14.3 points and 7.9 assists per game are impressive numbers, but the Pelicans were most likely expecting a season more like Holiday’s 2012-2013 campaign, where he posted 17.7 points and 8.0 assists per game.
Despite Holiday’s dropoff in performance, and his dropoff in even being healthy on a consistent basis, there shouldn’t be a sense of fear in New Orleans as Holiday is only 23. He has all the tools to put together another All-Star season like he did in 2012-2013 with the 76ers.
Although Davis and Holiday are the two brightest spots on New Orleans’ roster, they have several other players who can contribute in the future.
Tyreke Evans, who the Pelicans acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with the Sacramento Kings prior to the 2013-2014 season, is the type of player who can provide energy and quick points next to Davis and Holiday, playing the shooting guard and small forward position. In just over 26 minutes per game this season, Evans has posted decent numbers of 13.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Hopefully, the 24-year-old will see more minutes in 2014-2015, his numbers will improve and he can be a deadly option for the Pelicans. There’s no doubt that Evans can put up elite numbers, because as a rookie with Sacramento in 2010, he put up a solid 20.1 points per game.
It may be hard to produce those numbers as he is no longer the first scoring option necessarily, but the Evans is the type of player the Pelicans will be able to lean on when they need some quick scoring.
Also at the forward position, the Pelicans have Ryan Anderson, who is consistently underrated in my opinion. Playing 26 minutes per game at the starting forward position, Anderson has dropped numbers of 19.8 points per game, with an impressive 6.5 rebounds per game to boot. His shooting is obviously his best skill, with a .409 three-point percentage, he is one of the deadliest shooters from behind the arc.
Having Holiday run the point, with Evans playing off the ball (or possibly playing the point guard position sparingly when Holiday is not on the floor) and Anderson at the small forward playing catch-and-shoot with passes to him behind the arc, it would appear that the Pelicans have some sold wing players that will be able to score at will, and open up the paint for Anthony Davis to do what he does.
All four of those players I mentioned are all 25 or under, and have yet to even reach their prime, and behind them are more quality players that can contribute off the bench, like forward Al-Farouq Aminu and guards Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts.
The team has the potential to have a Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA candidate, someone who could average eight assists while leading his position in scoring, and a forward who could easily lead the league in three-point percentage. Not many teams contending right now could say that, but in the near future, the Pelicans might be able to.
Although the team may not have been able to “put it all together” this season, its hard to not believe that as these young players grow and develop into their full potential, the Pelicans will be a contending team very shortly, and will hope to be so for many years to come.
Shawn McFarland covers the Pelicans, the Celtics, and the Magic for HoopsHabit.com, make sure to follow him on twitter at @McFarland_Shawn