Mar 7, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis (23) against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Pelicans: A Team Derailed By Injury

The New Orleans Pelicans are a team of youth. A roster which features the likes of young stars such as Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, along with a deep youth movement on the bench, brought hope to the city of New Orleans that maybe their young NBA team was ready to take a step forward.

Injuries, however, had other plans.

Through 64 games, New Orleans sits at 28-36, 12th in the Western conference–not exactly a stellar mark. Guys like Anthony Davis, who has played in 56 of the 64 games, have led the way for this team. Davis, a second-year player out of the University of Kentucky, averages 21 points, 10.3 rebounds and three blocks per 36 minutes, all three a team-best.

Along the way, however, New Orleans lost two of its key players – Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday.

Anderson, who was averaging 19.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in his 25 games played, was diagnosed on Jan. 7 with a herniated disc in his back, leaving him out indefinitely.

Jrue Holiday, whom the Pelicans acquired on draft day in 2013 from the Philadelphia 76ers, suffered a stress fracture in his right tibia on Feb. 28, effectively ending his 2013-14 campaign. Holiday, who had started 34 games for the Pelicans up to that point, was averaging 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 8.4 assists.

Not to mention reserve forward Jason Smith, who had been averaging 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds for the team in 31 games.

Combined? The Pelicans lost two starters, one key reserve and 48.1 points, 18.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists in contributions.

All of this has led the Pelicans to resort to altering the starting lineup multiple times. Eleven different players have started at least five games for this year’s squad.

So what positives can Pelicans fans take from what has been a likely frustrating and heartbreaking season?

For one, the contract situations. Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis and many other key reserves are all still under contract heading into next season, leaving the Pelicans youthful core in tact.

Another is the apparent and continued development of forward/center Anthony Davis. In just the one year alone, Davis’ Per 36 Minutes average has skyrocketed when it comes to scoring, with the aforementioned 21.0 points per game, in comparison to his 13.5 scored in the 2012-13 season.

Davis has also developed his defensive game, boosting his blocks per game average from 1.8 to 3.0, and his defensive rebounding from 5.6 to 7.0.

And finally, the chance to build. New Orleans has a core of youth and talent that most teams across the league would kill to have. The experienced youth of Holiday and Gordon, combined with the fresh face of Davis and the veteran presence of Anderson, is something the Pelicans must take advantage of.

New Orleans currently finds themselves at 10th from the bottom, or 20th overall. The problem with that is that if the pick falls outside of the top five, which it almost assuredly will, New Orleans is left sending that pick to Philadelphia as part of the Holiday trade.

Either way, New Orleans will have their opportunities, both through trades and second-round picks, to build their reserves out of what is being considered the deepest draft in years. And alongside the youth already there, a couple of added pieces could be the difference between being good and being dangerous.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics used are courtesy of Basketball Reference.

You can follow Joe Tacosik on Twitter @JoeBobTaco for all things sports!

Tags: New Orleans Pelicans

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