Looking at the New Orleans Pelicans, there’s no doubt they have a bright future. They have legitimate superstar in Anthony Davis and a young supporting cast, including All-Star Jrue Holiday. They went 34-48 in 2013-14, sitting in last place in the Southwest Division of the Western Conference. Still, this team has the potential to be serious contenders.
But will next year become another lost season? This year, the team was hobbled by injuries to key players and didn’t gain a lot of healthy momentum. While that might not be the case for next season, there’s plenty of reason to believe it could happen again.
You have to consider this too: injuries or not, they’re playing in arguably the toughest division in the West. Their division is filled with both the San Antonio Spurs and the Houston Rockets, two powerhouse teams. It’s hard to see both of those teams seeing any decline, one led by two young stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard, and one led by a mastermind coach and savvy veterans. Aside from those two star-studded teams, you have the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks, both playoff teams in 2013-14. Now, as opposed to Houston and San Antonio, New Orleans has a better chance of leap-frogging these teams in the standings come next season. But there are only eight seeds in the playoffs, and in the competitive Western Conference, it’s harder to see three teams from one division clinch a spot. The Pelicans will consistently be facing playoff caliber teams in their division, and it will certainly halt their expected success.
Aside from their level of competition, New Orleans may not have a ton of opportunistic to improve their roster this summer. First off, they lost their first round pick in the Jrue Holiday trade, and their second-rounder belongs to San Antonio. They won’t be improving their team through the draft (barring any draft day trades) so that’s out of the question. On the free agency end of the conversation, New Orleans will have about $14.7 million in cap space, but that’s not including current players like Al-Farouq Aminu and Greg Stiemsma, who’ll be hitting the open market this summer. Assuming they attempt to re-sign their current roster, they won’t have a whole lot left over to go after free agents, and they certainly won’t be landing any stars on the market.
New Orleans might be able to wisely spend the cash they have to land a decent role player or two, but nothing to overhaul the franchise. It’s safe to say that at the age of 21, Anthony Davis will improve on his spectacular 2013-14 season. Having Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon healthy for a full season could do wonders for team chemistry and success, but it’s still hard to see New Orleans making a deep jump into the postseason next year.
Shawn McFarland covers the New Orleans Pelicans for HoopsHabit.com