During the 2013-14 season, the New Orleans Pelicans played the small forward position by using a number of players either playing out of position or not earning the minutes they were given. While not much has been done this offseason to drastically change that, a few players have been brought in to help the cause.
First, New Orleans acquired small forward Alonzo Gee from the Cleveland Cavaliers for a future second-round pick. Gee, 26, averaged 4.0 points per game last year with the Cavs, but averaged double-digit scoring the two previous years before that.
After that, they signed veteran forward John Salmons after he was waived by the Atlanta Hawks to clear salary room. An 11-year NBA veteran, Salmons averaged 5.2 points per game last season, splitting time between the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors.
Both players had rather down years in 2013-14, and could be looking to make amends and prove their worth. With Gee being only 26 years old, he may be looking to help cement a more permanent role in the NBA, while Salmons, 34, might be a valuable veteran presence on a young team looking to contend. Each player brings unique skills to New Orleans, and could pay dividends for the Pelicans.
In 2013-14, a lot of the small forward minutes went to Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu, 23, averaged 7.2 points per game on 47 percent shooting. He was an absolute disaster behind the three-point stripe, shooting 27 percent. Luckily for the Pelicans, he only took 0.6 shots per game from from deep. While maybe it’s for the best that Aminu didn’t take too many shots, the Pelicans as a whole ranked 29th in the league in three-pointers per contest, while having the sixth best percentage from deep.
Alonzo Gee on the other hand, took more shots (0.9 per game) and shot a higher percentage (32 percent). While neither if those are eye-popping statistics, they could help make New Orleans a more aggressive shooting squad, and pair that with their already high percentage from deep. John Salmons, on the other hand, took 2.1 threes per game last year, while shooting 38 percent. I find it hard to believe that Salmons starts in New Orleans, but having his shot off the bench could prove to be extra valuable to stay competitive in the tough Western Conference.
What the Pelicans also lacked last season was rebounding. They ranked 22nd in the league in that category in 2013-14. While the addition of Omer Asik could conceivably help that, Alonzo Gee is an underrated rebounder from the small forward spot as well. In 2011-12, when he averaged 29 minutes per contest, Gee was pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game. Those numbers certainly have dropped off in the past few years, but if he’s given more playing time in New Orleans, it’s easy to see that number rise.
There’s no one clear favorite to win the starting job for New Orleans this year, but guys like Gee and Salmons both have solid chances to land a good chunk of minutes. Both bring different qualities and skills that could clash well with each other, make a solid tandem at the forward spot and help the Pelicans jump into the Western playoff race.