The Pelicans didn’t win any games in their series against the Warriors, but they showed they could push Golden State at least to a degree, building a 20-point fourth quarter lead in Game 3 while keeping each game against a 67-win juggernaut reasonably close. They have Anthony Davis, a former No. 1 overall pick who’s lived up to his draft position and then some with strong play that’s approaching an MVP level. They won 11 more games than they did a season ago, but the path to the top in New Orleans isn’t clear.
Part of that is because the team plays in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. The Pelicans finished only a game behind the Wizards this year, and Washington just swept the 49-win Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Still, there isn’t a second star to go along with Davis, unless the team has faith that Jrue Holiday can regain the form that made him an All-Star in his last fully healthy season in 2012/13, much less the third star that so many championship teams have had. There doesn’t appear to be one on the way, either, since the Pelicans haven’t made a first-round draft pick without an agreement in place to trade it since they took Davis and Austin Rivers in 2012. Rivers showed he can compete on a high level for the Clippers on Sunday, but for the most part, he’s been a profound disappointment for a No. 10 overall pick. New Orleans traded him and Russ Smith for Quincy Pondexter and a second-round pick this year, a paltry return on the team’s investment.
New Orleans plans a max extension offer for Davis, and, as I outlined when I looked at the offseason ahead for the Pelicans, there’s little reason to suspect that the ‘Brow’s next deal won’t be a multiyear arrangement of some sort that keeps him in New Orleans. There’s no guarantee that GM Dell Demps and Monty Williams will be around to see the end of the next contract that Davis signs, or even to present him with that extension offer when he becomes eligible to sign it this summer. Whomever is making the decisions in New Orleans will have some tough ones in front of them.
There isn’t much the team can do to find a star to complement Davis in free agency this year, given the lack of max cap flexibility that will exist once Eric Gordon formally opts in for more than $15.514MM next season, as he seemingly plans to do. Still, there are trades, and soon there will be the summer of 2016, when just about every team will have tons of cap space but few will have the sort of star who can attract marquee free agents the way Davis could.
The Pelicans probably would have finished well outside of the playoffs if the Thunder had been fully healthy this year. New Orleans had its share of injuries, too, and even Davis only played in 68 of 82 regular season games, but Oklahoma City is a prime example of how quickly a superstar’s time under contract can pass. The Thunder haven’t won a title in eight seasons with Kevin Durant, and only in the past few months, with Durant’s free agency looming in 2016, are they making aggressive win-now moves instead of concentrating on the future and the bottom line.
So, let us know if you think it’s time for the Pelicans to make bold changes, or if you think they’re on the right track, and elaborate on your choice in the comments.