NBA Future Power Rankings: 16. New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans Pelicans: The Pelicans are lucky to have Anthony Davis. If I could start a franchise with one player it would probably be either Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns. At the very least he would be one of the few players up for consideration. The only real concern with Davis is the fact that he has missed between 14-21 games with injuries in each of his four seasons. On the court Davis has no weaknesses; he is just 23 years old, can score inside and outside, protect the rim, guard the perimeter, pass, rebound and handle the ball. In other words he is the complete package. The fact that the Pelicans have a player like Davis for at least 4 more years and couldn’t reach the top half of these rankings is somewhat embarrassing for the Pelicans front office. Rather than rebuilding through the draft around Davis in a similar fashion to how the Thunder rebuilt after selecting Durant, New Orleans decided to acquire young veterans no longer on rookie deals. Before discussing the present day Pelicans, it’s hard not to take a look back at the franchise when they were known as the Hornets. Before finding a new owner and drafting Anthony Davis, the New Orleans franchise was owned by the NBA and had a star in Chris Paul demanding a trade. Now that Eric Gordon has left via free agency, the Pelicans no longer have a single player left from the Paul deal. What the Pelicans ended up getting for Paul was five injury riddled seasons of Eric Gordon, one below average season from Chris Kaman, three average seasons of Al-Farouq Aminu (before he blossomed with Dallas and Portland), and two and a half awful seasons of Austin Rivers (before he improved with the Clippers). When you consider they traded one of the 10 best point guards ever in his prime for this package, this has to be considered one of the worst trades ever. What makes it even worse was the fact that the NBA (since at the time the league owned New Orleans) vetoed a trade with the Lakers for Paul because they thought this one was better. Despite landing a transcending talent like Davis, the Pelicans have yet to truly recover from this horrific trade. This offseason the Pelicans are finally making less risky moves. They now own all of their future first round picks and wisely moved on from injured defensive liabilities in Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The only real problem the Pelicans now have is that they still have Omer Asik for about $43.5 Million over the next four seasons. Even with the rising cap and crazy contracts being handed out, this still might be the worst contract in the league. Asik still has trouble catching a basketball let alone scoring it, and his presence has prevented the Pelicans from experimenting with more lineups using Davis at center. At this point Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are enigmas. Both players are relatively young, borderline All-Stars when healthy, have missed nearly an entire season’s worth of games over the past two years, and are on expiring contracts. It will be interesting to see how these two perform this year and whether the Pelicans decide to re-sign both of them, one of them, or neither of them next offseason. In the draft the Pelicans landed a much-needed scorer on the wing in Buddy Hield. Hield should be able to step in right away and provide impactful minutes for NOLA. In free agency the Pelicans signed some intriguing young players to fill out depth. Unfortunately, none of these players may even be considered starters for a quality playoff team. The Pelicans signed Terrence Jones to a one year deal, Langston Galloway to a 2-year contract, Solomon Hill to a 4-year $48 Million contract, and E’Twaun Moore to a 4-year $34 Million contract. All four of these players are somewhat unproven and young, but they all have the potential to be solid rotation players. Other than Davis and Hield, the Pelicans still have a lot of work to do in forming their roster, but having those two is certainly not a bad starting point.