Man, what a terrible, brutal, no-good-very-bad season the New Orleans Pelicans just had. Virtually every player on the roaster spent time nursing an injury. The Pelicans trotted out a whopping 21 players and a jaw-dropping 42 different starting lineups.
It’s hard to give a fair review of either head coach Alvin Gentry or GM Dell Demps after a season with so many injuries. How much time did Gentry really have to integrate his new ideas for the offense? Still, wasting even a single year in the career of an extraordinary talent like Anthony Davis should be considered a crime and a massive failure.
The Pelicans find themselves at an interesting crossroads this offseason. They spent the past few seasons making win now moves, like signing Tyreke Evans and trading the No. 4 overall pick for Jrue Holiday, in an effort to make the playoffs. That effort did succeed- the Pelicans made the playoffs in 2015 only to be swept aside by the Warriors’ juggernaut. They brought the majority of that team back for the 2016 season, only to have the year beset by injury.
Do they want to continue down that path, trying to make the playoffs in a still top-heavy Western Conference? The 8th seed is certainly in reach, especially if Davis is healthy, but it’s hard to imagine the Pelicans unseating the Warriors, Thunder and Spurs in the West pecking order.
The smarter, albeit more difficult path might be attempting to engineer a quick mini-rebuild around Davis, who won’t turn 24 until next March. New Orleans should aim to time its ascent when Davis turns 27 and will likely be fully in his prime.
That doesn’t require a tank-job on the scale of what Philadelphia did, but it does require the organization to think hard about which of its current players best fit that timeline. Holiday, for example, is only 25 and clearly makes Davis better when the two play together. Re-signing Ryan Anderson on the other hand, a talented, but defensively flawed player who will likely command a ton of money during this cap spike, is probably a mistake.
The Pelicans are also lacking the requisite cap space to be major players this offseason. Anthony Davis’ raise, while it won’t be as high as it could be since Davis was not named to an All-NBA team, kicks in this summer and soaks up most of New Orleans’ space. Next year, however, Holiday and Evans will both be free agents and the Pelicans could open up space for a max contract during a summer with even better free agents than this one.
As they were during an injury-riddled 2015-16 season, the Pelicans need to be patient. Let Anthony Davis and the rest of the roster get healthy and try to ride the Brow to the promised land down the line.