We’re still on our NBA journey. The playoffs have begun, and sixteen teams vie for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Fifteen teams will join the other fourteen non-playoff teams as those who did not win the championship. If a team did not win the title, then that means adjustments must be made in order to best position themselves to win next year. Here at TSFJ, we are going to present ways each franchise can fix themselves. We will have a safe way and an extreme way to do this. Sometimes, relationships just need repair. Other times, a breakup in some form is necessary. We continue with the eleventh team eliminated from the postseason, the New Orleans Pelicans.
Record: 48-34, 6th Seed, Western Conference
Head Coach: Alvin Gentry
Playoff Result: Lost 2nd Round, 4-1, to the Golden State Warriors. (Bounced out the playoffs to a bounce beat.)
Injury is a derailment to a team’s season that is one of the toughest to swallow. The reason is because although they’re expected — as no one makes it through the season without being less than full strength — they cannot be planned for because the timing of the injuries cannot be predicted. Combine that with a superstar getting sidelined as he’s figuring out chemistry with the team’s other superstar and that is the New Orleans Pelicans’ season. DeMarcus Cousins went down with injury right as he and Anthony Davis were beginning to understand how to share the court and maximize each other’s abilities.
Davis tapped further into his superhuman talent and lifted the Pelicans to the playoffs. Then, in addition to point guard Jrue Holiday getting the best of Portland’s Damian Lillard, Davis led the underdog New Orleans to a sweep of the Trail Blazers. The four games were competitive, but a sweep is a sweep.
The Golden State Warriors didn’t care about any of that. They took no pity on Alvin Gentry because he was Steve Kerr’s assistant coach. They didn’t care that the Pelicans didn’t have DeMarcus Cousins, or anyone tall enough to defend Kevin Durant. In five games, the Warriors showed the Pelicans what championship material looks like in a team, and just how far behind New Orleans is.
So how do they fix it?
The Safe Fix
The Make-up Song: L.T.D. – “We Both Deserve Each Other’s Love”
It appeared that Davis and Cousins were beginning to figure out how to play together effectively. And with Holiday and Rajon Rondo stabilizing the backcourt, the Pelicans had something growing towards contending. If, and this is a huge if with the severity of the injury, DeMarcus Cousins is healthy, New Orleans has a tandem that pales in comparison to no one.
Shooting and spacing the floor for the two superstars is something that the Pelicans need to address. E’Twaun Moore and Solomon Hill are solid players, but they’re not enough. New Orleans traded for stretch forward Nikola Mirotic, but it’s hard to play him alongside two other seven-footers. Even both Boogie and Davis started shooting more threes to help. A ‘3 and D’ wing player would be vital to their improvements. Finding that player shouldn’t be too costly.
The Extreme Fix:
The Breakup Song: Michael Jackson – “She’s Out of My Life”
As much as it pains me to consider, I have to factor in the possibility that DeMarcus Cousins will not be healthy next season. I also must include the chance that he may never be the same player again. If that is the case, it may be time to shop him and hope to get something for him before his contract becomes too much of a burden. Davis and Cousins are a wonderful tandem, but the Pelicans must juxtapose its roster with the true contenders of the Association.
Another tough conundrum is if Davis, the team’s 25-year-old (!) beacon, should be moved for similar contractual reasons. Getting rid of one of the rarest talents the game of basketball has ever seen is difficult to do, but it may be necessary in the long term.
At the very least, the surrounding players need major overhaul. That roster, even with quality guard play from Rondo and Holiday, prove just how amazing Anthony Davis is to carry that team to the second round of the playoffs with little shooting and losing a top ten player in the world. He deserves part-ownership of the city of New Orleans.
I don’t know the perfect way to transform the New Orleans Pelicans from improbable playoff team to champion, but I know something must change. Happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.