The Pelicans ended last season with a very impressive sweep of the Portland Trailblazers before losing to the Warriors in the second round. One of those things was unsurprising, but the first part was a shock to many. The team went through some changes in the offseason, but they were seemingly for the better. The Pelicans finished with 48 wins last season, but their total is just 44.5 here.
[geocode id=2]The offseason saw DeMarcus Cousins leave and Julius Randle take his place. That should be a net positive as Cousins wasn’t apart of the team that swept the Blazers and never seemed to truly fit alongside Davis. They also sad farewell to Rajon Rondo with Elfrid Payton brought into that role which has to be considered more of a loss for them. Rondo’s defense was a big part of the way they shut down Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in that series.
That said, this team is all about Anthony Davis. He’s getting 2019 NBA MVP buzz and it’s easy to see why. This is one of the most dominant players in the league and it feels like this will be the year that he’s able to put it altogether. Injuries have been an issue for him in the past, but he’s played 75 games in each of his last two seasons and it feels like that might be behind him. Last year was one of his best seasons with 28.1 points per game, 2.6 blocks, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists. All of his numbers went up last season after Cousins went down with injury and it’ll be interesting to see how this year goes. He is the key to success with this team.
Jrue Holiday was also finally healthy last season and he awarded the Pelicans with a 19 point/6 assist per game season. He’s an elite defender than can take on any of the best guards in this league. The big men in New Orleans are pretty good as well. Nikola Mirotic was an excellent fit alongside Davis and it feels like Randle will do all the things they wanted Cousins to do without any of the other stuff.
The rest of this squad is where my questions are. Was last season’s E’Twaun Moore for real? Can Solomon Hill come back from injury? Will the change of scenery help Elfrid Payton reach his potential? Can this team get something from Frank Jackson?
I think that losing DeMarcus Cousins to injury last season was the best thing that could’ve happened to this team. That forced them to do the Mirotic trade and that unlocked something in this offense. From the time that Cousins went down until the end of the season, they led the NBA in PACE while being a top-6 defense. The addition of Randle should allow them to continue playing like that while also having a more traditional center as well.
This team seems like a sure bet to at least match last year’s win total and I’m really unsure why this total is so low. In a league when not many teams got better, the Pelicans actually did.
[geocode id=5]NBAVin’s Pick: Bet Pelicans Over 44.5 Wins