30 teams in 30 days

30 teams in 30 days: Another struggle in New Orleans for Boogie and The Brow

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30 teams in 30 days: Another struggle in New Orleans for Boogie and The Brow

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The New Orleans Pelicans. 

Anthony Davis has waited patiently for the New Orleans Pelicans to assemble a cast around him that could be competitive in the West.
 
Still waiting...
 
The Pelicans have more big-name players on their roster this season, but those players, by and large, are well past their primes. And that will likely result in yet another playoff-less season.

 
New Orleans’ best hopes of bucking the odds and become a competitive, playoff-caliber team will hinge on how a couple of former Celtics perform.
 
Tony Allen and Rajon Rondo, both members of Boston’s 2008 championship team, will be looked upon to provide solid play as well as veteran leadership.
 
Rondo, now 31, a four-time All-Star, was in and out of the Chicago Bulls lineup last season before emerging in the playoffs with a pair of strong performances against the Celtics, which put Boston in a 2-0 series hole despite the first two games being at the TD Garden.
 
However, the point guard broke his right hand in Game 2 and was unable to return, which proved to be a major turning point as Boston went on to win the series in six games.
 
In Allen, the Pelicans add one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. And while he is 35, he doesn’t come with the kind of wear and tear you typically associate with a player his age.
 
That’s because Allen has not ever been a player to log major minutes. This past season in Memphis, Allen averaged a career-high 27.0 minutes per game.
 
Despite playing limited minutes, it still didn’t keep him from being recognized for his defense, which has led to him being named to the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team, six times (first team in 2012, 2013 and 2015; and second team in 2011, 2016 and 2017).
 
Those veterans will be important, but the key to making this work for New Orleans lies in how well Davis and DeMarcus Cousins mesh.
 
Acquired just before the trade deadline in February, the Pelicans were just 7-10 with Cousins in the lineup and 4-4 when he did not play.
 
However, that came on the fly, which is why there’s optimism in New Orleans that Davis and Cousins will work together even better with a training camp under their belts.
 
Ultimately, the Pelicans have to field a team that can be competitive, if for no other reason than to appease Davis.

While Davis has shown no signs of wanting to play elsewhere, you have to wonder just how much patience will he have with a New Orleans team that has made just one playoff appearance in his five NBA seasons.
 
Of the other 13 lottery picks from his draft, only one (Kendall Marshall) has made fewer playoff appearances.
 
Anything short of a playoff appearance will only lead to more questions about Davis being traded.
 
"I understand it's a business, but if I don't hear anything from Dell [Demps, the Pelicans general manager] or my agent, I don't pay attention to it," Davis told reporters this summer, regarding the rumors about being traded to Boston. "Once I first heard [the rumors], then I heard it again, then I heard it again, I just wanted to make sure. I found out it wasn't [true], and that was the beginning of the summer, so I haven't paid attention to it since."
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Tony Allen (Memphis); Rajon Rondo (Chicago); Ian Clark (Golden State).
 
Key losses: Tyreke Evans (Sacramento); Tim Frazier (Washington); Terrence Jones (Qingdao Doublestar of Chinese Basketball Association); Langston Galloway (Detroit);
 
Rookies of note:
 None.
 
Expectations:
31-51 (fifth in the Southwest Division, 14th in the West).
 

30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

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30 teams in 30 days: Grit-and-Grind days are over in Memphis

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Memphis Grizzlies. 

Memphis is no different than any other NBA team when it comes to making changes.
 
It’s an inevitable part of the NBA.

 
There are changes, and then there’s losing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen to free agency.
 
They didn’t lose the face of their franchise.
 
They lost its backbone.
 
And when you throw in the departure of Vince Carter, the Grizzlies are getting younger and more athletic and maybe just as significant, further removed from the physical, rough-and-tough brand of basketball they played for years.

You’ll have to go to YouTube to see Grit-and-Grind anymore.
 
Still, this isn’t all that surprising when you consider they brought in a new coach last year, David Fizdale, who came from Miami but also spent time on the bench as an assistant in Atlanta and Golden State.

Those teams played a more position-less, free-flowing brand of basketball compared to the Grizzlies.
 
So what we’re starting to see now is a Memphis team that will eventually look and hopefully play, more akin to what their coach envisions.
 
While the DNA of this team has changed dramatically, the Grizzlies will still be among the teams battling for one of the last playoff spots in the West this season.
 
They return Marc Gasol who still ranks among the best centers in the NBA. They also have point guard Mike Conley Jr., who unfortunately still holds the title for the best veteran player to not be named to an NBA All-Star team.
 
He’s coming off his best season as a pro when he averaged career highs in scoring (20.5 points per game) and shooting (45.9 percent from the field, 40.7 percent on 3’s) along with 3.5 rebounds, also a career benchmark.
 
In addition, Conley’s 6.3 assists per game were just 0.2 assists away from tying his career best in that category.
 
But for Memphis to surprise many and extend its playoff run to eight years in a row, the Grizzlies’ inside-outside tandem of Gasol and Conley, will need help.
 
A healthy Chandler Parsons would be a huge boost.
 
One of the more versatile wing players in the league, injuries have left Parsons a shell of the player that he once was.
 
He has had each of his past three seasons end prematurely due to injuries, so it’s hard to imagine Memphis will be banking on him to be healthy enough to make a major impact on the team this season.
 
They added Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans, both from Sacramento, to the roster this season.
 
Both come into training camp competing for a starting job.
 
The Grizzlies also have high hopes for 6-9 forward Rade Zagorac, a second-round pick in 2016 acquired from Boston who spent an additional year overseas before coming over to the NBA.
 
The new faces will be critical to the success of Memphis in those post Grit-and-Grind era.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Ben McLemore (Sacramento); Tyreke Evans (Sacramento).
 
Key losses: Zach Randolph (Sacramento); Tony Allen (New Orleans); Vince Carter (Sacramento).
 
Rookies of note: Rade Zagorac; Ivan Rabb; Dillon Brooks.
 
Expectations: 33-49 (fourth in the Southwest Division, 11th in the West).
 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

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30 teams in 30 days: Have Mavs gotten Dirk enough help?

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Dallas Mavericks.

When it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, everything essentially begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki.
 
The future Hall of Famer is entering his 20th NBA season and still ranks among the tougher players to defend in the NBA.

But Father Time is gaining ground on the Nowitzki, 39, which is why the Mavericks have wisely added the kind of talent around him the past couple of years that should take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders and, just as important, put the Mavs back into contention for a playoff spot after failing to get there last season following a stretch of reaching the postseason 15 out of 16 years.
 
The Mavericks will look to bounce back from a 33-49 season, one in which injuries played a major factor in the team’s struggles.
 
Nowitzki appeared in just 54 games last season, averaging 14.2 points - the fewest he averaged since his rookie season (8.9 points).
 
Among the few Mavs to stay relatively healthy was Harrison Barnes, who led the team with 19.5 points per game average while appearing in 79 games.
 
Dallas had a solid season defensively and solidified their interior by trading for Nerlens Noel in February.
 
A restricted free agent this past summer, Noel and the Mavericks were unable to come to terms on a long-term contract. And without the benefit of an offer sheet, Noel had no leverage in getting the kind of near-max salary he was seeking.
 
So, he eventually signed a one-year, $4.1 million qualifying offer.
 
One of the main areas the Mavericks will look to improve upon this season is scoring after averaging a league-low 97.9 points per game.
 
Having better team health overall will help, as will the addition of high-scoring combo guard Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Selected by Dallas with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft, the 6-foot-2 guard did a little bit of everything in his lone season with North Carolina State, where he averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.
 
He was just as impressive in helping lead the Mavs to a 5-1 summer league record in Las Vegas, earning a spot on the NBA All-Summer League first team by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions:
Josh McRoberts (Miami); Jeff Withey (Utah).
 
Key losses: None.
 
Rookies of note: Dennis Smith Jr.
 
Expectations:
37-45 (third in the Southwest Division,10th in the West).