51Q: Did the Pelicans plug enough holes around Anthony Davis?
We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off).
After bottoming out to get Anthony Davis, the Pelicans steadily rose in the standings – 27 wins to 34 wins to 45 wins and the playoffs.
Until last season.
They regressed to 30-52, bringing a reality check: New Orleans was asking too much of Davis. He’d lifted the franchise as far as he could, but the weight on his shoulders was too much to bear.
So, the Pelicans set out to get Davis help. They drafted Buddy Hield No. 6 overall and signed Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Terrence Jones. New Orleans is now much deeper and younger, which should help the team avoid and withstand the type of injury problems that devastated it last year.
Will that be enough?
Davis is a special player. At age 23, he just can’t do it alone in a tough Western Conference – though the Pelicans have come close to asking.
Since Davis entered the NBA, only James Harden has accounted for a higher percentage of a team’s wins (as measured by win shares) than Davis:
At least the Rockets tried to pair Harden with Dwight Howard, a former superstar who has declined amid injury issues as he has aged. (Interestingly, Houston’s latest reboot includes Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, two players who didn’t help Davis enough in New Orleans.)
For three of his four seasons, Davis’ supporting cast has underwhelmed for one reason or another. Last year, poor health hammered the Pelicans, but too many of Davis’ teammates struggled when on the court. At least he remained excellent in his 61 games.
This influx of young talent could help, but it’s far from a given.
New Orleans has invested too heavily in Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, centers who don’t really fit Alvin Gentry’s offense. Compounding the problem, those bigs – who shift Davis to more power forward – mean Hill will primarily play small forward. Hill’s ball-handling and outside shooting are much bigger assets at power forward.
So, I don’t know whether the Pelicans got better now. I also don’t know much better they’ll be in the future with Solomon Hill making nearly $13 million per year and Moore making $8.5 million per year over the next four seasons.
New Orleans is onto its latest reshuffling around Davis, and it was time for a new plan. Just like the old one, it might work, but it’s far from a certainty.